Ancient Egypt, the Kingdom period, 11th century B.C:
A sorceress lays her cards. The first shows a woman with long dark braids. A dreamer and a drifter, a generous heart. You wish to serve as an oasis, but often feel like a mirage. You are … Duat? Dendara? No… Dah-ni!
Elsewhere, Dani Moonstar and Illyana Rasputin are teleporting through time and space. Almost there, Illyana thinks, only to find moments later that she teleported them through time as well as space.
The sorceress lays the next card. The queen of swords… and a most potent Queen you are… Ill-ah-ana. It was your soul energy that cried out to me. Strong, fierce, a perfectionist. Swept away by a rare error. A new card. Not just queen but sorceress. We travel the Shadow Path together, my pale sister.
Palace guards see them, just as Dani suggests Illyana teleport them back to Limbo and try again.
The sorceress realizes they come from thousands of years in the future. She has netted them, but is she too early or too late?
Anxiously, Illyana explains that the farther she travels the less control she has. Five thousand years can mess her up as much as five thousand miles. She may never get them home.
The white-haired blue-eyed sorceress asks the Bright Lady to let her see through her omnipotent eyes, so that truth may be revealed.
The two girls run away from the guards.
Laying a last card, the sorceress muses that the fault is not Illyana’s. There is another hand at play. Ancient. Evil.
As they run Dani pleads for Illyana to just teleport them out. Illyana is trying but can’t. The big jaunt must have drained her psychic energies. They’re stuck until she recovers her strength.
The sorceress casts an illusion and asks the two girls into her home to hide from their persecutors. She promises help and to restore harmony, before darkness and chaos overwhelm them all.
She explains that the guards will chase false images of the girls she created. Ororo? Illyana asks, for the sorceress bears an uncanny likeness to the X-Men’s leader. She introduces herself as Ashake. An ancestor of Ororo’s. She’s pleased to learn that in the girl’s future the line of her blood yet runs true. In her descendant’s name, she bids them welcome. As she pours them something to drink, Dani marvels that Ashake speaks English. Great Ma’at who drew her to them lets them understand each other’s tongues, Ashake explains and offers them time to rest. They shall talk later.
Later, while Dani is sleeping, a curious Illyana asks what the crouching Ashake is doing. Trying to read the future, the sorceress explains. The sorceresses of her line have different strengths and foresight is not her specialty. She has created… aids to compensate for her weakness, images painted on pieces of bone. They help her understand the influences that shape their lives… Nu of the primordial waters, Amun who rules air and the invisible, Hauhet whose influence is space and visible matter. And Keku, whose domain is darkness and chaos.
They’re Tarot cards, sort of, Illyana realizes. In her time, they are paper and the images look different. They reflect her era, Ashake remarks. But like the movement in stars and tides, they continue to reveal the patterns of one’s lives.
But Ashake doesn’t need to Tarot to learn about them, Illyana points out. She can just look into their minds and know. Ashake admits that while she can see into Dani’s mind Illyana’s is closed to her. She gets that a lot, Illyana remarks. And she prefers it that way, Ashake points out.
Swords mark her as one loyal to Ashake’s patroness, Ma’at, grey goddess of balance and order as she looks at the cards. She rules but her kingdom is a barren one. In Limbo, the barren realm we she grew up and learned her sorcery she is all-powerful, Illyana states. But on Earth, her magic manifests in just two ways. And both are dark and dangerous.
Looking at another sword card, Ashake remarks that Illyana has learned hard lessons in her life. She believes she can only trust herself.
Her teacher was a fiend named Belasco, Illyana explains. And when she trusts herself, she trusts the monster he made of her.
She draws anther sword card. She knows things, she insists. She’s done things that would horrify Ashake. She’s blighted… doomed. She fights it, but in the end her past will destroy her future. Only if she would have it so, Ashake tells her.
The eye of Ra appears in front of her, as she sees a danger, not of Illyana’s time but of hers: the sorcerer Heka-Nut! Heck-a-what? Illyana asks puzzled. Heka-Nut is ancient and powerful, Ashake explains. He corrupts the souls of the living and commands the dead. Been there, seen that, Illyana replies unimpressed. Ashake weaves a concealment spell around Dani. She adds that she gave her a sleep draught. She needed rest and they needed privacy to speak. She miscalculated the immediacy of the danger.
