X-Factor (4th series) #4

Issue Date: 
November 2020
Story Title: 
X of Swords, Chapter 2

Leah Williams (writer), Carlos Gomez (artist), Israel Silva (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Joe Caramagna (letterer), Tom Muller (designer), Ivan Shavrin (cover artist), RB Silva & Jesus Aburtov; Alex Ross (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: 

Rictor and Apocalypse are both wounded badly after an attack on Otherworld. Prestige, Cypher and Cecilia Reyes arrive to help transport them to the Healing Gardens, when the others return from Otherworld – with the crumbled remains of Rockslide, who was slain on Otherworld. At that moment, Saturnyne keeps a watch over Polaris, and then destroys the External Gate access on Otherworld. This causes Polaris to scream in agony. Monet and Prestige both try to enter Polaris' mind to uncover what is going on with her, but Saturnyne's psychic powers keep them both at bay. In the Healing Gardens, Apocalypse and Rictor are left to recover, where Apocalypse has visions of being attacked by the First Horsemen, but Rictor succumbs to his injuries and dies. Polaris visits Xavier and the Five in the Hatchery, where Rockslide and Rictor are fast-tracked for resurrection. Rictor is reborn as his true self, while Rockslide is not. This causes some psychic trauma for Xavier, and the Cerebro unit that he wears, and is connected to units in four other locations, and are all disrupted. The Five are also briefly knocked unconscious. Something is definitely wrong with Rockslide, who collapses again, while Polaris apologizes to him over and over. The Five try to uncover what has happened, while “Rockslide” reforms his body and the Five destroy all of the eggs in the hatchery to prevent any other resurrections going wrong. Xavier determines that it both is and isn't their Rockslide, while it is established that Rictor is fine, he has been resurrected normally – and Hope thinks it is because Rockslide died on Otherworld. Resurrection protocols are suspended, and Polaris and the Five appear before the Quiet Council to discuss what has happened. It is noted that Rockslide has been lost to them forever. Magneto pressures Polaris for information about her connection to Saturnyne, and while clutching part of Rockslide's remains, Polaris suddenly begins speaking in a trance, as she utters clues that Saturnyne planted in her mind. The clues give vague identities as to the Swordbearers of Krakoa. Polaris snaps back to reality, grabs the remains of Rockslide that don't make up the new “Rockslide” and runs away. In the Healing Gardens, Xavier and Magneto watch over the dying Apocalypse, while Polaris uses Rockslide's remains to create the Voltus Glade, where the Swordbearers will gather. She tells those who join her that they failed Rockslide, and that they must make his death count. Magik then steps forward after identifying herself as one of the Swordbearers. Additionally, travel is banned through the External and Avalon gates, as the Council orders Krakoans not to travel to Otherworld.

Full Summary: 

Krakoa, where Theresa Rourke Cassidy a.k.a. Siryn drags her longtime teammate Julio Richter a.k.a. Rictor through the External Gate, 'Just a bit farther 'til the Healing Gardens! We can make it!' she tells him. Rictor coughs as he tells Siryn that he can make it on his own. But, with an arrow skewered through his chest, he collapses to the ground. 'Maybe not...' he mutters. 'Rictor!' Siryn exclaims, before drawing a deep breath, she then releases a powerful scream, HELP, which echoes acround Krakoa. At that moment, Hank McCoy a.k.a. Beast emerges from the External Gate, followed by Warren Worthington III a.k.a. Archangel, who is carrying the injured En Sabah Nur – Apocalypse. 'Careful, he's -' Warren begins as he lowers Apocalypse towards the Beast. 'Yes. I can see' Beast responds. Apocalypse tries to sit up, 'Where is...' he begins, while the injured Rictor coughs, the arrow still stuck in his chest. 'God – just hang on, Julio! Help is on the way...' Siryn tells her friend as she sits at his side. 'Why #$%& bother...' Rictor utters, before Apocalypse calls out his name.

Rictor coughs again, while blood begins to pool around him, and Apocalypse asks Rictor if he can hear him. 'I... I hear you...' Rictor responds. Apocalypse reaches out for Rictor and urges him to fight the poison flowing through his body from the arrow. 'You... a mutant fights!' Apocalypse exclaims.

