Over a thousand years ago, the Octessence, eight beings of magical power gathered together, their names being Balthakk, Cyttorak, Farallah, Ikonn, Krakkan, Raggadorr, Valtorr, and Watoomb. They began to argue over whose power was the greatest. One of them suggested that they make a wager that would be known as the Wager of Octessence. Each of these eight beings were to make a totem holding a fraction of its creator’s vast powers, and the artifacts would turn the first human who touched it into an Exemplar, the living embodiment of that power. All of the entities used outside agents to build temples that housed their totems on Earth; in Cyttorak's case, he tricked an order of monks into building his temple in an area that, in the modern day, lies on the Korean peninsula. A spell was devised to ensure that, once one of the totems had been touched, other humans would be drawn to the other seven locations, starting the Wager. Each Exemplar would lead one eighth of population into battle, until only one of them remained.
The incredible energies of the Gem can cause anyone that comes in contact with it to transform into Cyttorak's Exemplar, the Juggernaut, a nearly unstoppable individual. The Juggernaut possesses immense strength and stamina, and doesn't need to sleep, eat, drink, or breathe. The single weak spot is the Juggernaut’s mind, but to shield him from any mental attacks, his armor's helmet is shielded against virtually all psychic attacks. However, that is not all: after the gem returned from a trip through space, it seemed that it grew new capabilities, as it was then used by a young boy (who, despite touching the Gem, was not physically changed) to shoot beams of concussion force, animate wax statues, and to send communication signals around the globe. Whatever became of him is unknown, but the Gem's status has clearly changed, as afterwards it was infused within Cain Marko's body.
Ancient History – the past centuries
Centuries passed without any of the totems being touched and some of the temples fell prey to the forces of nature. They were buried in earthquakes, flooded by the ocean, or overgrown with vegetation. Cyttorak's temple in Korea, though, was one of the few exceptions.
During his travels, The Ancient One happened to reach the temple and curiously ventured inside. Knowing of the ruby’s enchantment, he had no intention of touching the Gem of Cyttorak, he only wanted to observe and learn. Still, his presence alerted Xorak, the temple’s guardian. At some point earlier in history, Cyttorak had been banished from Earth but created this being to safeguard his temple and destroy everyone who entered. He was no match for the Ancient One, though, who magically banished Xorak to the Crimson Cosmos within the gem.
In another century, a group of heretic monks tried to harness Cyttorak's power for themselves, but they failed and, instead, only called forth the most destructive aspect of this being of immense power. Sadly for the rebel monks, this entity murdered them all and the nearby villagers, and the threat would have continued to spread if not for two magicians. Despite being rivals, Gomurr the Impetuous and Tar the Initiate of the Ebon Vein worked together and were successful in forcing the entity into his own totem, the magical Gem of Cyttorak. Thus, it now had a dual nature: it served as a prison for Cyttorak, but likewise it would transform a human into his Exemplar. Neither one of the rival magicians trusted the other enough to guard the ruby, fearing they might succumb to the lure of phenomenal power, so they placed the Gem of Cyttorak once more in the temple and sealed its entrance under a mountain of rocks.
As already described above, during their time in Korea, Cain Marko and Charles Xavier stumbled upon the ruins of the temple. Apparently, the entrance to the cave had been reopened by the explosions and bombings, right in time for the two stepbrothers to happen upon it. Reading the hieroglyphics on the wall, Xavier recognized the warnings of the gem's enchantment, but Cain would not listen to his hated stepbrother. Instead, he picked up the jewel, instantly transforming himself with the curse of Cyttorak. As the transformation occurred, the already unstable temple began to collapse, due to the seismic events transpiring without. The Communists that were searching for the two lost soldier-brothers had caught up with them and were shelling their would-be hiding place. Xavier escaped the collapsing building in time and walked away, wondering whether his brother had managed to escape as well. But Cain Marko had not - he was trapped beneath tones of solid rock. Still, that was not enough to stop the unstoppable Juggernaut. Though he needed about ten years, he eventually dug himself out, while the Gem remained in the ruins. Theory is that the temple’s destruction delayed the initial spell of the eight magical beings and, therefore, the other seven totems were not activated to summon a human host for themselves.
