Categories > Comics > X-Men > Eternal Flame0 Reviews
Takes place after Ultimate X-men 60. A new force with power similar to the Phoenix begins to manifest in Scott, leading to a confrontation with forces the likes of which the X-men have never faced ...
Chapter 7: The Ritual
Everybody stood anxiously as they watched the fires of the Phoenix surround Jean Grey. Oddly enough, she didn't look as though she was in any kind of discomfort. It was as if both she and the Phoenix were being expressed simultaneously. That was still a danger for the X-men, but for Slayer it was just what he needed because in this state, Jean and Phoenix could find what they were looking for.
"I...I can feel him, Professor," said Jean, her voice mixing with the tone of the Phoenix, "I can feel Scott through a link. I...I don't know what Xin is doing to him, but..."
"Jean...Please be calm," said the Professor, trying to use his powers to put some blocks on her mind to mitigate her growing potential, "We'll help him. But you need to calm down and let me help you regain control so we can..."
Then, a sudden burst of flames caused everybody to fall back. Such words seemed to agitate the Phoenix, which was something they definitely didn't want to deal with at this point.
"Uh...Somethin' tells me that ain't what she wants, Chuck," said Logan, still rubbing his head from the earlier blasts.
The psychic probes of Charles Xavier halted as the fires around Jean grew more intense. But it wasn't the chaotic, uncontrolled force that they had seen her deal with before. If anything, it looked as though it was all under Jean's whim.
"No! No more blocks. No more hindrances. I DON'T need control, Professor! I HAVE control!"
"Whoa there, Jean! Come back to us, girl! Don't let this thing overtake you!" urged Kitty, casting her friend a worried glance.
"It's not overtaking me, damn it!" yelled Jean, growing increasingly frustrated, "I'm accepting it! Like it or not, this thing is a part of me. It's a part of me in the same way Horus is a part of Scott. I felt that when I sensed him. And if Warlord Xin takes that power for himself, then that part of him will be gone and..."
Waves of tears formed in her fiery eyes as she spoke those words. She could feel him so deeply within her mind. Jack's eye had shown that to her. And now, she just wanted him back. She wanted to save the man she loved. Both as the Phoenix and as Jean Grey, she had to save this man. She couldn't lose him.
"It's okay, Jean," said Slayer in a calm tone as he placed his hands on her shoulders, "We'll get Scott back. And we'll get Horus back as well. You know where he is now so we can save him! We can take on Warlord Xin and stop him before he assimilates with this power! He'll do ANYTHING to have it, regardless of what happens to Scott as a result. We must stop him!"
That was all the team needed to hear. Aside from the inherent difficulty of trusting a guy that had come in to the institute and kicked their butts, they had little doubts after their previous battle that Warlord Xin was a much bigger problem. And if he was going to hurt their friend, then he was going to have to go through them first.
"Zhen vhat are ve vaiting for?" said Kurt, always one to take on a demon, probably as some subconscious, self fulfilling need, "Let's go find Scott and stop zhis guy!"
"Oh boy...I was afraid of that," said Ororo, trying to keep her poise since battling her childhood nightmare was certainly not something she wanted to face.
"You and me both, Ororo," said Warren, feeling way out of his league.
"Oh don't worry, cutie. I'll protect you," grinned Dazzler, helping to boost her boyfriend's spirits.
The others, however, seemed more determined about finding their captive friend and saving him from this jungle madman.
"Leave it to one-eye to bring on a guy like this," growled Logan, "So where is he?"
"Where else?" said Jean, her body still engulfed by the flames of the Phoenix, "He's in the one place he feels right at home...The jungles of the Congo."
In the jungles of central Africa, a thick layer of darkened sky now hovered over a section of tall canopy. The sound of weary animals crying out in distress, echoed all through the trees, as if they could sense the coming darkness. In the center of it all was an old, desolate looking structure that had been hidden by the trees for centuries. Only now, it had a couple of new occupants.
