In and Out
Questions, Theories and Misunderstandings
The term Siege Perilous is taken from stories of Arthurian Romance, where it referred to a special seat at King Arthur’s Round Table. This seat was made by Merlin and it was reserved for the one knight destined to achieve the quest of the Holy Grail. To anyone else, the Siege Perilous was fatal. When Sir Galahad arrived at Camelot, his name appeared on the seat, and indeed he later accomplished the mission and claimed his seat at the Round Table.
In Marvel Comics, the Siege Perilous has been used to name two different phenomena, but strangely both times by Merlin and his daughter Roma. The first incident can be found in Captain Britain (1st series) #1-2. When Brian Braddock was on the run from a group of villains who had broken into the Darkmoor power plant, he had a motorcycle accident and drove off a cliff. Barely alive after the near fatal fall, he found himself face to face with the apparitions of Merlin and Roma, who welcomed him to the Siege Perilous, a circle of stones resembling Stonehenge, albeit smaller. Brian was asked to choose one of two magical items resting on the stones – the Sword of Might or the Amulet of Right. His choice being the right one, he was considered to take on the mantle of Captain Britain, and the rest is history.
The other Siege Perilous of the Marvel Universe is a magical gem that can enlarge to a giant portal. Everyone who steps through will be judged by the highest of powers, the good and ill of their lives will be weighed in the cosmic balance and they are reborn into a new life without remembering the old one.
It is this item about which this article is concerning. Roma gave the crystal to the X-Men during a time when Psylocke, Captain Britain’s twin sister, was among their line-up. However, whether there really is any connection between the gem and the circle of power is unknown. Many years later, the Siege resurfaced, not as a gem though but rather a giant ornate mirror.
Shortly after the X-Men’s apparent death in Dallas, Roma resurrected them and gave them a new lease of life. The team decided to use their new “deceased” status to operate underground; as now they could attack many of their former villains without them suspecting it. After defeating the Reavers and claiming their base in the Australian Outback as their new home, the X-Men were presented with a problem though – they couldn’t turn over the defeated villains to the authorities without revealing themselves. That's when Roma appeared and presented them the Siege Perilous.
She explained to them how the gem worked, and the group of about 20 unnamed Reavers was sent through to have their lives judged and be reborn with a chance to redeem themselves. Parting ways with the mutants, Roma left the Siege in their care, though only after reminding them that it was for the X-Men to use as well should they ever tire and get fed up with leading a superhero life. [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #227, 229]
Over the following weeks, the X-Men battled brood-infected mutants, Genoshan Magistrates and Limbo demons, though none of these fights requiring the use of the crystal. However, somewhat bored in the isolation of the Australian Outback, Dazzler curiously used her light powers to illuminate the gem and peered inside. She saw various images of herself: singer, lawyer, housewife, superhero and baglady, but all of a sudden, each version was killed. The corpses united into a single image, telling Alison that everyone had to die sooner or later. The incident left her completely drained and somewhat scared of what the future had in store for her. [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #246]
On the same day, the X-Men had to battle a merged Nimrod / Mastermold and weren't doing too well. The future sensory systems were slowly able to countermeasure the X-Men's technical "invisibility" and in the end only Rogue and Dazzler were left standing and able to fight. Alison remembered the crystal gem inside her pocket and threw it behind the giant robot. The portal enlarged and tried to suck the Sentinel in, but the robot anchored itself to the ground with some tentacles. Rogue tried to push it through the gate, but instead the robot captured her. Knowing that there was no other solution, Rogue ordered Dazzler to blast both of them into the Siege Perilous. Alison did as told and after Rogue and Nimrod / Mastermold entered the portal, after which the Siege Perilous shrank down to gem size again. [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #247]
Later on, after some X-Men had left due to personal reasons, the team only consisted of Havok, Dazzler, Colossus and Psylocke. In the Savage Land, they fought Zaladane and the Savage Land Mutates when Betsy suddenly received a precognitive vision. She saw the other X-Men killed by the Reavers and herself turned into one of the cyborgs. Next she saw Gateway, chained and gagged and unable to help; he only could point towards the Siege Perilous. Betsy deduced that the vision was a warning, the X-Men would be killed by the Reavers upon their return to Australia. [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #250]
After the mission in the Savage Land ended with the rescue of Lorna Dane from Zaladane's citadel, Betsy thought about warning the others about her vision. Just as she was about to suggest staying in the Savage Land instead of returning home, Gateway teleported them back to the Australian base.
