The Curious Events of the Year Sixteen Hundred and Two

By David Kennedy


In 2003 a document detailing previously unknown events towards the end of Queen Elixabeth I's reign was uncovered by noted author Neil Gaiman, who had gained access to the Bibliol Library at Christminster University to research the influence Shakespeare may have had on Prospero, Duke of Milan. The surprising thing about it was that many of the protaganists in the events seemed to resemble heroes of the 1960s whose adventures were documented by Marvel Comics. Gaiman was only able to make sense of it by concluding it came from a parallel universe, the events had been caused by time travel, or both. The fact that the events described seemed to contradict established history (for instance, the death of Queen Elizabeth a year early, the failure of the Roanoke Colony to disappear) would have encouraged this view. In fact, the events were not as far-fetched as they appear at first sight, although the historian who recorded them appears to have got a number of events in the wrong order, confusing things.


The document begins by claiming Elizabeth's court astrologer was, at this time, a Doctor Stephen Strange. This is not unlikely; the Stranges are a noted magical family [1], and John Dee, the former holder of the post, was in Prague with his associate Edward Kelley. On the other hand, the same passage claims Sir Nicholas Fury as her chief intelligencer, whereas we know that, at this time, it was Robert Cecil, first Earl of Salisbury. Perhaps Sir Nicholas was Lord Cecil's deputy, or perhaps Elizabeth had more than one spymaster. It was after all, a paranoid time.


Sir Nicholas and Dr Strange had learnt, in their different ways, that there was a plot against the Queen. After interrogating an attempted assassin, Sir Nicholas learnt the mastermind was Prince Otto of Latveria [2]. He had already sent an agent to Latveria to investigate, but now he felt it necessary to visit Latveria himself. He left his apprentice, Peter Parque [3] to guard the Queen, while he headed to Latveria in the Eagle's Shadow, a ship cunningly designed so that it could be successfully sailed by a crew of four.


The agent he had sent was a blind minstrel by the name of Matthew Murtagh. The fact he had the same abilities and disability as his descendent Matt Murdock should be unsurprising to anyone familiar with the Murtagh family and the true origin of these abilities [4]. Murtagh had been blinded by agents of the Nine, but their attempts to get him to join them failed, as he was too much of a free spirit to owe allegiance to anything or anyone. (He saw himself as an Irish patriot, but only if there wasn't better money somewhere else.)


En route to Latveria, Matthew was to meet another agent, who was described in the document as "A Man of great Religious sensibilities, yet possessing a Staff of Pagan Magicks for his Protection". While Gaiman named this man as Donal, and equated him to Dr Donald Blake, it seems likely that it was actually Solomon Kane, called from Africa by Sir Nicholas to repay an unknown debt.


The Eagle's Shadow was crewed by four remarkable people. Gaiman describes them as the 17th century version of the Four, and in a way, perhaps they were, although only one of them possessed  remarkable powers. A ballad written by Murtagh (found with the document) describes them as "The Captain, the Lord, the Hothead and the Lady".[5]


The Captain was the famous privateer Sir Geoffrey Thorpe, late of the Albatross [6]. The Lord was Sir Christopher "Kit" Walker, better known as the second Phantom. The Lady was his wife Marabella, the grand-daughter of Christopher Columbus [7]. The Hothead is harder to place., but may have been the young knight (as (s)he was then) Orlando, who is known to have worked for a later incarnation of British Intelligence [8]. This Four, along with Murtagh and Kane, formed a loose-knit organisation Sir Nicholas called "The Brotherhood of Extraordinary Persons".


Upon breaching the castle's defences, they found it deserted, save for the guards and  the two nobles[9], who explained Otto was already on his way to England. They quickly returned, discovered the Prince, and captured him, earning the Queen's thanks.


What happens next is unclear. The document implies Prince Otto escaped, and made another attempt on the Queen's life, this one successful. This is, of course, ridiculous, and probably what led Neil Gaiman to view the story as an alternative history or speculative fiction. In any case, something happened that led to Sir Nicholas deciding to leave his Queen's service, and head for the New World in the Eagle's Shadow[10]. Lord Cecil, concerned that Sir Nicholas might turn free-lance, sent an agent to deal with him. The agent was David Catlum, a son of Eric Catlum, who had inherited his father's strength and latent theriomorphy [11].


Upon their arrival in the Americas, the Eagle's Shadow achieved something that, if they had ever managed to send word back to England about it, would have electrified the country. They found the remains of the Roanoke colony. The surviving colonists had moved to another island, hoping their chances might be better there. They intended to move to Croatoan Island, but had instead had stumbled across an island that somehow tended to escape notice [12]. There they had remained, while England, as far as they could tell, forgot about them. They were therefore quite happy to consider themselves independent.


