Millennia ago, eight great mystic entities (principalities) gathered to determine who amongst them was the most powerful. Unable to reach an agreement, these entities - Balthakk, Cyttorak, Farallah, Ikonn, Krakkan, Raggadorr, Valtorr, and Watoomb – entered into a deal they called the “Wager of Octessence,” which involved each of them creating a totem that would hold a fraction of their vast power and employing outside agents to create temples to house their totems. When touched by a human, the totem would transfer the power it contained unto them, transforming them into the living embodiment of that power known as an Exemplar. Upon the first mortal being transformed, a spell would be triggered to draw others to the remaining totems. Once the last of the Exemplars was empowered, they would then begin the “Ceremony of the Octessence,” wherein a great magical God-Engine would be constructed to enslave the wills of all humans on Earth. This would allow the Exemplars to each take control of 1/8th of the globe and its population in preparation for a war on what would be known as “the Eighth Day” to determine the mightiest among them.

In modern times, while serving with the U.S. Army in Korea, Cain Marko felt an irresistible mystical compulsion to enter a cave wherein he discovered an ancient temple containing a glowing ruby. Upon touching it, Marko was magically transformed into a living juggernaut, the earthly avatar of Cyttorak. At that moment, the temple came under artillery fire and collapsed, entombing Marko alive but unharmed. The shelling also knocked the temple’s mystical symbols out of alignment, resulting in the spell intended to gather the other Exemplars being unsent. It also prevented Cyttorak’s will from dominating Marko, allowing him to use Cyttorak’s power for his own endeavors. Years later, while accompanying an archaeological investigation into the recently-discovered Temple of Balthakk in the Nunavut Territory in Canada, charter pilot Samantha McGee felt a compulsion to enter whereupon she discovered its Blinding Brazier. Entering its column of fire, McGee was transformed into the Exemplar Inferno. Her transformation triggered the spell, resulting in other Exemplars emerging around the globe. In Northern Ireland, IRA terrorist Bridget Malone was drawn to the Temple of Krakkan and the Kestrel Key which transformed her into Conquest, the warrior Exemplar. In Kenya, 8-year old Olisa Kabaki felt compelled to enter the Temple of Ikonn in the Great Rift Valley wherein she discovered the Ivory Idol and became Bedlam, Exemplar of the mind and madness. At an offshore platform north of Tahiti in the South Pacific Ocean, Stark-Fujikawa Inc. efficiency expert Yoshiro Hachiman was influenced to dive into the waters to the submerged Temple of Valtorr and the Verdant Vial within which transformed him into the Exemplar Decay. In northern Australia, international game warden Nicolette Giroux found the Temple of Watoomb and its Wondrous Waterfall which turned her into the Exemplar Tempest. In a remote Andean valley, wealthy antiquities collector Count Andreas Zorba entered the Temple of Farallah and was transformed by the Fearsome Fist into the beast-like Carnivore, the hunter Exemplar. Last but not least, in the jungles of Thailand, 17-year old graffiti artist Utama “Tom” Somchart entered the Temple of Raggadorr and touched the Ringed Ruby to become Stonecutter, the builder Exemplar.

Meanwhile, the Juggernaut felt a compulsion to travel to New York City where he was opposed by the Thunder God Thor. Their battle was interrupted by Bedlam and Conquest, who easily defeated Thor and teleported away with the Juggernaut. With the Exemplars assembled at last, they stood guard as Stonecutter began constructing the God-Engine in a secret chamber deep beneath the Daily Bugle building in Manhattan. They were discovered by Spider-Man who found himself severely outmatched and quickly sought aid in opposing the Exemplars. Despite enlisting the help of Thor, his fellow Avenger Iron Man, as well as Juggernaut’s step-brother Charles Xavier, Spider-Man and the other heroes were defeated and held prisoner by the Exemplars. Stonecutter completed the God-Engine then teleported it, the Exemplars and their prisoners to the North Pole, which provided the ideal planetary focal point to maximize the machine’s power. As they prepared for the Ceremony, the Juggernaut found himself engaged in a mental battle with the essence of Cyttorak he hosted. Triumphing, the Juggernaut turned on his fellow Exemplars, inadvertently freeing the heroes and ultimately destroying the God-Machine. The subsequent chain reaction of mystical energy scattered the Exemplars – including the Juggernaut - to the far corners of the Earth.

Soon, however, the Exemplars regrouped and sought to exact revenge on their betrayer. Desperate, the Juggernaut turned to the Avengers for help but they were unable to prevent the Exemplars from defeating and capturing him. The Exemplars sentenced him to death, but before his execution could be carried out they were attacked by a gathering of heroes including the Avengers, Quicksilver, Hercules, Spider-Man and Nova. Ultimately, the heroes proved no match for the Exemplars’ might, and all were imprisoned alongside the Juggernaut except for Captain America, who managed to evade capture. Using his knowledge of their past selves, the Captain sought to make the Exemplars see that they were no more than pawns in a larger game. His ploy eventually worked after Bedlam managed to overcome her conditioning and used her vast mental powers on her fellow Exemplars to free their original personalities. The Exemplars quickly fled, leaving the Juggernaut to be turned over to the authorities.

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