X-Men: True Friends #1

Issue Date: 
September 1999
Story Title: 
True Friends

Chris Claremont (writer), Rick Leonardi (penciler), Al Williamson & co (inkers), Shannon Blanchard (colorist), Tom Orzechowski & Bullpen/DS (letterer), Ruben Diaz (editor), Bob Harras (Editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Trying to get away from Excalibur for some time, Kitty has booked a holiday in the Scottish highlands, with Phoenix tagging along. The two girls have an argument about Rachel always cramping Kitty’s style, while standing in a strange stone circle, and, as Rachel’s power flares up, it mixes with some local magical energy and the two girls are sent back to the past. Witnessing an awful ceremony, Kitty flees in panic and almost is hit by a car. She awakes in the home of Alasdhair Kinross and, with his help and that of his young cousin, Lilibet, starts looking for Rachel. It is only the presence of Nazis that makes her realize that she and Rachel have been thrown back to the 1930ies. She and Alashair discover a Nazi plot of destabilizing the monarchy and, to make matters worse, the Nazis and their ally, Lady Windermere, have captured both Lilibet and Rachel. Kitty and Alasdhaire follow them to Inverness in a prototype Spitfire when the plane suddenly is attacked by Phoenix.

Full Summary: 

The Kinross Highlands, Northern Scotland

Kitty Pryde steps onto the dark road. She looks up in confusion, as a car comes speeding up at her. She phases but, out of some strange reason, solidifies in part. She falls off the road and tumbles into a ridge, going down hard.

She wonders how injured she is, as she hears somebody whistling. She looks up to see an old, ugly woman singing, as she washes a flight jacket full of bullet holes in the river. Confused, Kitty passes out.

Earlier that night, at the Wayfarer Inn, the village of Ardscarran, hard by Loch Carran, where each Saturday night local folks gather for the weekly ceilidh (pronounced Kaylee). From dusk till closing, songs run freely as beer and every person present is expected to do his part to contribute to the evening’s entertainment. For Kitty Pryde, the moment the band began to play, the hardest part was not dancing. As she finishes her reel, one of the players, Douglas, starts to flirt with her and commends her on her dancing.

That moment, a hush falls on the assemblage, as Rachel Summers enters. All eyes are on the leather-clad silent beauty, including those of Kitty’s beau and she soon realizes that the evening is pretty much spoiled for her. Annoyed, Kitty leaves.

Silently cursing Rachel, she phases out of the room and goes up to her room to get some more sensible clothes – namely her Shadowcat costume under a flight jacket. She decides to go and explore the stone circle nearby.

The hike turns out to be longer than she expected and the hill the circle is on is steeper than Glastonbury Tor. She wonders what made the priests choose this particular lonely spot. Nothing special about it. Suddenly, she becomes aware of light behind her, as Phoenix flies to join her. Rachel sensed she was troubled and wanted to know if she could help.

Angrily, Kitty thinks that Ray is the flaming trouble. She only walked into the room, Rachel defends herself. Is she responsible for the way people act? Kitty becomes even more annoyed with Rachel, reacting to her thoughts and tells her to stay out of her mind. That’s hard when someone screams her thoughts as loudly as Kitty does, Ray retorts. Oh, so it’s her fault now, Kitty asks. Rachel asks why she is so angry. They went on this trip to have some fun, didn’t they?

And here she thought it was because everyone insisted she needed a chaperone, Kitty retorts. Because everyone thinks she is a little crazy right now. Rachel asks what this is all about. She thought they were friends. Friendships are built on sharing and trust, Kitty shouts back and she doesn’t think Rachel knows how.

Rachel finally gets angry as well. Her power flares, as she tells Kitty she’s not the only one who has suffered. In the future she comes from, she was trained to hunt down mutants. In the end, of all her friends, there was just she and the grown-up Kate Pryde left. And then just her, cast into this present, where so much seems the same, yet so much is different. And she’s afraid of having to live through that nightmare again. The Phoenix effect flares, as she curses the adult Kate Pryde for sending her back, instead of allowing her to die with her.

The girls suddenly notice something happening, as the stones react to Phoenix’s power display. Suddenly, they witness a mystic ceremony where a girl is sacrificed by the priests. The strange energy of the ceremony interacts with Rachel’s. The priest’s eyes glow and are replaced by a headlight and, finally, by a girl, as Kitty wakes up in a bed. Without thinking, Kitty phases out of the bed before realizing that was just a kid.

They are joined by a handsome young man, who heard the ruckus. Instantly smitten, she introduces herself and the young man tells her he is Alasdhair Kinross, while the young girl is his cousin Lilibet. The housekeeper comes in, telling Alasdhair off for being in a lady’s room without her being properly dressed. She chases Lilibet and Alasdhair out, while telling Kitty she has found some decent clothes for her.