"Yes! The temple of creation and destruction...Finally, uncovered after over a millennia!" proclaimed Warlord Xin as he and his army surrounded the structure, "At long last, the great power of the cosmos will be mine to wield. The immortal force of Horus, son of Re, shall make me invincible!"
The shadows around the ancient structure swirled in a cyclone of darkness as Warlord Xin emerged from the dark crevices of the abyss and stood before the sacrificial chamber in the center of the structure. It was not at all unlike the one in Egypt, only this one was nearly twice as big and twice as vital to the forces it so revered.
"The final piece of the ritual is in place!" he said as he took out the amber figurine of Horus and set it next to a similar relic of the Phoenix.
With both sacred objects in hand, he set them both down upon a stone altar with a crystal skull in the center. And the moment that the two figurines were set side by side...Something began to happen within the old temple.
"This is it! Rise my pretty! Rise!"
Tremors shot through the fragile earth below as massive chunks of land gave way to a now rising structure. What was once no bigger than the temple in Egypt was now growing to nearly twice its previous size. It rose through the jungle canopy like a sword piercing an impenetrable veil and once its peak found a clear view of the sky, the top of the structure began to glow a sinister red color which seemed to fuel the darkening clouds swirling above.
"So beautiful..." mused Xin, sounding half deranged and half determined as he looked up at the now glowing roof, "And now for the main guest of honor."
The shadows around him came to life as one of his elite guards arose in the center of the altar. But when he formed, he didn't form alone. In his arms, he had a still unconscious Scott Summers, the living medium of the power that Warlord Xin was desperately trying to claim as his own.
"Set him in the center," he ordered as he gathered up the last of his supplies, "The ritual must be finished before that meddlesome warrior and his freak show arrive!"
Obediently, the minion complied and set the young man down in the center of the chamber. It wasn't that much different from the first one he had been in with that Slayer guy, but there were a few key discrepancies, most notably the size. It was almost as if it was meant for more than one being.
"Now let the ceremony begin!" exclaimed the jungle bred madman, feeling so close to the power he craved.
The two figurines on the altar began to glow as Warlord Xin passed his hand over the two relics. All the torches illuminating the room began to shift from a purplish blue flame to a golden yellow flame as the ancient ritual began. And in the center of it all, Scott Summers lay in the chamber as the luckless victim of Xin's will.
"Ugh...Wha...What's going on?" he groaned, managing to come to just in time for the opening procedures.
"Relax boy. It'll all be over soon!"
"Huh? Over? I..."
Suddenly, he felt a stabbing pain all throughout his body. And through the vast chambers of the temple, his cries echoed all throughout the ancient walls.
"AHHHHHHHHH! NO! NO! STOP IT! I...AHHHHHHHHHHH!"
But Warlord Xin had no qualms about causing this boy pain. If that's what he had to go through in order for him to get what he wanted, then so be it.
"Yes! YES! The power...So primal and vast. It is too much for a mere mortal to handle! You are not worthy of wielding the power of the cosmos! Only the strong and the just can manage such a force!"
"Ha! Don't make me laugh!" scoffed Warlord Xin as the altar began to glow and the whole structure began to shake, "You may have been linked to this power since your birth, but it is I that shall sever that bond once and for all! And once the power of Horus is cut from its mortal host, I shall be the one true vessel now and for all eternity!"
Warlord Xin began to chant, the ancient spell of the great cosmic forces now coming into full swing. The enigmatic words, spoken in a language that hadn't been uttered for millennia, seemed to cause both Scott and Horus great pain. And through this immense torment, both beings found themselves reaching outwards, attempting to contact the one force it craved over all others.
The X-men were in the air over the Atlantic Ocean speeding towards the Congo at full throttle. This time, the Professor was coming with them, hoping that his psychic powers would prove useful against Warlord Xin's forces while also serving as a means to stabilize both Phoenix and Horus if the need arose.
