X-Men: True Friends #3

Issue Date: 
November 1999
Story Title: 
Claiming the Crown

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

Brief Description: 

Having found shelter with Irene Adler and her partner, Mr. Raven, Kitty finds she cannot locate her relatives in Poland and decides to go through with her plan to assassinate all-important Nazis. Alasdhair and Logan remind her of her prior obligation to Rachel and Lilibet. While the Shadow King attempts to totally gain control over the captive Phoenix, a free part of her wakes Lilibet and enables her to escape and another part informs Kitty.
She and the others follow the Nazis to Holyrood palace, where Lilibet is fleeing for her life from guards possessed by the Shadow king. She finds a secret passage and, at the end of it, some of the legendary sacred Scottish treasures. Unfortunately, the Nazis have caught up with her. But so have Kitty and Wolverine. Kitty and the Shadow King play mindgames with each other and Rachel finally manages to break free and face the Shadow King. Kitty asks the others to leave and tells Logan to inform Alasdhair of her love, but she has to stay with her friend. Kitty realizes that Rachel will become like the Shadow King, should she kill him. As Phoenix refuses to listen to reason, Kitty hits her with the magical sword, bringing her back to reason. Together, they manage to beat the Shadow King for the time being. Later, they find a way out of the cave, only to find they are back in the present and crashing the opening of the Scottish parliament, attended, among others, by Wolverine. The three friends are joined by Queen Elizabeth II, the grown-up Lilibet, who tells them what happened later and informs Kitty that Alasdhair died in the war.

Full Summary: 

(the Astral Plane)

Inside her mind, Rachel Anne Summers is running for her life, fighting for the freedom of her very soul.

Days ago, she and her best friend, Kitty Pryde, found themselves transported to the Scottish Highlands in the year 1936 and enmeshed in a plot of the Third Reich to destabilize and overthrow the British monarchy. At the heart of that conspiracy was a being the X-Men know as the Shadow King. He follows Rachel, trying to possess her. The girl flees, ending up at Xavier’s school.

Having crashed through the skylight, Rachel is welcomed by a worried Storm, who draws the girl near to her, assuring her she’ll always find a safe haven at Xavier’s school. A moment later, her face shows the Shadow King’s ubiquitous black glasses and speaks with his voice as he rummages through Rachel’s memories, learning of this school of mutants.

Rachel leashes out at Storm and runs outside, where she is expected by an already-possessed Colossus, who muses that their mentor, Xavier, must be a man of rare qualities. He will enjoy corrupting him. As he shall her, an equally possessed Nightcrawler who tackles Rachel announces.

Rogue turns up and the Shadow King muses whether her absorption powers will also work on the astral plane. Rachel causes them all to fall down the stairs to find the memory of the person most important to her -her mother. Turning from Marvel Girl to Dark Phoenix the Shadow King announces that to her Rachel represents a future of unimaginable horror as the blood of her friends and family stains Rachel’s hands. Rachel denies this as a possessed Xavier holds her prisoner learning of her Hound past. He asks her to yield to him and her past will never haunt her again. Rachel uses her memories against him now, for one of Rachel’s seminal memories is the one of Xavier being murdered by the army; a memory she uses to surprise the Shadow King now.


Rachel is frozen in a cocoon, while the Shadow King announces that he has never encountered such transcendent glory. That round may be Rachel’s but it is but the first of many. In the end he will win. The Nazis wonder if he is indeed that all powerful and, within Rachel, a tiny free part reaches out to Lilibet.

The girl awakes in a stage room. Servant’s quarters, she decides, and finds that the door is locked and guarded. She recalls Kitty telling her that her friend Rachel was held prisoner by Nazis. Is she their captive, too? She turns to a roof window. It’s dark and raining outside. Going out is madness but she’d rather brave the storm than meet that ‘toad-man’ with his horrible black glasses again.

