Chapter 4 - What Ravages of Spirit

Logan looked up from the book of otherwise forgotten lore in his lap and gazed blankly into was dark, save the dying embers in the fireplace across the room, but his eyesight was more than capable of picking up the details of his surroundings. The hour was late...the crescent moon, now lost behind the dull grayness of clouds, had already begun to descend in the night sky. His attempts to distract himself from the growing sense of impending doom had failed - his animalistic side had picked up the subtle signs of danger days ago, but he had successfully fought the urge to respond, repressing these feelings deep within his mind and soul. His instincts could not be denied any longer, however. Something was coming. Something evil.

To speak to the queen of this matter would be superfluous; she was well aware of the fact, and had taken the necessary steps to prepare. He knew that the White Witch would need no convincing to assist her old friend, though the extent of her aid would not be known until Rogue and Remy returned from their two-day journey. As he sat in this moment, with the time between the couple's departure and return equally balanced around him, he wondered if the help they brought with them would be enough. Deep down, he knew it would not be.

It was in the midst of his uneasiness that the Lady of the Phoenix entered the room. An exquisite combination of pleasure and pain washed over his other emotions as he beheld her in a sacred silence. Although he was much older than she, he could not remember a time when he wasn't thoroughly, unequivocally in love with was as though he loved her through all the ages of the world, and as impossible as it seemed, there was a truth to these thoughts that he could not refute.

Hidden in the shadows of the corner where he sat, Logan's presence went unnoticed by the queen. She walked slowly, purposefully, almost ceremoniously towards the fireplace. When she reached the gaping stone mouth, she turned to fully face it. The light of the nearly extinguished remnants of a fire lit hours earlier outlined her silhouette with an eerie orange glow as she extended her arms ever so slightly, as if she was preparing to welcome a long lost friend. She paused but a moment before raising her hands above her head in a swift motion, causing the lifeless ashes to spring into an impossibly brilliant blaze. A low, guttural laugh filled the room as Logan watched helplessly, frozen by some unknown enchantment. After admiring the growing flames of her own creation, she reached out to hold some unseen suitor and began to dance around the room, humming softly to herself. Unaware that the hem of her gown had been ignited when it lingered too close to the fire, she continued her unholy celebration, her steps becoming increasingly more frantic until she whirled around the room in an uncontrolled frenzy, the flames devouring her.

Still rooted to his seat, it took all of Logan's power to whisper his protestation against the blasphemy he was forced to bear witness to. ""

The lady stopped, her back to him, and lowered her arms. "Well, well, it seems that my privacy has been intruded upon," she commented, her delicate voice dripping with venom. She turned to face him, still ablaze, then began to leisurely slink in his direction. When she finally stood directly in front of him, she leaned over and placed her hands on the arm rests of his chair so she could look him in the eye. "What have we here?"

Logan's mind raced - it struggled to unearth a memory that had been triggered by the events before him...but he was unable to decode the tangled thoughts buried deep within his subconscious. Still, he reacted.

"No," he repeated, stronger this time, and willed himself into motion. As he stood, the ancient book fell from his lap with a loud thud, and the woman before him stumbled backwards in surprise. She hit the ground just as his claws extended from the back of his hands.

He blinked.


The room had returned to its original appearance - pitch-dark and quiet. In place of the roaring fire, the last of the struggling embers had succumbed to their inevitable doom, and in place of the bewitching demon, the queen laid at his feet. He immediately retracted his claws and held his hand out to her. "Oh, Jeannie, I'm so sorry."

The Lady of the Phoenix accepted his hand and allowed him to pull her up. Once she was standing, she led him back to his chair and forced him to sit down. "There is no need to apologize, my lord...I was foolish to startle you in such a manner."

He took a deep breath. "I don't understand."

"I was walking past the doorway when you called my name..."

" were here, and you..."

She crouched down beside him so she could better see his face. "I was walking the halls and heard you cry out in the darkness...when I finally found you and leaned over, you sprang up, ready to strike."

He shook his head at her story. "It wasn't a dream. I saw you..."

"Saw me what?" she asked innocently. He looked into her eyes and saw no deception in them. Despite his feelings for her, he knew he would be able to recognize a lie.


"We are all having nightmares, there is no shame in admitting it," she said reassuringly, placing a hand on his arm. "There is something coming, something evil." He stiffened slightly at her words, but allowed her to continue. "But it is not coming tonight. Let us return to our bed chambers so we may gather our strength. Then when it arrives, we will be ready."

He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "As you wish, my lady."

They both stood, and he escorted her back to the room she shared with her husband before returning to his own. He found no rest that night.


Rogue and Remy rode through the gates of Rámaurúva an hour before sunset. After handing their horses over to a stable hand, they made their way up the stairs leading to Naira, and upon entering the great hall, they found their friends enjoying a light supper. The king expressed his regrets in not waiting for the pair to start their meal, then invited the two to join them. Rogue deemed his apology unnecessary, explaining that they had left the forest very early that morning in order to hasten their return, then inquired after the queen - the only member of the party absent from the table. When the king told her that his lady had retired early because she was unwell, Rogue hastily excused herself to speak with her. Remy stayed with the others and ate heartily.

