Excalibur (4th series) #11

Issue Date: 
October 2020
Story Title: 
Verse XI: Blood of the Changeling
Staff: 

Tini Howard (writer), Marcus To (artist), Erick Arciniega (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Ariana Maher (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Mahmud Asrar & Matthew Wilson (cover artists), Nick Russell (production), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Jubilee is distraught after her son, Shogo, was injured by the White Priestesses, so she is placed in a hollow tree by some Green Priestesses. Captain Britain, Rogue, Gambit and Rictor arrive and battle the Green Priestesses, until they discover that the Green Priestesses are not their enemy, and are caring for the injured Shogo. Captain Britain helps to calm Jubilee down and she is released from the tree. The mutants debate what their next course of action should be – they can't go back to Krakoa with Shogo in his dragon form in case he reverts to his human form and his injuries kill him. Captain Britain is inclined to go on to the Starlight Citadel on her own to plant the gateway to Krakoa. The heroes get some sleep, except for Rictor, who goes for a stroll into the woods, and discovers two priestesses standing near some glowing rock. They talk to him about the power within the earth, and when Rictor touches the rock, it puts him in telepathic connection with Apocalypse. Apocalypse talks to Rictor about the importance of the gate being placed at the Starlight Citadel, and reveals some of the history of the Externals, including power transmission and resurrection, and tells him about Candra's power being transferred into a stone. The next morning, Captain Britain, Rogue, Gambit and Rictor say goodbye to Jubilee, leaving her with the Green Priestesses and Shogo. Rictor helps the heroes travel quickly to the Starlight Citadel, riding the earth, but as they get closer, Saturnyne sees them and sends White Priestesses to attack, but the mutants prevail and reach the Starlight Citadel where they plant the flower, and the Krakoan portal grows. To open the portal, someone has to step through it, so Rictor volunteers – but as he steps in, he remembers that gates on Otherworld need crystals. He falls through the gate and communicates with Apocalypse who encourages him to anchor himself to the earth. Saturnyne appears, unimpressed that Betsy is Captain Britain. She dismisses Rogue and Gambit, who begin to explore the citadel, where they find a closet full of trinkets – one takes Gambit's interest in particular, a red stone.

Full Summary: 

Otherworld, where two women in green tunics walk through a snow-covered forest towards a fountain which sticks up out of the snow, water flowing down the fountain. 'Do we know who brought the beast down?' one of the women asks. 'Not yet' the other replies. 'Do we know if it's going to die?' the first woman, with dark, curly hair, asks. 'Not yet' the second woman, who has red hair, responds, adding that the beast cries like it wants something. 'It's a dragon!' the first woman declares. 'I know! But it cries like a baby!' the second woman remarks as they wash their hands in the fountain. The first woman asks if the beast wants milk. 'No. it wants what all babies want, silly. It wants its mother' the other woman declares.

Nearby, inside a hollowed out tree trunk, Jubilee is shrouded in darkness, but she can hear what the two women are talking about. She releases a small burst of power, which illuminates her dark surroundings and listens as one of the women asks if she is dangerous. 'You saw what she did' the other woman replies. 'But if she is that thing's mother... can you blame her?' comes the response. Tears stream down Jubilee's face, as the woman with red hair remarks that she is going to see if Jubilee has decided to become calm and speak with her – but as plasma “fireworks” burst out of the tree, the women realize that Jubilee has not calm down. 'Oh dear' the woman with red hair remarks.

The women turn to the sky as they hear something, and the woman with red hair points out that it would appear something is coming to free Jubilee anyway. 'More dragons?' the other woman asks. 'No no. It's Captain Britain!' the woman with red hair exclaims, as Betsy Braddock a.k.a. Captain Britain drops towards them, 'Surrender Jubilee or face my sword!' Captain Britain calls out, her psi-shield and psi-sword at the ready, with Rogue, Remy LeBeau a.k.a. Gambit and Julio Richter a.k.a. Rictor at her side. 'Does she understand who we are?' the woman with the curly hair asks, holding her bow and arrow at the ready. 'Almost assuredly not' the other woman replies, before her companion instructs her to get her bow. 'We aren't going to be able to explain ourselves anytime soon!' the woman with curly hair adds, while several more men and women in green tunics emerge from the forest, shooting arrows towards Captain Britain and Excalibur. Gambit hurls several kinetically-charged playing cards towards the mysterious people in green tunics, while Rogue flies towards one of them, fist at the ready, and Rictor raises himself up on a mound of earth.