Elsewhere in Edinburgh, Kitty Pryde, having freshly showered, tries her luck on the phone. Each time, she is asked for the number by the operator. Grasping her Star of David, she finally begins to cry. Alasdhair Kinross enters and tries to comfort her He believes in miracles. Right now, she could use one, she replies bleakly. Calling her ‘accushla,’ he asks what is wrong. She asks what the word means as he keeps using it. Somewhat embarrassed, he tells her it’s a term of endearment. She tells him not to be embarrassed. It’s good to be loved … especially under such circumstances. And… to love in return. He promises that the villains won’t escape.

That’s the least of their troubles, Kitty replies. She was trying to telephone her relatives in Poland. Only she doesn’t know the number. She can’t even send a telegram or a letter because she doesn’t know where they live. Why should she? That whole branch of the family was murdered before her parents were born. Even if she got through how could she make them believe?

To Kitty’s generation, this is history. And too many people think it’s a lie. In five years, one of the most enlightened societies on the globe, home to Bach, Buxtenhude, Handel, Goethe, Kant, Max Planck, Thomas Mann and lord knows how many others will decide as a state policy to exterminate an entire race of people solely because of their religion. Six million Jews will die in camps designed to murder them. She knows what’s coming and who’s responsible and she has the power to stop them. From Hitler on down, she can kill them.

All by herself? he asks. Does he think she can’t? she asks, gently reminding him of her power by phasing through his arms. He is praying she won’t, he replies. Guess again, she shoots back, tight-lipped.

Downstairs, in an elegantly furnished room, Logan paces about nervously, while a blind woman plays solitaire at a table and a dark-haired man with sharp features stands beside her protectively. That was a new carpet this morning, the man observes sardonically. Logan tells him to get stuffed. He still doesn’t see how one kid can be so damn important and they should please spare him Benjamin Franklin’s epigram about the horseshoe nail. He got the message the first time Franklin told the story.

The blind woman begins to explain that Katherine Pryde is the right instrument in the right place at the right time for the wrong purpose. Addressing the woman as Irenie, Logan mockingly asks her if the position of the Oracle of Delphi has become available, with her suddenly turning all obscure on him. He likes his speech plain and his answers simple. Would it were so easy, Irene sighs. The problem with perceiving the futures is that not all choices presented are simple. If that were so, the problem would have been dealt with a decade ago with a car accident in Munich or a quiet stabbing in prison before Mein Kampf was written. The danger in creating the vacuum ever lies in what replaces it.

So they tell her, Logan replies. Irene stresses that they must not tell the child what to do, because what matters above all else is choice. Fate has cast them in the mouth of a crucible without knowing whether they are to be tempered or consumed. They literally hold the power to shape the world in their hands. What good is that power without the insight that tells them if they act for good or ill? ‘Mr Raven’ chimes in, adding that they have all learned to kill, but more importantly they have learned not to kill. To know the difference. Now its Kitty’s and her friend’s turn.

Alasdhair enters, announcing that he is sorry, but Kitty is adamant. And he cannot really blame her. Kitty phases into the room, wearing an approximation of her Shadowcat costume. Looking pretty grim, Logan observes. It serves the occasion, she replies. What are her plans, he asks. Calmly, she tells him that she intends to start at the top and work her way down: Hitler, Hess, Goering, Goebbels, Rosenberg, Frank, Streicher, Heydrich, Eichmann. Does she figure anybody wearing SS insignia or a brown shirt is fair game, he asks incredulously. If that’s what it takes, she replies.

Catching Alasdhair’s look, she warns him not to try and stop her. He wanted to remind her of a prior obligation. He has faced the Shadow King as well. He beheld in him evil incarnate and he cannot leave his cousin at his mercy, anymore than Kitty should abandon her friend. She can do what she wants afterwards but not at the sacrifice of those she loves.

Kitty suddenly smiles, as a telepathic contact reaches her. Rachel has managed to bust Lilibet loose. They have to hurry if they mean to save her. Logan sniffs at the girl’s clothes, getting her scent.

The royal palace of Holyrood. In the pouring rain, Lilibet runs there shouting for help. The surprised caretaker, Mr. Carmody, lets her in. Lilibet warns him and his wife that they have to call the police. Carmody replies that that’s impossible, as the storm has cause power outages. That moment, the possessed Rachel enters. The Shadow King speaks through her, announcing that Rachel is his Hound. Psychically, he remakes the Carmodies in his image, while Lilibet runs.

