DCM Vertigo


Return of the Gods

Return of the Forge God!
by Black Condor

Chaos still reigned on the streets of New York City. While the other members of the Avengers League had gone off to look for the Materioptikon, Iron Man and Hawkeye were fighting off another resurgence of demons.

Iron Man's blasts sent most of the lesser demons scurrying, but others were brave enough to give the hero more resistance. Iron Man may have had great reserves of power in his armor, but he was going to have to rest sometime. And that did not seem like it would be any time soon.

"There doesn't seem to be any way that we can stop them for good, Hawkeye."

"Yeah. I like a fight as much as anybody, but I know when the effort is getting pointless." He fired an explosive arrow into the midst of three attacking demons. "And I'm runnin' out of arrows, too!"

One demon stood out from the rest as he viciously pursued any hapless people who happened to be left on the streets. He had a man's head on each of his three bodies, each with wild, evil eyes, and a serpent's body. He had one deadly tail with a giant scorpion's barb on the end.

The other demons steered clear of him as he made his way down the avenue. Three human heads snarled at the fleeing humans and six hands flailed about, smashing everything in the demon's path.

"Geez," Hawkeye said. "Look at him!"

"That one looks like he can do more damage than the others!" Iron Man shouted. "Let's get him!"

Iron Man flew toward the giant demon. One of its mouths snarled and it slapped Iron Man aside with a swift fist. Iron Man went careening into the side of a building.

Hawkeye picked one of his electro-arrows from his quiver and fired it at the demon. The huge demon saw it coming, and snatched it out of the air with one of its hands. The electro-arrow let out its charge on contact, but it was not enough to even faze the demon.

"Okay," Hawkeye mumbled, "this is bad now. How are we going to stop him?" Bravely, he ran toward where Iron Man had smashed into the building, attempting to see whether his teammate had come around yet.

The horrendous demon slithered his way down the street toward the hole in the building that Iron Man had made. He was so massive that as his body propelled forward, his sharp scales dug tracks into the pavement.

One of the demon's giant hands reached toward the hole, but it was stopped mid-air, clanging against metal. The demon pulled back his hand in pain and prepared to rend whatever had stopped him with his other arms.

Before him stood two glittering robots. These robots were not the kind that most twenty-first century people were used to seeing. Their metal was much more finely and intricately crafted, and adorned with Grecian designs. But their ornateness did not make them any less powerful.

Iron Man finally recovered from the demon's blow and poked his head out of the hole.

"Who are you two?" he asked of the robots.

"Our master has need of you, Iron Man. Your companion may come as well."

Hawkeye arrived. "You okay, Iron Man? Who are these robots?"

"I don't know, but they're helping us, so I guess it doesn't matter."

"Our master needs your help in crafting something to help stop this demon, Geryon," the bronzish one said. "We were sent to assist with stopping the demons while you were away."

Iron Man thought for a moment. Could New York spare him for whatever time it took to get to where these two robots were going to send him and Hawkeye? More and more heroes were going to be coming into the city to stop the demonic onslaught.

"Well, I guess we can go," Iron Man replied.

One of the robots raised a small oaken box, twisted its faces in a deliberate fashion, and the two heroes disappeared.

Iron Man and Hawkeye reappeared in a giant, smoky workshop. They walked slowly through the noisy workshop, gazing at the otherworldly sights. They marveled at all of the fantastic inventions that were being crafted.

As they walked on, they noticed that a few humans were intermixed with dozens of automata that had been specially made to perform their tasks. A squat heavy-set robot turned a wheel that poured out the boiling contents of a cauldron full of liquid metal into molds. As they walked further through the workshop, Iron Man and Hawkeye saw a robot with a giant hammer that continually pounded metal into the same shape over and over again.

They finally came to a raised platform, where a seven-foot tall, heavy-set, muscular man covered in soot was continually striking a piece of metal with a small hammer. His giant size contrasted greatly with the precision of the tapping of his hammer. The soot-covered giant looked up as Iron Man and Hawkeye came to the foot of his platform.

"Excuse me," Iron Man said. "I think we are supposed to report to you."

When the blazing eyes of the giant man fixed upon him, Iron Man knew he was in the presence of someone more than human.