Rachel Summers arrives with Dr Cecilia Reyes and Doug Ramsey a.k.a. Cypher. Rachel levitates Apocalypse and Rictor on psychic platforms, while Dr Reyes asks 'What happened over there?' and urges Rachel to get them to the Healing Gardens. 'Yes, Dr Reyes' Rachel replies. Rictor coughs some more, while Apocalypse looks over to him and tells him that he did not ask for this connection to him.

Suddenly, Monet St Croix emerges from the External Gate and informs Dr Reyes that they have one more for her, on a stretcher, courtesy of Saturnyne. Lorna Dane a.k.a. Polaris and Alex Summers a.k.a. Havok are with Monet, who announces that she will go download everything that has happened to X-Force. Havok agrees with her and adds that he will let Cyclops know what is coming.

As Gunther Bain a.k.a. Unus the Untouchable follows the three powerful mutants through the External Gate, Polaris thinks to herself that she is always furious with herself, but that the times her self-hatred reaches its zenith are the days in which she is a desperate, wispy thing, feverishly seeking validation from everyone around her.

'Is that Rockslide?' Dr Reyes calls out when she sees the makeshift stretcher levitated towards her, carrying the body of Santo Vaccarro a.k.a. Rockslide. 'Is he -' Dr Reyes begins, wide-eyed. 'Dead' Polaris announces, while thinking to herself that today is one of those days. 'He'll be coming with me too, then' Dr Reyes declares.

On Otherworld, Majestrix Opal Luna Saturnyne stands on the battlefield. 'Hmph' she remarks as she watches Polaris through a looking glass, as Polaris tells the others that she blames herself for Rockslide's death, since she could have easily prevented it. 'Stop wallowing and go find the rabbit hole, little bunny' Saturnyne mutters. She declares that both Arakko and Krakoa have their oracles in play, and now all they must do is wait for them to figure it out – if the oracles succeed, of course. Two of Saturnyne's White Priestesses stand nearby. While Saturnyne raises a hand, energy crackles around it, she states that, in the meantime, she needs to ensure that there will be no further trespasses on Otherworld. She hurls the energy towards the Krakoan gateway, sealing it shut. Saturnyne announces that the so-called Externa Gate will remain shut until further notice.

That surge of energy reverberates on Krakoa, as the crystals rise up through the gate, sealing it shut. A loud rumbling noise can be heard, and Polaris screams, while dropping to her knees, clutching her head. Monet is hovering in the air and sees her longtime teammate in distress. 'Sucks to be terrestrial' Monet utters as she flies over, scoops Polaris up and takes her intro the air. 'Earthquake!' Cypher calls out as he, Unus, Rachel, the Beast and Cecilia Reyes remain on the side of the crater, with the injured Apocalypse and Rictor at their sides, and Rockslide's body, too. A loud noise, KRRAAAAOOOARRRR can be heard, and Cypher looks over to where Krakoa manifests a face in the side of the crater. 'Okay, okay – we get it, Krakoa! I know you wanted the External Gate to stay open, but there's no need to throw a fit!' Cypher exclaims, assuring Krakoa that no one here chose to close it – that was Saturnyne. He adds that they don't have any say in what Otherworld does.

In the Healing Gardens, 'Rachel: you're not going to find your way past anything I couldn't' Monet declares, arms folded. 'Well, I can try' Rachel retorts telepathically as she tries to search through Polaris' mind. '$#%&!' Rachel cries out, as a psychic projection of Saturnyne picks her up, 'Ah, ah, ah! Only the rabbit may look' Saturnyne declares. 'See? I told you' Monet mutters, while Saturnyne's astral form releases a deep breath, blowing Rachel out of Polaris' mind. 'ARGH!' Rachel cries out as she snaps back to reality. 'I told you there's no getting past the witch! You just triggered the same psychic trap that I tried getting past over and over again' Monet snaps. 'Ow...' Rachel mumbles, rubbing her head. 'Suck it up' Monet tells Rachel, explaining that that wasn't even the real Saturnyne, just the psychic firewall she set up, and it loops the same sequence no matter who tries accessing the sword prophecy through Polaris' subconscious. Rachel remarks that they still have to figure out what swords they are allowed to bring and who is supposed to be wielding them, somehow. 'Who the hell's the “rabbit”?' Rachel asks. 'Do... do you guys think it's me?' Polaris asks as she wakes. But Lorna decides that can't be right – how could she figure out a mystical prophecy on her own? 'I'm not psychic or a sorceress' Lorna remarks.