Mummies appear. Ashake wards them off with a spell. She explains that these are Heka-Nut’s minions. She goes on to relate that once Heka-Nut glittered like the stars, young , brilliant, chosen to act as intermediary between the four primal gods. He served them faithfully for a thousand yeas until Keku, whose domain is darkness and chaos, tempted Heka-Nut and broke him.
Illyana realiezes that Ashake’s shield won’t hold for much longer. She tries to summon a teleportation disc and fails. Still too tired. On to plan B. She summons her Soulsword. She attacks the mummies with the sword that can disrupt any spell or any magic. What does Heka-nut want with them anyway? she asks. Ashake explains that in his madness he spent the last thousand years trying to seize a weapon called the Sword of Bone. It is said no one can stand against it.
A human guard grabs her and Illyana is once again reminded that her weapon doesn’t work on real stuff. Another one hits her from behind and Illyana passes out.
They awake shackled to each other by magical ties on a boat. Heka-Nut addresses Ashake, considering their situation amusing. Because she tried to snatch this young sorceress away from him as she tumbled through the timerace she has fallen with her into his hands. Did she not fear his power? She would be a fool not to, Ashake replies. But she could not ransom this child to a monster who uses her as his cat’s paw.
Angrily, Illyana speaks up. She’s no child and she in no one’s pawn. As she manifests her Soulsword, Ashake screams in pain, but insists Illyana should fight and not let this stir her. Amused Heka-Nut explains that Illyana’s attempt to escape causes Ashake agony. If she defies him longer that three breaths, the pain will kill her.
Illyana angrily admits that he wins for now. What does he want with her? Heka-Nut remarks that her spirit is indomitable. He draws soul energy from Illyana’s body. Before that demonstration of power, he would have been content to simply use her. Now he will take her soul and make it his own. But he fail as he realizes that her soul is corrupted already and bound elsewhere.
Then he shall take Ashake’s soul. To ruin a spirit so pure... He draws Ashake’s soul energy to himself. Illyana shouts that she’ll do anything, as long as he doesn’t destroy the other woman.
She explains to Ashake that, in Limbo, she murdered a version of Ashake’s descendant, Ororo. She was kind to Illyana. She taught her and in the end she begged Illyana to kill her … to release her soul before Illyana’s master could corrupt it. She was a child. She couldn’t save her, but she will save Ashake.
Still holding Ashake’s soul, Heka-Nut and his mummy guards lead them up a steep mountain path. The dark wizard explains that, for five hundred, years he sought the Sword of Bone – a weapon of such burning power that it is one of the four corner stones of creation. He points to an ornate entrance. He found it here, hidden by an enchantment in the Valley of the Kings. For centuries more, he fought through traps and spells and still his prize eludes him. He grows… impatient.
He orders them on to enter the crypt and bring him the sword. Ashake scoffs. He can’t honestly believe this girl will succeed. If she can’t they are both lost, the villain replies. Ashake will accompany Illyana. She will act as her guide and help her as much as she can. And her soul? the mutant asks. Remains with him as hostage, he replies. If they bring him the Sword of Bone, he will return Ashake’s soul. Intact? Uncorrupted? Illyana insists. And he will set her free? Heka-Nut gives her his word and adds as a warning that he will be watching through Ashake’s eyes. If they betray him, in an instant Ashake will become his creature, body and soul.
In the tomb, Ashake casts a light spell while Illyana grimly predicts that he won’t release her willingly. But they’ve bought time. She promises in the end Ashake will be free of him. As her other descendant, the Ororo in Illyana’s Limbo, was free? Ashake asks. It won’t come to that, Illyana promises. She’s older now. She’ll find a way.
Hours later, the two women have ventured deeply into the crypt when they hear a noise. A trap. Sand is released, falling onto them. Illyana considers their options. She might be able to teleport them but that means going through Limbo. And Heka-Nut’s watching. He’ll see them leave. Ashake casts an illusion to trick him for a while. She asks Illyana to hurry.
Illyana concentrates and manages to teleport them to Limbo, a barren wasteland. Lizardlike demons run away when they seem them. It may not look like much, Illyana remarks, but it’s home. And she’s got a few things lying around. She manifest her scrying glass to peer inside the crypt, so they can see where they need to go. That way she can lea how and where the Sword of Bone is hidden. She adds that time is different there. No matter how much time they are spending in Limbo, she’ll be able to return them to almost exactly the time they left. Heka-Nut won’t even realize they’ve been gone.
Illyana finds the room they need to go to. Circumventing the next zillion traps, she directly teleports them to that chamber. Ashake remarks that Heka-Nut was right to pull Illyana there to this time and place. She really can bring him the Sword of Bone. He was wrong, Illyana replies, because she’ll make him pay. Big-time. The minute Ashake’s soul is free, he’ll pay!
Suddenly, a giant cobra appears before them, ready to strike. Illyana realizes she shouldn’t have been in such a hurry. She should have known it wouldn’t be that easy. She manifests her Soulsword, slicing through the serpent, only to find it didn’t work. Instead, there are suddenly two snakes. Ashake explains that the creature is protected by a doubling spell. When her sword broke the first enchantment, the second enchantment was unleashed. Illyana realizes that, for every snake she destroys, two more will take its place until they are overwhelmed or driven back to Limbo.
Surely they cannot have come so far to be driven back, Ashake replies in despair, imploring her goddess Ma’at for help. Suddenly, a ghostly sphinx appears with the body of a lion and the head of a crocodile. Ashake advises Illyana not to strike. The Sphinx Ammut serves the goddess Ma’at. Their quest has won Ma’at’s favor and she has sent her servant to aid them. Why would Ma’at favor giving Heka-Nut this weapon? Illyana wonders. Ashake admit she’s right; in the hands of Heka-Nut chaos will weaken all. But Ma’at is wise. They must believe she has a plan.
Ammut traps the snakes and Ashake thanks the sphinx. She thought the sphinx asked riddles, Illyana remarks. She does, almost always, Ashake agrees. But this time Ma’at has bid her great servant to solve the riddle for them. The serpents are pinned but the two women still have to evade their tail.
Having found the skeleton, Illyana doesn’t see a sword. The bone is the sword, Ashake explains. It is hidden within a final enchantment. Illyana touches a swordshaped bone asking if this is it. Ashake explains that for the untrained eye it is just a bone. Only the pure of soul can call forth its power. Almost insulted, Illyana withdraws her hand, telling Ashake to help herself. She already has a sword.
Ashake takes up the bone and it turns to an energy sword in her hand.
Another jaunt through Limbo later and they are outside again. Illyana reminds Heka-Nut of their deal. He lied, the dark wizard admits. Surely they don’t think he’d toss away the tool that has delivered the Sword of Bone into his hand? Ashake will become his finest slave while Illyana will be the first of many to be devoured by this sword’s burning blade.
Ashake hands him the word, but in his corrupt hands it once more turns into a bone. What trick is this? he asks, confused. No trickery, Illyana replies, as she manifests her Soulsword and strikes at him. What he sees is what he gets.
Heka-Nut screams in agony and lets go of Ashake’s soul energy. Ashake takes up the bone, which transforms into the sword again. Illyana tells her it’s her right to kill him for what he tried to do to her. She urges Ashake to use the Sword of Bone and rid the world of this filth forever! Or say the word and Illyana will summon a legion of demons to tear him apart.
Ashake holds Illyana away. Heka-Nut was a vessel of untold power and he has lost it all. His once brilliant mind is shattered. Should the urn be blamed for an inherent flaw, or is the true fault in its maker?
As Heka-Nut stammers that he has failed them, Illyana understands that the power the gods gave him was too much for him to handle; it corrupted him utterly. It could happen to… anyone.
But the power is still there, all-devouring. It wants a vessel. Ashake can feel it too; it is too dark and dangerous to remain in the world. Great Ma’at has sent this urn that it may be sealed away. What will she do with it? Illyana asks. Hide it as great Ma’at commands. It is a vessel of terrifying power. But she’ll keep the Sword of Bone, Illyana assumes. No, then she would be tempted to use it and that too would shift the balance in this world. No, they will return the Sword of Bone to its crypt.
The two women teleport back, return the sword and free the snake guardians. As they return to Ashake’s home, Illyana decides that Dani needn’t know any of that stuff happened, does she? She crouches in front of the Tarot set as she explains that Dani would think they kept her out of it on purpose. It’ll just tick her off. And she already has enough to deal with. Ashake complies.
She sees that Illyana will soon face a time of great turmoil… of evil and temptation. Story of her life, Illyana agrees with a thin smile, as she takes up a card that signifies the world. With a smile herself, Ashake tells Illyana that, in the end, she will choose the right path as she did today.
And soon Ashake sends the two girls on their way, wishing them farewell.