Outside, waiting in a limousine are Farouk, Geist and Strucker. Farouk explains that he will extend his influence through the palace. Lilibet will find no help. Eventually, his hound will find and kill her. The blame for the death will be fixed on the mysterious American girl, who will also be blame for the Death of Lady Windermere. The resultant tragedy with a slight psychic assist will persuade her father to retire from public life and to refuse the crown that will be offered to him upon his brother’s abdication. The ensuing constitutional crisis will ultimately lead to a government more sympathetic to the goals and the policies of the Reich. And none of these events can be traced back to Berlin. Very neat , Geist admits. Strucker is still suspicious though. Neat schemes are the ones that invariably go wrong.

Suddenly, he exclaims that he hears a noise. What is it?! Opening the car’s roof with his claws, Logan wryly remarks he’d say it’s the sound of their scheme going way wrong.
Farouk lets loose a psychic blast strong enough to incinerate his brain. The driver finds himself faced with another problem. The engine is literally gone, courtesy of Shadowcat.

Strucker shoots several times at Logan to make sure while Geist suddenly finds his leg is stuck. Not caring about Geist´s troubles Strucker tells Farouk to enter the palace. Now it is time to prove his worth by finding the girl quickly. Left behind, Geist angrily trains his weapon at the arriving Kitty and Alasdhair, still deluding himself into his ability of getting out. Wolverine threatens him and Geist gives up.

Wolverine tells Kitty she knows what to do and tells her to hurry. He enters the palace and Kitty asks Alasdhair to stay behind and watch Geist and the driver until reinforcements arrive. Alasdhair asks her to wait. He apologizes for speaking out of turn before. Kitty admits that these things needed saying but she is still determined; but won’t that change her future? he asks. She can’t run from evil, Kitty replies. She has powers and with them comes responsibility. Her folks, her friends and Logan have made her the person she is and she has to be true to that person and to her conscience. The future will have to look after itself. Alasdhair tells her he is afraid of losing her forever. Considering what’s at stake is a pair of broken hearts so high a price, she asks. Alasdhair declares his love and asks her to be his lady if she agrees. They kiss passionately.

Within the palace, the possessed guards search for Lilibet. Wolverine tries to attack a group of them but is repelled by the equally possessed Phoenix.

Lilibet runs for her life, realizing that she is being herded by the soldiers. She finally recalls a secret passageway Alasdhair had shown her during a past visit and slips inside the secret door only to fall. Frightened, she cries until she gets a hold her self. She suddenly realizes that her clothes have changed. She is now wearing a Scottish tartan. She sees a new passageway ahead of her and feels herself drawn to the light as she passes Celtic murals. She enters a treasure chamber and is reminded of Carter and Carnavon excavating the tomb of Tut-ankh-amun. She recalls that tomb was said to be cursed. She reminds herself that this is Scotland and the door was left open. Is this a barrow, she wonders, one of the places held holy by the ancient fairy folk?

She grows excited as she realizes that in front of her are the most sacred objects in Scotland: the Stone of Scone, the Royal Caledonian Crown and the Sword of Scone. Prized beyond price, Strucker agrees. The Nazis have found her. And the Reich will put them all to good use, he continues.

In your dreams, goosestepper, Kitty snarls as she phases through von Strucker and grabs his gun. She points it at the Nazis but von Strucker is certain that she will not kill. From the likes of him she could learn, Kitty retorts. She has her back turned to Lilibet. Big mistake. Momentarily possessed by the Shadow King, Lilibet grabs one of the object and hits Kitty with it. The Shadow King uses Kitty`s lapse of concentration and tries to possess her while she struggles wildly. At the same time, he enjoys mentally torturing Lilibet.

Grabbing the girl to his side, he rants that there is no pathway of the human mind he does not know, no decency he has not corrupted. He will not break their spirits, but seduce them and they will worship him for it. He points to the treasures explaining that they are what Regina Windermere sought, Talismans that only the true heir of the Highland throne may wield and survive. If the brat touches them and lives, the future monarch of the isle will be the puppet consort of the Shadow King… and the Führer. If she dies, then Berlin has its proof that her line is illegitimate.

Like it matters, Kitty scoffs. Where she comes from this is ancient history. England is a joke and the “thousand year reich” didn’t even last a generation. Ignoring Farouk’s command to be silent, she continues that they can leant the hard way – whatever – it will still be for nothing. Farouk accuses her of lying. Kitty gives them three dates which they can use to be sure: September 1st, 1939. Germany invades Poland, December 11th, 1941: Germany declares war on the USA. April 13th, 1945: Hitler commits suicide in Berlin with Marshall Zukhov and the Red Army on his doorstep and the Americans at the Elbe. Germany will be reviled throughout the world as a home to a race of murderers. The Baron reveres Hitler and he worships the Shadow King… and they all deserve each other!

Enraged, the Shadow King commands her to be silent and points out that with the knowledge he can glean from her mind, he may stop this prediction. Just be sure to ask Adolph’s permission first, Kitty shoots back. While she taunts him, Lilibet unclasps the brooch from her outfit and stings Farouk with it. Unused to pain, her reflexively lets the girl go and she jumps to Kitty’s side.

Kitty follows suit, trying to knock him out by phasing through his nervous system, but she finds the network is so dense that she cannot absorb the pychic backlash. Both she and Farouk scream in pain and both of them fall down exhausted.

With the Shadow King’s control over Phoenix broken, Wolverine is also freed and he hurries towards von Strucker, who draws two sabres to defend himself, as he boasts that he was champion of sabres in Germany. He does not know how Logan came by those claws but they will not save him from honest German steel and skill. Logan backhands him and announces that, sometimes, the finest pedigree in creation isn’t worth a tinker’s damn!

Farouk intends to turn his anger on Lilibet. She grabs the Sword of Scone to defend herself and Farouk notices that the silhouette behind her is that of a grown queen. Rachel intervenes, telling him he is done here. Farouk mocks her and while Logan and Strucker still battle brutally both telepaths’ telepathic aspects rise. Farouk is sure of himself. Rachel may be more powerful but she lacks proper training whereas he can draw on the experience of ages.

Logan again hurts Strucker revealing that thanks to his healing factor, he cannot be killed. He is the next generation of humanity’s evolution, so Strucker’s master race is pretty much obsolete before it’s even been born. Seeing no chance, Strucker finally yields.

Lilibet, speaking like an adult queen, turns to Kitty charging her to be champion of the realm. Taking the sword and calling her majesty of Britain, Kitty accepts. She tells Logan and the others to leave. Her place is with her friend. Another thing Logan taught her. She asks him to tell Alasdhair that she loves him.

Kitty walks towards the two battling telepaths and is awestruck as she sees Phoenix’s power unleashed for the first time. Kitty warns Rachel that she cannot kill the Shadow King. Grabbing Farouk with the Phoenix effect’s claws, Rachel tells Kitty to watch her. It is no less than he deserves. Kitty argues whether Ray wants to become like him. If that’s what it takes to be free of him… Rachel who seems less and less human replies. Afterwards, what will it take to be free of her, Kitty demands. With a vicious grin, Rachel replies that perhaps the answer is right in Kitty’s hand.

Kitty apologizes and strikes both Phoenix and Farouk. She expects blood. Instead, because they were in a state of transcendental energy, they are merely restored again to corporeal physicality. Kitty grabs Rachel anchoring the other girl in this plane and together they channel her energy into the sword and at Farouk, who sees to be blasted apart.

Later. The girls find themselves alone, wondering if they are still alive. Rachel admits that for the first time in an age she feels clean and states that they didn’t kill him, did they? Nothing permanent, Kitty replies. Ray asks why Kitty stopped her. He was evil. Sheathing the sword Kitty explains that, by draining him, Rachel was drowning herself in his corruption. Evil means can pervert the most noble end. What about Kitty then, Rachel asks as they walk back. Kitty admits that she cannot just go ahead and kill all the Nazis. She needs Rachel’s help to find another way to save her people. Peeking out of the door that leads out of the secret passage, Rachel informs her that decision has been taken out of her hand.