In another part of the Healing Gardens, a shirtless Rictor is lying on a slab. Vines connected to his body, he utters 'Dying... dying sucks...' Apocalypse is lying on a slab nearby, as the elderly mutant called Healer tends to his wounds. Apocalypse tells Healer to go and help Rictor, to which Healer remarks that he must help them both. 'He is dying' Apocalypse states. Rictor looks over to Apocalypse and claims that he isn't scared, the poison is clearly wearing him down. Rictor then stops talking, and Apocalypse asks Healer if he is letting Rictor pass on. Healer continues to tend to Apocalypse's injuries as he assures the uber mutant that Rictor will be swiftly resurrected. 'Then join him' Apocalypse scowls, and Healer suddenly gasps for breath, his eyes bulge, and he wheezes, as life begins to drain from his body. 'Now... I allow you to pass on' Apocalypse declares.

Suddenly: 'STOP!' a telepathic voice calls out, and Apocalypse finds himself surrounded by darkness. 'Out of my head, telepath!' Apocalypse shouts. 'No' the telepath replies. It's one of his First Horsemen – War – who shoves a fiery blade into Apocalypse and tells him that she had to stop him from killing Healer. The other First Horsemen – Death, Pestilence and Famine – also appear and the quartet surround Apocalypse who tells them that if he was not already hobbled by the poisoned Horsemen blades, they would never be able to reach inside his mind. 'Maybe not' the Horsemen respond in unison. 'But I am here' Rictor utters as he appears in Apocalypse's mind. 'Get out...' Apocalypse tells him. 'I gotta say... you've made a very interesting choice in the visual presentation of my voice in your head' Rictor notes. 'OUT!' Apocalypse shouts.

'RARRRGH! Leave Me!' Apocalypse growls as he tries to sit up on the slab, the poison from the blade spreading across his chest. 'Rachel! What did you do?' Cecilia Reyes asks as she looks on in shock. 'I – I don't know! He just kicked me out of his head!' Rachel utters. 'He was stabilized!' Cecilia exclaims. 'Stabilized and trying to murder Healer!' Rachel points out.

The Arbor Magna Hatchery, where Charles Xavier is standing over some pods:

He turns to Hope Summers and asks her to finish up here, as he senses a visitor. Xavier turns to a staircase and calls out 'What is it, child? Your mind sounds like a siren'. Polaris steps forward, thinking to herself that she could have stopped that sword with a single thought, and that she may as well have killed Rockslide with her bare hands. She decides that she will apologize to Santo when he is resurrected, before looking at Xavier and asking what the resurrection queue protocols for casualties of war are. The rest of the Five – Eva Bell a.k.a. Tempus, Kevin MacTaggert a.k.a. Proteus, Josh Foley a.k.a. Elixir and Fabian Medina a.k.a. Egg – gather around Hope and Xavier, as Hope explains that there has been no precedent to establish such protocols yet. 'Why do ye ask?' Proteus enquires. 'Show them' Polaris tells Xavier as she touches her head.

'Dear God... it was all a trap...' Xavier utters as he projects images from Lorna's mind – Rockslide being cut in half by Summoner, and Apocalypse and Rictor being shot with arrows by the First Horseman called Pestilence. Hope gasps as she sees the images. 'Precedent, indeed...' Proteus utters. Xavier announces that they will begin the creation of new Rictor and Rockslidde husks immediately and have them resurrected within the hour. But Tempus asks if that is wise, as they have never worked that fast before. Xavier tells the Five that he is aware, and he understands that such an abbreviated schedule appears daunting, but he is requesting that they please try. 'We simply must adapt in times of war' Xavier explains. 'All right, Professor' Elixir responds, and Egg assures that they will do their best.

The Five gather around two pods, 'I... I don't know...' Tempus utters, while Hope tells her not to be nervous, and that they can do this. 'Because this is what we do' Hope declares as the Five join hands, and energy begins to glow around the pods as their combined powers work to resurrect the fallen mutants. A short time later, the pods are broken, and two figures climb out of them. 'Hope – you were right – we did it!' Tempus exclaims.