While attempting to use a special machine to purge his stepbrother of the Juggernaut powers, Charles Xavier was hit by an energy feedback and rendered comatose. While the Juggernaut escaped with some of Xavier’s mental power, the X-Men asked Dr. Strange for help, who told them that they needed the prototype gem. In order to get that artifact, he spirited Cyclops and Marvel Girl to Korea, where they cleared the cave entrance of the debris and then ventured inside the temple. Mesmerized by the Gem of Cyttorak's beauty, Jean almost touched it, but her lover stopped her in time. The couple chanted an incantation of Dr. Strange's, taking them inside the Crimson Cosmos, from which they successfully retrieved the prototype gem. Rejoining their comrades, the X-Men used this second gem to cure Xavier and defeat the Juggernaut. When he saw the similar-looking gem, he wanted it for himself, but when he touched it, he and the prototype gem were both sucked into the Crimson Cosmos. It took him quite some time and several unsuccessful attempts before he could fully return.
Back on Earth, Cain Marko formed a close partnership with Black Tom Cassidy and they would often battle their opponents together over the following years. Shortly before Black Tom’s birthday, the Juggernaut had an idea for what would make for a rather unique birthday present, and he went to Korea to retrieve the Gem that gave him his powers. He entered the temple with ease and got what he came for, the Korean army standing in his way failing to slow him down. When Tom opened the gift and touched the glowing gem, he was transformed into another Juggernaut. However, both of them had only half of the original's powers. Black Tom didn’t like this one bit and engaged his ally in a brief battle, which was then interrupted by Spider-Man and the X-Men. Rogue leeched off Cassidy’s Juggernaut powers and, later, Cain Marko reclaimed the full set when he touched the ruby a second time. Realizing that the ruby was not only the source of his strength but could also be used to take it away from him, the Juggernaut decided to hurl it into space, where nobody could use it.
However, fate had something different in store for the magical artifact. Following her master, Galactus, to Earth’s orbit, Nova accidentally bumped into the Gem of Cyttorak and sent it back to the planet, where it was found by a boy named Stevie, who picked it up, though was not transformed. Instead, Stevie could use the gem in unimaginable ways, from animating wax statues to sending a communication signal halfway around the continent. He even managed to release concussive force blasts that held the Juggernaut at bay. One theory is that the enchanted ruby was somehow changed during its stay in open space, or by being hit by the cosmically empowered Nova. Yet another idea might be that the Gem was never meant to transform more than one human, as it would not make any sense to have more than one Exemplar of the same deity. Who then would lead the army in the Wager of Octessence? The sole reason for why Black Tom was transformed might be that Cain Marko was willing to share his power with him. It was, after all, a birthday present.
It is unknown what really became of Stevie but, apparently, Cain Marko encountered the child a second time and successfully reclaimed his power source, as it somehow became infused to his body. Whatever the case, the Juggernaut soon found yet another ruby he wanted to claim for himself. When Dr. Strange and Nova found themselves trapped in the Crimson Cosmos by a manifestation of Cyttorak, the magician summoned Cain Marko to help them. Cyttorak seemed to be an elf-like figure, who wore a pointed helmet-like hat with a ruby grafted onto it. Thinking that this new stone would increase his own abilities, the Juggernaut battled his benefactor and ripped the stone out. Strangely, though, he felt no difference, and when the two heroes teamed up against him, they made him drop the glowing jewel and it returned to its rightful place. The status of this gem is debatable. Later stories revealed that this was not Cyttorak in his natural looks, but a physical, half-human looking disguise of him. That might point to the ruby on his forehead (something the true Cyttorak form doesn’t display) having no meaning at all other than being an ornamental. It could also be the prototype gem from before.
