Excalibur (4th series) #2

Issue Date: 
January 2020
Story Title: 
Verse II: A Tower of Flowers

Tini Howard (writer), Marcus To (artist), Erick Arciniega (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Cory Petit (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Mahmud Asrar & Matthew Wilson (cover artists), Otto Schmidt; Mike McKone & Rachelle Rosenberg (variant cover artists), Nick Russell (production), Jonathan Hickman (Head of X), Annalise Bissa (assistant editor), Jordan D White (editor), CB Cebulski (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

In the Fourth Century BCE, Apocalypse arrived at the English Channel, where he witnessed the deaths of two twin mutants. Today, on the Atlantic Ocean, Betsy Braddock – now Captain Britain - Gambit and Jubilee are being ferried across the ocean by Captain Kate Pryde. With them is Rogue who is in some sort of coma. Gambit is very worried about his wife, when they are suddenly attacked by Selkies, whom Captain Britain assumes were sent by Morgan Le Fay. Captain Britain swims to shore to draw the Selkies away from the others, before telekinetically lifting Rogue over to the shore as well. Gambit and Jubilee join her, and Kate Pryde sails away. The problems continue for the group when they discover the fabled Lighthouse is missing. They carry on across the land in search of some clue, and Captain Britain sees several druids, but the others are unable to see them. The druids show Captain Britain a vision of Marianna Stern and the Coven Akkaba burning the Lighthouse. After placing Rogue and her “bed” of Krakoan flowers on the ruins of the Lighthouse, to their surprise, the Lighthouse materializes, and Rogue is laid at the top of the Lighthouse. Captain Britain, Jubilee and Gambit take time to rest and gather their thoughts. Jubilee is worried about Shogo, while Captain Britain is concerned about the druids and the goings on with Otherworld, while Gambit's thoughts are lost with Rogue. Later, Jubilee wakes from a nightmare in which Shogo was left with Apocalypse, while Captain Britain has a strange dream where an unknown voice speaks to her. She wakes to find that Jubilee has brought her infant son Shogo to the Lighthouse. Shortly, they and Gambit watch as more druids arrive at the Lighthouse, and soon, members of Coven Akkaba appear. A battle ensues, while Captain Britain telepathically converses with Apocalypse, who gives a brief background on the coven, and explains that it seems they are unhappy with a mutant – witchbreed – wearing their flag as Captain Britain. Jubilee is about to take Shogo back to Krakoa when Apocalypse steps through the portal and takes out all of the coven with a single powerful surge of energy. Apocalypse tells Captain Britain that she must return to Otherworld, but Captain Britain is worried for her family's land, here. Gambit doesn't want to leave Rogue with Apocalypse, but has no other option. They step through the portal to Otherworld, along with Jubilee, who refuses to leave Shogo with Apocalypse – but once they reach Otherworld, the trio discovers that Shogo has been transformed into a large dragon.

Full Summary: 

Fourth Century BCE:
The English Channel, where two red-haired people in green robes head nervously to a raft on the edge of the shore. Apocalypse walks towards them. It is a misconception he is the common ancestor of all mutants, for in time, other mutants appeared all over. He went to them because they were scattered, and his people did not have a home – not like they do now. Apocalypse watches as the two set sail on the raft. These mutants had never heard of Akkaba or the people there. They were born twins, and when the two were together, they could never lose their way – a gift from the gods. It made them superior, different, which is why Apocalypse sent them away. Sadly, while their direction was perfect, their seaworthiness was not, and their raft fell apart, the two sunk into the Channel. Apocalypse watched – he didn't save them. His people or not, he didn't save those who died by their own means. But as he turned from the wreck, he thought he should honor their deaths. Or at the very least, remember its location.

Present day:
The Atlantic Ocean, several miles off the coast of Cornwall, England, a small yacht darts across the choppy waters carrying a very unique group. Betsy Braddock a.k.a. the new Captain Britain stands on the top of the yacht and thanks Captain Kate Pryde for the ride. 'Of course, Captain Britain' Kate replies, adding that she hasn't been to the Excali-Braddock lighthouse since they destroyed the original. 'Did they add a hot tub this time? I made requests' Kate jokes. Betsy remarks that the lighthouse was the seat of power of Excalibur for so long, so it seems right to set up a gate there – and it might be the way to save Brian.