They are crashing a formal reception, one that is taking place in the present, among the guests Wolverine and Brigadier Alysande Stuart. Alysande orders the girls to stay put. There is someone who wants to meet them. Logan welcomes them home and explains that this is the formal opening for the new Scots Parliament. Kitty wonders desperately why she was given a chance to save her relatives if she wasn’t supposed to.

Sandy brings back the person who asked to see them – Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen tells them that they are but mortal. And it is not for them to comprehend the why and wherefore of God but only hope to draw to themselves a portion of his true nature. In those dark days, this land needed a champion and in Kitty and Rachel the realm and Lilibet could not have found better. She invites the girls to walk in the garden with her and asks Sandy and Logan to make sure they will not be disturbed.

Queen Elizabeth marvels at the strangeness of the situation. They are just as she remembers, while she has grown up to be a grandmother and a queen. She tells them what happened after they left. They never found the tunnel again. Strucker and Geist were returned to Berlin in disgrace.

Kitty asks after Alasdhair. The queen just replies that he loved Kitty with all his heart and the girl begins to understand. The Bean-nighe hadn’t come for her that night. Queen Elizabeth explains that Alsdhair died a hero and made a difference during the War. She hands Kitty the Kinross crown and explains he wanted her to have it. She’d rather have the man, Kitty laments. Even old. Even just for a day.

They reminisce about their lost loved ones and old adventures and the queen tells them that they saved more than they knew. After the girls had disappeared, Alasdhair told Lilibet that they had been singled out to look true evil in the face and combat it. Once so challenged, no honorable person could ever stand aside from the fray. Like Kitty, Alasdhair was prepared to fight and die for good. He had many dreams but no regrets and neither should she.

An official reminds the queen of the time and she tells him that reception can wait. She is quite aware of her duties as monarch but, for a few minutes more, she is responsible to an older obligation. That of friendship.

Characters Involved: 

Phoenix III, Shadowcat (both Excalibur)

in the past


Lord Alasdhair Kinross

Princess Elizabeth ‘Lilibeth’ of York

‘Mr. Raven’ / Mystique

Irene Adler / Destiny

Mr. and Mrs. Carmody

Amahl Farouk / the Shadow King

Oberst Wolfgang von Strucker

Geist and other Nazis

in the present


Brigadier Alysande Stuart

Queen Elizabeth II

As Farouk’s phantoms:

Colossus, Marvel Girl / Phoenix, Nightcrawler, Professor X, Rogue, Storm (all X-Men)

Story Notes: 

Benjamin Franklin’s epigram Logan alludes to goes like this: “For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost; for the want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for the want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for the want of care about a horseshoe nail."

Interesting fact: Logan claiming to have been around in person when Franklin said that, hints at his having been intended to be even older than he was later revealed to be in Origin.

Dating back to 1400 BC, the Oracle of Delphi was the most important shrine in all Greece, and in theory all Greeks respected its independence. People came from all over Greece and beyond to have their questions about the future answered by the Pythia, the priestess of Apollo. And her answers, usually cryptic, could determine the course of everything from when a farmer planted his seedlings, to when an empire declared war.

Rachel’s seminal memory of Xavier being shot is from New Mutants (1st series) #18

‘Mr.’ Raven is, of course, an alias for Mystique.

The Shadow King’s comment about Rachel being a horror to Jean would actually hint at this story taking place sometime after the “Days of Future Present” crossover, as Jean and Rachel met there for the first time and Jean had precisely that reaction to Rachel. This would also explain Kitty and Rachel’s lack of surprise at seeing Wolverine alive in the present.

Carter and Cavaron found the tomb of legendary pharaoh Tut-Ank-Amun. As many members of the expedition died soon after, there were theories that they were cursed because of opening the tomb. Other theories are that bacteria on the wall of the tomb might have been the cause of the curse or, of course, that it was all coincidence.

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