Weight of the World
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the original X-men characters
Authors note: Almost all of the mythical creatures depicted in this series can be researched, although I did take some creative liberties with some of them. In fact I suggest it if anyone fancies, it's like delving into a whole new world ;)
'Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of children.'
- William Makepeace Thackeray
A single bolt of lightning tore white-hot through the sky and straight into Xierra's back, sending her careening into the clearing behind Kai. The left side of her body had been burned, charred by the intensity of the bolt's heat. He pulled free of the roots and vines that held him, now having lost their connection to their master. As he turned to make his way over to her, Xierra saw Ororo drift down from the sky above him. The simple yet striking blood red dress that she wore made her seem almost surreal in contrast to the deep grey of the clouds behind her. Even with her white hair dancing wildly across her face, Xierra could make out the black pools that masked her once sapphire blue eyes.
"No." Xierra whispered, a tear rolling down the exposed flesh of her face as the gravity of what was happening, hit her.
Kai stalked toward her and sat at her side. "Yes." He whispered. He glanced at Ororo then fixed himself back on Xierra. "Sorry about that angel, but you know how protective mothers can be." He laughed. "You know, your fighting spirit is one of the things I admire about you but every now and again it just plain pisses me off." Kai wiped a tear from her unharmed cheek, then moved his hand over the other side of her face, flesh slowly healing as he held it there. "Ssshhh."
Speech became easier as her tongue and mouth were reformed, healed as though they had never suffered injury. "Let her go Kai. Don't trap her like this."
"You know a pledge can't work any other way but by her own choice." The winds around them died down as they spoke.
"One that she will never have the freewill to reconsider." Xierra looked up at Ororo, floating behind her son as a hauntingly beautiful sentry.
He moved his hand down as his magic mended her, his eyes glowing with a tainted green light. "Why are you so determined to follow the eons old words of some crazy sage? We're the avatars of the forces that created everything that has ever been and will be. We serve none." His eyes burned into her own. "But we could rule all. Why fight against each other, fight over this power, when we could wield it together?"
"Because that would mean enslaving countless peoples. Deciding the hopes and freedoms of all those I was created to protect. No one, no mortal should ever have that power."
Kai stopped, his eyes returning to normal. "I'm not so sure we are." He stood, looking down at her half healed form. The storm had passed and not a cloud could be seen above them. The sun shone down on the institute and it's grounds and the birds could be heard chirping in the nearby trees. A deceptive calm that only one of them seemed to enjoy. "If they are what is stopping you, allow me to remove them from this equation." He took a deep breath and savoured the sun. "I'll slaughter them all." He said softly.
"No!" She shouted, watching helplessly as he walked deeper into the wood. Ororo followed him, floating regally in his wake. She looked back at Xierra before both of them disappeared through the tree line. Xierra screamed into the air, finding herself unable to do anything else. The pain her body felt was a distant second to the realization that she had spurned on the genocide she had come back to the mansion to prevent. On her world, her family and her people had been working tirelessly to form allegiances that would hopefully stamp out the uprising that had started in the name of 'The Demon Son'. In Kai's name. Her task had been to watch him, hopefully guide him and stop him from realising what his power made him capable of.
Lost in her thoughts, she didn't even recognize the man that had found her and cradled her in his arms.
"Mon chouette." He rocked slowly as he tried to calm her, finding he could do nothing else as sobs racked her body. When he'd ventured out for a walk earlier in the day, he couldn't have imagined even in his craziest dreams, that he would stumble across the scene that had ended only moments earlier. He had been the first to doubt her claims all those months ago. That Ororo could be mother to a demon child, destined to end the world, had been something you could try in vain to convince him of for the rest of his life. That, however, was before he had seen what he had seen. He was in disbelief from the moment the lightning bolt had struck Xierra, to the vow Kai had made before he left. He had watched as his oldest and most trusted friend, flew off a complete stranger.
Professor Xavier remained silent as his X-men talked around him in the corridor outside of the war room. Remy and Logan were further down but not out of earshot as the cajun tried to explain everything that had happened.
Remy had brought Xierra into the mansion and gone straight to the lower levels. News of their entrance had made its way to him within seconds, jump started by the sudden rush of thoughts that had radiated from everyone who had witnessed it. By the time he'd entered the infirmary, Xierra had been close to fully healing herself, while Hank and Scott listened to her account of the what had happened in the clearing not far from the mansion. Remy leant silent against the wall opposite her bed, bearing an expression that corresponded to his thoughts of guilt that touched the professor's mind. As soon as she was done, she informed them that she needed to speak with the council in alter-plane, to warn them of Kai's arrival.
Charles sat silent now, trying to guess what was transpiring in the meeting that took place behind closed doors.
The war room seemed ill-suited to hold the attendees that now faced Xierra, even though they were only projections. Tiki sat to her left, a name belaying his immense appearance. The projection was a representation, hardly true to his actual size but even so the enormous bulk of rock of which he comprised seemed to fill most of the room. Necksa sat at his side, the water element's large yellow eyes set against her silver flecked skin and framed by deep green hair. Her aquatic features did little to dull her legendary fairness. Paralda next to her, robed to allow them to have some form with which to converse. It was impossible to see an air elemental unless they wished it so. Finally Djinn completed the formidable company, flames engulfing his menacing frame. They whipped and flared around him, spellbinding in their fiery beauty. Stood at either side of Xierra were Noa, her brother and Meyrin, her grandmother. They all listened as she spoke her piece, choosing to omit more intimate details from her telling. When she was done, they turned to each other to contemplate her words, all except Djinn.
"The Bean Sidhe were entrusted with the warrior. Your house was charged with containing the boy. How did you allow this to happen!" For a moment they all had to shut or cover their eyes as his form burned brilliant blue then white in less than an instant, mirroring his anger. He stared now directly at Noa, expecting an answer he knew full well he couldn't give.
"Djinn please, your anger serves no one right now." Necksa said calmly. "We knew the boy could not be contained forever. We just hoped," She looked sadly at Xierra, "that he would not be such a threat for some time. We have been lucky enough that those who fight under his banner have not organized themselves well enough to become a true force in open war. But now I fear that will not be the case. They have their leader, their symbol."
"And we have ours." Meyrin countered.
"What we have is an inexperienced child who let the single biggest threat to our existence slip through her fingers." Paralda hit back. Though his expression could not be seen, his tone conveyed his frustration more than well enough.
Xierra's jaw clenched and she fought to hold back her words. "I understand your anger, and I share your sentiments. Believe me I do. And I know that to even be in your presence is an honour. You, elementals who are older than time itself and wise beyond measure. But with the deepest respect for all of you, I am your only chance of preserving your existence as you know it. I was made to fight for you, and that is exactly what I am going to do." She stepped forward to be better visible to them all. "You will treat me with the respect that that entails."
Tiki leant forward. "We are simply voicing our frustrations, no disrespect was meant, I assure you." He looked to Paralda with a warning eye. "And Meyrin is correct. They have their symbol and we will need ours. I believe it is time for you to return home Xierra. There is nothing more that you can do on that side. Your power and your influence would be put to better use in the fight, and there will be one."
"I will return shortly but I will not be coming alone." She said. "Some of the X-men will be coming with me."
"I see no reason for this." Necksa objected.
Paralda nodded "They are humans with no skills or powers we don't already possess. They would be a hindrance before a help."
"I disagree. They are seasoned warriors who fought and won many battles across time and space. Not only do their abilities make them assets but their tactical knowledge and experience, as well as their connection to Kai and his mother, mean that we potentially have more than just brute force and numbers on our side in this."
"And what is to say they don't join him as soon as they're given the chance?" Djinn asked.
"Not what, who. I know these men and women and I have fought side by side with them. They would rather give their lives than rally behind Kai's madness." Xierra answered.
"I'm sure you would have said the same thing about his mother." Djinn stated.
For the first time in her life, Xierra accepted and owned the position she had been born into. "I am not asking your permission. As a member of the royal family I have the right to cross planes with members of my personal guard. I hope that you will congratulate them all on their appointment."
One by one, the elementals faded, until only Tiki remained. "Zeezee." Xierra looked to him, smiling slightly at the informal address. "I have known you since you were smaller than my thumb. I cared for your mother very much and your family is second only to my own. Heed my words and be very careful in your next moves. Even weak friendships can build strong alliances. It would do you well to remember that." He smiled back at her before dissipating.
Xierra turned around to the projections of Noa and Meyrin. "We will talk." Mey said curtly before fading as the others did.
Noa stepped to her. "It'll be good to see you again little sister. I'll have quarters prepared for all of you."
"No, we'll head straight to Meyrin's camp and co-ordinate there. Kai won't wait and neither will we."
He moved to kiss her forehead and the gesture was appreciated even though his projection could not be felt.
He faded and left Xierra alone.
She readied herself and opened the doors to the corridor where the team now waited somberly. "I have to go back to the alter-plane. Kai is there and that means I have to be as well." They nodded in acceptance. "I know that I haven't been a part of the X-men for as long as any of you and that this is a lot to ask, but... I could really use some help on the other side. Your help."
"Tell me the truth." Logan said, his voice low and tired. "Is there a chance I can save my family?"
She paused before answering. "There might still be a chance for Ororo, but Kai suffers no affliction. He is what he is and you have always known what needs to be done. If I can, I will try to help her."
He looked at her, weighing her words. "I'm in."
"We haven't saved the universe in a while. Sure beats a game of football on the lawn on a sunny summers day." Bobby shrugged, the sarcasm just about present in his voice. "Why the hell not."
"An' you can be damn sure I'm not lettin' you run off inta this without a chaperone." Rogue tsked at Bobby. "I'm with ya honey." She smiled at Xierra.
Scott put his hand on Xierra's shoulder. "It doesn't matter how long you've been a part of the X-men. You're one of us now and that's what matters. Besides, Bobby's right. It's been too long since the fate of the world hung in the balance." He tried to joke.
"I will be joining you also." The professor had been expressionless. He had already predicted the objections and raised his hands just as they began. "I know that you've all noticed I have not been myself of late. Knowing what is happening on the other side and being unable to do anything about it... knowing that Mey and Ororo are both on the frontline. You cannot ask me to do otherwise, just as I would not ask the same of you." No one could find a reason to disagree.
"When do we leave?" Hank asked.
"In the hour." Xierra answered. "And... thank you."
They made their way, all except Remy. He reached out and grabbed her wrist gently to stop her. She jolted at his touch, clearly taken aback at the gesture. He waited for the others to round the corner of the adjoining corridor before speaking. "I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about it cajun. I don't expect everybody to jump on board the suicide wagon to a plane of existence where myths are real and the battle for the end of the world is being fought." She laughed, strained as it was.
He could feel her discomfort, and why not. He'd been the one to drive a wedge between any hopes of reconcilement. Back then, he thought he had all the justification he needed. She'd become crazed in her hate for Ororo's unborn son. She'd fled without a word or trace over a year ago then returned just as mysteriously. Given what it had taken for him to feel that much for her, that deeply, he'd seen all of those actions as a vicious disregard. He understood now. While Xierra had been shouting truths from the rooftops, anyone who would listen thought her a lunatic, including him. The mansion must have felt like an asylum for her, and she was the only patient. Who wouldn't want to escape.
Remy stepped in closer. "I'm sorry." He whispered slowly into her ear, lips brushing against her, his body pressed close against hers.
She looked up at him as if to speak. "I..." The moments of silence could not have seem longer, "I have to go." As she walked away, he'd never know that given a minute longer, she would not have been able to.
Logan walked through the encampment that Xierra had led them to. As dusk fell, the sky turned a brilliant shade of red, more than he had ever witnessed on Earth. He barely felt the chilling wind that blew through, comparing it only to a summers breeze back in Canada. Walking on, flashes came to him of similar conditions in many wars he'd fought in his time. The ground was stamped muddy from the footfall it had endured for the past weeks. Barrack tents while neatly set and spaced, were muddied and tattered from the abuse they'd suffered both in transit and while in use. Fire pits were here and there in front of the odd few tents; small clusters of Banshee women and Macrobi men gathered for warmth, waiting for their evening meals to cook.
Unfamiliar to him, aside from the eerily angelic Banshee warriors, bruised and bloodied, who stood in stark contrast to the seven foot Macrobi soldiers who appeared chiseled straight from granite, were the sounds and smells. His eyes did not need to convince him that he was no longer on Earth. The pitch and tone of the voices and sounds were just so slightly different from their counterparts on Earth. A quirk that probably no human would be able to recognise without enhanced hearing. Every sweet scent seemed more delicious, every putrid stench more foul. Even in his short time on the plane, he could already describe it as nature on overdrive.
He found the tent he'd been ambling toward and stepped in.
"Until now, all we've been doing is engaging the enemy when necessary. We had no plans to launch an all out attack, we're just not ready." Meyrin announced. She sat in council with the X-men, another two of her Banshee sisters and three men who, based on appearance, Logan rightly assumed to be members of the Macrobi. The lanterns that hung in the tent could be mistaken for firelight but their steady glowed suggested otherwise.
Praxis, the larger of the Macrobi, pursed his lips. "We can only hope that they find themselves in the same position. The Demonson seems to have acted rashly and without thought. If what you say is true then we knew of his coming only moments after they did."
"He's right." Scott added. "Any head start they'd have is negligible."
"That's only if they were as ill prepared as we assume." Eavan, the Banshee second in command interjected. "I say we launch scouts and a small contingent to the North. A skirmish along their border territories gives us a chance to gain information. Capturing even one of their commanders would mean that we could stop this guesswork." She turned to Meyrin. "If you'll allow it Ur Mòrachd, let me take my soldiers and lead them to it."
Meyrin looked down at the map on the table infront of her. "The scouts have reported a Centaur faction camped to the North. Here." She pointed to the position. "Take your Seven and Enda, you go with your scouts. Once you have that position secured scout further to the west." Both women bowed before turning to leave. "Eavan. I want information, not carcasses."
"With any luck, Mòrachd, you shall have both." She grinned before leaving the tent. Eavan was known for her fighting skill but even in such times, her bloodlust took Meyrin aback.
"So where does that leave us?" Hank asked.
"The Dwarves have agreed to meet with me tomorrow. I hope for all our sakes they recognize the urgency with which this alliance needs to take place. They are a painfully methodical and ridiculously stubborn bunch. But their tunnels run deep and their forgeries are rivaled by none. We would do well to have them on our side." Meyrin looked wary. Even with the Banshee gift of prolonged youth, she appeared fatigued.
"They are all those things," Praxis said, getting to his feet, "but they are also inherintly good. The Demonson can do nothing to sway them."
Logan rolled his eyes. "This is all startin' to sound a bit too much like a kids' fairytale t' me." He had to say, startling the room as though they hadn't even noticed him there. "And for the record, that, Demonson has a name. Do me a favour an' learn it instead o' sproutin' this Lord o' the Rings BS." With that he left.
The last thing he wanted at that point was to hear footsteps that moved to a slow jog in an attempt to catch up with him. "Logan."
"Go peddle it somewhere else, Xierra." He shouted over his shoulder as he made his way away from the site.
"Logan please." She called again. "I'm the last one to preach about putting my foot in it but you've got to cut this shit out before you get used to it." He spun at her words, ready to counter. "You want Ororo back, I can guarantee you you're not going to do it without their help. You're in a reality you don't know in a land you've never been that is populated by, and I hate to state the obvious, millions of fairytale creatures. If it helps you get it together then how about you just play pretend? Or you can make like the rest of us and suck it up!"
In the dim moonlight he was lucky he couldn't perfectly see the self-righteous expression he was sure she now wore. "Hey!" He shouted. He stalked back to her, bearing his teeth within an inch of her face. "Hey! You listen up lady. By whatever shitty luck has seemed ta follow me around my whole life, my family has been dragged inta this soap opera of a war of yours. But that's only just after I thought I might have a shot at somethin' good and normal. So fergive me if I've got issue with, Lurch, talkin' about my son like some entry in a god damn text book." He carried on walking uphill and away from the camp, the air he exhaled trailing behind him like smoke. "We're talkin' about meetin' Dwarves and fightin' Centaurs fer cryin' out loud." He muttered to himself.
"Logan!" Xierra wailed from behind him, her eyes glowing the same brilliant green light that wrapped itself around her body.
"This whole thing is a..." He would've finished his sentence then had he not been kicked clear through the trees before slamming face first into one of their trunks. "Giant, sack o' shit." He managed to let out, hitting the ground.
Xierra flew up, narrowly missing the gargantuan foot that would have rendered her the same crumpled heap that Logan now was.
The wail of the Banshee was described as the single, most terrifying sound one could ever hear. Like the screams of a thousand tortured and painful deaths, omnipresent, and sharp enough to draw blood from the ears of all. Not even the Giants that she now saw in the moon's light, storming up from the valley below, could stop from covering their ears. An army in the encampment responded to their sister's cry, each bathed in the white light that surrounded every Banshee when threatened. They shot into the air, burning the night sky with their sheer number. Just as water rushing in, they flew down to meet the army that awaited them below.
To be continued...