Once there, Betsy immediately sensed the approaching Reavers telepathically. The team was in no shape to fight so she suggested using the Siege Perilous as an escape route. After a short discussion, Dazzler and Colossus stepped through willingly. Havok, however, needed a little telepathic push. Running out of time, Psylocke "convinced" Alex to walk through; her butterfly power signature was evident and she finished his sentences before he could voice any more concerns.
Psylocke herself entered last, just as the Reavers arrived. Pierce was incensed at having been denied his revenge and crushed the shrinking crystal. [Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #251]
It would be many years before the Siege Perilous appeared again and when it did it was as if it had been waiting to be discovered. An archaeology university lecturer and his student found the Siege in a chamber hidden beneath Stonehenge. The lecturer had been searching for it for a while and, once he found it, he murdered his student so that no-one else would know of it. The Siege was now in the form of a giant mirror and, once the man got close, it turned into a doorway. He walked through it to be reborn as the demonic-looking Philistine. [Wolverine and the X-Men (1st series) #32]
The Philistine became affiliated with the young Kade Kilgore and his new Hellfire Club. The group soon opened a school to rival the Jean Grey School and the Philistine took the Siege Perilous with him whilst he worked there. Believing himself to be a servant of the Siege, the Philistine claimed to go wherever it told him to. The Hellfire Academy soon started recruiting students, some of whom hailed from the Jean Grey School. With teachers like Mystique, Sabretooth, Sauron and Wendigo, the classes were brutal and the learning curve steep. One of the students, Snot, was already struggling, thanks to the fact his power wasn’t exactly designed for combat. During a Danger Room session, he lost in a fight against Quentin Quire and was summoned to the principle’s office.
Snot didn’t come back from seeing the principle and Quire soon became concerned. After three days of bad behaviour, he finally got himself sent to the principle’s office where he met with Kade Kilgore. Whilst there, he tried to read Kilgore's mind but he was being blocked by the Philistine. The keeper of the Siege gloated to Quire that the mystical artifact saw all and they were well aware of his plans to bring down the academy. Quire was attacked by Snot, who now seemed to have aged at least 10 years and was much more proficient in the uses of his powers. It became obvious that he had been through the Siege himself and, once reborn on the other side, he viewed the artifact with the same devotion the Philistine did. Kilgore sentenced Quire to “detention,” which was just a way of saying he was to be pushed through the Siege Perilous.
Something strange happened though and the Siege violently rejected Quire. Instead, he was chained up in the dungeon and tortured by Master Pandemonium. When the Philistine visited Quire, he was fascinated as to why the Siege didn’t accept him. He theorized that Quire had a destiny yet to be fulfilled or maybe he was not considered worthy enough to walk through it. [Wolverine and the X-Men (1st series) #31-32]
The X-Men had also been looking for their missing students and were closing in on their location. The students themselves had finally had enough of the school and some of them decided to riot. As Kilgore’s Academy began to collapse in on itself, the various teachers decided to bail. Even his fellow Hellfire Club members turned on him, but the Philistine still remained on his side, ready to do the bidding of the Siege. A number of students had been taken captive and they were about to be thrown through the Siege but the timely arrival of the Hellfire Club’s latest White Queen saved them. She was angry that Kilgore had favored someone else as his own Queen instead of her and she attacked him. The Philistine switched sides and the two of them walked through the Siege together. The Siege began to erupt with energy and it became obvious it was going to explode. Everyone scrambled to get clear of the inevitable explosion except one of the teachers, Dog Logan. He grabbed Kade Kilgore and the carried him through the Siege Perilous. A moment later, a huge burst of energy erupted from the Siege, destroying the entire building. As the X-Men began rescuing the students from the nearby river, no-one saw the giant mirror sinking to the riverbed, with Kade Kilgore trapped on the other side of the looking glass. [Wolverine and the X-Men (1st series) #33-35]
As it stands, a number of people have passed through the Siege Perilous and have yet to be seen since. What will become of them remains to be seen but, given the Siege’s history, it can only be a matter of time before they, along with the mystical artifact, surface again.