Inside the tree, Jubilee sits with her knees pulled up to her chest, when she hears Betsy calling out to her telepathically. 'Betsy!' Jubilee exclaims, sitting up, she reaches for a glowing burst of psionic energy and tells Betsy that she has to get her out of here. 'They've got Shogo, I don't know where, but I can feel he's near me. If they killed him -' Jubilee begins, but Captain Britain assures her that Shogo is alive, and that he will be okay. 'Did you find who did it? Did you kill them for me?' Jubilee scowls, tears continuing to stream down her face. Betsy tells Jubilee to breathe and to listen, as she informs her that it was Saturnyne, through some of her agents – her Priestesses. 'Oh. I'll kill her' Jubilee replies. Betsy tells Jubilee that she needs her to be patient and strong, and thate Shogo needs that. 'Find your strength. Even if it's just a loan against your later revenge' Betsy adds. Jubilee clasps the psionic energy in her hands as she asks Betsy where Shogo is, and where she is.  'Get me out of here!' Jubilee pleads. Betsy informs Jubilee that she is right outside, with some of the priestesses. Jubilee pauses before asking if they are still alive.

Kneeling outside the tree, Betsy telepathically informs Jubilee the priestesses are taking care of Shogo, as these aren't the priestesses who hurt him. She reveals that there are factions, that it is a bit complicated, but they can help. 'If you come out, you can see him' Betsy adds, telling Jubilee that she knows Shogo wants to see her. One of the Green Priestesses approaches Betsy and tells her that they are not violent but that the forest is their realm to protect. 'If she continues  to threaten us with her blasts of light, we will have to -' the priestess begins, but Betsy asks her to wait. The door into the tree then open and Jubilee turns to Betsy, tears streaming down her face, she remarks that she is done, and that she would like to see her son now.

Shortly, Betsy stands on a balcony of a hut built into a tree and looks down at Jubilee, who is hugging her son, Shogo, who is in his dragon form. 'So what now?' Betsy asks. Rictor, Gambit and Rogue are standing behind Betsy, warming themselves around a fire, as Rictor asks  if they can plant the gate here, then take Shogo back to Krakoa for hhealing, get another gate flower and leapfrog their way back. Betsy explains that she suggested to Jubilee they bring Shogo back to Krakoa for healing, but that they don't know what it would do to him, as his wound is larger than his whole tiny body, so there is a chance they take him through the gate and he just falls apart. 'Boy needs his mama' Gambit remarks, reminding the others that they have a misssion to get to that citadel and plant a gate, suggesting they split up, otherwise they are stuck here.

Betsy tells her team that she is more inclined to leave them all here with Jubilee and go forward herself, because if need be, she can move through Otherworld without a gate. 'You kidding me?' Rogue asks, reminding Betsy that Saturnyne shot the dragon out of the sky. 'Whatta you think she's gonna do to you when you roll on up there?' Rogue asks. Betsy looks over to the citadel which shimmers under the night sky and replies 'I'm Captain Britain. Why would she keep the citadel closed to me?'

Later, most of Excalibur sleep in hammocks, except for Rictor, who pulls a hooded cloak over his head and remarks that he can't sleep as he steps out of the hut and bare-foot onto the forest ground. He comes to a stop when he notices something glowing in the forest ahead. As he approaches the clearing, he sees two priestesses with antlers protruding from their foreheads standing near some glowing rock formation. 'Greetings, druid. Welcome to the heart of our home' one of the priestesses utters. 'Priestesses! May I approach?' Rictor asks. 'Of course. You mean this earth no harm' one of the women responds. Rictor pulls his hood back and as he approaches the glowing rock formation and remarks that it feels nice here, like following a good smell to the kitchen. One of the priestesses informs Rictor that this forest is beloved, that the earth here is beloved and protected – and fought over. 'When we die for something we love, the earth is what collects our heart's blood' she states, adding that some believe that is the power inherent in earth, and that the power is about to rise.

Blood-like veins run from the glowing rock into the earth, as Rictor asks 'More... blood?' to which one of the priestesses tells him 'More war'. The other priestess tells Rictor that it will be soon, but not now. 'So I just... touch it?' Rictor utters, putting his hands to the glowing rock, he suddenly hears something. 'I can hear myself... is someone listening?' he wonders, his eyes glowing, he looks panicked. 'Who the $#%& is listening to my thoughts?' Rictor asks, when the voice of Apocalypse responds 'My dear boy. I have been eager to hear from you'.

Apocalypse is one of his laboratories, he remarks that far in Otherworld, he cannot hear the Captain's powerful thoughts without some sort of amplifier. 'How is that you can hear me now?' Rictor responds. Apocalypse tells Rictor that he would asusme that he is meditating upon a place of great power, and that it is increasing his personal psychic reception, before asking why the gate is not yet built. Rictor explains that Shogo is down, that Saturnyne sent some  of her priestesses to stop them, and Shogo was shot out of the sky. He adds that they don't know why, but that they aren't going to be able to just walk up to the citadel and plant a gate now. 'The gate is but one element of what is to come' Apocalypse replies, placing his hand on an old book called the Grimoires. Apocalypse announces that there is a take, and that now is the time for Rictor to know. 'This is not my first coven...' Apocalypse begins, as Rictor sees images flash through his mind.

c. the Twelfth Century C.E.