Kate announces that she can't stick around, but when she comes back to visit, she wants that hot tub. 'I'll see what can be done' Betsy tells her. Jubilee sits in silence, while Remy LeBeau a.k.a. Gambit shuffles some cards as he sits next to his wife, Anna-Marie a.k.a. Rogue, who is in a strange catatonic state, covered in bizarre Krakoan flowers. 'Glad y'all are feeling so jokey' Gambit mutters, before looking at Rogue and pointing out that it is getting dark out here, as the sun can be seen setting across the horizon.

'Good thing we're looking for a lighthouse, duhh' Kate replies, to which Gambit calls her Kitty and tells her that he is not joking. Kate smiles and tells Gambit that she is sure Rogue's okay, adding that it is pretty hard to not make her okay – she is tough.

Jubilee stands up and looks at Rogue, commenting on how peaceful she looks – like a princess. 'Has anyone tried kissing her?' Kate asks. Gambit and Jubilee both turn to Kate, who smiles and utters 'Just asking!' before telling Jubilee that she could have stayed on Krakoa to help Apocalypse babysit Shogo. Jubilee declares that Shogo is in very safe hands away from Apocalypse or Gambit. 'Like I'd leave my boy with either' she mutters as she leans against the yacht railing.

'What part of in not in a joking mood do y'all not understand?' Gambit exclaims, when suddenly, a webbed hand reaches up from the ocean and grabs the side of the yacht. 'Broken-hearted?' a strange creature utters, before grabbing Gambit and suggesting they drown him. 'I said I wasn't feeling jokes -' Gambit frowns as he charges some playing cards. 'We love a broken heart!' another of the strange creatures calls out.

'- that means I didn't come to play, neither!' Gambit exclaims as he hurls his kinetically-charged cards at more of the creatures who rise up on the other side of the yacht. Betsy calls out to Gambit, before bringing forth her her psi-blade and shield, and realizing that these are Selkies. 'What's a -' Gambit begins, freed from the other Selkies, he turns to face more of them as they attempt to climb aboard the yacht. Betsy explains that they are an old Scottish story, a sort of seal people. 'Seals? Seals bounce balls and slap their bellies! These are not seals' Jubilee mutters as she uses her “fireworks” powers against one of them. 'Where's the lighthouse?' Kate asks. Jubilee tells her to look for the big light coming out of the top, but Kate explains that it isn't there. One of the Selkies hisses as Jubilee strikes it with her powers.

Kate ducks as two Selkies hiss and reach out for her. 'I'm really, really sure it's a light. They're hard to lose -' Kate begins as she pulls down on a device which makes the yacht turn sharply, knocking the Selkies back into the water. Kate complains that she can't see the coast without that light, and warns everyone that they are going to run aground. 'Slayyyy them!' one of the Selkies calls out as they follow the yacht. Betsy punches one of them and remarks that if Morgan sent them, then they are after her. 'What?' Kate asks, before Betsy decides that she can lure them away from the boat, and tells Kate to get out of here, as she dives into the ocean. The Selkies turn and follow Betsy, but Kate tells her that she isn't leaving them here. 'Kate, go!' Betsy replies.

Gambit declares that he is not leaving Rogue, to which Betsy telepathically assures him that she has got Rogue. Betsy has reached the  shore, and she is too high up for the Selkies to reach her. The Selkies hiss at her, before she telekinetically lifts Rogue from the yacht over to the shore, while telling Gambit and Jubilee to climb up off the beach. They do as instructed, and Kate Pryde sails away in the yacht. Betsy lays Rogue safely down on the ground, and Jubilee asks where they put Rogue with no lighthouse. 'Do we just camp out here with her? Tear off a chunk, build a gate and go home?' she suggests. Betsy announces that they will find a place, that Rogue is one of them.

Looking down at the Selkies who try to reach up onto the shore from the water, Jubilee asks Captain Britain if she thinks Morgan Le Fay sent them. Betsy tells her that it's possible, but that it doesn't seem like Morgan, pointing out that the Selkies aren't very well equipped to hunt them, seeing as they don't seem to walk on land. 'Which brings me to the missing lighthouse' Betsy remarks.

