Excalibur (4th series) #13

Issue Date: 
December 2020
Story Title: 
X of Swords, Chapter 9

Tini Howard (writer), RB Silva (artist), Nolan Woodard (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Ariana Maher (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Mahmud Asrar & Matthew Wilson (cover artists), Alex Ross; Lee Garbett & Frank D'Armata (variant cover artists), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Jay Bowen (production), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief)
X-Men created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Brief Description: 

Brian Braddock and Jamie Braddock arrive at the Starlight Citadel, where Betsy Braddock is not happy to see that Brian is trying to give her the Sword of Might – she doesn't want it. Saturnyne is annoyed to see Betsy aggravating her brothers, before Jamie attempts to woo Saturnyne, but she isn't interested in him – she has her sights on Brian. Saturnyne discusses the history of the Braddock family and takes the Braddock siblings into a memorial garden for the slain Captain Britain Corps members. Betsy and Brian argue some more, with Brian determined to give the Sword of Might to Betsy, and Betsy wanting Brian to use the sword for himself. They fight, until an unimpressed Saturnyne breaks them up. That night, Jamie is woken by some alternate versions of Rogue, Rictor, Gambit and Jubilee – a makeshift Captain Britain Corps. Betsy and Brian hear their brother's cries, and rush to him, once again trying to get each other to take the Sword of Might. They arrive to find Jamie using his reality warping powers against the makeshift Captain Britain Corps members. One of them attacks Jamie, so Brian draws the Sword of Might to protect him – and is transformed into Captain Avalon. The Corps members who survive are taken into custody, with Captain Avalon wanting them to stand trial as all Corps members are entitled to. Betsy destroys the Amulet of Right, annoying Saturnyne further, and as a consequence is placed into custody herself. She is able to telepathically communicate with Jamie, who helps guide her out of the prison, and catches her on a griffin that he is riding on around the Starlight Citadel. Saturnyne is in her quarters with Brian when she reveals to him the Starlight Sword. They make out and Betsy and Jamie rush into her room and steal the Starlight Sword. To Saturnyne's frustration, Brian was only making out with her to distract her. Betsy, carrying the Starlight Sword, and Brian, with the Sword of Might, then arrive on Krakoa and take their place with the other Swordbearers.

Full Summary: 

Once upon a time there was a mutant who became a hero to a people who were not her own. She had hardly settled into her own skin before it was dressed in the colors of a nation. To be a hero is not a blessing, nor is it a curse. It is clarity of perspective – and in that, it can be lonely. To be everything to everyone is to be very little to yourself.

The Starlight Citadel, Otherworld, where one of the White Priestesses alerts other priestesses to get to their posts. 'The Kingdom of Avalon approaches!' she shouts as she sees two large birds flying towards the citadel, carrying King Jamie Braddock and his brother, Brian Braddock, the former Captain Britain, both who laugh. 'Eyes up, King Jamie!' Brian tells his brother. 'Captain Britain welcomes us to the Starlight Citadel!' Brian remarks as he sees their sister waiting for them on a balcony. Betsy – the current Captain Britain – looks up at her brothers and tells them to come on in and land. 'Are you cross because your brothers didn't bring you a griffin?' Jamie asks as white priestesses tend to the large birds. 'I'm not cross, I'm busy' Betsy snaps back. 'If you're through faffing about, there are a few nations at stake. Yours and mine' Betsy declares.

Brian extends his arms to hug Betsy and smiles: 'Come here, serious girl' he tells her, asking for one good hug before everything goes pear-shaped. 'What is that on your hip?' Betsy asks as she looks at her brother. Brian tells her that he brought it for her, but Betsy tells him that she doesn't want it, that he can take it to Krakoa and stick it in the sigil. Brian puts his hand on the sword hanging from his hip and tells Betsy that the Sword of Might was named in the prophecy, as were they, so one of them has to wield it. 'It's all yours, then' Betsy responds, as she turns and starts to walk away. 'For heaven's sake, can we talk about it?' Brian asks. Betsy tells him that there is no need, and that she will keep the amulet, as her sword suits her fine. 'Call me when you need a mutant to walk you through the gate' Betsy adds.

But Brian tells Betsy that he came here to thank her, not to fight her. '... do you even hear yourself? To thank me. As if this whole Captain Britain thing was simply a favor to you' Betsy snaps, turning back to Brian. 'It was. And when I was too angry and hurt to take the amulet in my hand again, you were there for me' Brian reminds Betsy, informing her that he is ready now. 'You have to say it. If you want it, you have to at least be able to bloody ask me for it' Betsy responds, before narrowing her eyes and asking her brother what it is that he wants to take from her.