Rictor looks confused, until Xavier reaches out to him telepathically. 'There you are. You look well, Rictor' Xavier remarks. 'I look naked!' the shocked Rictor exclaims. He looks up at Polaris and the Five and asks how he died. 'I only remember... $#%&, how long was I even out?' he asks. Xavier informs him that Polaris witnessed his demise, and that Hope will use this to help supply the last time following his last Cerebro backup. 'There is... quite a lot for you to catch up on, I'm afraid' Xavier explains.

Xavier then turns to Rockslide. 'Hello, Rockslide. Time for you to come back to us too, dear boy' Xavier begins, while Rockslide looks up at him strangely. Xavier then screams, while clutching at his Cerebro helmet that he wears. 'What's wrong Professor...' Rockslide utters, his voice trailing off, while all of the Five suddenly fall to the ground. 'Hope!' Polaris calls out as she looks on in shock.

The feedback from Xavier's Cerebro unit connects to the other units placed around Krakoa. Cradle Three is in the House of M, and it shorts out when the feedback strikes it. In the Summer House, Cradle Two is struck by the feedback, too. Cradle One is located at the Pointe, and it crackles with energy from the feedback, too. Finally, in Moira's No-Place, Moira MacTaggert looks on as Cradle Four is affected by the feedback, too.

Back in the Arbor Magna Hatchery:

'Professor!' Rictor shouts as he stands up and looks over at Xavier, who has fallen to the ground, his Cerebro helmet now removed. Polaris looks shocked as she puts her hands on Rockslide's face, 'No, no, no – oh god – something's – something's happening to Rockslide!' Polaris shouts, while encouraging him to hold on, and assuring him that everything will be okay. 'But... I feel... fine...' Rockslide utters, his words slurred, and his face drooping. The members of the Five begin to sit up, rubbing their heads, Elixir starts to ask 'Why are...' before Hope utters 'I can't – I can't feel -'. 'I canna feel -' Proteus begins, while Tempus urgently tells everyone that their connection is offline. 'How? What's happening?' Hope calls out. Elixir rushes over to Xavier, but announces that Xavier isn't waking up, that he can't heal him, either – something is wrong.

Rockslide has crumbled into a literal pile of rocks, and Lorna drops to her knees. 'I'm sorry -' she utters over and over. 'Rockslide... I am so sorry...' she calls out, while a wide-eyed Egg exclaims 'This is our fault! We did this! We %$^&#! up!' Egg shouts. Hope wonders how that happened, and tells the others that the eggs took the correct genetic seed, so it couldn't have been Proteus – and the husks were aged perfectly. 'Which means...' her voice trails off, to which Egg asks 'That it was me? I did this? Oh, god – then we have to destroy the eggs! The whole batch could be tainted!' he exclaims. 'Josh, can you -' Hope starts. 'Yes' Elixir confirms.

As Polaris hangs her head, a panting noise can be heard, and the pile of rocks before her begins to rise. Polaris looks up 'You... you're not Rockslide' she utters, staring at the jagged-shaped figure looming over her. The Five are too busy to notice, as Elixir uses his powers to destroy the batch of eggs in the Hatchery. 'I'm sorry, Josh...' Egg calls out, but Elixir, whose face turns dark as he uses his powers to destroy rather than heal, replies 'It's – it's fine. We have to do this'.

Rictor has put his uniform on and sees that Xavier is waking up. At the same time, the Five are all levitated into the air, and  energy connects them all as they report that they are back online. Rictor helps Xavier to his feet, 'What... has... oh, dear lord, no' Xavier utters as he looks over at his Cerebro helmet, and then at the eggs. 'No! The eggs, no, this simply can't be!' he cries out. 'Why have all the eggs been destroyed?' Xavier shouts at the Five, asking them what they have done. '... that is not Rockslide!' Hope exclaims, pointing at the figure that has risen from Rockslide's remains. Large arms and legs, with jagged shoulders and a strange grin on his face, not all of Rockslide's remains were used to make this new “Rockslide”, with several rocks scattered on the ground.

'Santo?' Xavier asks telepathically as he approaches Polaris and the reconstructed “Rockslide”. 'Who's Santo?' comes the garbled response from the new “Rockslide”. Xavier looks up and announces that this both is and is not Rockslide. 'Wh-what?' Lorna gasps, shocked. 'It is Rockslide. But that's not our Santo' Xavier explains as he and  Polaris walk away from “Rockslide” towards the Five and Rictor. 'How is that possible?' Hope asks, to which Xavier points out that they have yet to discover that.