For centuries Apocalypse has believed that mutantkind seeks one another by nature – more than wanting to live among one another, they are intended to, for their own protection – and the High Lords understood that. Selene, who is dressed as a nun, Nicodemus, the purple-skinned Crule and the bearded Saul gather and each take a sword. They are Externals, although they prefer the name High Lords. When they desire to meet, it takes little more than a thought to bring them together, and for that reason, they almost never call upon one another, because they are connected in other ways as well – their energies are like that of a single organism, so if one of them dies, the others feel themselves become stronger, as though one had distributed the contents of them among them.

So, when one of their number had a plan to extract her own life energy and place it into a stone, it was in Apocalypse's own interest to help. Candra appears before the others, and the creation of the infamous gem that once held her life force was, in many ways, Apocalypse's first ritual. Candra laid down on a slab, and the blades that the other High Lords carry begin to glow with energy. It was power they could have all shared, but Candra chose to remove it from herself and keep it rather than share it among her kindred, and when Apocalypse sunk the blade into her heart, he could have taken that energy for himself. Some of the High Lords felt like it was theft, to keep a shared thing like that in a stone – where could Candra hide it from them, anyway? But, the power contained within the stone was a temptation for impatient men – lesser men.

Apocalypse placed the gem on Candra's throat, and while individual power comes and goes, Apocalypse knew the ritual of the coven, the mastery over power that their kind has always been destined for. The gift of rebirth. And Candra suddenly opened her eyes, while energy from the red gem swirled about.

Present:

'And what does this have to do with me and the gate?' Rictor asks. Apocalypse tells him that their life in stones, their blood in the dirt and their home on Krakoa – power over the earth is power over them all.

The sun rises, and Rictor tells his teammates that they have to leave for the citadel, but that Shogo has to stay here, so the priestesses are in luck – they have a roughly immobile and very friendly dragon who can melt anyone that gets too close to them. 'Rictor, no! I'm not leaving him -' Jubilee begins. 'And you'll also have the protection of his psychotic mother' Rictor adds. 'What?' Jubilee asks. Betsy informs her that they have to continue to the citadel, but that she can't ask her to come with them, not with Shogo wounded. 'I don't want to stay here, but...' Jubilee's voice trails off, before she and Betsy hug, and Betsy tells Jubilee that Shogo will be up and hos old self in no time, back home and torturing Maggie. 'I'll keep in touch?' Betsy asks. 'Be careful' Jubilee tells her. S

One of the priestesses reports that Dragon fire is forbiddden as a weapon of war in most of the provinces, but that desperate times call for desperate measures, and that they are grateful for the gift of his flame. Rogue, Gambit and Rictor adjust their costumes and cloaks as Captain Britain states that Avalon's war with Saturnyne is over and Morgan was deposed, while King Jamie has no quarrel with thse kingdoms. 'Does he?' Betsy asks. 'Why all the talk of wartime?' The priestess tells Betsy that there is much of her brother's deeds that she does not know. 'But trust us – the war we fear hasn't yet begun'.

Rogue asks if they are really leaving Jubilee and Shogo behind. Betsy tells her that they don't have a choice, and that if they can get the gate set up outside of the Citadel, they can come and go as they please and return for Jubilee and Shogo when they need. 'Big if, that' Rogue points out. Gambit asks how they will get to the Citadel. 'We tried to fly up on a dragon and got shot down. How we gonna walk up on her lawn?' Gambit enquires. 'Oh, we aren't going to walk up on her lawn' Rictor smiles, energy glowing around his fist. 'We're going to go under it' he annnounces.

Shortly, there is a loud BRA-DOOOOM as the cliff-face of a mountain that slopes down near the Citadel bursts open, thanks to Rictor's mighty powers, and Captain Britain, Rictor, Gambit and Rogue emerge near the Citadel. They are seen by Saturnyne, who looks out a window in her citadel. 'Ah, Celber' she remarks, while the heroes scale down the side of the cliff face, 'So much for sneaking' Gambit points out. 'She shot Jubilee's son out of the sky, Gambit. I don't know that peace was ever an option' Betsy replies, while several winged White Priestesses fly from the Citadel and begin to fire arrows of energy towards Excalibur. Betsy holds her psi-shield up to block the onslaught of energy arrows, while Rictor asks who has the gate flower. Betsy confirms that she does, but points out they aren't anywhere near the citadel yet.