'Captain Britain!' a voice calls out before Brian can answer. The Braddocks look over to see the Majestrix of this realm, Opal Luna Saturnyne, approaching them. 'I sent you to greet our guests, not to belittle them' Saturnyne remarks, hands on hips, before inviting Jamie and Brian in, informing them that she has had tea prepared.

Jamie asks if they are the first of the provinces to arrive. 'Needed an extra morning to sniff my brother's pillow?' Jamie asks Saturnyne, who ignores that comment and simply states that it is true what they say – the new King of Avalon is a babbling mad. 'What a shame. I know your family so well, I had hoped we could reach some sort of understanding' Saturnyne reveals. 'You can get to know me just as well. I don't mind if you sniff my pillow' Jamie replies. Saturnyne glances sideways as she tells Jamie to comfort himself, and that he is her guest, and although Captain Britain may try to waste their time, they are actually on a tight schedule.

Saturyne leads the Braddocks through an indoor garden, where several statues stand tall, glowing under the light that shines through large windows. 'Long have I known your illustrious family, Braddocks. And now you arrive as the royal court of the Kingdom of Avalon. How things have changed' Saturnyne remarks. She states soon this citadel will be alive with guests, and moments to pay respect to their fallen will be in short supply, so it was important for her to take the three of them here now. Brian looks around and asks Saturnyne 'What is this place?' Saturnyne explains that this is the memorial garden which stands in honor of their illustrious Captain Britain Corps whom they lost when a great incursion destroyed many of their Multiverses.

Saturnyne tells the Braddocks that since the loss of the Captain Britain Corps, Otherworld has lacked a corps of true protectors. 'Pardon me, your Whyness. But we have a Captain Britain Corps' Betsy declares. 'What? We do?' Brian asks. 'They are heretical and have been dealt with accordingly' Saturnyne explains. 'Heretical? They may have been generated by Jamie's stupid games, but they're still captains. They have rights' Betsy declares, crossing her arms. 'King Jamie' Jamie quietly corrects his sister. Saturnyne explains that tradition dictates that Captain Britain be given the choice – the amulet or the sword. She adds that the offer is made, by Merlyn or Roma, but no longer. Saturnyne states that any captain who hasn't made the choice is unorthodox and must be declared rogue – at which point they are held until she determines them ready to be destroyed.

'That's ridiculous. I didn't have to make the choice' Betsy replies. 'Your words. Not mine' Saturnyne smirks, before declaring that one day they will have a corps again – she has seen it. 'I've had about enough of this' Betsy mutters, adding that they have until tomorrow. 'There's a whole Starlight Sword we haven't even begun to acquire -' she starts to say, before Saturnyne smiles wickedly and points to an exit: 'The exit is the other way. Through the garden, if you please' she snaps. 'Oh, for heaven's sake...' Brian mutters, shaking his head. As Betsy strides away, Saturnyne tells Brian and Jamie that this is an unpleasant beginning to their visit. She adds that as Captain Britain's brothers, they must be used to this sort of outburst from her, and that Captain Britain has been worn so thin lately. 'It's exhausting her' Saturnyne comments, deciding that Captain Britain is not meant for this sort of work, the face-front type, as she has always been more of the “lurking in the shadows” sort, not inclined towards heroics.

Betsy continues on through the garden, past more memorial statues of the fallen Captain Britain Corps members, when a voice calls out 'Dammit, Betsy -' and Betsy spins around, her psi-sword clanging against Brian's sword as he prepares to raise it from where it is sheathed at his hip. 'Stop following me' Betsy tells her twin. 'If you would just talk to me!' Brian replies. 'You left the scabbard on, but it's a start. Pick that up and draw it' Betsy tells Brian. 'No' Brian replies, asking Betsy if she saw what happened when he drew it before. 'I don't know who that hero is or what he fights for. I won't draw a weapon in anger for a cause I don't recognize!' Brian exclaims. Betsy tells Brian that no one is going to make him into anything he doesn't want, and that he shouldn't be a coward. 'You just want your damn job back' Betsy snaps.

