“All I see I own.
And I am unsatisfied with the state of things.”
Del’dilorr, the last watchtower. The kingdom of Dryador,
Outside an army has gathered, led by four persons, the original Horsemen of Apocalypse.
Death with his Egyptian-style Anubis head announces that Del di’lorr is the light in the distance. The last hope of a lost land. And how many times did she refuse their call? That tower… offends him. It has always offended him.
Famine, wearing a stylized pharaoh helmet asks how long it has been since they have eaten well on the bones and blood of a free people, of a free land. Too long, he says. For they offend him. They have always offended him.
Pestilence, dressed in swathes of cloth and carrying a bow, asks if they know that in their language “di lorr “ means “the light forever.” That’s some bold claim. War, with a burning head, scoffs it is a fool’s claim. Everything raised is only for a season. If they are proof of one thing, it’s that. She says, let the wolves run - let the tower fall! Say the word and she will give them war.
Death. Death for all of them! Death announces. They will litter the path to Krakoa with all who would stand against them. For there is an apocalypse coming!
And below them their nightmarish hosts wait.
Inside the watchtower keep, a guard informs the lords that the army has broken though the outer ring and are pouring into the city. The tower will fall. They have to leave!
Is he not called the cursed king? his lord replies. He has outlived three queens, with not a child between them. He has no life to protect, so if his kingdom falls he will fall with it. The guard points out that they are all that stands between here and the Starlight Citadel. They are her vassals. Of course, the king agreed and calls a squire. He hands him a sceptre that will mark him as his herald. He is to tell Saturnyne what has happened here. Let her know what is coming. Mounting a pterodactyl, the young man promises not to fail. The King tells him all of Otherworld depends on it.
The Horsemen see the squire in the sky and Pestilence shoots him with one of her arrows. To add their message…
Later at the Starlight Citadel, the guards order Opal Luna Saturnyne back, warning her that the dying squire’s body on the ground is diseased. They recognize the scepter of Dryador. Dying of whatever Pestilence infected him with, the young man mumbles Arakko… the Tower! The Tower has fallen! Arakko has fallen! he finally states. Shaken, Saturnyne announces she needs the cards.
And so, soon in some forgotten place, some forsaken time, four of Saturnyne’s more exotic looking servants step out of a gateway. A being with a fishlike face, Ryll, points towards the slave sun. Saturnyne needs what is hidden in there. She orders Quaddeus Quo to summon it.
The bull-like being speaks an incantation and the heart of the star reveals a giant wormlike being. When the worm seems to protest, the fishlike woman replies it shouldn’t think of this not as its end but as the fulfilment of what it is meant to be. It is not going to be much use to them like this though, is it? Quaddeus Quo speaks another incantation and the being shrinks and falls into their hands. When Quaddeus Quo expresses doubt, the fish woman replies that they serve at the pleasure of Saturnyne. A star is a small price to pay for such favor. They return to the Starlight Citadel and put the creature into a box.
Opal Luna Saturnyne, omniversal Majestrix, puts on some protective gloves and takes out what the thing has turned to - a very special Tarot set. She spreads the cards.
Judgment is the first one. (The card shows Apocalypse and the Summoner). The death of death and the new way forward. The witchbreed bring back their dead now. Have they considered what else rises from the earth to attack those who call themselves immortal?
It is followed by the Four of Wands (the card shows the four Horsemen attacking a monstrous army). A family that has been fighting for aeons has one final confrontation before the rest over the ashes of the defeated. They face the last battle and the spoils of victory. They have built a hard home, and one must dwell within.
The card is followed by the Hanged Man:
(it shows a group of Krakoan mutants led by Apocalypse) Saturnyne muses that here no men hang but something has been suspended indeed. Time, Earth’s laws and natural attachments. They bring themselves here to the game at the gallows. What do they wager to lose?
The Eight of Cups follows (a split image: one half a beautiful dark-skinned woman, the other half wearing a golden tentacle mask). Someone’s heart has been left empty. She has been wanting for something more. Will she turn away? A woman like her keeps her cup close.