Looking at the oldfashioned thirties-style anklelength skirt and blazer she is now wearing, Kitty wonders whether she couldn’t get some jeans anywhere. She tests whether he powers still work. Phasing her hand into the mirror’s surface, she thinks of how her natural state is still to be phased. So how does that explain what happened to the car? She notices only too late that Lilibet saw her. She stumbles and falls into a clothes trunk. Lilibet tries to pull her out and they both fall, surrounded by a heap of clothes, just as a very disapproving Mrs Fraser returns.

Outside the room, Alasdhair is waiting, asking if she’s an American. When Kitty mentions that she’s from Chicago, Lilibet excitedly mentions Al Capone and Tommy Guns and Eliot Ness. Kitty figures she’s a fan of the Untouchables. Is she here on holiday, Alasdhair asks. Sort of, Kitty admits. She’s hoping to attend university in England. But she was travelling with a friend. They were staying at the Wayfarer Inn. Could they perhaps ring there to let her know Kitty’s ok?

Alasdhair uses the decidedly old-looking phone, while Kitty wonders why Ray hasn’t contacted her telepathically already. If Kitty really was out for a day, Ray could be really worried and probably already called all of Excalibur. Unless something happened to her as well… Looking around Kitty takes in her oldfashioned surroundings. Everything seems antique but in mint condition.

Alasdhair gets off the phone, explaining that the numbers Kitty gave him are not in service. Three cheers for British Telecom, she mutters. The constable hasn’t seen any sign of her friend either or any admissions to the casualty ward that fit her description. And he’s fairly certain that there were no new guests at the Wayfarer Inn all week. They arrived yesterday, Kitty retorts. And all her things are there: passport, traveller cheques, the works. Can’t he call the place? They don’t have a phone, Alasdhair explains. Of course they do, Kitty retorts. That’s how she booked there!

Alasdhair reminds her of the nasty bump on her head. Perhaps her memories are muddled. Kitty agrees. After all, her last coherent recollection is of some odd old crone in rags, singing to herself, while washing torn clothes in a bloody stream. Lilibet suddenly turns pale screaming the bean-nighe!

A spirit akin to the Irish Banshee, Alasdhair explains. She foretells the death of the person whose clothes she’s washing. A flightjacket just like hers, Kitty recalls, as she tells the two of them that this is the 20th century. Do they really believe this stuff? Strange things happen in the Highlands Alasdhair retorts. Not her problem, Kitty announces. She has to find a friend. Is there anyone else they might contact, anywhere else to look? There’s Lady Windermere a way along the Loch, Alasdhair admits. Not very hospitable, but worth a try. Better than nothing, Kitty agrees, while Lilibet enthusiastically shouts that they are going on an adventure.

A little later, they get up on some horses, much to Kitty’s displeasure, as she has little experience riding. They pass a boathouse, which, according to Alasdhair, is leased to R.J. Mitchell, who is working on the S.10 - an aeroplane. Alasdhair’s been helping. He tells her how it should do better than hundred miles per hour. How provincial can you get, Kitty thinks to herself. She is used to flying four thousand miles per hour. The way Alasdhair is acting, it’s as though he thinks this is cutting edge technology.

They reach Lady Windermere’s castle, which is said to be haunted. Alasdhair announces their presence to the butler, who tells them that the lady is indisposed and not receiving guests today. Kitty tells him they are looking for a young woman and describes Rachel. She notices that the Butler recognizes the description but he tells them to leave. They are blocking the driveway, where a black limousine just arrives. As the men greet the butler with a raised right arm, Kitty recognizes them as Nazis.

Kitty compares them to cockroaches and tells the others that the man was lying. Alasdhair agrees and recalls that his mother mentioned Lady Windermere was a great supporter of Oswald Mosley and his British Fascist Party. Back in the dawn of time, Kitty scoffs. Hardly, Alasdhair replies. She heard him speak two weeks ago at a rally down Newcastle. Last spring, she is said to have met Hitler himself. Kitty suddenly gets agitated. Where is she? When is she? What’s the year? 1936, Alasdhair replies.

Utterly in shock, Kitty runs off trying to grasp the scope of what has happened, of what Rachel has done. She stumbles and cries. Alasdhair rushes to her side and she makes an excuse, of all this adventure being a little too much. Alasdhair tries to be kind and promises he’ll always be there, for as long as she needs him. Kitty realizes that he means that, even though he knew she was lying just now.

Lilibet seems worried and Kitty makes an excuse that she feels just bad because of the Nazis. Alasdhair understands, but many in the country feel differently and see them as England’s natural ally against the Bolsheviks.

Alisdhair suggests they return and Kitty refuses. She wants to go after Ray. Considering the butler’s reaction, she must be there. She intends to bust her loose. She can’t do that alone, Alasdhair tells her sternly and offers to come along. He orders Lilibet to stay with the horses. The young princess refuses and Alasdhair gives her a stern talking to, reminding her that this is a serious job. If they aren’t back in an hour, or she hears an alarm, she is to get back to the manor and inform Mrs Fraser.

As Alasdhair moves the stones away, he alludes to trouble in Lilibet’s family, especially due to her uncle, who’s set on having his own way. He leads Kitty through a tunnel, which his father discovered when he was a young boy. Kitty notes that Alasdhair talks bout him in the past and Alasdhair explains he died in the Great War. Kitty suspects that these passages are way older than the castle and Alasdhair explains that his father didn’t explore them that much. Something frightened him. He never went back either.

Kitty warns him to douse his match. They have company. It’s a kind of patrol. They have nowhere to hide, Alasdhair realizes. In response, Kitty warns him to take a deep breath and phases both of them through the wall into the next cavern. Alasdhair wonders what she just did. Kitty is lost in thought, though. She recognizes the stones before them. She remembers what happen with her and Rachel.

There was a child on the altar. She and Rachel materialized just as she was killed. Rachel screamed, as though the knife had been plunged through her heart. The high priest was furious and something about him frightened Kitty. She ran and abandoned Rachel. Through the walls, through the earth, she just kept running until she reached the road.

She feels deeply ashamed. Alasdhair asks her who and what exactly she is. A mutant, Kitty tells him and explains her phasing power to him. Alasdhair doesn’t believe it until she phases her arm through his body. Alasdhair reacts shocked at first but then announces that this is fantastic. In spite of Kitty’s fears, he is not repulsed and actually thinks this is great.

Some time later, after making their way into he castle proper, they witness two Germans making their entrance. One of them is military, the other is dressed in a civilian suit. The officer angrily announces that he is Wolfgang von Strucker, a baron of Prussia and an Oberst of the Wehrmacht. He will no longer be party to any more of the Egyptian’s cheap theatrics. Hardly cheap, the civilian, Herr Geist, comments wryly, considering his fee. He belongs to the Reich’s military intelligence and explains that they feel differently. Then he and his Admiral Canaris are fools, Strucker scoffs. The Egyptian calls himself a mentalist and a necromancer. He has seen better performances in Berlin nightclubs.

Still, he pulled something out of mid-air, Geist reminds him. Even if it was not the provenance they thought, it might yet benefit the Reich. Must he remind Strucker that the Führer has faith in the Egyptian and in Lady Windermere? Strucker sulks and states that Germany’s military might will give the Reich mastery over the world, not those damnable fawning occultists. Why does he listen to them? Perhaps because Hitler knows something they do not, Geist suggests slyly.

It doesn’t matter whether the cow – referring to Lady Windermere – proves her cause or not. The object of their mission is to discredit the ruling house of Windsor, not to put Lady Windermere on the throne. By destabilizing the monarchy, they will assure that Britain will at worst remain neutral in the coming war. At best, under the leadership of Oswald Mosley and his fascist party, Britain might become an ally of Germany. That moment, Windermere and the Egyptian are expendable.

Lady Windermere joins them, asking why she was not informed of the American who was accompanied by Lord Kinross. There was no need, Strucker explains and Lady Windermere angrily points out that she is in charge there. Geist whispers to Strucker that, while she fancies herself a queen, even Il Duce has more grace than Lady Windermere. Certainly better manners, Strucker wryly agrees.

Kitty and Alasdhair are still watching and Kitty announces that she didn’t understand one word. German isn’t one of her languages, as opposed to Japanese, Russian, Imperial Shi’ar, Galactic trade and gutter Hebrew. He’ll explain later, Alasdhair states, but the conversation so far has put a noose around Lady Windermere’s neck for high treason.

Suddenly, Strucker receives a message and loudly announces that there are intruders in the castle: and adolescent boy and girl As the men hurry upstairs, Kitty phases herself and Alasdhair once again out of sight.

Strucker and Geist leave. As the security of the location has been compromised, they will shift to their alternate venue to continue the work. Let Windermere and her pet thugs hunt for the brats. However, their henchmen are to make sure that the phone lines are cut and the roads are to be watched and they are to make Alsdhair’s death look like an accident.

Kitty and Alasdhair return to the horses, but there is no sign of Lilibet. A little later, back in the Windermere castle, Kitty grabs the butler and phases him down to where Alasdhair is waiting. They figure he is responsible for Lilibet’s disappearance. Alasdhair intends to beat the answers out of him, but the other man is far stronger. Kitty, though, easily knocks him down and angrily explains what will happen to him should she choose to partially phase him into the ground. Horrified, the man confesses that they took Rachel and Lilibet to Edinburgh.

Kitty wonders how to reach hem. Alasdhair suggests that he has a short-wave radio at home, but they’ll be watching his house by now, Kitty assumes. Alasdhair has an idea and leads her to Mr. Mitchells’ home, where he proudly presents the prototype of Mitchell’s newest fighter aircraft. Kitty recognizes it as a Spitfire. Alasdhair wonders how she knows that, as it is top secret, but doesn’t press. He explains that he is a cadet pilot with the Royal Airforce, so he can fly it. As he hands Kitty a flight jacket, he adds that he’s been Mitchell’s assistant the past summer.

A little later, they fly off heading for Inverness, where they intend to stop the Nazis. Kitty admits that her strong suit is physics, as opposed to history and politics. Can Lady Windermere pull off her coup? Alasdhair explains that the monarchy is in rather a delicate position at the moment, thanks to the King’s relationship with the American, Mrs. Simpson. He refuses to give her up, but many feel he cannot be King with her at his side. If he’s presented as an unsuitable monarch and, at the same time, the legitimacy of the house of Windsor is successfully challenged, it could be the Glorious Revolution all over again, when James II was deposed by Parliament in favor of William of Orange and his wife Mary. Almost certainly, it would mean the fall of Ramsey MacDonald’s government. Discredit King Edward and you discredit those who champion his cause, chief among them Winston Churchill. And then, who will listen to his warnings about Hitler? Kitty gets it. Alasdhair agrees. If the new monarch then aligns with Mosley’s fascists, the worst might happen. Basically, it might lead to Europe being Germany’s for the taking.

Kitty muses how Phoenix fits into this. Alasdhair asks what she can do, then suddenly shouts out as he sees light in the sky - a firebird. Kitty explains that that’s her friend’s power manifestation. She seems to be attacking their plane. Alasdhair tries to twist the plane clear, but the Phoenix raptor’s claws have grabbed the plane. Kitty phases it loose, but the plane is put into a flat spin. They are heading straight for the ground.

Characters Involved: 

in the present

Phoenix III, Shadowcat (both Excalibur)

Dougal and other guests at the Wayfarer Inn

in the past

Lord Alasdhair Kinross

Princess Elizabeth ‘Lilibeth’ of York

Mrs Fraser (the Kinross housekeeper)

Oberst Wolfgang von Strucker

Geist (member of the German Intelligence Service)


Lady Windermere

Lady Windermere’s butler

The Bean-nighe

in Shadowcat’s and Phoenix’s vision

druids and their human sacrifice

Story Notes: 

It’s hard to place this story in the pages of Excalibur but, with the revelations in the last part, it presumably takes place after Excalibur learned that the X-Men were alive.

The Untouchables were a group of men led by Federal Agent Elliot Ness, who fought the gangster Al Capone who pretty much ruled Chicago’s underworld at the time.

Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley was the founder of the British Union of Fascists. The BUF was completely banned in May 1940 and Mosley and 740 other senior Fascists were interned for much of WWII. Mosley was released in 1943.

Wilhelm Canaris, chief of the Reich’s Abwehr, the intelligence service, was a nationalist, but not a Nazi. Eventually, one year before the war started, he worked with others trying to topple Hitler, while pretending to still lead the Abwehr. He was caught and executed.

Sir Winston Churchill was one of the first politicians to point out the danger the Nazis posed and to protest against Chamberlain’s policy of Appeasement. In 1940, under the pressure of public opinion, he became the Prime Minister of a coalition government. One of the major contributions made by Churchill to eventual victory was his ability to inspire the British people to greater effort by making public broadcasts on significant occasions.

The trouble in Lilibet’s family Alasdhair mentions presumably refers to her uncle’s (King Edward VIII) relationship with American divorcee, Mrs Wallis Simpson. The situation came to the brink of constitutional crisis with Edward's accession: The Church of England (of which he was the head) censured divorce, Parliament refused to grant Wallis any title, the populace was opposed to having a twice-divorced woman as the King's consort and English law had no precedent for a wife of the king with no title or official capacity. Had Edward pressed the issue, the constitutional monarchy would be irrepreparably damaged; he chose to abdicate rather than mar the image of the monarchy. He was created Duke of Windsor, married Wallis and relished in social life. He was succeeded as king by his brother, George. After George’s death, Elizabeth II, the current Queen, inherited the throne.

The great War in this instance refers to World War I.

‘Il Duce’ was Benito Mussolini, fascist leader of Italy and an ally of Nazi Germany.

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