Hours later, everyone except the queen and Irina gathered in one of the recreation rooms. Raven, Katherine, Xavier, Logan, Remy, and the king sat around a circular table, playing cards. Because Rogue arrived after the game had already begun - she had spent some time with Jeanne before eating - she searched for another diversion so as not to interrupt them. After considering several options, she finally settled on one that could be enjoyed by all. She left the room to retrieve her lute, which had been gathering dust in the corner of her chamber, then sat on the long, velvet couch in the center of the room. It took her a few minutes to tune the instrument, but the music that followed was well worth the wait. Though Rogue fumbled through parts of the first song or two, her fingers soon began to remember their training, and her talent became apparent.

She continued to play even as the card game ended and some of her friends opted to find other amusements. Raven, Katherine, Xavier, and the king remained at the table, discussing what the nature of the next round would be, while Remy and Logan moved to join her. Remy sat beside her, taking out his own deck of cards, and Logan across from her. As Remy began to skillfully manipulate the cards from hand to hand, Logan smiled to himself. The other man was sitting very close to Rogue - his left leg was nearly touching her right - and while she had not reacted, he knew that she noticed...

He was unable to follow his thoughts through to completion because a guard burst into the room a moment later.

"My lady, pardon the interruption," he gasped, struggling to catch his breath, "but I bring tidings that could not be delayed..."

Rogue placed her lute aside and rose. "Pray tell, what is it?"

"A dragon."

The corners of her mouth turned down ever so slightly. "A dragon?"


Her expression changed from that of patient concern to one of annoyance. "I do not blame you, sir, for coming in unannounced when the situation warrants it, but this is rubbish. There are no dragons in Órënár, I know this as sure as I know my own name."

"But, milady, a messenger from one of our provinces has just arrived to report the presence of such a beast in our country..."

"Very well," she replied, walking towards the door, "I will speak with him." She motioned for the others to follow them in the off chance there was something to this story. "I am just glad that you did not bother the queen with this foolishness..."

"I went to her room first, but she was not there."

His statement puzzled Rogue...Jeanne had told her that she was not feeling well and planned on spending the rest of the night in her room. Deep down, Rogue sensed that something was not right. "I will speak to the messenger; I want you to look for the Lady of the Phoenix...ask help from whomever you can find."

He told her that the messenger awaited her in the great hall, then left her to search the building for the missing queen. Her pace quickened ever so slightly, but when she reached her destination, she found the hall empty.

"What's going on?" the king asked behind her.

"I do not know...a prank, perhaps?"

"This is a serious allegation, would your people make light of such a matter?" Remy spoke up.

"No," Rogue replied, "They would not make something like this up, and yet..." She shook her head and walked towards the doors that led outside. "This is ridiculous, there has not been a dragon in these parts for..."

She pushed open the doors and stepped out into the night. Rogue could see many of the townspeople below had left the warmth and light of their homes for the cool, dark outdoors. They were pointing to the sky and talking in raised voices. She too turned her gaze upwards and witnessed a fearful sight - off in the distance, part of the sky was on fire.

Her friends crowded behind her as she finished her sentence, "...hundreds of years..."

As the townspeople began to panic, running back to their houses in hopes of surviving the looming menace, Rogue and her companions stared silently at the approaching threat. They simply could not believe their eyes despite the guard's warning just minutes ago.

Once the initial shock wore off, Rogue sprung into action. She pushed past the others and headed for her room, where she armed herself. With the queen's location currently unknown, it was her responsibility to defend the city. She retrieved the brown leather belt that she had hastily thrown on her bed after her conversation with Jeanne and pulled it tightly around her waist. Her sword and knife were still attached to the belt, and it only took a moment to properly adjust them so each lay in the right place - her sword hung on her left side, while her knife was at her back, suspended by dual leather straps, its hilt pointing towards her right side. Wanting to be fully prepared, she also retrieved her leather battle quiver, decorated with a diagonal line of magnolia blossoms that were inlaid in precious adamantium. The arrows clicked together as she fixed the quiver on her back by buckling its leather strap across her chest.

"Easy girl," she thought, forcing herself to be patient and do things the right way...arming herself so heavily would be for naught if she did not follow through properly. "Take your time, concentrate..." Rogue grabbed her bow, made and exquisitely carved by Kurt, its design a perfect match to her quiver, and strung it carefully. She wished she had one of Ororo's hairs - before becoming the White Witch of the Wood, she had been revered as a goddess in her native land. If that were true, and her hair used to string a bow, it could increase the range of the arrows shot from that bow tenfold. But she did not have the time to ponder this idea for long. She quickly strapped a pair of worn leather vanbraces to her forearms, then took a second to mentally check herself. She was ready.

Calmly, she strode out her door and headed towards the watchtower, the cold of the stones seeping through her stocking feet. As Rogue climbed the steps, she found herself surrounded by a silence that made her feel like she was the last person in the world, and she marveled at the fact that she had not passed another living soul since departing her chamber. There were no guards awaiting her at the top of the tower, validating her fears. The wind roared in her ears as she focused on the fiery figure in the sky. It was much closer now, and though she could not yet make out its shape, it was larger than she had originally thought, gargantuan even. There was a much smaller, darker shadow within the beast around where its heart should be. That would be her target.