Jubilee suggests that they might just be in the wrong spot, but Betsy is certain that they aren't. Sitting next to the catatonic Rogue, Gambit tells the others that he doesn't want to be here all night, adding that they are like sitting ducks with Rogue here. 'Even if it was destroyed, there should be something where it was...' Betsy remarks, before telling Jubilee and Gambit to take a side of Rogue, that they should go up the cliff. 'From there we should be able to see -' Betsy begins as the three of them start to carry Rogue and the Krakoan flower bed she is laid on up the cliff, when Betsy goes wide-eyed and utters 'What in God's name are those people?'

'What people?' Jubilee asks. 'In the green cloaks – don't you see them?' Betsy replies. 'No?' Jubilee tells her. Gambit warns Betsy to be careful, but as she walks down a slope, Betsy assures Gambit that she is just going to talk to them. 'Excuse me! Did any of you see what happened to the lighthouse that was here?' Betsy calls out to them. The group are all wearing  green cloaks, and suddenly turn to Betsy, one of them pulls back their hood, revealing thick red hair and red beard, with what appears to be antlers growing out of their heads. 'You are a seer?' the man with the beard asks telepathically. 'Then see' he tells Betsy. A vision appears before Betsy of a woman the man identifies as Marianna Stern, gathered with other coven members in red cloaks as energy rises up around them and engulfs the lighthouse. The red-haired man with the beard informs Betsy that Marianna derives her power from Morgaine and swears fealty to maji who reject mutant ascendancy. He explains that Marianna's powers wane as Morgaine seeks more from them, and that she is human, like him. He tells Betsy that they believe she is a protector, and tells her that they will let the Earth here bear the fruit of Krakoa so that she may protect.

'It was Morgan. Her agents... they burned my family's castle!' Betsy exclaims as she stands near Rogue, who has been placed in the center or some ruins. Jubilee folds her arms, while Gambit asks 'We taking theire invisible word for it?' There is a creaking, as Betsy tells her friends that they aren't invisible just because the two of them can't see them. She looks down at Rogue when she hears a rustling, as roots draw down from the Krakoan bed of flowers into the ground. 'We've been granted permission!' Betsy exclaims as she rushes over to Jubilee and Gambit, there is another creaking, before a mighty RRROOOOMMM can be heard – and suddenly, a Lighthouse grows up from the ground around Rogue. 'This land here belongs to more than just Krakoa. We ought to be hospitable and remember that while we're here' Betsy tells her companions. As a brilliant light glows from the lighthouse, Jubilee adjuts her shades and mutters that she is so ready for bed. 'Did anybody bring a toothbrush? Because I forgot mine...' she jokes, while Gambit looks up at the light and asks if that light is Rogue. Rogue, still in a catatonic state, now rests atop the lighthouse. 'Goodness' someone utters.

Soon, Betsy, Gambit and Jubilee sit inside the lighthouse, eating and drinking, and Gambit asks Betsy if she wants to explain her new invisible friends. Betsy tells him that they are druids, very secretive and shy, and that they haven't survived this long by being seen. Gambit asks Betsy if she thinks her brother, Brian, made some kinda pact. Betsy tells him that she doesn't, as Brian is a hostage, which is completely different. 'Do you think Morgan will send people to destroy this one?' Jubilee asks as she munches on some chocolate. 'I don't know' Betsy replies, frowning. Gambit points out that Rogue is all tangled up in this place now – and asks if they destroy this place again, what will happen to Rogue. Betsy admits that she doesn't know. 'Would it wake her up or kill her or just leave her exposed?' Gambit wonders. Betsy tells him again that she doesn't know, to which Gambit declares that he is staying right here. 'Don't be absurd. If that coven does return, you can't possibly defend them by yourself'.

Jubilee announces that she wanted to get Shogo and Gambit asks if she thinks it is safe to bring Shogo back here, adding that he should never have brought Rogue here, as it isn't safe. 'Oh, it's all Krakoa, isn't it?' Betsy asks. 'Easy for you to say – Brian isn't in this realm for you to worry about' Gambit mutters, hanging his head. Betsy scowls, before telling the others that she is going to bed. She bids them goodnight and begins to climb a staircase. 'Night, Bets' Jubilee calls back, while Gambit just grunts.