The colony's leader, a man named Rogers, was surprised to get visitors after all these years, but welcomed them warmly. Upon learning the truth behind their apparent abandonment, he was intrigued, but said that he and his people had renounced their English citizenship, and would not give up their freedom. Sir Nicholas, still a patriotic Englishman, seemed ready to attack the frail Rogers, but as soon as he moved he was attacked by a white wolf. He backed down and, to the astonishment of the visitors, the wolf turned into a young girl. Rogers introduced her as Virginia Dare, the granddaughter of Governor John White, who had gained some fame as an infant as the first colonist born on American soil. She had began shapeshifting into a variety of animal forms, all white, after playing near a mysterious rock on the island. Rogers believed it to be some sort of thunderbolt or meteor, containing strange energies that had affected Virginia. He was correct [13].


In any case, Sir Nicholas reconsidered Rogers' words. While he was a patriot, he was also of an independent turn of mind himself, as illustrated by his abandonment of his post when the Queen became... odd. As for the crew, they all saw themselves, to varying degrees, as citizens of the World. They agreed the colony would remain a secret if that was what Rogers wanted. Sir Christopher, who dabbled in Natural Philosophy, then expressed some curiosity about the meteor. Rogers agreed they could go and see it, but warned them not to get too close.


It was when they went to see the meteor that David Catlum caught up with them. He was uninterested in the colony and the meteor, his job was to kill Nicholas Fury. When he lunged towards Fury however, the former spymaster used the agent's own momentum to throw him... right against the rock.


There was a blinding flash of light. When it was over Catlum lay unconscious, face down. Orlando, who was closest [14], turned him over, and gasped. The rock had activated his latent theriomorphism and he had become a monstrous bear/human hybrid. He regained consciousness, and did not appear hostile, or even intelligent. Rogers balked at killing a being who was technically human and not a current threat, but it was obviously unsafe to leave him on the island so, after some discussion, they took him to the mainland and left him there, where he would become one of the sources for Bigfoot sightings.


Sir Nicholas decided to remain with the colony. His descendents and those of Rogers, later moved to the mainland, and became famous fighters in America's defence.


The Four returned to their adventures. The line of the Phantom continued, as did the life of Orlando, however the fate of the Sea Hawk is unknown. Solomon Kane likewise returned to his career in Africa.


Murtagh also returned to his freelance adventuring, although, upon Elizabeth's (second?) death and James VI of Scotland's ascension to the throne, he devoted a certain amount of time to breaking into the Palace and harassing the King from the shadows, in the hope of persuading him to change his mind about the Protestant Scottish and English colonies being set up in Ireland. (Given his gifts, perhaps he foresaw the full extent of the Troubles?) Strange, meanwhile, was executed by James, who had a paranoia about witchcraft.


Virginia Dare was accidentally killed a few years later, having taken the shape of a white doe to escape an over-eager suitor [15].



[1] In addition to the current Dr Strange, there is also the Regency figure of Jonathan Strange, another magician whose story has been obscured by use of alternate history to "simplify" it.


[2] Gaiman gives him the name "von Doom", but whether he was any relation to Viktor Domovoi, the later ruler of Latveria known as Dr Doom, is unknown.


[3] No known connection to the family of the current Spider.


[4] See


[5] In Gaiman's version, the ship is piloted by the fictional "Witchbreed"; the Four having been captured by Otto, who is using "Sir Reed"'s knowledge to create a mechanical assassin. In fact, this role was served by two minor nobles of Elizabeth's court, who provided the master of disguise the information he needed to infiltrate in person.


[6] See While Sir Geoffrey earned the nickname "The Sea Hawk", he should not be confused with Oliver Tressilian, who also bore that epithet.


[7] See


[8] See


[9] The document doesn't name these nobles, although it gives a not terribly flattering description of them. Describing one as conniving and slippery and the other as woolly-minded and obsequious, it gives them the epithets "the Serpent and the Sheep".


[10] A possible explanation as to how Prince Otto Ludwig von Latveria was able to kill Elizabeth, when nearly all historical records show her ruling for another year, may be found in one of the exceptions, the widely discredited Blackadder Chronicles.


[11] Gaiman was very close when he equated this character to David Bruce Banner. See


[12] The reason for this is unknown, as is the reason the colonists, the Eagle's Shadow and David Catlum's ship were able to find it. It is possible there is a connection in the fact all three crews contained a latent shapeshifter, who may have been somehow drawn to the island's thyophite.


[13] As alluded to in the previous footnote, the meteor was thyophite. See for further details concerning this xenomineral and the effects of its radiation.


[14] I do not know if this is connected to the fact that, some time later, Orlando became a woman. It would appear not to be related to his/her unagingness, which was already established by this point.


[15] See for one of many variant accounts of this.