Betsy turns away from Brian and continues on through the garden as she tells Brian that they are running out of time. 'What was the prophecy about the Starlight Sword? “As above, so below. From one womb came two -”' Betsy begins, while Brian tells her that it is a job, and asks her why she wants to be Captain Britain. 'Honestly, you live in another country -' Brian starts to say, before telling Betsy that he never expected her to do this forever. 'Did you ever consider that maybe I'd want to?' Betsy asks, glancing back at her brother, she tells him to pick his sword up. 'Not to fight you' Brian replies. 'Pick it up!' Betsy snaps as she swings her psi-blade, which narrowly misses Brian's face. 'Have you gone bloody feral on that island?' the shocked Brian asks.

'You want to fight, Betsy?' Brian asks. 'Stop talking!' Betsy responds. 'Is this how you want to settle this? Like some skinned-knee little tomboy still? Scrapping in the garden?' Brian asks. Betsy tells her twin to shut his mouth, and that he has no idea what this means to her. 'It is an honor, not a birthright, Brian! You are owed nothing!' Betsy exclaims. 'Neither are you, Betsy! Least of all this!' Brian retorts. Betsy is knocked backwards by a surge of energy as Saturnyne approaches. 'There you are!' she calls out. 'Oh, dear. Please don't sit on the roses, Captain Britain. You really ought to know better by now' Saturnyne remarks, before turning to Brian and asking him if things will be  cordial between them by supper. 'I believe so, my lady' Brian responds.

Later, night has fallen and a moon glows down on the floating Starlight Citadel. In the room where Jamie is sleeping, a figure creeps through the darkness, but Jamie suddenly wakes, 'Izzat you Saturnyne? Come to tuck me in?' he asks, before he utters 'Oh, noooo' as a woman grabs his arm and announces 'Jamie Braddock the Mad, King of Avalon... the Captain Britain Corps sentences you to die!' and Jamie screams as the Captain Britain Corps versions of Rogue, Rictor, Gambit and Jubilee loom over him.

Betsy is in the garden, training by using her psi-sword against the Captain Britain Corps monuments, and looks over at where the Sword of Might is lying nearby – when suddenly, she hears Jamie scream. She runs through the garden up into the palace, and is joined by Brian, who runs at her side. 'I heard him. Came from the south hall' Brian reports. Betsy tells him to prepare for the worst, to which Brian remarks that he needs a weapon. 'I thought about that – here, take this one' Betsy responds as she hands Brian the Sword of Might. 'Dammit, Betsy...' Brian mutters. 'I don't need it' Betsy declares as she as she raises her psi-sword.

'Oh my god. They got out' Betsy gasps as she and Brian arrive at Jamie's room, where they find him warping reality around the Captain Britain Corps members. 'Is this the Captain Britain Corps you mentioned?' Brian asks. 'Real shame about that. Because now I've got to kill them all!' Jamie exclaims. 'They aren't even British...' Brian mutters, while Betsy tells Jamie to put them down, warning him that she is already halfway prepared to make him put them down. Eyes glowing with energy, Jamie turns to Betsy and tells her not to try that on him, or he will put her in here with them. He informs his younger siblings that he thought if he kills them, Saturnyne would probably reward him, maybe with an extra province, or a kiss. 'Sure, I'm no Brian. But a Braddock's a Braddock' he adds, before remarking that he might split the difference and kill one of them – and an instant later, Jubilee's face is blown apart, her body dropping to the ground.

'Had to even the odds. You understand' Jamie remarks. 'You kill her!' Gambit exclaims. 'Death to Mad King Jamie!' Rogue declares. Jamie goes over to stand with Betsy and Brian and holds a sword towards  Rogue, Gambit and Rictor as they stand up and approach him. 'You monumental ass. You didn't have to do that, and now they're furious'. Jamie tells Betsy that he prefers “royal pain”, before the three Braddocks begin to run, as the Corps members chase them. Betsy warns Brian that he is going to need to get a sword that can actually cut people soon, but Brian states that he will not draw the Sword of Might in anger. Jamie laughs and suggests they head to the grand foyer. 'I hate to hit a man in the back!' Gambit calls out as he hurls a kinetically-charged playing card towards Jamie. Brian sees this and warns his brother to look out, while raising the Sword of Might to block the card. 'Ahh – it's burning the scabbard!' Brian exclaims as the energy from Gambit's attack sizzles. 'Brian, don't let go!' Betsy calls out, while energy surrounds Brian.

