The Blaquesmith Chronicles: Part 3
part of the new "X+5" series
by Matt Nute
THE DISCLAIMER! Yes, the disclaimer! Be warned that the characters within are property of Marvel Comics, unless they're not, in which case they're property of me, and are mine, yadda yadda... Feel free to archive this story, just let me know first!
Years passed. The world turned slowly, gripped tightly in the palm of the High Lord En Sabah Nur. His control was absolute, for he had survived millennia, and saw no need to change a very effective habit.
And yet, for all that the centuries had given him, at this moment, he found himself in a situation unlike any before. He had taken a mutant infant from its dying father and chosen to raise it as his own. He would never attribute this to any feelings of compassion or love, for he was beyond those mortal emotions. He saw the child as nothing more than an experiment in survival
Presently, he found himself watching from one of his Citadel's many balconies as his charge loped across the courtyard below. The child had grown, and at the age of five, was almost able to survive without his assistance. "The child" as Apocalypse called him, needed little supervision, displaying an instinctive desire for knowledge. Apocalypse refused to speak to or teach the child, though. "It must survive. Or not." he would instruct his servants.
More than once, a human servant was approached by the inhuman child and presented with a wordless request for companionship. According to the High Lord's orders, each one turned the child away. Until the day came when the child encountered the newest of the Citadel's servants.
"You're the child, right, Uncle?"
"You're very smart, Sara. Now can I continue?" Blaquesmith's voice was tinged with playful admonishment.
"O' course. Sorry."
"Ahem, where was I...?"
Prelate Josavhatta stood nervously outside the antechamber to the High Lord's throne room. He had come bearing a request for the High Lord: to take in his unruly daughter as a servant. As a ruling official, Josavhatta could not bear his shame, the stain of having a merely human child. His daughter had turned seventeen, and had not displayed any mutant abilities. By the customs of his province, she was sent for genetic testing, and branded "fla'skan", an archaic term for those lacking mutant genes.
The Prelate fidgeted as his proposal was presented to the High Lord. Slowly, the doors to the throne room slid open soundlessly.
"ENTER." The basso profundo of En Sabah Nur echoed off the cold stone. Prelate Josavhatta stepped over the threshold. His dark black hair was cropped close to his skull, and he felt the cold air blow through it as he approached the High Lord, then dropped to one knee.
"YOUR DAUGHTER WILL STAY. YOU ARE DISMISSED." With that decree, Prelate Josavhatta cut any ties his heart had to his progeny. She belonged to the High Lord now, and was his, to do with as he saw fit.
"No! I will not be a slave! Father, please!" The impetuous young woman pounded on the floor as she lay prostrate before her father and his entourage. He would not meet her gaze.
"The High Lord has decreed it so, Ma'hali. You are no longer my daughter." Coldly, he turned and left the Citadel. Ma'hali sat, shocked, alone in the huge stone chamber. Standing slowly, she ran to the gates, only to find them locked. Running a hand over her eyes to wipe the tears, she steeled herself. She had not withstood seventeen years of insults and discrimination only to fail now. She would live, in a world where solely being born human was a crime, she vowed to survive.
A whistling series of noted from the shadows startled her, causing her to jump in fright. A long arm extended, opening a three-fingered hand. She narrowed her eyes, trying to see into the gloom. The hand waved, almost beckoning. With nothing to lose, Ma'hali followed her curiosity and walked forward.
Her mysterious host led her through a series of doors and passages until finally she found herself in what had to be a kitchen storeroom. Lit only by dim candles, she glanced around. Dried fruits and breads lined the walls. Hungrily, she tore into the thick black loaves of bread, reaching for a cask of water to wash it down. She turned to thank her host.
When her eyes fell upon the bug-eyed visage of the child, she choked on her bread. His yellowish brow wrinkled as he cocked his head, studying her. She had heard rumors about the son of Apocalypse, but to actually see him... It was beyond her. In fear and reverence, she dropped to her knees, bowing before him.
Expecting a harsh rebuke, or a disciplinary beating, Ma'hali shook. After a long minute, she dared a look. She saw the child before her, in an identical pose, kneeling low with arms extended in supplication. At that moment, she knew she had found a kindred spirit. One who was outcast, even here in the seat of power. Gently, she extended a hand, touching the child's leathery skin.
"You're just a child." she whispered. The mutant boy recoiled, unused to being directly addressed. "No, no!" she cried, "Don't leave!"
*Don't leave...* she heard in her mind. She focused on the child.
"You're... you're telepathic?" she stuttered. The child merely looked at her in confusion. She sighed. "You don't understand anything I say, do you?" The child merely shuffled back and forth. Without a moment's hesitation, she extended her hand.
"I am Ma'hali, daughter..." she was about to give her title, then realized she no longer possessed it. "I am Ma'hali." she restated. The child clasped her hand, with a series of short, harsh wheezes that could have been laughter. Ma'hali laughed with him. She had found a friend.
"She was nice to you?"
"She was more than nice, Sara. Mother, sister, friend. Without her, I never would have left the Citadel. Let me tell you how it happened..."
As Ma'hali grew used to her life in the Citadel, she found her niche in the galley, where she carried pots and pans to the washroom. No one ever considered that the High Lord ate as mortal men did. Apparently he did so, not out of necessity, but out of habit. Ma'hali had only seen him a handful of times, always from a distance.
In the rare times she could steal away for herself, she always found the child, and brought him some treat from the kitchen. She tried to teach him to speak, but was rewarded only by his wheezing laughter and the occasional telepathic echo of her words. Some days, she would spend the hours chasing him down the myriad of mazelike tunnels in the Citadel, avoiding the High Lord's guards and the Citadel's servants. No one knew of their friendship, and Ma'hali swore it was the only thing keeping her sane.
One afternoon, she left the galley, bearing a bag of dried apricots for the child. Apricots seemed to be his favorite. She knew she would find him in the courtyard, his usual frolicking place. As she peeked out the barred door, she saw no one. Convinced it was safe, she entered the courtyard. A whistling giggle from the shadows alerted her to the child.
"There you are!" she scolded, holding out the bag. He did not reach for it, which struck Ma'hali as odd. She waved the bag towards him, barely seeing the child crouching in a corner. She thought he looked... afraid?
"Come on out!" she cajoled, "You don't have to be afraid of me."
"DAUGHTER OF JOSAVHATTA." the booming voice from behind her chilled her blood. Ma'hali turned slowly, finding herself face-to-chest with the massive form of En Sabah Nur. His cold grey eyes looked down at her. Paralysed with fear, she completely forgot to bow or give obeisance. She merely froze, staring at the High Lord.
"M-mm-my L-Lord?" she finally stuttered.
"NO ONE HAS BEEN GIVEN LEAVE TO SPEAK TO THE CHILD."
"I was only..."
"NO ONE!" the force of Apocalypse's voice staggered Ma'hali. She knew in that moment, she was about to die. She closed her eyes.
When nothing happened, she opened her eyes slowly. The child stood between her and the outstretched arm of Apocalypse. He held his hands in front of him, almost mimicing the combat stances of the techno-organic soldiers in the Citadel. Apocalypse raised an eyebrow.
"WHAT IS THIS?" he demanded. "YOU WOULD DO THIS?" It seemed almost a rhetorical question. Time froze there for Ma'hali and the child, facing the most powerful being they had ever known.
Then, as slowly as a glacier melting, Apocalypse lowered his arm.
"YOU BOTH SHALL ACCOMPANY ME THIS EVENING. WE LEAVE FOR THE NORTH." With that, he turned and strode into the Citadel. Ma'hali threw her arms around the child.
"Thank you! Thank you!" she gasped. The child, to her surprise, embraced her back. She drew back and looked him in the eyes.
"You... you've understood all along, haven't you?" The child gave a lopsided grin. Tears clouded Ma'hali's eyes. "Why? Why did you never let me know?" The child pointed towards the Citadel. Ma'hali understood.
"You thought they'd make me leave, didn't you? Well, now we will go together!" The child jumped joyfully, cartwheeling across the plaza. Ma'hali ran after him, taking his hand and running for her chambers.
Deeper in the Citadel, Tribunes and Prelates studied their organic computers, relaying data back and forth. They had detected a temporal distortion in the area once known as England. When the High Lord had found out, he insisted on personally investigating. One of his advisors had cautioned him, for there were barbarian clans in that area. After his ashes were swept off the floor, the High Lord ordered a transport to be prepared. He would accept nothing in his world that he did not control, for his power was absolute.
And if the child defied his power again, it would die.
TO BE CONTINUED
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