But at the moment, Jean was still caught between herself and the Phoenix. Her eyes still blared with the raging passion of the powerful entity. And while she seemed to be maintaining control for the most part, the others kept their distance. Yet Slayer stayed close by her side, looking ready at a moment's notice to spring into action and use his magic to keep the Phoenix at bay.
"Can't this thing go any faster, Logan? We're running out of time here!" said Jack, growing increasingly impatient.
"We're already going at mach 6, bub! So if you know of any way to go faster, then by all means!" shot Logan in response as he sat with the Professor in the cockpit.
"Yeah, Mr. Samurai. Just chill, alright? We know the kind of shit that's at stake here," said Dazzler.
"Oh that's where I think you're mistaken, Alison," said Slayer firmly, "I don't think any of you have the slightest clue as to just what it is you're dealing with here!"
"Hey, well EXCUSE US for being caught up in this mess because of our friend!" shot Iceman in response, "Remember Slayer, you're the one who started this!"
Jack let out a frustrated grunt as he ran his hands through his messy blonde hair. He may have been a master swordsman, but he just plain sucked when it came to social skills. He wasn't used to working in a team. It just wasn't his style. Besides, he had allowed himself to grow close to people before and that just ended in more pain in the ever tragic story that was his life.
"Look, I'm sorry you guys got dragged into this, alright?" he said, trying to sound sincere, "But the kinds of forces we're dealing with here are forces that could not only end this world, but many other worlds as well. Both Phoenix and Horus are cosmic level entities. And Warlord Xin is a deranged demonic spirit that wants that level of power for himself. Besides, I have a history with this guy. And if anybody's going to send him back to the abyss he came from, it's gonna be me!"
As enigmatic as Slayer's presence still was to the team, that last part was relatively easy to understand, especially for those such as Logan who knew all too well the kind of drive that vengeance could give a person. For others, however, that wasn't quite enough.
"So that's it?" said Piotr, casting the mutant warrior an unconvinced glance, "That is what's been driving since the beginning? Vengeance for this Xin character?"
"You may think that, Colossus, but no," replied Jack in a more collected tone, "Vengeance is pretty low on my list of reasons for doing this. Granted, it's there, but it's not what I fight for."
"Then why are you doing this, Slayer?" asked the Professor, a hint of curiosity in his tone, "Why are you going to such lengths with this? Facing cosmic forces and demon entities?"
"Simple Professor. I am a warrior. And like I've said before, I am a unique warrior. I'm a mutant, I'm a mystic, and I'm a fighter. And as you all recently found out, I too am a mortal manifestation of an immortal deity. And in a world like this, so full of lies and uncertainty, it's hard to really pinpoint something concrete that's worth fighting for. There really aren't a lot of things out there worth bearing your heart and soul for. I think the lot of you have figured that in your respective quests."
A few people seemed to shift uncomfortably at that, namely Logan, who had actually been sent in to kill the Professor at one point, Ororo, who was a petty car thief looking at some rather extensive jail time, and Dazzler, who only joined up because the record deal with that Emma Frost woman tanked.
For Slayer, however, it was clear that there was something that drove him to do these things...Something very powerful and solid.
"Make no mistake, my life has sucked ass since the day I was born," he went on, "You all think you've got problems, well guess what...Everybody does. Some just happen to have them more than others. I'm not a being transcendent being from a higher dimension. I was born in San Francisco. And if you knew what I lived through then you'd probably agree with me when I say that I definitely fit into that category."
"So if your life sucked so much then just why are you doing this?" asked Warren, his young and curious mind growing all the more intrigued.
"For a principle that's worth fighting to the death for...A cause I've dedicated my life to. I don't do what I do for peace, justice, or vengeance. I do what I do for honor...No more, no less."
It was an unexpected answer from the ever enigmatic warrior that had so abruptly come into their lives. But for a few, it made sense. And when he put it in this manner, it really did put his actions into perspective.
"Honor?" said Kitty, her young mind finding such a concept strange, yet understandable.
"Yes, honor. Simple, yet profound...Ambiguous, yet solid," said Jack in a definitive tone, "It's what drives me even when the odds are stacked against me. I've been doing this for many years and through victory and defeat, it still guides me through every challenge I face."
"Dude...Do you have any idea how historically lame that is?" scoffed Dazzler.
"I don't expect you to understand it," said Jack indifferently, "But regardless of what you think of me, we must work together if we're to save your friend, not to mention the whole world. It is our duty to fight with our hearts and souls to overcome our foes. The stakes couldn't be higher and it's all a matter of fighting with all your might until the bitter end. That, I think we can all agree, is true honor."
"Honor," said Jean, finding such words to hold a strange resonance with her as she felt the power of the Phoenix still active inside her, "Yes...I understand."
The powerful entity from within continued to stir as if it was invigorated by Jack's words. Such activity didn't go unnoticed by the others, who were still afraid of having Jean go on another one of her power trips.
"Jean...Jean, are you still with us?" said Ororo.
Jean tried hard to maintain a sense of balance between her and this force inside her, but it was proving increasingly difficult. The more she seemed to accept this force, the harder it was to maintain her identity and poise as Jean Grey.
"Yeah, Ro. I'm fine. I just...AHHHHHHHH!"
Then suddenly, she was hit by something that struck her down to her very core. It was unseen, unheard, and unsensed by everyone except her. Yet in her mind, she knew what it was and it didn't bode well for their chances.
"Jean? Jean!" said the Professor as he watched Kurt, Bobby, and Kitty surrounded their weary friend.
"Yo, Jean. Come back to us, girl!" urged Kitty.
"Yeah, now is NOT the time to go Hulk on us!" said Bobby.
But before they could all take a step closer, Jean's whole body flashed a bright, fiery yellow color and they all took a step back, watching anxiously as they took in her passionate, glowing eyes.
"I've got a bad feeling about zhis," mused Kurt.
"That makes two of us," added Warren.
Then, she let out another loud cry of pain as she suddenly grasped her head in agony.
"Jean!" yelled Slayer as he quickly went to her side, unafraid of facing the Phoenix, "Jean, what's going..."
The sound of her deeper, more menacing voice did little to comfort everybody as the plane shook in a strange fury of turbulence.
"Ah shit! Of all the times for her to go nuclear," grunted Logan, finding it increasingly difficult to control the aircraft.
"Something's wrong! He's in pain! Both Scott and Horus are in great pain!"
"Damn! Xin must be starting the ritual!" cursed Slayer.
"You mean the one where he rips out that fiery bird thing and takes it for himself?" said Kitty anxiously.
"Unfortunately yes! And he's doing it a lot sooner than I had expected!"
"It's too soon! We must get to him!"
"But we've got another 45 minutes before we can even get over Congo airspace!" said Ororo, the turbulence growing progressively worse.
"That's not soon enough! We MUST save him! Even if that means pushing ourselves to the limit!"
"Oh shit..." said Jack, knowing all too well what was about to come next.
"Oh shit?! What do you mean oh shit?!" yelled Logan from the cockpit.
Slayer's all seeing eye flashed a bright golden yellow. The turbulence may have been tough now, but what they were about to face was going to make it look miniscule at best.
"Uh, guys...I'd get down and hang on if I were you."
"Oh God...I hate it when someone says that," groaned Bobby as he and the others hit the floor.
"Here goes my dinner for the next three days," groaned Kitty.
"Just stay down and count to ten, comrade. With any luck, it'll all be over quickly," said Colossus, hoping to whatever higher power there was out there that he was right.
Everybody, even the Professor and Logan, had taken cove now as the plane was taken over by the power of the Phoenix. The glowing aura of the entity was too bright to even stare at directly and everybody was shielding their eyes from the blinding glow. All the while, the Phoenix made its move so she could save her ailing love.
"My love...Here I come."
Then, in a show of raw, primal power...Jean Grey used the power of the Phoenix to form a majestic firebird around the speeding jet and once it was engulfed in its power, it soared through the air at speeds that would have put starships to shame. A protective telekinetic bubble safeguarded her friends from the crushing G-forces, but that didn't stop them from feeling a hard thud as the jet came to a sudden and abrupt stop, almost as if it had been dropped like a toy.
Finally, as the fires faded, their current surroundings became clear. They were no longer flying, the engines were shut down, and they had safely landed on a solid surface.
"Ugh...Is it over?" groaned Dazzler, feeling all the contents of her stomach practically doing backflips.
"I don't know. Are we dead yet?" groaned Warren in response.
Then, as they all came too, they saw Jean faint from her exertion.
However, Jack was there to catch her just as he came to. While the others may not have been familiar with the power of mystical transportation, he was seasoned enough to know just what the Phoenix had done.
"Cosmic transport spell...The only way to travel," said the mutant warrior in amazement as he helped Jean stay on her feet.
"Next time I think I'll take the bus," muttered Ororo.
"Yes, I believe I'll be skipping dinner tonight," added Kurt as he managed to return to his feet.
"Don't even mention food, Nightcrawler," said Bobby with a nauseous groan.
One by one, the team regained their composure, paying close attention to the Professor because of his handicap. But for a guy in a wheelchair, he really was a hardened fighter despite having gone on such a wild ride.
"Are you okay, Professor?" asked Ororo as she and Logan helped him back into his chair.
"Yes, I'll be fine," he said shaking his head clear of the experience and refocusing on the task at hand.
"Where are we?" said a still confused Kitty Pryde.
"See for yourself, Katya," said Piotr as he directed her attention towards the windows.
Everybody then turned their respective gazes towards the openings and what they saw was definitely not a welcoming sight.
"Oh crap. Please don't tell me we have to go in there to save Scott," groaned Iceman.
"Fine, I won't tell you. We'll just go," said Slayer, showing no fear as he took in what now lay before them.
The size of the temple was imposing and dark, like a living shadow shooting up from the thick jungle canopy. There were vast clouds of darkness swirling about the entire structure, most likely the protective forces of Warlord Xin.
The Phoenix had been kind enough to create a sizable clearing in the jungle for the plane to land, leaving them only a short trek through the thick bush to their target. But with the sky darkening with ominous shroud above and the glowing peak at the top of the structure, it looked like a daunting task to say the least.
"And I thought the last temple was bad," muttered Warren, "So how do we do this Mr. Slayer?"
Jack's eye started to glow as he got a few brief glimpses into the darkened structure.
"He's already begun the ritual! Best estimates, we have no more than 15 minutes to stop it, otherwise he'll have the power of Horus for himself and once he's got that it's pretty much over."
Such grim chances prompted a reaction from the still tired Phoenix, which was growing increasingly irked the longer they waited.
"That WON'T happen! I won't allow it!"
"Jean! Please!" urged the Professor, "Try to control yourself! We can't afford any chaotic power surges!"
"You worry about your problems, Professor! I'll worry about mine!"
Then, in a show of defiance, the Phoenix shook off her fatigue and burst through the hatch of the plane, stepping out into the humid jungle air with the imposing temple still in her sights. At this point, she could care less about petty things like control or power. Right now, her love was in danger and that's all that mattered.
"You heard the woman, let's go!" said Slayer as he followed suit.
"What?! But what about..." began Ororo, but Slayer didn't listen.
"Warren and Kitty should stay behind and protect the Professor in case Warlord Xin sends some of his goons. The rest of us should plow ahead and stop that ritual!"
"Wait...Why us?!" exclaimed Kitty.
"Yeah, why do they get to be the lucky ones who stay behind?" added Bobby.
"Because they have powers that are defensive and you all have powers that are offensive! I'd love to get into other tactical reasons, but we're kind of working against the clock here! Now are you with me or not?!"
There wasn't much time for debate. Even Wolverine knew that. The sight of the menacing temple was not too comforting. And with forces like Phoenix and Horus to worry about, they did not have the luxury of contemplation.
"Good enough for me," grunted Logan, cracking his neck in preparation for battle, "Come on team! Let's get in there and pay Mr. Jungle nut a visit!"
"Right behind you Logan!" said Dazzler, the rainbow colored sparks of her powers already beginning to manifest, "Come on pussies! Let's go!"
"Ugh, this day just keeps getting better and better," groaned Ororo, still not too thrilled about having to face her childhood monster.
"I hear you, Storm," said Bobby as he followed her out, "But the sooner we stop this freaky ritual thing, the sooner we can get home and watch Survivor!"
As the last of the strike team left, the Professor was left with no other choice but to wish his team well.
'Good luck my X-men. Be strong, be safe, and above all...Be ready.'
Kitty and Warren could only watch as the others followed Jean towards the structure. It was by no means comforting as the skies overhead grew increasingly ominous, hinting that the ritual was progressing at full force. Up until today, their knowledge of the mystical had been antiquated at best. But now they were diving head first into an epic battle between physical and metaphysical forces.
Slayer had proven himself to be an enigmatic character, yet he had provided them with support despite their earlier confrontation. Now it was a matter of seeing just how dedicated he was to this cause of his. And from the looks of it, they were going to need all the help they could get.
"So what do we do now, Professor?" asked Warren, the sight of the temple sending chills up and down his spine, especially with Alison going in there, "Can we really trust this Slayer guy?"
"I don't think we have a choice now, my boy," answered Xavier in a solemn tone, "But so far, he has shown himself to be genuinely dedicated to his personal sense of honor."
"But are you sure he's, like, being totally honest with us?" asked Kitty, "For all we know, he could just be jerking our chain."
"I understand your suspicions, Kitty," said the Professor as he wheeled himself back to the cockpit so he could man the psychic monitoring components, "But while I was unable to sense anything from his mind, my instinct tells me he's being truthful. I can't think of many other people who would risk so much to partake in something like this. But for now, let us focus on the task at hand and save Scott."
All Warren and Kitty could do was concede to the Professor's orders and exchange worried looks. It was one thing to go up against anti-mutant forces like Weapon X or power hungry psychopaths like Magneto, but these were the forces of darkness they were dealing with. Warlord Xin was in a league all his own.
Add to that, they were dealing with Phoenix and Horus, two forces of divine power. It was enough to make any theologian bang his head against a wall.
"Do you really think Scott and Jean are some kind of embodiment of real, actual gods like Slayer says they are?" Warren found himself asking, still unable to wrap his head around this whole cosmic power thing.
As a man of science, the Professor steered clear of such thoughts from the beginning going all the way back to Jean's manifestation of the Phoenix. But the more he and his team experienced this phenomenon, the more difficult it was to deny the sheer scope of just what, and who for that matter, they were dealing with.
"Try not to think of it in terms of divinity my boy," said the Professor as he put on a mini-Cerebro like helmet so he could actively sense the activity of his students, "We'll deal with Phoenix and Horus when the time comes. And for all our sake, I hope we can do something. Because from what I've sensed, we are dealing with very immense powers. And if they're not stopped, then the universe itself could be in grave danger."
AN: Here it comes...Dun dun dun...Dramatic pause! Another epic fight scene is about to manifest between the forces of darkness and light! It's all coming together soon and you won't want to miss it! So what do you think? Has this story been a good read so far? Please tell me! Send me your feedback via email or post it on the fanfiction website! I don't care which one you do as long as you REVIEW! Thank you all very much for reading and I wish each and every one of you the best!
IT'S COMING! IT'S COMING! REVIEW WHILE YOU STILL CAN!