When the energy subsides, Brian stands, Sword of Might raised at his side, he is now clad in a black, red, gold and white costume. 'Stand back. I draw the Sword of Might in defence of the family Braddock and the life of my brother, King Jamie of Avalon' Brian announces. 'I am -' Brian starts to say, before Jamie interrupts: 'Mine!' he calls out. 'All mine! I'm going to call you Captain Avalon!' Jamie adds. 'Then Captain Avalon I shall be. And as it has been my displeasure to cut down a Captain Britain Corps before, I would ask it not to have to happen again' Brian adds, while Rogue, Rictor and Gambit look on in shock. 'Brian?' a voice calls out – it's Saturnyne and she approaches Brian, touching his face, she tells him that this is heresy, and that he should put the ridiculous old Sword of Might down and take the fraudulent captains to the prison cells for her. 'You can only hold them if you intend to give them a trial. That's how the corps used to handle it, right Brian?' Betsy remarks.

Saturnyne turns to Betsy and uses magical power to drag the Amulet of Right from Betsy's neck, telling her that she thinks they have seen enough of Betsy Braddock, warning her that she will be getting her own cell among the other rogue captains. Betsy clings to the amulet in an attempt to prevent it from detaching itself from her, while Saturnyne informs Brian that if he wants the amulet when she is done with it, he will fall in line. 'Saturnyne, please!' Brian calls back, while Betsy announces that she doesn't need the amulet, and that neither does Brian. She then begins to crush the amulet with powerful psionic energy. 'What do you think you're doing?' Saturnyne calls out, before the amulet shatters. 'The Amulet of Right! How dare you!?' Saturnyne snarls. Betsy states that she doesn't buy into much of Apocalypse's sorcery, but that there is one very powerful magical law she has come to rely on – the power of a psychic's raw will. 'Without an amulet, you'll have to rely on one of us rejects' Betsy points out.

White Priestesses arrive and begin to escort the Corps members out of the garden, while Saturyne snaps 'I will do no such thing, you insolent little b--!' She grabs Betsy by her hair and tells her that she has no idea what kind of mistake she has just made. 'But you and the rest of these counterfeits will have all night in the Tenebrous Cells to consider it before you die at dawn' Saturnyne announces. She encourages King Jamie to return to his chambers, before turning to Brian and asking him if he will escort her to her chambers. Brian follows Saturnyne, while glancing back at Betsy. 'Excellent. Wise choice. Smart boy. Don't worry about her anymore' Saturyne tells Brian.

There was a time when she might have drawn a knife, twisted their minds and sneaked away – but she has become a hero since those days, whether or not she was ready, it was time. Betsy is surrounded by darkness in the dungeon. She sits cross legged on the floor and tells herself that she will give it one more try, but then she isn't sure what she will do. She telepathically calls out to the Captain Britain Corps, asking them if they were actually put in cells, and not just cast out a window. 'Oui' Gambit utters, to which Betsy asks him if he is on this floor, nearby, and if the others are with him. Gambit confirms that they are, and Betsy tells him she will come to them, that she will find a way. But Gambit warns her not to, and reveals that once you get out of the cell, it is a spell, nothing but black up and down – Rogue tried to fly out in it and got real cold, and now she can't get warm. Betsy tells Gambit to stay put, and that Saturyne can't cage them up like this, as they deserve a proper trial in front of the corps, even if that is just them. Betsy makes her way to what appears to be a window sil, and Gambit asks her to hurry up and come back for them. 'I'll do my best, captain' Betsy's thoughts reply.

Betsy goes wide-eyed when she detects someone else's thoughts in her mind. 'Who the hell -' Betsy begins, before Jamie greets her: 'Hello, luv. It's the king'. He then instructs her to jump out the window and into the blackness for him. Betsy tells Jamie to get out of her head. 'How are you -' she begins, to which Jamie explains that the connection was open, so he patched himself in. '... what if I say no?' Betsy asks. 'Then get yourself out there for all I care. Or die at dawn' Jamie replies, adding 'Except if you die here you come back... all wrong, yeah?' Betsy closes her eyes, 'Yeah' she tells Jamie. 'Worse than this, maybe' she admits, before she throws herself out the window and into the darkness – where she suddenly lands with a WHUMP on the back of a griffin that Jamie is controlling. 'Her Whyness thinks I'm back in my chambers' Jamie tells his sister. 'But who could sleep at a time like this? Come on. We've got to get in there to rescue Brian' Jamie exclaims. Betsy asks where Brian is, and Jamie replies 'Oh, you know where he is...'.