For his own part, Hawkeye had faced many things during his time as a mercenary and during his short time as an Avengers Leaguer, but he had not seen many beings like the one before him. And something told him who exactly this being was.

"It's Vulcan!"

The giant man frowned a little. "No, he's my lesser counterpart from the Roman pantheon. I am Hephaestus, god of the forge." He took a rather filthy towel and wiped the sweat from his brow.

The best that Hephaestus could manage for a smile passed over his lips. "Through the help of my sister Athena, I have been able to see thy comrades' struggle against the demons on Earth. I have also watched thee, Iron Man. Thy creator is so skilled at the art of metallurgy that I wonder if he does not have something of the divine in him!"

The forge god stepped forward to take a closer look at Iron Man.

"Thou art a fine automaton, Iron Man. Thy maker must be proud."

"Automaton? You mean, a robot?" Iron Man repeated back. "No, I'm not a robot."

Hephaestus' brow furrowed.

Hawkeye whispered to Iron Man. "Don't argue with the divine presence here, Iron Man! If he wants you to be a robot, then be a robot!"

"Well, I'm not."

"You're not a robot?" Hawkeye replied, more than a little amazed to hear this. Iron Man was just too perfect to be human . . . wasn't he?

"No, I'm a person under this armor. A real live thinking human being."

"A mortal!" Hephaestus was taken aback by the thought. "That a mortal should rival mine own genius in craftsmanship and bear his own work upon himself as armor!"

"What he said," Hawkeye remarked. "I can't believe it myself."

Iron Man was lucky that Hephaestus was not one of the more jealous gods, who would have struck down or schemed against a mortal for competing against the gods' skills. As it was, the forge god gave a grunt, and then went back to examining Iron Man's armor.

"Thou hast the skill, and the valor, then, to wear the raiment that we will forge together to fight the demonic threat of Geryon! To work, then!"

Together, Hephaestus and Iron Man worked to build a new armor, one that was specially designed to destroy beings of supreme evil. Hawkeye took advantage of the time to get some of Hephaestus' automatons to craft him some new arrows, since he had fired a great deal of them into the demons that he and Iron Man had been fighting before.

Sparks flew, and the anvil rang with the sound of the hammer. Iron Man drew diagrams and Hephaestus commented on them. The Iron Avenger shared his knowledge of metallurgy and propulsion while Hephaestus infused his knowledge, and a little bit of divine magic, into the mix. After a few hours, their work was finally done.

A shining suit of armor stood before them; it was a combination of Stark's ingenuity and Hephaestus' divine skill. It was quite similar to Iron Man's other suits in design, but it seemed to glow with magical power. It was as if someone had taken a golden Greek statue and invested it with the power of a turbo jet.

"An excellent piece of work, if I may so praise myself," Hephaestus exclaimed.

"It's beautiful," Iron Man responded.

Hawkeye walked back into the workshop and was amazed by the golden armor.

"Whoa! Are you sure you want to wear that thing, Iron Man? I would hate to get a dent in it!"

"It's an enchanted weapon, Hawkeye. It should be able to stand up to that demon."

"If you say so."

"I'll put it on, then," Iron Man said.

"I can go busy myself again, Shellhead, if you don't want to show me your true identity," Hawkeye commented. "There should be something cool left for me to look at in this big place."

"That's all right, Hawkeye. Since we might die in this conflict, and since we're teammates anyway, there's no harm in you knowing who I am."

Iron Man removed his mask. Hephaestus was not surprised, because he already knew Iron Man was a mortal. But Hawkeye was more than a bit shocked.

"Tony Stark!" He was almost taken aback by the sight. "Wow, you certainly had me fooled! You know, I never thought much of you before. I just thought you were the bodyguard and that was it. But, Tony Stark . . . I've always wished that I could make weapons and inventions like you."

"Well, thanks, Hawkeye," Stark replied. "Let's get this suit on now and see if it works!"

"Iron Man and Hawkeye," Hephaestus warned, "thine new weapons shall serve thee well in thy battle against Geryon. Mind thee though, that the enchantment upon them will wear off in a week's time. After that, they shall be only as special as any scrap metal. And beware Geryon's many powers. It was not for naught that he gave Herakles so much trouble so many years ago."