The Gem didn't show up again until Cain Marko was captured by Onslaught and the near-omnipotent entity ripped the Gem from the chest of the magical Juggernaut. The shock of Marko was not that he could be defeated, but that any being on the planet could rip the infused Gem from his body. Even worse, Onslaught imprisoned Marko in the Crimson Cosmos inside the Gem of Cyttorak and, continuing his charade of being the still harmless Professor Xavier, he used the Gem of Cyttorak as a paperweight.
Not much later, Stephen Strange sensed the abandoned Gem and, in his astral form, traveled to the desk of Charles Xavier to examine the magical item. Using his magical senses, Strange recalled the events that transpired and realized that Cain was trapped in the Gem. However, before he could act, Gomurr and Tar both ventured to the Crimson Cosmos and empowered Cain, allowing him to defeat Cyttorak, and they all returned to Earth, the Gem again being bonded to the Juggernaut.
Many months later, charlatans tried to steal the Juggernaut’s power by using a fake gem, with the resemblance of the Gem of Cyttorak. Never having been the brightest one, Cain was easily tricked into believing the new gem could double his powers. Actually, once he arrived at the place of the strange cult, they drained his powers away from him. The Juggernaut was severely weakened, if not dying, and if not for three of the X-Men stealing the fake gem and handing it to Black Tom, he might have died.
Over a decade after Cain Marko had become the Juggernaut, finally the Wager of the Octessence was triggered when one of the other seven totems transformed an unsuspecting human into an Exemplar. Now the trigger spell worked and, one by one, each of the ancient totems called out to a nearby human until each of the eight magical entities had its representative. The Exemplars met on the North Pole, where they started building a God Machine that would have removed the will power from all humans across the globe to make them loyal servants of the eight armies. However, having had years to adjust to the transformation, the Juggernaut’s will was not as overwhelmed by the entity he represented, enabling him to fight back and to stop the Ceremony of the Octessence from occurring.
For his betrayal, the other Exemplars wanted to punish the Juggernaut, but the Avengers intervened. At first hopelessly outmatched, the heroes managed to get through to some of the newly-born villains and, disagreeing with each other, the Exemplars let go of their plan and departed.
- Over the years, artists' interpretations of the gem have varied. It has been shown in different shapes (spherical, flat and oval, six-cornered) and sizes (from as large as a basketball to a softball); the only thing that remained is the glowing red color. Even the name changed from writer to writer - Ruby of Cyttorak, Gem of Cyttorak, Crimson Crystal of Cyttorak, and a number of other slight variants. In this article, the term "Gem of Cyttorak" will be used, as that seems to be a more generic term that would fit both a ruby and a crystal.
- In the animated series X-Men: Evolution, the Gem of Cyttorak may not have been a magical item. It emitted a specific form of radiation that could accelerate mutations, and was used by both Juggernaut and Magneto. However, Xavier mentions that Juggernaut had an inert X-Gene that he awakened with mysticism, suggesting that magic does exist in Earth-11052.
- The Gem contains the following inscription: "Whosoever touches this gem shall possess the power of the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak! Henceforth, you who read these words, shall become ... forevermore ... a human juggernaut!", the gem alters the perception of the one who holds it to see the inscription in a written language they can understand.
- 38 Appearances of Crimson Gem of Cyttorak
- 1 Minor Appearances of Crimson Gem of Cyttorak
- 10 Media Crimson Gem of Cyttorak was Mentioned in
- 11 Images featuring Crimson Gem of Cyttorak
- Item Gallery: Crimson Gem of Cyttorak
Links and References
- Doctor Strange, Sorcerer Supreme #44
- Iron Man Vol 3 #22
- X-Men #33
- X-Men Unlimited #12
- X-Men #12
- X-Men #32-33
- Marvel Team-Up #150
- Avengers: West Coast #64
- X-Men Vol 2 #54
- Uncanny X-Men #361
- Eighth Day
- Avengers Vol 3 #24-25
- From an article by those with the aliases: Iceman (Trevor Cates) and Peter Luzifer.