The last card is the Ten of Swords (it depicts ten Krakoans holding swords: Apocalypse, Cable, Wolverine, Captain Britain and Magik can be easily identified. The rest are obscured by shadows). Saturnyne’s light in darkness. Something she has long desired flickers just out of reach. But for the ones who hold the blades a great match lights the darkness indeed.
The Arakko Point: the recently created External Gate, where Prestige, Rockslide and Magma are standing. They hear a strange sound coming from it, as the gate opens. Rachel scans and states the people coming are friendly. But there’s also— she’s interrupted by a huge tentacle monster, atop of which sits Summoner who is holding onto an unconscious Banshee and asking for help. The Summoner shouts that Banshee is dying.
Soon they have brought Banshee to the Healing Garden and into the care of the Morlock Healer, who states Banshee is between life and death. Apocalypse asks what happened. The Summoner explains they were attacked in Otherworld on the way to Arakko. There is an army on the march… there is war underway. Apocalypse orders his grandson to come with him, and soon they stand before the Quiet Council, Krakoa’s ruling body.
Apocalypse introduces his grandson as a High Summoner from Arakko and son of his daughter War. He summarizes they recently constructed an External gate on the small part of Arakko joined to Krakoa.
A displeased Magneto points out that Apocalypse did this on his own, without asking the Council and may very well have cost mutants their lives. Apocalypse retorts that mutants create gates all the time without asking the Council. Why ask permission when none is needed? If he did not have Krakoa’s blessing, then Krakoa would have stopped him. He suggests they ask the island.
Professor X asks Cypher to interpret the island’s stance. Cypher speaks to the island in a language only the two of them understand. He seems surprised by what the island tells him and somewhat annoyed. Cypher tells the others that Krakoa acknowledges and accepts the gift of the External Gate.
Apocalypse thanks the island, then turns to the others and narrates that once there was only one land – Okkara. Then the Twilight Sword of the enemy tore the land asunder and what was once one became two: Arakko and Krakoa. Months ago, this blessed child and part of Arakko returned to him… the Summoner sought him out and sang a refugee’s song: save us! So Apocalypse began building gates, experimenting in the hope that he could save them along with Krakoa’s lost half. He recently sent the Summoner back through to prepare his coming. He asks his grandson to narrate what happened.
The Summoner’s tale:
Summoner narrates how he, Banshee and Unus left through the External Gate and entered Otherworld. Above them they saw the Starlight Citadel floating. They were fascinated and noticed too late the dark army that broke Arrako. Servants of the Twilight Sword, they serve Annihilation. They attacked the three mutants. Unus was captured and Banshee was wounded. The Summoner fled with him and returned here. Downcast, he warns that the end of this world is coming.
End of narration
Wonderful, Emma Frost sighs, studying her nails. Professor X asks Apocalypse for a proper assessment of the threat.
The ancient mutant explains that, thousands of years ago, he gave up half the world to stop these monsters. All that cost was his wife, his children and scores of godlike mutants whose names they have never heard. He gave everything to stop this. So… a proper assessment? The threat is real!
Shaw points out that Apocalypse opened the door to this danger with the External Gate. So shut it! Storm comments this would mean abandoning Unus, plus the citadel and all it represents. They cannot just ignore this. Marvel Girl offers to get Cyclops. He can lead a rescue team to get Unus and—
Apocalypse cuts her off. He will go. Mr. Sinister likes the idea. Then they can shut the External Gate behind him.
Exodus asks if he is alone in seeing an ashen tint in overcast heaven? Something comes… something beyond their ability to see, but he can feel it. Nightcrawler agrees. They shocked the world, and now the world has recovered. They gather enemies old and new at a faster pace: Homines verendi, the Flower Cartel, Xeno… Mystique grimly suggests they not forget Orchis.
Kate Pryde muses that she is the only person here who hasn’t walked through one of the gates, so maybe she is missing the point here: If the larger gate makes them vulnerable and they close it, do they still have a path to Otherworld?
Apocalypse replies that there is a gateway to Avalon which is controlled by Jamie Braddock, the omega mutant Monarch. It is a vassal state of the Starlight Citadel and offers them access to most of Otherworld. Then why the second, larger gate? Xavier demands. Apocalypse replies that it is different. Unlike other gates, the External Gate isn’t under full control by Krakoa. And he is beginning to suspect that access is not limited to mutants…
Emma and Magneto immediately demand it should be destroyed. Shaw languidly suggests democracy and a vote. Emma, Shaw, Xavier, Magneto, Sinister, Exodus and Mystique all raise their hands in favor of destroying the External Gate, carrying the majority. Xavier begins to speak to Apocalypse, but is interrupted by Cypher, who speaks for Krakoa. He tells them that Krakoa wants the gate to remain open.
The island itself begins to speak and Cypher translates that they are guests here. Their coexistence is collaborative and wonderful. It’s a union of shared interests but “I am the land. And the land is mine.”
Xavier apologizes to Krakoa and assures the island of their respect. He understands the dream of the reunification of Krakoa and Arakko, but it seems that Arakko has fallen to a dark enemy. He asks Krakoa to consider their union and safety. Krakoa speaks and Doug translates that unless there is a greater known threat. The gate remains open.
Magneto realizes that Apocalypse expected this. The ancient mutant admits it. After all, he and the island want the same thing. Angrily, Magneto tells him that, whatever he is about to do, he does it without the authority or blessing of the council. Of course, Apocalypse replies stone-faced. He will ask for volunteers.
And so, volunteers soon gather at the External Gate. Next to Apocalypse and the Summoner, there is Banshee’s daughter Siryn, original X-Men Beast and Archangel, Rictor who has been working closely with Apocalypse, Rockslide who has befriended the Summoner, Monet St Croix and Havok, who is surprised to find his ex, Polaris, there as well. Havok greets her and she muses how often they are going to blindly step though some gate and upend their lives. Cost of doing business, right? he jokes and asks if her father Magneto asked her to come. “The strength of the House of M must never be questioned” she quotes. And him? Alex explains, as this is extra-council Cyclops couldn’t come, so he asked him.
Beast and Archangel sit a bit apart, watching the others. Warren muses that there is something going on between Rictor and Apocalypse. Same with Summoner and Rockslide. Is Hank here because he is curious? Creature of habit, Beast replies. Warren however… He knows, but all this talk from Apocalypse of hidden lands and secret histories. He still doesn‘t trust him. So he has to be here. They wonder what the last member Penance is thinking.
Apocalypse addresses her, asking if she has ever been to Otherworld, ventured into the unseen lands, felt the invisible hand of the Starlight Citadel as she moves the infinite… She hasn’t, Monet replies haughtily, but it feels like a job she might want down the road. So, are they doing this?
In the Healing Gardens, Cable joins his sister Rachel, who is looking pensively at the sleeping Banshee. He knows that look. Looks like trouble. Rachel brings him up to speed. Banshee is resting and the Healers say he will recover, but his mind is… Nate agrees, he can feel it. This Banshee’s screaming. She’s gonna take a look, isn’t she? Rachel asks if he will help and Nate agrees.
At the External Gate:
The group is making their way through. Archangel asks what Apocalypse is smiling at. Him, is the reply. It’s good to see him in this form and not the other. It’s good to see him as he really is. What Apocalypse made him - an Angel of Death. Archangel replies it has always blown his mind that Apocalypse thinks he can be just him and there’s no end to it. “Our sins will find us out,” he warns as they step through the gate. Apocalypse rather considers it righteous work. That’s exactly what he’s talking about! Warren refers to his attitude. The lie that if Apocalypse thinks it matters, then it’s okay if someone else pays!
They step out in Otherworld. Armies fill the fields and the Starlight Citadel in the skies is besieged. Is there nothing he has done that he regrets? Archangel challenges Apocalypse.
Beast spies Unus as a prisoner of the demon-like armies. Even Apocalypse utters “my god” when he sees the four leaders of the hosts, the Horsemen. He turns to Archangel and repeats his question. As a tear runs down his face, he states this. This he regrets. Warren asks who they are. His light, his life, is the reply. Something lost he dared not believe he’d find. His sons, his daughters. They are his children. He walks towards them.
Krakoa, Banshee’s mindscape:
Prestige and Cable access Banshee’s memories. He, Summoner and Unus have just left the External Gate. They sense something wrong. They see the Summoner stepping towards the leader of the demon horde.
Apocalypse walks toward the Horsemen, the Summoner following him. He has no words, Apocalypse admits as he sinks to his knees. He can’t believe that this is real… that they live… it is more than he hoped for. This has always been his dream. He reaches for them. They order him to stand. They want to see him as they remember him. As a titan. As a god. He stands up. He has so many questions. Tell him of Arakko. If it fell… by what miracle have they returned to him.
Pestilence replies she wouldn’t call the hell they endured a miracle. Far from it. Apocalypse carefully asks about their mother. Gone. Destroyed, Famine replies. She fell under the Twilight Blade. Death adds if it eases his pain, there was no avoiding it. It was always going to end this way. He has no idea what thousands of years of war in that place is like. It could break the strongest of them. He is sorry, Apocalypse admits hesitatingly. War scoffs that regret is for the weak, and they were born strong.
In that place, only the fit survive… and here they are. Would he like to know the one thing that kept them alive all these years? She touches his cheek. It wasn’t love. She stabs him in the chest with a fiery hand while the Summoner stabs him in the back with a shadowy sword. Siryn screams, causing them to topple.
Cable and Prestige see the Summoner talking to War and Death and grinning evilly. They realize he betrayed them. Prestige probes deeper. She sees Saturnyne and two of her priestesses. Saturnyne looks up impossibly sensing the mindprobe. She tells Rachel she is looking for the wrong thing. There is a great game afoot and if they want to play… if they want to win, this is what they need. Find it! She plants an image in their minds.
The probe is broken off. Rachel asks Cable if he could see what she showed them. She tells him to find Mom and Dad and show them. She is going to stay with Banshee and see if she can find anything else.
Ryll, the fish-woman, wakes Saturnyne from her meditation. Is it time? Saturnyne asks. Ryll believes so and wonders how with the rumble of war below it can have escaped her attention. She was in another realm is her reply, at some other time, in a poor fool’s head, moving things as she sees fit, delicate work that does not tolerate distraction. She calls an army a distraction? They head outside to see the battlefield below. She sees an army, Saturnyne see pawns.
Ryl sees the Krakoans have come. Will Saturnyne help them? Saturnyne does not reply.
Below, the Krakoans who have freed Unus fight. Rockslide shouts that they need to get Apocalypse back through the gate. Calling him “friend,” the Summoner points out he cannot be saved. Rockslide seethes at the Summoner’s words. How could he do this? Why? Calling a black sword to his hand, the other man replies he is a Summoner of many things, most of all lies. They played a game once, friend, now it ends. With his sword, he slices right through Rockslide’s body, cleaving him in two halves.
Rictor and Beast carry Apocalypse away. Beast tries to lighten the mood by joking how could things get any worse. That moment, Rictor gets hit by one of Pestilence’s poison arrows. Archangel grabs Apocalypse, while Siryn grabs Rictor. Beast shouts at Havok for a strategical retreat. Havok orders the others to go. He, Penance and Polaris will cover their retreat and make sure no one follows.
The Summer House on the moon:
Cable shouts for his parents, who are in the kitchen. Agitated, he shouts what happened, then asks Jean to take a look. She telepathically bonds the three and replays the situation. They also share a look at the image Saturnyne planted. Jean has no idea what it is, but Cyclops does and he knows where to find it.
The three X-Men battle the Arakki. In her Penance form, Monet looks at the Starlight Citadel in the sky and wonders why they don’t come down to help. Polaris suggests she invite them to help. Monet telepathically contacts Saturnyne, shouting, is she really going to sit there, watch her kingdom get ravaged and do nothing?
Saturnyne replies she does as she pleases. And she can promise it has nothing to do with the whims of Monet or any other of her kind. She orders her to run along like a child, and shatters Monet’s astral form.
Returned to the ground, Monet mutters that that is not a nice woman. Havok suggests she may need some encouragement to do the right thing. The citadel is a mighty big piece of floating metal. They sent them an invitation, let’s make it a request, he suggests to Polaris, who begins to magnetically drag the citadel down.
Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Cable infiltrate a certain building, which allows them to teleport to their destination. Looking at a metal globe in front of them, Cable asks what it is.
Ryll shouts that the mutant is pulling them to earth. Saturnyne is not anxious, claiming she has foreseen everything and now it is time to show all who rules this land. Forever and without question.
She snaps her fingers and the combatants fly apart and are held in stasis. She and Ryll wander the battlefield as she wonders aloud what she is going to do with them. Monet orders her to unfreeze her. Satrnyne refuses.
Jean ventures that the round thing looks like some sort of energy core. Close, Scott agrees. Everything here is powered by a remote singularity drive. That energy flow is achieved by a stable trans space bridge which apparently is offline, since everything here looks like it’s running on back-up. If he remembers correctly, this is the lever that opens the bridge, enabling everything to power up. The problem is you need a pretty significant independent power source to get all this started, and he honestly doesn’t know where they’d find… Cable interrupts and shows him his Galadorian energy sword. Clever boy, Scott smiles.
Saturnyne turns to the equally frozen Arakki and asks what made them think they could march an army into her lands and hope for an outcome that did not end in tears? She thinks they answer to her, witch? Death spits. Here all answer to her, Saturnyne replies and simply shrinks him to child size. Now by what right are they here? By right of the Twilight Sword and their liege who wields it! But if she thinks her magic or even their destruction is enough to deter them, she is wrong, Death warns. They will have the other half of the land. They will have Krakoa, and the way there is though here. If they have to break a million bodies against her citadel they will. She has his word.
Saturnyne’s servant Ryll interjects that he seems to be saying they are willing to pay a blood price for what they want. Dryador has fallen. These creatures were its conquerors. There is precedent. Saturnyne agrees. She kneels down to be one height with the shrunken Death. Are they exercising their rights as a vassal state of the Starlight Citadel? Are they willing to fight for it in a manner she sees fit? They will meet her in any arena she chooses, is the reply.
Ryll witnesses the words. Saturnyne announces that in three days he will summon the champions of Arakko to face the champions of Otherworld. She returns him to his normal size and he agrees.
Ryll nervously asks who shall fight for Otherworld. Shall they call out for Avalon? For Blightspoke or Hothive? Who would fight and die to stop the Arakko horde from crossing Otherworld to Krakoa. With a smile, Saturnyne gives Monet permission to speak. *&%$ you, is Monet’s concise response. Saturnyne asks Polaris and Havok what they have to say. The reply is, they don’t have much choice, do they? Saturnyne remarks all of this was foreordained. Then, yeah, they’ll fight, Havok announces. Ryll witnesses the acceptance of the challenge.
Saturnyne calls the card that’s drawn and tells them to see what the future holds. See it now! She casts a spell that hits Pestilence and Polaris. Pestilence begins to rattle down the names of ten swords: the Twilight Blade, Mercy, Vermilion, the Red Sword of War, Colony, the Black Bone of Amduat, Seducer, Pogg ur-Pogg, Purity, Alluvium, Muramasa!
And Polaris does the same: Muramasa, the Sword of Might, the Starlight Sword, Grasscutter, Godkiller, Warlock, the Soulsword, the Scarab, the Light of Galador, Skybreaker!
The Ten of Swords, Saturnyne announces.
In space, Cable uses the sword as energy source and activates the bridge.
Saturnyne tells them that in three days they will gather their champions her. Then they will see what they are made of. Lives will be lost, alliances will be shattered and fortunes will be gained. Know this. Monet interrupts: here’s what she wants to know. What game is she playing? The oldest one there is, is the reply. So they find the blades, pick the champions and then what?
It’s exactly what she thinks, is the condescending explanation. You step into the arena, face your enemy and then you raise your sword…
In space, the PEAK, formerly HQ of SWORD, has gone online.