Betsy tells her teammates that they have to get the gate onto the citadel grounds, but admits that she didn't expect this kind of resistence. 'Give it here' Rictor tells Beetsy, who hands the flower over to him as he suggests that they get this started a little early, as plants like that. 'C'mon, l'il baby, get some roots' Rictor tells the flower as he uses his power to move some dirt around the flower, then he raises it upwards, on a bridge of dirt. 'Follow that flower. As soon as that gate gets anchored, jump through and get outta here!' Rictor tells the others, adding that he will follow 'On the way!' Rogue shouts as she and Betsy follows the bridge. Rictor raises slabs of rock that Gambit uses as stepping stones to run along after the bridge and throws kinetically-charged playing cards ahead of himself, 'I'll clear a path. Taget practice, non?' Gambit calls out, as the cards strike the winged priestesses.

'We go through that gate, we leave Jubilee behind all alone in the Otherworld!' Rogue remarks, but Betsy tells her that won't happen. 'One thing at a time – let's see if that gate took hold' Betsy remarks as the bridge reaches the Citadel, Rogue and Betsy drop down to find the Krakoan gateway has started to take formation. Gambit and Rictor join their teammates while Rogue tells Betsy that she knows what she is doing: 'You're doing Psylocke stuff. Gonna make everyone else worry boutcha while you save the day in secret'. Betsy frowns and tells Rogue to watch it. 'Ah ain't playing!' Rogue snaps back, clenching her fists, she warns Betsy that if she stays behind, then she will too, and so will Remy. 'We can't all stay behind!' Rictor calls out. 'Someone has to use the gate!' he points out, adding that someone has to go back to Apocalypse. 'You volunteering?' Gambit asks. 'I think I am' Rictor replies.

But, as Rictor steps into the gateway, he remembers that the Otherworld gates need crystals or something, and screams as he begins to fall, calling out to Apocalypse, by his Krakoan name. 'I can hear you' Apocalypse says, speaking into Rictor's mind. Apocalypse asks Rictor to make himself like the firmament, and tells him to be like a place on the earth, an anchor so that he may find him and bring him to him. 'Yeah. I can do that. I've done that before' Rictor replies, before announcing that he is ready, and he closes his eyes for the process.

'Betsy Braddock? Why are you storming my castle?' Opal Luna Saturnyne asks as she steps towards her “guests”. Captain Britain tells Saturnyne that she will not be kept from the Starlight Citadel, not even if she sends a hundred thousand arrows her way. Saturnyne frowns and tells Betsy that she is much less cooperative than her brother. 'I don't prefer you to him as Captain Britain' she reveals. 'I'm sorry to hear that, my lady – because I'm the only Captain Britain you've got' Betsy responds. Betsy, Rogue and Gambit follow Saturnyne into the citadel, but Saturnyne asks Rogue and Gambit what they are doing here. 'I'm through with you two. You're dismissed' she informs them. 'We're staying with -' Rogue begins, but Saturnyne interrupts her and tells her that she can go.

Rogue and Gambit find themselves on a balcony and Rogue tells her husband that can just hang out here until Betsy needs them. 'That Saturnyne is one rude lady' Gambit frowns. 'She might be. But for all them scrying mirrors and looking balls, she ain't seen her mistake' Rogue replies. Gambit asks Rogue what she means, to which Rogue replies 'She sent us in the hall. She thinks we just gonna sit here and twiddle our thumbs'. Rogue smirks and points to a closet, asking Gambit what he thinks is in there. 'Buncha goodies?' she asks. 'Dieu' Gambit resonds. 'Attaboy' Rogue smiles as Gambit goes over to the closet and opens it. 'It wasn't even locked!' Gambit utters as he looks at the mirrors, old books, jewels and other objects in the closet. 'Well, why would it be? We ain't supposed to be here. All Saturnyne's flyers got called to the fight. Dunno if I should encourage you like this, but I like to see ya smile Rogue smiles.

'Lucky for me' Gambit replies, before he finds a deck of cards. He laughs, and supposes that he may as well fill his pockets. Rogue looks around nervously and tells Gambit that she likes letting him take his time, but that he best hurry before they get company. 'Yeah, sorry bout dat. You know I'm a sucker for a pretty thing' Gambit smiles as he holds up a red stone.

Characters Involved: 

Apocalypse, Captain Britain II, Gambit, Jubilee, Rictor, Rogue (all Excalibur)

Shogo Lee

 

Opal Luna Saturnyne

 

Green Priestesses

White Priestesses

 

in flashback:

Apocalypse, Candra, Crule, Nicodemus, Saul, Selene (all Externals)

 

Story Notes: 

This issue contains a text-only page providing information on the Priestesses of Opal Luna Saturnyne, providing background information on the purposes of the White and Green Priestesses.

Betsy refers to Shogo being home torturing Maggie – Maggie being Betsy's niece, the daughter of Brian and Meggan Braddock. 

 

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