Later: 'Jubilee' a voice calls out. Jubilee stirs and sits up, only to see Apocalypse standing before her, holding her son, Shogo. 'What are you doing here? Why...' Jubilee begins. 'You left him with someone on the island for me to find'. Apocalypse responds. Jubilee creates one of her mutant fireworks blasts- 'Give me back my baby -' she  exclaims, but Apocalypse just raises a hand and Jubilee's power disappears. Apocalypse tells Jubilee that nothing is secret to him – especially not humans lurking in his garden of a mutant paradise. 'Give – me –' Jubilee gasps, before Apocalypse puts a hand over Shogo's face and remarks that he is so small, so human. 'I can't move!' Jubilee calls out as she struggles to stand. 'Shogo!' she utters – when suddenly, she wakes up. 'Oh, god' Jubilee moans, sitting on the edge of the makeshift bed, before she gets up, 'I'm so sorry' she whispers as she runs out of the room.

As Betsy sleeps, she finds herself in a strange dream-realm, she knows she has never been here before and that this place is a message for her. She looks out over sloping green fields, as a fiery wolf appears before her, a large sword hovering alongside it. Betsy runs after the wolf, deciding that she wants to read the message. Betsy and the wolf come to a stop near an altar built into some rocks that resemble Apocalypse. There is a humming sound, and some fruit is laid out on a plate at the altar. 'I want to take what is offered' Betsy tells herself. 'I want to learn what is taught'. She reaches out and takes some of the fruit, a message on the plate reads “He will use us. We can use him”. Betsy bites down into the fruit, and juice splashes about. She tells herself that she has been a yawning hunger for her entire life – but she gluts herself at this altar. The fiery wolf suddenly rushes off, and Betsy calls out to it, 'Wait! Who are you?' and a telepathic voice assures Betsy that she can trust them. 'I'm a good girl' the voice adds.

'What?' Betsy gasps as she opens her eyes, and discovers Shogo playing with her hair. 'I'm sorry. He's into purple right now' Jubilee explains, before she picks Shogo up and pulls him away from Betsy. Jubilee tells Betsy that she is sorry, and explains that she had a bad dream, and that she just had to have him with her. Betsy sits up and tells Jubilee that as long as she thinks it is safe to have him here, she will trust her, as she is his mother. Shogo reaches out for Betsy, while Betsy smiles back at him. Jubilee promises that if it gets bad, she will put Shogo back through the gate. 'You pulled Captain Britain's hair, kiddo. What do you say?' Jubilee asks her son. 'Shogo!' the boy utters. Jubilee and Betsy turn and lead up a staircase, with Betsy suggesting they go check on Remy, before admitting that she had some bad dreams, too.

Shortly, Betsy, Gambit and Jubilee, with her son, stand on a balcony that extends out from the lighthouse. 'They're back' Betsy announces as she sees the druids in the green cloaks walk towards the lighthouse. Jubilee decides that it is time to take Shogo back home, to which Gambit exclaims 'You left? And brought the kid here?' Jubilee tells him not to start, and that he isn't the only one worried about Rogue. 'It ain't a contest!' Gambit snaps. 'Enough!' Captain Britain tells her companions, before she leaps off the balcony 'Enough! I'm going to talk to them!' she tells Gambit and Jubilee.

'Hail Captain Britain!' one of the druids exclaims as Betsy lands before the green-cloaked figures, some with antlers sticking from their heads, others with floral arrangements. The red-haired druid with the beard informs Captain Britain that the druidic tribes have met to discuss her accolade. 'Pardon?' Betsy asks. 'Your ascension to Captain of all Britain, in this world and the other. We recognize your title' the druid tells her. The druid continues, informing Captain Britain that they recognize her claim and seek her aid. He reveals that Coven Akkaba are their enemies, and that they threaten the health of their home, and these lands. He explains that they are magicians, commanders of the ley – and that they work through force. 'They give their souls up in servitude, only to command others' he adds.

'The former Captain is not dead. He will return -' Betsy begins, but the red-haired man interrupts her: 'But not soon enough for our safety, I am afraid'. He motions up above the treeline, where red-robed figures can be seen approaching. 'The coven' Betsy utters, reading her psionic-sword. 'They don't look ready to answer questions' Betsy points out. The red-haired druid agrees, and reminds her that she has the earth of Britain behind her. 'May the white moon turn her face to you' the druid adds, as several of them ready their magical energies to battle the approaching coven. Suddenly, Apocalypse reaches out to Betsy's mind as the druids battle the coven. 'You. Coven Akkaba, they're called. Friends of yours, perhaps?' Betsy asks. Apocalypse's astral projection tells Betsy that he sees from his Grove that she has established her gate, and asks if she will require his assistance.

