“Every battle is won or lost before it is fought.”
- Sun Tzu
“You cannot be humbled in war if you never taste death”
The White Sword of the Celestial Spire
After Wolverine murdered Saturnyne in her own home, chaos erupted. A fierce, three-way battle between Arakki, Krakoans and Saturnyne’s priestesses broke out. Magik managed to teleport the Krakoans home.
Soon the Arakki force burst through the External Gate. The Krakoans’ number was eroded after several days. Then, a telepathic mind bomb erased hundreds of mutant brains, including Moira X’.
Krakoa issued a distress call to the other heroes of Earth. They fought and lost. With Saturnyne dead, there was no contest and no defense against the forces of Arakko and Amenth. Otherworld fell quickly, and then it was Earth’s turn…
Manhattan lies in ruins. Corpses are strewn everywhere. War and Solem have just killed Dr. Strange. Wolverine hangs crucified to an X-shaped cross.
And what is the fate of Krakaoa’s deathless man? a voice from the shadows asks. Wolverine screams as he is impaled by claws. Turnabout is fair play, Saturnyne points out, before muttering that stabbing is kind of fun. His head will never wear a crown but she knows he cared deeply for his people, so despite the harm he intended her, she freely gives him this gift. This glimpse of the future. This is what happens if he fails his people. She retracts the claws.
A moment later, the vision is over. Nothing has happened. Wolverine never got around to actually attacking Saturnyne. He is standing in front of Saturnyne in the dining hall. She suggests he sit back down before his food gets cold or she will banish him to a lifeless realm. Storm calls his name. He tells her it didn’t happen. Just forget it…
He returns to his seat where Cypher is stealing his sushi, since Logan clearly doesn’t care. However, Wolverine sniffs and shouts t him to stop. A moment later Cypher gags and green foam comes from his mouth. The waiter quickly hides as Wolverine shouts that someone poisoned his appetizer. Cypher sinks down his airway closes up. Isca calmly cuts his airduct to allow him to breathe. He could have done that! Wolverine snaps. Then why didn’t he? Isca asks mildly. Storm suggests they get Douglas home.
The White Sword accusingly states to War that she poisoned a boy. At a feast. War just replies it should have been the Wolverine. Too much hinges on this and that little monster will be their greatest impediment.
Wolverine snarls at Saturnyne to send them back to Krakoa. She replies that, surely, he doesn’t mean to forfeit after the gift she gave him…
War tells the White Sword that not all have a hundred soldiers in their service. They make war their own way! Disgusted, the White Sword turns away, denouncing poison as the weapon of the craven. He walks towards the Krakoans. The White Sword will not be party to cowardice – there’s a reason the tower never fell. He grips Cypher’s throat and heals him. The poison seeps out of Doug’s orifices. The White Sword announces he is whole and he releases him from any obligations to him.
While all this occurs, Apocalypse and Genesis (wearing the Annihilation mask) just sit opposite each other in silence. He sees she did well with the children, Apocalypse finally remarks. She did her best, Genesis replies.
Arguments break out all over, and Captain Avalon uses the chaos to petition Saturnyne. He points out the Arakkii tried to win by cheating. He asks her to declare Krakoa the winner by forfeit and send the Arakkii on their way. Saturnyne agrees that his suggestion is fair and she would follow it, but the Krakoans also went against the rules this evening. They tried to slay her. Realizing she is talking about Wolverine, Brian mutters, “damn that pig-headed dwarf.”
Back at his place, drinking, Wolverine just remarks he heard that. Sitting down next to him, War admits she is impressed and raises her glass to him. She didn’t even consider an attack on the majestrix. He replies he just wants to get this people home safe. The singular desire of every soldier, War admits.
The servants bring the next course, a dish made of scarabs. Death feels insulted, snapping at the waiter that he dares serve him this sacred scarab? He takes off his mask, showing the priest his face - killing him. When he looks back at his plate, the scarab is gone – between Wolverine’s teeth.
Brian Braddock apologizes to Saturnyne for Wolverine’s attempt on her life. She hints that some accommodations could be made if he were to pick up the right sword… and reclaim the mantle he was destined for. He smiles apologetically and tells her that is his past. He trusts she won’t go to bits. No, not her, she replies sadly, then announces the main course has arrived. The mystery beast turns out to be unicorn roast, interesting even the White Sword who usually never eats. Storm on the other hand is disgusted, while for Wolverine meat is meat.
The Summoner joins the White Sword. He has never seen him save a life and then not conscript that person to his army. The White Sword retorts he has never been asked to carry the shame of a poisoning at a parley. The Summoner grins. The boy doesn’t know how lucky he is. It is one thing to die, another to be eternal fodder for the White Sword’s battles. Lifting a sword is a small price to pay for eternal life, the White Sword believes. The Summoner on the other hand opines he does not intend to die for a long time, but he intends to die only once.
Gorgon interjects that listening to others plan for their eventual demies bores him. He asks the White Sword if he could resurrect himself. The White Sword snorts amused. He has no idea, and will never know.
Young Cable has the bad fortune of sitting next to Apocalypse and opposite Genesis. He breaks the oppressive silence by remarking this has to be weird for them. Apocalypse schools him that “weird” is a human word, used to describe a reality that their small minds fail to grasp. Cable will understand that in time, when he has more experience.
At the buffet, Cable addresses Isca, asking is her power that she can’t be beaten? Never have, never will, she replies curtly. That’s cool, Cable marvels and asks her to show him. Downing what looks like an eye, she tells him he will witness her power tomorrow. Magik glomps onto Cable. She thought they were all gonna be dead tomorrow? Let’s see her go now. She has a few ideas…
So, they test Isca by having her pin a tail to Pogg ur-Pogg blindfolded or facing Magik and Cable at who can build a tower of glasses the fastest. Isca wins. Cable cuts himself, earning him a glare from Apocalypse. Even at Three Card Monte Isca wins. Magik challenges her to say what number she is thinking of. Isca smirks. She isn’t thinking of a number, is her reply. With a grin Illyana wonders what would happen if Isca fought Domino. Her friend would lose, Isca replies grinning. Cable mutters he is not looking forward to fighting her and Isca muses he may live to a ripe old age after all.
Death and Redroot watch them from some distance, and Death scoffs at their foes’ weakness and softness. Redroot agrees but looking at them she wonders… About what? Death demands. They are coddled. Unfit! Redroot suggests perhaps these mutants were grown on a better world than them. If they had set roots on Krakoa, they would have grown in the sun. Death tells her to set aside such thoughts. She should not attach herself to these weak things. They will cull them come dawn.
Wolverine tells Storm about the vision Saturnyne sent him. He saw their entire world burn, he finishes. Storm reminds him they have the power to stop this and they will. Logan replies grimly they better have a plan, if the scores aren’t in their favor.
Saturnyne throws the cards in the air to determine the first contest the next morning. She draws two cards and announces that come dawn Captain Britain and Isca the Unbeaten will fight to the death.