Everyone turns to Rictor as Xavier reports that he needs to verify that he is who is supposed to be. 'Huh?' Rictor asks. 'What if it's not him? What if it is him and he's still messed up too?' Egg asks as the Five turn to each other. 'Does he not look well enough?' Proteus asks. 'How can we know?' Elixir wonders, while Tempus turns to Hope and asks her what they do. Hope admits that she doesn't know, and adds that she is not ready to have the “how do we get rid of failed resurrections” conversation.

Wide-eyed, Rictor swears that he is fine, but Elixir asks him how they can be sure he isn't corrupted, either. 'Mate... what if this is some Otherworld psy-op tactic to get their agents behind enemy lines?' Tempus asks. Rictor asks the Five if they even hear themselves and tells them that this is ridiculous. 'Is it? We just resurrected a complete stranger!' Hope exclaims. 'Enough!' Xavier shouts, assuring the Five that this is most certainly their Rictor. Hope then gasps and asks where exactly Rictor died – because she thinks she may have figured out what happened to Rockslide.

Shortly, in the Grove, Polaris and the Five, along with “Rockslide” stand before the Quiet Council, while Cypher watches from where he sits in a nearby tree. Gathered from the Quiet Council are Xavier, Magneto, Sinister, Exodus, Mystique, Kate Pryde, Emma Frost, Sebastian Shaw and Nightcrawler. Hope tells everyone that Rictor died in Krakoa, his exact moment of death being in the Healing Gardens, but that Rockslide died on Otherworld soil. She adds that the Five can confirm that dying in Otherworld somehow corrupts a mutant's Cerebro backup. 'You mean to say that Santo perished out of range?' Magneto asks. 'Aye. The failure of the resurrection was not our fault, but...' Proteus begins, to which Xavier states that it is no one's fault but his own – he should have realized sooner that there could be potential limitations from which Cerebro can pull backups from Otherworld.

'So who is this?' Mystique asks, looking at the strange rocky being before them. Hope turns to the odd being and sighs, before remarking that this is a roll of the dice. Egg explains that, for resurrection purposes, Otherworld is less like a place and more like a convergence of possibilities. Elixir adds that what they do know is that dying on Otherworld forfeits your identity, memories, experience and physicality – that everything from this reality will be lost upon resurrection. 'The outcome is a gamble, but the absolute is that you will be rewritten' Hope states. Tempus adds that every previous backup will be erased and replaced with this new amalgamation. 'Thus removing the possibility of a true resurrection ever again' Proteus concludes. Xavier touches his head and realizes that explains the Cerebro backups briefly shorting out. Hope explains that it was the corrupted backup overwriting everything Rockslide was to them, and adds that it had a strange effect on the Five, as well.

'Then we have lost Rockslide. Forever. And it is through his terrible sacrifice we gain a bleak understanding of our catastrophic failures' Emma Frost declares. Hope remarks that resurrecting from an Otherworld death creates a brand-new composite drawn out of the nearly infinite possibilities of all of the things you ever could have potentially become. 'Yeah. So it's someone who is you, but also someone who is...' Tempus begins, looking at “Rockslide”. 'New' Proteus concludes. Emma Frost scowls as she exclaims 'That is still death. This is a permanent death we're discussing. Creating a new person does not overturn the loss of one of our people' before telling Charles that his apathy sickens her. 'Santo was one of our young!' she remarks. Emma stands up and leans across the table she sits behind as she asks 'How can you all behave so cavalierly? He's dead! Rockslide is dead!'

Xavier addresses Emma as “Ms Frost” and asks her to remain calm, but Emma tells him that they must call off this reckless “tournament” at once, as they would be barbaric to willfully risk the lives of even more Krakoans. 'And what of the bargain struck to defend Krakoa from a horde of bloodlusting Arakkii? You forget our Champions will likely choose to participate in the tournament as it is in the service of our imminent war' Xavier asks Emma. 'Yes – and what of those champions, daughter? Who are they? Have you deciphered the clues Saturnyne gave you yet?' Magneto asks. 'Uh, well, not -' Polaris begins, as her father interrupts her: 'You dare dally? We need to know this information if we are to survive!' Magneto exclaims, before he shouts 'Just do the work, Polaris!' This causes Xavier to turn to Magneto, 'Erik' he remarks, calmly.

Suddenly: 'As above, so below' Polaris utters. She hangs her head and clutches an unused piece of Rockslide, which drops to the ground and shatters. Polaris then begins speaking in a strange tone, 'From one womb came two – a hero destined to brandish what the earth hath shallowed, and an echo doomed to yearn for what the stars hath forsworn'.

She then begins a second verse: 'Lost soul, an edge gained. A lone wanderer returns to a forge left ablaze'.

Polaris' head tilts backwards as she continues with the cryptic clues: 'Sword in the stone, stationed in space. A young man, born old, pilots a place'.

And another: 'A father forsaken, a husband betrayed. An ancient treasure sharpens the death his children crave'.

Xavier goes wide-eyed as he realizes that Lorna is speaking the prophecies. 'Friend-self, friends lost. Out of one comes many, into many comes one' Lorna gasps.

'Eight years, gone in seconds. From a childhood lost comes a woman grown. Her only friends were weapons, now her soul a blade hers alone' Polaris remarks, revealing the next prophecy.

'Once goddess, once queen, one sword with which to split the sky in twain. Vibranium inlaid, a tempest contained, she is the wrath of heavens wielding a legacy'

And another prophecy: 'Ego death... and broken stone... two wars waged by one champion alone...' before she falls backwards, although Magneto catches her.

'What...? Where?' Lorna utters as she looks around. Magneto tells his daughter that she is all right, before asking her if she sees how easy that was. 'If you had listened to me sooner -' he begins, before Polaris asks where Rockslide is. 'I had him... I held him – NO!' Lorna gasps as she sees the broken rocks at her feet, and drops down to pick them up. Gathering them in her arms, she rushes away. 'Lorna!' Magneto calls out, but Xavier tells Magneto to let Lorna go, as she needs to grieve – and they have a visit to arrange.

Night has fallen over the Healing Gardens, and Magneto and Xavier stand over Apocalypse. Xavier informs Apocalypse that the resurrection services are offline until further notice, and that the entire crop of standby eggs has been destroyed, so it will take another few days to restore them all. 'So I must warn you that there will be a delay in your resurrection should you succumb to your wounds, Apocalypse' Xavier adds.

Elsewhere on Krakoa, Polaris collects another part of Rockslide's remains. 'One specific shout aimed at me is all it took to shake loose the damned prophecies?' she wonders to herself, deciding that it is a fitting humiliation.

'Your great experiment has ended. You failed' Magneto tells the weakened Apocalypse.

Polaris clutches the remains of Rockslide and thinks to herself that she often finds a terrifying comfort in the possibility of evanescing – after all, she never asked to exist – or to be like this.

Xavier reminds Apocalypse that he chose not to heed the Council – and now his hubris has doomed them all.

'This clumsy and fumbling congregation of flaws. I think there's something wrong with me' Lorna tells herself as she carries on across Krakoa. She can feel an itch in her head, like Saturnyne is not quite done with her.

'A minor injustice that you can also suffer consequences of your poor decisions' Magneto tells Apocalypse.

Lorna decides that sometimes she is able to convince herself that there is no such thing as kindness in this world – no such thing as courage.

'I doubt anyone shall grieve your absence' Magneto tells Apocalypse, who says nothing, as the light of day begins to shine through into the Healing Gardens.

Polaris puffs as if she is out of breath. The sun glows down on her, and she utters 'Done' as she stands in clearing on Krakoa. She is thankful that she is often wrong on such things – kindness and courage.

The next morning, at the Arbor Magna Hatchery, Hope and the other members of the Five look around and wonder where the rest of Rockslide's remains went.

At the Voltus Glade, Polaris stands next to a circle that she has created in the ground, within the circle are ten smaller circles, each with a unique symbol. Polaris tells herself that she is so desperate to make her father proud, that she is also, unfortunately, often desperate to thoroughly dematerialize.

Mutants begin gathering nearby – Beast, Nightcrlawler, Mystique, the Five, Magneto, Emma Frost, Iceman, Exodus, Archangel, Havok, Cyclops and Wolverine are among them. Polaris announces that this is the real clue that Saturnyne left her – it is the tournament key, a casting circle. She explains that as the Champions retrieve their swords, they will return here to a position within the circle, and when each of these symbols is touching the corresponding sword at the same time, this will open their tournament portal.