At that moment, Brian sits on a chair in Saturnyne's chambers, while Saturnyne sits on Brian's lap. 'Brian... there is much I brought you here to share with you... and while your ardor pleases your lady... I had planned for this to happen in the morning' Saturnyne remarks, explaining that Brian's sister played so eagerly into their hands with her little drama, trashing that silly old amulet. Saturnyne stands up and declares that the amulet is just a relic from back when Merlyn and Roma used them to choose the captain. 'But now it's only me here in the citadel' Saturnyne points out as she creates what appears to be a pool of water, and staters that she doesn't need a choice, so they don't need the amulet. From the water, Saturnyne draws a glowing sword and explains that now Captain Britain will be her knight, as the Starlight Citadel itself contains the doorways to every reality. 'Now you will defend the citadel and all of reality... with a blade forged from its very walls'.

Saturnyne tells Brian to leave behind the Sword of Might and take what is his. Brian gets up and goes over to Saturnyne, wrapping his arms around her, he kisses her and tells her that he would love nothing more. Saturnyne drops the sword to the floor as she falls backwards onto the bed, with Brian on top of her. 'Oooh, would you look at them!' Jamie calls out from where he and Betsy are perched outside the doorway. 'I'd rather not' Betsy replies, before telling Jamie that this is absurd, and asks if they really just enter like this. 'Is that the Starlight Sword? Just sitting there?' Betsy enquires as she sees the sword on the floor. 'Looks like. Want me to pick it up and find out?' Jamie asks. 'I -' Betsy begins, before suddenly, Brian shouts 'Betsy, take it now!' to which Saturnyne kicks Brian backwards and she gasps 'How? I wrote those prophecies! This is my game!'

Betsy lunges for the sword and raises it overhead, as energy glows around her, and she remarks that Saturnyne was awfully confident that Brian would fall in line with her when she wrote that prophecy – but that if she didn't, she had an ace in the hole, kept in the one place that she would only take Brian – her bedchamber. “A hero destined to brandish what the earth hath swallowed, and an echo doomed to yearn for what the stars hath forsworn” Betsy quotes, adding that she knows Saturnyne hoped it would tear her and Brian apart – not that Brian would find his purpose defending Jamie, and that they would choose for themselves. Saturnyne looks over at Brian and asks him if he is another betrayer, but Brian states that he is Captain Avalon, a humble servant to his family's kingdom, a role that means more  to him now than any offer Saturnyne can make him. 'And a married man. But one who is willing to distract you for a cause' Brian remarks as he goes over to Betsy. 'Well played, then, I look forward to another round' Saturnyne declares as she turns her back on the Braddocks.

Later, Betsy and Brian arrive on Krakoa, with Brian – Captain Avalon – carrying the Sword of Might, and Betsy – Captain Britain – carrying the Starlight Sword. 'Excellent timing back there' Brian tells his sister, admitting that he isn't sure what Saturnyne was about to demand of him. 'I have a feeling you would have suffered the humiliation of it all' Betsy replies. 'Betsyyyy' Brian remarks as he places his sword on the sigil, where 10 symbols are displayed on the ground. 'But I applaud you for not succumbing to her charms. With her at the helm of this game, we have no idea what we stand to lose' Betsy points out as she places her sword on the sigil. And, in that moment, the hero of the people who were not her own spoke a bardic truth – she would indeed lose more than she had planned for. With Magik, Cypher, Wolverine, Storm and Cable standing around the circle, Captains Britain and Avalon take their place with the Champions of Krakoa. 'For queen and country -' Brian begins. 'Mine and yours?' Betsy interrupts him. 'Mine and yours' Brian agrees.

Characters Involved: 

Betsy Braddock/Captain Britain II
Brian Braddock/Captain Avalon

Cable, Cypher, Magik, Storm, Wolverine

Opal Luna Saturnyne
White Priestesses

from alternate reality:
Gambit, Jubilee, Rictor, Rogue (all Captain Britain Corps)

Story Notes: 

This issue follows Cable (4th series) #5 and continues in X-Men (5th series) #13.

The opening text is probably a reference to Betsy being reborn in her original body in The Hunt for Wolverine: Mystery in Madripoor #4, only to become Captain Britain in Excalibur (4th series) #1.

This issue contains an information page on the Sword of Might.

The Captain Britain Corps was destroyed in New Avengers (3rd series) #30.

This issue contains a one-page brief overview of the Captain Britain Corps.

This issue also contains a very brief description of the Starlight Sword.

The incursions that destroyed the multiverses refer to the Secret Wars event, also written by Jonathan Hickman.

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