Excalibur (1st series) #83

Issue Date: 
November 1994
Story Title: 
The Soulsword Trilogy - part 1: Bend Sinister

Warren Ellis (writer), Terry Dodson (penciler), W.C. Carani (inker), Jon Babcock (letterer), Joe Rosas (colorist), Suzanne Gaffney (editor), Bob Harras (group editor), Tom Defalco (editor in chief), based on an original idea by Scott Lodbell, cover by Bill Sienkiewicz.

Brief Description: 

Shadowcat receives a letter from Jubilee. Nightcrawler tries to cheer the glum Kitty up who is having an “outsider day”, before having to tend to Meggan, who has suddenly gone crazy, due to a mysterious poisoning of Muir Island. Meanwhile, Kitty has a sudden change of personality and after donning some very unlike-her clothes, she invades Moira MacTaggert’s room, and the two women subsequently have a fight, which ends when Kitty tells Moira she is going to kill her after drawing the Soulsword from her stomach.
In Cairo, Daytripper is reunited with her mischievous mother, Margali, who is currently on a low power wise, and who warns Amanda that something bad is going to happen involving the Soulsword and that she must get it. Meanwhile, a mysterious woman named Shrill reveals that she is going to strike the wielder of the Soulsword down before they cause her any more pain, and a sorcerer called Gravemoss, currently ahead of Margali on the winding possesses Nightcrawler’s body.

Full Summary: 

Limbo, a nether-realm full of dark and deadly magicks that one cannot even begin to dream of. It is here, where the Soulsword hangs sheathed, its live steel seething with white fire. Once upon a time, it was bonded to a warrior named Illyana Rasputin, she called herself Magik and drew the sword often. Together they dealt pain and loved it. But Illyana is gone now, the blade bonded to another, another who has abandoned it. But the Soulsword always has a way of drawing attention to itself…

Muir Island, the Northwest tip of Scotland, this island is home to the British Super Hero group known as Excalibur, and Moira MacTaggert, world-renowned and respected scientist who owns the island and its research center. It has seen many different things in its time – takeovers, possessions and great battles. Nothing changes in that respect, as another fateful adventure is about to occur…

Moira MacTaggert and Nightcrawler, Excalibur’s leader make their way onto the runway strip, where Bishop of the X-Men has arrived on the transonic jet, the Blackbird, with supplies and equipment vital to the Legacy Virus experiments. Bishop tells Moira that he is privileged to serve her and the Professor in their work on the Legacy virus, but that he fails to see why a commercial courier service – or even the mail, he adds – could not bring the supplies here, he backs that up by saying his absence is not good for security. Bluntly as usual, Moira tells Bishop that she cannot rely on the Royal Mail service as they only come here once a month. Opening a crate, Moira discovers the sensor array recordings that Charles was telling her about.

On a hill, away from the Research Center, Kitty Pryde, also known as Shadowcat, just watches the world go by. She only has a day like this a few times a year, these days she calls them her “outsider moods”. Kitty had fourteen normal years before she joined the X-Men. These days return to make her see life from the ordinary person’s point of view. Kitty looks down at Douglock, Excalibur’s newest member. Kitty knows what a Douglock is – a fusion of the Techno-Organic alien Warlock, and the memories of the deceased mutant Doug Ramsey, her friend. As Douglock reaches out to touch a small bird, it flies away, and Kitty thinks to herself that sometimes he just looks like a dead boy filled with wires.

Nightcrawler teleports over to Kitty, and for once he actually startles her. Kurt Wagner asks her what is wrong, as he normally doesn’t make her jump like that. Kitty blushes at the man who is now probably her best friend and tells him she was ‘miles away, you know?’ Kurt asks her if she is having one of her “outsider days” and Kitty gets all defensive, asking Kurt who told him about that. Nightcrawler tells Shadowcat that Charles Xavier once told him, adding that he thinks Charles knows more about them all than they would care to known.

Kurt points over at Meggan, the powerful elemental and Britannic, the former Captain Britain, who are enjoying a picnic atop the Research Center’s roof. Kurt reminds Kitty that it is not hard for an “ordinary” person to look at the X-Men as freaks and monsters, but looking at Meggan and Brian, all anyone is going to see is two people in love. Kurt suggests that perhaps being an X-Man means valuing life all the more.

Kurt smiles and tells Kitty that the lecture is over, and she should cheer up, or they'll kill her! Katherine smiles and tells Kurt that he probably is her best friend, before he asks her if there was every any doubt, he tells her she has mail, and teleports Kitty back to the runway where Bishop waits.

Kitty is surprised that she got some mail, and Kurt tells her she has lots of mail. Bishop proclaims that Jubilee informed him she was going to “punch my lights out” if he failed to deliver these. In his usual monotonous voice, Bishop tells the two former X-Men that he has considered shooting Jubilee if she roller-blades past his quarters at night again. He asks Kurt what he thinks, and Kurt coughs, before Bishop tells him that was a joke. ‘Oh’ says Kurt. Bishop tells him he has been practicing. ‘Oh’ Kurt says again. Suddenly, Kitty, who had been opening some of her boxes, leaps up crying ‘New clothes!’ Kurt starts to laugh, as Bishop gets annoyed he flew halfway across the world to deliver “millinery” before asking Kurt what he is laughing at.

On another side of the world, Cairo, Egypt to be precise, where Amanda Sefton, Excalibur member known as Daytripper, is on layover between stewardessing flights. She pays the taxi driver and goes for a walk. Amanda only carries loose change in Cairo, as she knows that the local shopkeepers go crazy if a woman tries to pay for anything. A butch tourist policeman locks onto Amanda like a missile system as soon as she walks down the street. They look awful, and Amanda has seen them in action, for that reason she does not go near any beggars while there is a tourist cop in sight, as they protect tourists very well. A beggar once approached Amanda and in an instant the cop was there, and the beggar was punched across the street.

Though it kills her to do so, Amanda ignores the broken old woman huddled in the shady alley…until…’Greetings, daughter!’ Amanda twirls around at the sound of the familiar crackly voice – it is Margali! Amanda’s mother removes the cowl from her face and tells her daughter that the Winding Way, as a system of mystical empowerment has much to recommend it – save for that with each increase in ability, there follows a time of lowliness and weakness. Margali tells her daughter that she has no idea how irritating it is, before Amanda, or Jimaine, as Margali prefers to call her, sits down by her mother.

Margali proclaims that the Winding Way is supposed to teach humility, but that she has yet to find poverty very character building. Amanda tells her mother to stop talking about the Winding Way, and that it is just so good to see her again. ‘What a ridiculous coincidence’ Amanda smirks. Margali tells Amanda that coincidence is the fabric of magic, and that Amanda and her fellow “90’s sorceresses” forget that all too easily. ‘Incidentaly’ the aged sorceress adds ‘Might you do something about the thing with the gun that approaches?’

As the tourist police officer rushes towards Amanda and her mother, Amanda smiles and waves her hand telling her mother she knows this “Winding Way” stuff is all just an excuse for laziness. Margali asks Amanda where she is teleporting the policeman to and tells her that the pyramids over the way have very sharp tips. Amanda stands up and turning away from her mother, she suggests that perhaps it was not a coincidence that they met, maybe she was supposed to find her mother here? Amanda asks Margali what she wants, and turning back to face her, she gets her answer.

Margali tells Daytripper that there is a magician named Gravemoss, who stands ahead of her on the Winding Way, but he is deviant, a monster of unbelievable sickness who is in a time of empowerment. Amanda frowns as Margali goes on about the Winding Way, she knows it will one day be her turn to walk it too, but until then, Amanda wants to keep out of it as much as possible. Margali announces that Gravemoss is warping the Winding Way and resisting the next turn on the path, long enough to steal a weapon that will allow him to kill everyone who is ahead of him! By doing that, Gravemoss will be able to progress through the path to power faster than any magician in history.

Margali tells Amanda that the weapon is called the Soulsword, and that even its owner could not stop a creature like Gravemoss. The Sorceress Supreme adds that the Soulsword itself is a threat to the holder, and tells Amanda that she needs to protect the holder from both the Sword and Gravemoss, for Margali is useless….

Back on Muir Island, Meggan screams as thorns protrude from her body, distorting her appearance. Brian asks Moira what is wrong with Meggan, and in her usual dry tone, Moira asks him if she looks like a bloody mind reader. Talking to Meggan as she gets a needle ready, Moira sticks the needle into Meggan’s arm and half-joking, half-serious she says that they can all applaud her own foresight for stocking adamantium tipped syringes for super tough skins.

Meggan is unconscious now, and Moira tells Brian they need to get her out of the kitchen and into the lab before the sedative wears off, so they can find what caused the sudden convulsive attack. She adds that she is praying it is not the Legacy Virus. Kitty suddenly walks through the kitchen, carrying a full-length mirror. Moira tells Kitty that Meggan has had some kind of attack and asks her if she can take her down to the lab. Kitty does not even look at Moira and walks right past her, phasing into the next room. Moira frowns and tells Britannic that she may as well have been talking to the doorpost.

Moira and Brian leave the kitchen to the lab, taking the shapeshifting elemental with them. Meggan is tapped into nature and physically reacts to her surroundings. Something sick and poisonous hangs over Muir Island.

Meanwhile, in Kitty Pryde’s personal quarters, Kitty reads a letter from Jubilee attached to one of the boxes of clothes, when Jubilee mentions that the clothes should be her style – sensible – Kitty calls her a cow. Kitty rummages through the boxes and after taking a claw to some of the clothes, Kitty dresses in some very un-sensible clothes, out loud she thinks that Piotr never knew what he was missing out on. She thinks her new outfit needs something else and phases out of her room.

In London, the master bedroom of a very large and private mansion, a stimulant is taking effect. Four body-guard type men surround a large four-poster bed, and when one pulls aside a curtain, revealing a cloaked woman on the bed, he asks her, his mistress, if it is over. The woman moans and announces that the pain has abated for the moment, before cursing the day that she ever accepted the Soul Steel Eye. One of the men helps the mysterious woman off the bed and comments on how long it has been since the pain occurred. The woman snaps back that she had noticed, and tells the men not to fuss, as the pain was small, created by low-level activity.

Standing freely, she proclaims that the Soulsword has not been drawn, and that the sword and her eye both are made of alien metals, apparently not intended to exist in the same dimension together. She hesitates before adding that the pain will cripple her again, bedridden and comatose like she was in the days when the old holder drew the blade – which was often. Removing a brooch attached to her cloak, the woman announces that she was never strong enough to act back then, but by this episode she has been forewarned, and that her brooch contains a fleck of Soul Steel, which will act like a compass so she can track the blade with it. Ominously, she tells the men that a careful sorceress would find the sword-holder, and make sure the Soulsword is never drawn again!

Back on Muir Island, Kitty Pryde phases into Moira MacTaggert’s personal quarters. Kitty strolls around the room, and admiring a vase, which she calls ‘quaint’, she “accidentally” knocks it off the table. She walks over to the wardrobe wondering if Moira keeps any nice clothes in it, before telling herself that she will only find ‘thirty-seven identical lab coats and unitards’. Shadowcat opens the wardrobe, and to her surprise sees men’s clothes. She never figured Moira for a drag artist, before smiling and as she laughs, understands why the men’s clothes are there.

Kitty puts on a leather jacket, proclaiming that dead men’s clothes suit her just fine. She begins to mess up the wardrobe, wondering what else she will find, before coming across several containers of cigarettes. Kitty mocks Moira before lighting one and starts to smoke it, when suddenly, Moira enters her room! Moira storms in and tells Kitty that she has been acting strangely all day, before reminding her that she cannot violate her personal quarters and asking her to put the cigarette out and take off Joe’s jacket before coming down to the med-lab and helping her.

Kitty starts to walk across the room before telling Moira she guessed right when she thought it was her dead husband’s jacket. Kitty tells Moira that she cannot let anything go, reminding her that she keeps her dead son’s genetic make-up on disc, and dead husbands clothes in the wardrobe. Kitty calls Moira ‘Pathetic’ before asking her where she got the cigarettes from.

Moira bites her tongue before politely telling Kitty, not that it was any of her business, that she gave up years ago, but kept them around in case of loss of will. Moira raises her voice and tells Kitty that it is a loss of her temper that she should be worrying about at the moment. Kitty tells Moira that she must have mistaken her for someone who cares. Moira makes her hands into fists before ordering Kitty out of her room before she does something they will both regret. ‘Scary’ laughs Kitty as she burns the cigarette into Moira’s arm.

Moira lets out a cry before pulling away, then as Kitty laughs, Moira turns back around and slaps Kitty. Moira is no pushover when it comes to unarmed combat, but neither is Kitty, who retaliates by punching Moira, knocking her across the room.
Stunned, Moira lay on the ground while staring up at Kitty, as the young mutant pulls from her stomach, the glowing Soulsword!
Moira starts to get up off the ground, but Kitty blocks her way, and with the Soulsword in her hand, she tells Moira that she is going to have to kill her!

A level below, Nightcrawler leaves the med-lab, but hears a crash above him. He sighs before complaining that a team leader’s work is never done and teleporting up. Kurt does it instinctively, but his power does not work instantly, as the law of physics will not allow matter to cease to exist, and Kurt spends a fraction of a second in an adjacent, little-known dimension.

Sometimes, however, an instant, can feel like an eternity, and sometimes, a man of magic can make it that way. His name is Gravemoss, speaker to the dead, and possessor of the living – currently, possessor of Kurt Wagner, as Nightcrawler can do nothing when the sorcerer enters his body.

Characters Involved: 

Britannic, Daytripper, Douglock, Meggan, Nightcrawler, Shadowcat (All Excalibur)

Dr. Moira MacTaggert

Bishop (member of the X-Men)

Margali Szardos
Policeman in Cairo



Assistants to Shrill

Story Notes: 

First appearance of both Shrill and Gravemoss, created for this story arc.

Writer Warren Ellis wrote Meggan and Captain Britain as if they were mutants, though Brian decidedly is not and there have been different theories in the past on whether Meggan is mutant, fairy or somehow both.

Moira’s husband Joe was killed by their son, Kevin, a.k.a. Proteus during the young mutants rampage of Muir Island, where Proteus was subsequently killed also. [Uncanny X-Men #125-128]
Ellis works from the erroneous assumption that the Soulsword is made from some kind of alien (or magical) metal, whereas actually it was created from a part of Illyana Rasputin’s soul and lifeforce (Magik #4).

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