Lorna knows that these desires war, so she has to satisfy both – be soft and unyielding, strong and vulnerable, open and shut, all at once. Fearless and still afraid of everything. Lorna glances over to her father as she warns the Champions that if they die in Otherworld, it will be a true death.

Polaris drops to her knees, explaining that Saturnyne wrote the instructions for her using the Earth's geomagnetic spectrum, which is why telepaths would not have been able to see it in her head – she is the only one who can. She begins to cry as she reveals that building this required sacrifice – Saturnyne's instructions called for literal, ritual sacrifice, and last night, she held Rockslide as he fell into pieces in her bare hands. 'These stones you see here... I used Rockslide's remains to construct Saturnyne's casting circle. From this day forward, it will remain here as a permanent memorial to Rockslide – the Sanctus Sacrum – Sacred Sacrifice' Polaris declares. As the sun glows down on Polaris, she tells the other mutants gathered that when the portal opens, they march to slaughter – this scourge who brought the unwelcome conflict to their doorstep that killed their little brother. 'We failed Santo. To honor his sacrifice, we must make this death count'.

'Well, damn' Illyana Rasputin a.k.a. Magik smiles as she steps through the group of mutants. 'Let's get ready to show these Arakkii our finest Krakoan diplomacy' Magik declares as she steps onto one of the circles. Her Soulsword connects with the circles, and the symbol begins to glow as Magik utters 'Pound the war drums'.

Characters Involved: 


Archangel, Beast, Cyclops, Cypher, Havok, Iceman, Magik, Monet, Prestige, Cecilia Reyes, Rictor, Siryn, Wolverine
Apocalypse, Exodus, Emma Frost, Magneto, Mr Sinister, Mystique, Nightcrawler, Kate Pryde, Sebastian Shaw, Professor X (all Quiet Council)
Elixir, Egg, Hope, Proteus, Tempus (all The Five)
Unus the Untouchable

Moira MacTaggert

White Priestesses

in Apocalypse's mind:
Death, Famine, Pestilence, War (all First Horsemen of Apocalypse)

in flashback image:
Apocalypse, Rictor, Rockslide


Story Notes: 

This issue follows X of Swords: Creation #1 and continues in Wolverine (7th series) #6.

Apocalypse and Rictor were both injured in X of Swords: Creation #1 and Rockslide was killed in  the same issue.

This issue contains a text-only page providing information one one of Otherworld's kingdoms, the floating kingdom of Roma Regina, which is ruled by Lady Roma and is a hedonistic kingdom of peace and free love.

This issue also contains a text-only page chronicling the Holy Republic of Fae, one of the kingdoms of Otherworld, this one ruled over by the Great Hierophant Merlin, who rules the kingdom with an iron fist.

Roma and Merlin used to be Saturnyne’ superiors.

A confidential after-action report following nonstandard resurrection is issued this issue, noting the death of Rictor, the report notes the oddities with the resurrection of Rockslide, and that the existing egg backup material was destroyed. The report states that an investigation into the outage of the Cerebro helmets will take place later, and that all resurrection protocols are currently suspended until further notice. The report is signed by Hope as a representative of the Five and by Polaris as a representative of X-Factor investigations.

This issue also contains an amendment to the after-action report, noting that Rockslide seems changed but otherwise unharmed. The report also indicates that the Cerebro backups seem unharmed and ready for when they resume the normal resurrection protocol. The report puts the blame on the inability to resurrect Rockslide down to his death on Otherworld, and suggests that the Rockslide who has returned to them may be dangerous. The amendment is signed by Hope and Polaris.

This issue includes a notice by the Council, a warning for immediate dissemination and action to all citizens of Krakoa, banning all unauthorized travel to and from the External Gate, the Avalon Gate and any previously unnamed gate leading to Otherworld. The note warns that if anyone should find themselves within Otherworld for any reason to take extreme caution, as resurrection protocols cannot be guaranteed following a fatal injury on Otherworld. The note suggests anyone on Otherworld should prioritize return to Krakoa through the nearest gate. Travel to Otherworld is banned without the express permission of the Council and violation can result in final death. 

The issue concludes with a one-page text-only report from Cypher, analyzing Polaris' prophecies, he deduces that the Champions will be Magik, Cable, himself and/or Warlock, Storm, Wolverine, Brian and Betsy Braddock, Gorgon and Apocalypse.

Written By: