Gambit (1st series) #1
Candra of the Floating Spires,
the Benefactress, Red Death
Externals, patron of the
Thieves Guild and
• Extreme telekinetic
powers allowing her to
levitate herself, lift and
propel matter through
the air, project psionic
force blasts, TK grip force fields to
immobilize and contain targets, and
manipulate individuals on a genetic
level to unleash their mutagenic potential,
granting them permanent superhuman
powers, or temporarily negate those powers
• High Lord physiology makes her immortal, possessing eternal youth after reviving from her first death, and unless another External kills her and removes her heart, she can eventually return
• Sorcerous skills providing additional abilities such as possession, healing, teleportation, cloaking spells, the mental domination of others, and feeding off of life energy to resuscitate and regenerate herself, even past the point of death
Candra of the Floating Spires is an External, one of the sub-classification of mutantkind who possess immortality in addition to their mutant abilities. She has been alive for centuries, but her true name and land of origin have been lost to obscurity. Although she has some association with the High Lords faction of Gideon and Saul, Candra has operated independently from their fraternity for an unknown spell of time, preferring to pursue her own goals. Having developed a knowledge of sorcery as well as her mutant powers, Candra used her talents to transfer the essence of her heart into a gemstone. Dispersing an External's heart-essence is the only way to truly kill them, and so she hoped to preserve her life further by keeping the essence-gem hidden away in an isolated mansion outside Kasime, Egypt. [X-Men (2nd series) #60]
One of Candra's pursuits was an interest in the Old Kingdom, a mythical civilization of great knowledge and learning that existed before even the time of her fellow High Lords. Clan LeBeau
of the New Orleans Thieves Guild were also dedicated to the Old Kingdom, believing their line to be descendant from that society. Seizing the opportunity, Candra organized the Great Pact between the Thieves Guild and their enemies, the Assassins Guild, using the gifts of “the Power and the Life.” Candra provided the Thieves Guild with the Elixir of Life, a potion which gave them eternal youth, so long as they regularly received the components of the elixir from Candra. In this manner, they could continue their search for knowledge of the Old Kingdom beyond a single lifetime, and Candra could reap the benefits in time. Meanwhile, Candra used her abilities to unlock mutagenic potential in the Assassins Guild, providing them with the power to carry out their work. In exchange, they would serve Candra in her defense and as a deterrent for the Thieves if they ever thought to betray her. By standing above both Guilds like this, she became their Benefactress. She acquired the services of a mystic who became known as the Tithe Collector, moving between the guilds to collect the regular payments they made towards Candra for her generosity.
Candra's pursuit for knowledge led her down other avenues as well. She learned of the existence of the Momentary Princess, a gemstone that appeared at regular intervals and provided a glimpse of the past and future to those who made contact with it. Unfortunately, Jacques LeBeau and his Thieves Guild failed to acquire the Princess for her in 1887. As a result, she withheld the Elixir of Life from the guild, causing them to age prematurely as they attempted to buy their way back into her favor. The Thieves were left dangling on the hook for four years, with no clear path provided for them by the Benefactress or the Tithe Collector to repair the Pact. In fact, Candra took Jacques' preadolescent son, Jean-Luc LeBeau, and Belize Marceaux, son of his harvest master, as collateral for ten months.
The Tithe Collector eventually provided the Thieves Guild with a lead on a bounty to quell Candra's rage. They brought her the notes of Nathaniel Essex, a doctor and burgeoning geneticist whose work represented the future of the species. Instead of being appeased, Candra was furious and frightened, for she recognized the blueprints for Essex's advancements as the work of En Sabah Nur, the Eternal One, whom even the High Lords gave a wide berth.
Candra was prepared to end the Pact (and the lives of the Thieves Guild) that night, if not for the intervention of le Diable Blanc. A mysterious stranger who appeared far more familiar with her
than she was with him, le Diable Blanc was prepared to assist her in acquiring Essex's technological advancements without alerting En Sabah Nur, in exchange for restoring the Pact. Out of pride, Jacques LeBeau rejected the stranger's aid, and so it became a race to seize the prize.
The race led them to North Africa and the sanctuary of Ozymandias, gatekeeper to the forever-walker. Candra and her Guild disabled Ozymandias and began translating the secrets of the Old Kingdom from his carvings. However, le Diable Blanc arrived to stop them from claiming more knowledge than they were prepared for, aided by Nathaniel Essex (in his guise as Mister Sinister) and Candra's fellow Externals. Candra was taken by her brethren and presumably punished, for the High Lords protected themselves and policed themselves when it came to avoiding En Sabah Nur and his wrath. [Gambit (3rd series) #12-14]
Candra made another attempt at retrieving the Momentary Princess in 1943, but unfortunately it arose in Germany in the midst of World War II. She and her ally Baron Wolfgang von Strucker were waylaid by the now-adult Jean-Luc LeBeau, leading Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos
on a similar mission. Candra attempted to tempt Jean-Luc into giving her the gem by offering to absolve him of the Pact, but he rejected her. LeBeau cast off the gem as it continued its bounce through time, denying Candra (and Adolf Hitler) access to its forbidden knowledge. [Gambit (3rd series) #10]
Roughly fifteen years ago, Candra's estate outside Kasime was burglarized by an orphan thief from Cairo. Her heart-gem was removed from containment and, in the resultant backlash of essence energy, her entire mansion was consumed in the conflagration, leaving no trace of the perpetrator. Candra became increasingly guarded and paranoid after that, knowing her death could come at any moment if someone decided to destroy the gem and that she could do nothing about it. It would be many years before she learned the thief was the child Ororo Munroe. [X-Men (2nd series) #60]
A few years later, Candra caught her first glimpse at the future hinted at by le Diable Blanc when she had a passing encounter with a fifteen year old Remy LeBeau, adopted son of Jean-Luc. The boy was attempting to rob her palace in Granada, Spain during a Thieves' Rite of Passage. Candra realized the truth of le Diable's words back in 1891: that they would meet again in his past and her future. [Gambit (3rd series) #6]
Candra encountered Remy again as an adult, after his exile from the Thieves Guild for killing his Assassin brother-in-law Julien in a duel. Candra kept her true identity a secret from Remy, leading him to believe she was merely a beautiful fellow mutant with a taste for adventure. They became lovers as Remy did several jobs for her in Paris, and Candra became quite charmed with Le Diable Blanc again (and yet for the first time). Remy came to recognize how emotionally detached Candra had become, however, and that other lives meant nothing to her. He abandoned her and their relationship, hardening Candra's heart even further as she became bitter and vindictive towards him. [Gambit (1st series) #3]
In the years that followed, the thrill-seeking Candra became bored with the stagnation caused by the Pact. She wanted to liven things up again, dismantling her own power base in order to establish a new, more interesting state of affairs. To that end, she used the Elixir of Life to revive Julien as her wild card in the struggle between the Guilds. He formed an alliance with an ambitious Thief named Pierre, and they plotted to have both the Power and the Life, serving Candra in a new age while they disposed of the weak, older generation.
The breakdown of the Pact and news of his wife Bella Donna's survival brought Gambit back to New Orleans, complicating Candra's schemes. Belle was comatose and Remy wanted the Elixir
of Life to restore her to health. Jean-Luc sent him to Paris to meet with Candra, and Gambit learned for the first time that his old lover was actually the Benefactress. Playing games, Candra offered to give Gambit the Elixir of Life if he killed Jean-Luc for her, whom Candra had kidnapped. As Candra and the Tithe Collector entertained Gambit, Julien slipped his leash and attacked Candra directly to gain the Elixir of Life. Remy defended Candra from Julien, prompting her to return the favor and telekinetically expel the Assassin from her home. When he stole a kiss from her before departing with his father, however, Remy also swiped the missing element of the Elixir that Candra kept on her person.
Candra returned to New Orleans and, as Benefactress, declared Remy LeBeau a traitor and violator of the Pact, sending both the Thieves and Assassins Guilds against him. Still, Marius
Boudreaux sided with Gambit after his attempts to revive his daughter, Bella Donna. Marius killed Candra's pawn and his own son Julien and declared the fighting at an end. Candra appeared and offered the Assassins Guild full access to the Power and the Life if they killed Gambit and the Thieves, but Marius was finished with Candra's games. On behalf of the Thieves and Assassins Guilds, both he and Jean-Luc LeBeau rejected Candra's gifts. Candra was freed of her duties as Benefactress, but she could no longer count on either the Thieves or the Assassins to come to her aid. [Gambit (1st series) #1-4]
Candra pressed forward with seeking new avenues of power. She identified a child of great potential power named Jamil in the service of Achmed el-Gibar, master thief of Cairo. Her attempts to lure Jamil away from Achmed drew the attention of the X-Men and Achmed's old pupil, Storm. Ororo humiliated Candra in personal combat, but Jamil still chose to leave with Candra as Achmed passed away. [X-Men Unlimited (1st series) #7] Candra tried to eliminate Storm as a possible threat by working through Shinobi Shaw of the Hellfire Club, but their plan failed. [X-Men (2nd series) Annual #3]
After the sudden death of Marius Boudreaux, Candra attempted to renew her relationship with the Assassins Guild through his heir and daughter, Bella Donna. During Gambit's last trip to New
Orleans, Belle was revived from her coma by the Elixir, but her memories were scattered and lost after inadvertent contact with Rogue. Bella Donna blamed Rogue and Gambit for the emptiness she felt, and Candra stoked her need for vengeance. Assassins kidnapped Cody, the first boy Rogue ever kissed and who had been comatose since that day. Rogue and Gambit were both drawn to New Orleans, where Candra continued to amuse herself with her playthings. She used her telekinetic powers to neutralize Rogue and Bella's powers before pitting them against each other. When Rogue defeated Bella, Candra tried to tempt her, offering Rogue a life with Gambit with her powers permanently neutralized, or a chance to save Cody's life. Rogue struck down Candra, despite her telekinetic grip, and removed Cody from her clutches. The weakened boy passed away as a beaten Candra slipped away into the night. [Rogue (1st series) #1-4]
Candra learned of a parallel universe, the Ultraverse, connected to her own by the lingering effects of Black September. Thinking she could start over in a new world and create a new life for herself, Candra reached out to Remy LeBeau. Candra still nursed feelings for le Diable Blanc, and hoped he would come with her so they could try their relationship again from the beginning. Gambit didn't trust Candra's intentions, and was soon distracted anyway by the Night Man, a traveler from the Ultraverse. Candra and Gambit were drawn into a conflict between two parallel versions of the Night Man and his old antagonist, the Celtic priestess Rhiannon. After seeing how the Ultras struggled with the same pain and torrid histories as people from her reality, Candra resolved to remain in her own universe instead of running from it. [Night Man / Gambit #1-3]
Meanwhile, Candra learned through her pupil Jamil that Storm was responsible for the theft of her heart-gem years earlier. Candra was furious over the vulnerability she was forced to endure,
especially in light of Selene's recent attack that killed off most of the other surviving Externals. She assaulted Ororo briefly at the X-Mansion in order to draw her out, confronting Storm at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Candra kidnapped Karima, Jamil's friend and another of el-Gibar's orphan thieves, as collateral against the X-Man. Candra attempted to have Jamil take the gem back from Storm, only for Jamil to seize the gem for himself as his power to psionically project physical manifestations seemingly ran wild. Storm reasoned out that Karima was the true mutant, and Jamil was merely a manifestation created as an extension of her. As Storm ended the chaos and reclaimed both Karima and the gem, Candra lunged at her to retake her prizes. Storm tossed the gem at her just as Cyclops arrived with the other X-Men. Scott blasted the gem, causing its energies to be released and killing Candra in the process. Her body dispersed into ash, apparently gone forever. [X-Men (2nd series) #60-61]
In fact, only another External can kill an External, due to the unique rules which govern their existence. Candra eventually found her way back to life and quietly resumed her life in New Orleans. Some time later, however, she was confronted by Gideon of the Externals. Gideon survived Selene's attack, but only after 3000 years of healing to recover. He traveled back in time from the 51st century to finish what she started and kill all other Externals, claiming their power for himself. Candra was to be his first victim, and they fought for hours until she finally succumbed. Gideon took her heart, and with it, supposedly killed Candra for good. [Cable (1st series) #150,153]
[Note: The rules governing the Externals' immortality have never been completely clear. Crule once suggested an External could only die by "severing the five branches" (presumably the head and limbs), while Candra indicated her heart contained her true essence. Gideon's quest indicated an External can only be permanently killed by another External, and would recover from any other death with ease. Even death by an External's hands would not be permanent unless they stole the victim's heart and their power. Finally, an Externals death is not irreversible until all other Externals are dead, and only one remains. If the Externals begin killing each other but stop before the final death, the dead Externals may return in time as well. Because neither Selene nor Gideon completed their quest to be the final External, Candra has been free to return time and time again.]
After this death, Candra's psychic essence remained, but untethered to a physical form. She learned how to slowly reconstitute herself, drawing upon the life energy released by other people as they died. To expedite her resurrection, Candra once again made contact with the Assassins Guild. More than a Benefactress, she became the Red Death, almost a patron goddess to the Assassins as they made sacrifices in her name, speeding her return with every killing. Belladonna hoped to blackmail Kaine, the Scarlet Spider, into killing Wolverine in the name of the Red Death, but instead they joined forces and came after the Assassins Guild, threatening the resurrection.
The Red Death revealed herself as the heroes attacked the Guild headquarters. Candra's body was unfinished, with missing flesh and exposed muscle visible. She was sustaining herself only
through her telekinetic powers and the lifeforce she had acquired thanks to the Assassins. Still, she was powerful enough to threaten Wolverine and the Scarlet Spider. As they fought back, however, Candra was forced to exert her energies, tipping the scales back from life to death. As she accumulated more and more injuries fighting the two, Candra’s body became more and more unstable. Seeking easier prey, Candra turned on her own Assassins, killing many of them to rejuvenate herself further.
Belladonna had become too devout to the Red Death to turn against her, but many of the Assassins switched sides to help Wolverine and Scarlet Spider defeat the power-mad Candra. The combined assault eventually succeeded in overtaxing Candra's resources. She succumbed to the injuries inflicted upon her and, without her force of will animating it, her reconstituted body returned to the death and decay that was its natural state. Nevertheless, the nature of Candra's death only highlighted how temporary it truly was -- Candra of the Floating Spires, the External, the Benefactress, the Red Death will inevitably rise again. [Scarlet Spider (2nd series) #18-19]
In the Age of Apocalypse, Candra and the Externals had closer ties to En Sabah Nur as he began his public rise to power early. Candra and Gideon were among his earliest Horsemen, working with Sabretooth, War and Death in an attack on Cape Citadel. They fought against Magneto's original X-Men for possession of humanity's nuclear arsenal. As years passed, Apocalypse narrowed his Horsemen down to a traditional roster of four. Candra was apparently killed by Apocalypse's own son Nemesis after he became Holocaust, securing his place among the most elite of Apocalypse's minions.