Hephaestus wished them well as he used an enchanted wooden box like that of his automatons to send them back to Earth.

When Hawkeye and Iron Man returned to the Earthly plane, they found themselves on Park Avenue in New York City. The demonic horde was still attacking, and Geryon was leading them. Flames were everywhere, and cars and trees lay stacked upon each other.

Geryon had already destroyed one of Hephaestus' robot servants. He was beating the other one over the head with the leg of the destroyed automaton. The silverish robot was about to lose its robotic life.

A fiery repulsor ray from Iron Man turned Geryon's three heads around all at once. It was a testament to the valor of the two heroes that they did not turn tail and run from the enormous demon and his gibbering hordes at that very moment. Perhaps it was the enchanted weapons; perhaps it was the confidence and trust that Hephaestus had given them.

"So we get another try at big three-bodied ugly here," Hawkeye commented. "We'll see whether these arrows affect him any better than the last batch." He quickly notched an arrow and aimed it at the monster. "I'll hit him with as many arrows as I can, Iron Man, so that you can deliver the old one-two punch."

"I hope it works out that way, Hawkeye," Iron Man said almost excitedly. "I've never used any kind of magic weapon before, so this ought to be an interesting experience."

Iron Man ignited the boot jets of the suit and an alchemist's flame came out - it propelled him faster than the normal jet-fuel-like propellant Iron Man used. He took off so fast that he was in front of the demon before he knew it.

"Grrr . . . .another pest!" the feral Geryon barked. Two of his hands pulled lampposts out of the street to wield against Iron Man.

"This pest right here has quite a sting to him!" Iron Man shouted back. He fired a magic-enhanced repulsor ray at the demon. When the ray hit Geryon in the chest, he staggered back a little.

Hawkeye's arrows kept hitting the demon all over his three bodies. Since they were enchanted, they managed to lodge themselves in his limbs, further irritating him.

"You two are more powerful than before!! How do these mortals injure me?"

With a mighty growl, Geryon swung his scorpion tail at Iron Man, who quickly dodged it. The tail smashed into a fence, and got caught between the bars. Geryon savagely attempted to free himself.

Iron Man knew he had to take advantage of Geryon being stuck. He lifted one of his gauntlets and fired a blast of magical cold at the demon, who reeled but could not escape.

Iron Man then generated a force field, which was one of his ideas for the suit. He soared toward Geryon, and hit him full in the middle of his second face. The additional power that Iron Man had from generating the force field injured the demon gravely.

But Geryon still had plenty of fight left in him. He suddenly snatched Iron Man in one of his hands and prepared to roast the hero with his fiery breath. Iron Man may have been clad in enchanted metal, but he could only last so long under a scorching assault from Geryon's flame.

Hawkeye had been waiting until the exact moment when it would be best to strike. This was that moment. Hawkeye took careful aim, and then fired an enchanted shaft at the Geryon, which hit him in the eye and distracted him long enough for Iron Man to strike.

Iron Man pulled his arm free and extended the enchanted sword that had been designed to be hidden in his armor. Hephaestus had told him that the sword had been enchanted to cut through any substance; the Iron Avenger was about to put that assertion to the test.

With one swing of his golden sword, Iron Man cleaved one of Geryon's bodies clean off. Not being a bloodthirsty type at heart, he was almost taken aback at what he had done.

Green ichor oozed from the severed portion of the demon and burned the concrete beneath it. The lesser demons swarming around them stopped gibbering and took a moment to view their leader's injury. Geryon looked at his severed third in demonic disbelief. He snarled and called out to his minions. An interdimensional portal suddenly opened up.

About ten of Geryon's demonic assistants lifted their massive master, and Geryon and a great number of his horde rushed into the portal. They would retreat into Hades, or Hell, or wherever they belonged, to heal and plot anew.

"We did it!" Hawkeye shouted.

"Yes, we did! But stopping just one demon doesn't get to the heart of the problem!"

Hawkeye scratched his golden beard. "Well, we should signal the other Avengers Leaguers and see if they've made any progress. If they've found out who's at the heart of this, maybe our new weapons will help!"