Gambit joins the battle, tossing several kinetically-charged playing cards at coven members, while Betsy tells Apocalypse to stay where he is and to quit dodging her question. Apocalypse reveals that Coven Akkaba were once his human servants – powerful magi, but they came to believe in a foolish lie. He reveals that their magic made them on par with the Superior, and he would spare them at the end of days. A heresy. Slamming her psi-shield into one of the coven, Betsy asks Apocalypse if he rejected them after they devoted their lives to him. As Betsy, Gambit and several druids regroup, coven members prepare another assault. 'Did you put the gate in Morgan's castle to provoke them?' Betsy asks. Apocalypse tells her that the gate is the spark of a cleansing flame.

'And now you, whom they call witchbreed, bear their flag on your chest as if to say Britain belongs to Homo Superior – and it is a fine thing' Apocalypse exclaims. Captain Britain tells Apocalypse that she is doing her  best to settle this issue on the front lawn, but is being distracted by a nagging voice in her head. 'Allow me to handle this' Apocalypse offers, but Betsy tells him that she doesn't want his help. Apocalypse remarks that they destroyed this lighthouse to strike at Betsy, and warns her that it is only a matter of time before they destroy her brother, too. Apocalypse informs Captain Britain that if she wants her brother to live, she needs to get to Otherworld and reclaim him. 'I can't leave this place undefended!' Betsy calls out, to which Apocalypse announces that he will defend it.

As the battle rages outside, Jubilee walks down a staircase within the lighthouse and tells Shogo that they are going back to Krakoa – but as they arrive at the gate, Jubilee is surprised to see Apocalypse is here. 'What are you doing here?' she calls out to him. Energy spins around Apocalypse's fists, and there is a screeching noise, when suddenly, outside, the coven members are shunted about by a surge of energy – Apocalypse has blasted a hole in the bottom of the lighthouse, and taken out the coven members with his energy. Betsy and Gambit look over at the fallen coven members, before Betsy turns to Apocalypse and angrily reminds him that she said she didn't want his help. 'What are you doing here?' she then asks.

Apocalypse tells Captain Britain that if she wants her brother alive, she needs to go to him now, adding that Morgan's corruption changes him with each passing moment. 'in Otherworld? My family's land is under siege here!' Betsy replies before looking at a large hammer in Apocalypse's hand and asking him what he is doing with it. 'Defending the lighthouse' Apocalypse responds, adding that it is a place of power for mutantkind, and he will not see it fall into enemy hands. He instructs Betsy to go, and to take the others, as he and Rogue cannot be defeated. 'Hell if I'm leaving you alone anywhere with Rogue -' Gambit begins, but Betsy tells him that she needs him. 'I need her!' Gambit retorts

Betsy puts her hands on Gambit shoulders and assures him that Apocalypse can't hurt Rogue, and that he won't let anyone else hurt her. She pleads with Gambit and claims that she will never ask for anything from him again. 'And if he hurts her, I will take it on my soul' Betsy adds. Apocalypse turns to Jubilee and tells her that he will watch the child, as well. 'Uh, no thanks -' Jubilee begins. Betsy puts a hand on Gambit and another hand on Jubilee as she tells them that she can take them to Otherworld, as she has seen Brian do it a hundred times. Jubilee protests that they need to take Shogo to Krakoa first, when suddenly, as they step through the portal to Otherworld, Shogo vanishes from her arms. 'Where is he?' Jubilee shouts. 'That's impossible! I brought him through!' Betsy exclaims, when suddenly, they look up to see a large dragon looming over them. 'Where did that come from?' Gambit asks. 'Shoooogoooo?' the dragon snarls. 'My baby? Where is my baby?' Jubilee screams as the dragon looks down at her.

Characters Involved: 

Captain Britain II, Gambit, Jubilee, Rogue
Shogo Lee

Captain Kate Pryde

Coven Akkaba members
Unnamed druids

in flashback:
Unnamed twins

in vision/flashback:
Marianna Stern
Coven members

Story Notes: 

The beginning of this issue establishes Apocalypse as the first of his kind. In fact, Selene is known to have lived for some 12,000 years before Apocalypse was born.

Excalibur's lighthouse was destroyed in Excalibur (1st series) #50. Kate mentions she hasn't been to the lighthouse since the original was destroyed...however she was actually there not too long ago in X-Men Gold Annual #2.

Written By: