Part 11 – Return of the Soulsword and the Winding Way
Unsurprisingly, this was not the case. It is not known what exactly transpired after Belasco’s arrival in the N’Garai dimension but it seems that, rather than being destroyed by them, Belasco managed to strike an alliance. It is possible that he had been able to do so as a result of recent political upheavals in their dimension. An offshoot rate of demons, called the Rutai, who had once been enslaved by the N’Garai, now conquered the N’Garai in turn. Their new second-class status very well may have led to their compact with the sorcerer. The scope of this would come later during another conflict with the X-Men. In the meantime, Belasco managed to not only escape but to return to Limbo, his former prison, and set up a new base of operations.
However, Belasco did not strike at first and did not direct his vengeance on the X-Men. Rather, he seemed to have taken advantage of events surrounding one of his most hated foes, Margali Szardos. In recent months, Margali had convinced Kitty Pryde to give up the deceased Illyana Rasputin’s Soulsword to her for safekeeping. [Excalibur #83-85] However, Margali had become drunk with power and had used the sword to kill other every other magician who was ahead of her in the Winding Way. Margali’s plans also led to her becoming the Red Queen in the London’s Hellfire Club and attempting to destroy the city and conquer Britain. Failing at her attempt, Margali suffered from the result of a spell being disrupted and faded away. [Excalibur #100]
Where she was immediately sent remains unclear, however soon thereafter she came under the possession of Belasco and became his prisoner in Limbo. Along with Margali, Belasco came into possession of the Soulsword. Chances are that the following occurred: Belasco is known to have watch happenings from even far off dimensions, most likely through scrying spells. It is possible that he saw the fate of Margali and used his magic to make her his prisoner. With the Soulsword accompanying her, Belasco would now have a weapon of great power, a weapon whose power was greatest in Limbo. Using this weapon there, he quickly became master once again and set in motion his plans with the N’Garai.
Rather than proceeding with his plans immediately, Belasco conducted a rather odd test of some of his former enemies, who were also former members of the X-Men. At this time, Kitty Pryde, Nightcrawler and Colossus were members of the Britain-based team called Excalibur. Wishing to test them for a future plan, he teleported them to Limbo and placed them in a small village populated by version of them from alternate realities. It was not long before the trio deduced where they were. Immediately following their conclusion, Belasco returned them to Britain, telling Margali that they had “grown” much since they last met. [Excalibur #103]
One possible lingering result of this test was the recruitment of a new servant by Belasco. When next seen, Belasco once again had a demonic Nightcrawler in his employ; one which seemed to be a perfect duplicate for the one killed by Illyana Rasputin so long ago. As that one had definitely been killed, it is very likely that Belasco impressed into service one of the doppelgangers of Nightcrawler that had been summoned from alternate realities. Having just come back into mastery over Limbo, Belasco’s thoughts may have turned to nostalgia, which included the faithful servant the demonized Nightcrawler had been.
As the months passed, Belasco, ever patient, continued to consolidate his power before acting. After much deliberation, he evidently decided that he should consolidate his power over the powers of the Winding Way, which he now had access to through his prisoner, Margali. Appearing before Nightcrawler, Belasco showed the mutant an image of his stepmother and offered to free her, in exchange for permanent custody of the Winding Way. After Belasco’s departure, Nightcrawler contacted Amanda Sefton, his old love and, ironically, Margali’s daughter, whom Nightcrawler had known in his youth as Jimaine. Amanda used her powers to teleport herself and Nightcrawler to Limbo, where they made their way to Belasco’s citadel to free their mother.
All plans involved seemed to have disintegrated quickly upon the convergence of all parties. The demonic Nightcrawler had struck a bargain with the captured Margali, promising to free her if she stole the Soulsword for him, so that he could conquer Limbo. The captured Margali was actually not Margali but her daughter, Amanda, in Margali’s body. Transversely, Margali’s mind was acting in Amanda’s body, guiding the true Nightcrawler into a plan to free herself. Learning all of this quite suddenly, in the middle of battle, Belasco tried his best to salvage his plan, but it was not to be. During a sword fight with Nightcrawler, Amanda managed to blast the Soulsword out of the sorcerer’s hands, making it drop hundreds of feet below. With the arrival of the restored Margali, Belasco decided that there was no chance for victory anymore and departed. [X-Men Unlimited #19]