She reached back and pulled an arrow from her quiver, then brought it to her string. She held her bow up, and drew the arrow back, lining up its tip with the dark shape. Distant voices called to her over the wind, but she ignored them. Hoping beyond hope that the arrow would hit its target in spite of the many obstacles present - the distance it had to travel, the strong winds, and the possibility that the creature would completely change its course - Rogue released the projectile.

It flew with what appeared to be great accuracy for a short period of time before a red blast of energy disintegrated it. Rogue turned around just in time to see the king adjust the ruby-lensed glasses he was never seen without.

"And just what do you think you're doing?" she demanded. "That thing will be upon us presently, I have to stop it before..."

"My lady, look," Xavier interrupted, pointing to the sky.

She spun around and watched helplessly as the monster flew over the gates of the city. It dove towards the houses, then headed directly for tower. It finally struck her then, why the king had dared to prevent her arrow from staying its course - this was no dragon. The beast of fire took the form of a bird, ostensibly mocking Órënár's emblem. But it was not until it rose up and flew over the watchtower that Rogue fully comprehended the gravity of the situation. There, in the midst of the flaming phoenix was the queen, all smiles and glee, taunting them with a laugh that was not her own. She did not speak or even stop, but continued on her way, soaring over the fields behind them.

Rogue immediately made her way towards the stairs, but her mother blocked her way. "Where do you think you're going?"

"I must follow her..."

"You must stay and protect your people."

"My people are fine," she argued, trying to get around the other woman, but Raven would not budge.

"They are not fine - they are frightened...they need someone to..."

"They need someone to find out what's going on, and that is my plan..."

"You cannot leave..."

Rogue was tired of Raven telling her what to do, and had no time for her games. "You will move out of my way, or I will have you arrested." She paused a moment to let her mother consider. "Do not make me call the guards."

When Raven still refused to move, Rouge knew what needed to be done. She reached behind her and slowly pulled out her knife with her right hand. The other woman's eyes widened in disbelief, but her expression remained calm. "You would not strike your own mother down."

Rogue pointed the blade towards Raven's chest. "Truth be told, I'd rather not...but if you will not get out of my way voluntarily, I will make you."

"Ladies, please," Xavier said, stepping forward and placing a hand on Rogue's arm. "We don't have time for this nonsense."

"You're right," Rogue said, seemingly coming to her senses. She lowered her weapon and carefully returned it to its sheath, then turned to face the others. Raven relaxed a notch, just as Rogue knew she would, and was unprepared when her daughter suddenly spun around and pushed her out of the way.

Raven started to pursue Rogue, but Remy grabbed her arm. "Let her go, my lady. She knows what she needs to do."

"I did not ask for your counsel," Raven replied icily, prying his fingers from her person. "And if you ever lay a hand on me again, you will lose it." She glared at him for an instant, then ran down the stairs herself.

"Should we follow?" Remy asked, turning back to his companions. He had kept himself from going after Rogue because he felt that this was something she had to do alone, but one word from Xavier would have him in hot pursuit.

Xavier glanced at the king who was, for his part, grief-stricken and silent, then spoke. "Aye...someone must look after the lady, especially since she is now technically the queen." He approached Logan, who was staring in the direction that Jeanne had flown. "You must go with Rogue."

Remy interjected. "But he is clearly in no condition to..."

"I'm fine," the wild man grumbled, shaking off his heartbreak. "I will accompany her and give her whatever assistance she may need. I will keep her safe."

After he too had left the tower, Xavier addressed Remy before he could protest. "I have reasons for my choice, Remy. Please do not question them - I don't know if I can put them into words - just trust in my decision."

He took a deep breath before answering. "You have never led me astray yet, so I will abide by the selection you have made."

"Good man. Now, help me attend to the king."

While Remy, Xavier, and Katherine patiently convinced the king to return inside, Rogue raced across the field at top speed. Her horse, aptly named Alacoroquen, or "wild wind rider," had already been groomed and fed when Rogue reached the stables. With no time to lose, she didn't bother with a saddle or bridle; she simply mounted the horse, took her thick mane into her hands, then coaxed the animal with a nudge from her foot. Alacoroquen flew out of the stables, down the path, and out the gate. The two shared a long history - Rogue had been placed on the horse's back when she was still just a filly, around the time Rogue herself was beginning to master the fine art of walking - they essentially grew up together. And so, a special bond now existed between woman and mare, one that kept each in tune with the other's intentions. A slight tug at the mane or tap of the foot by her mistress was all the horse needed to understand her requests.

They headed for the mountain pass that lay northwest of the castle, in the direction that Jeanne had headed. As they entered the narrow path, Rogue could feel Alacoroquen's muscles tense with uneasiness, so she signaled the animal to slow its pace to a canter. It was not long before Rogue also sensed something disquieting, and slowed the horse to a walk. She patted the mare's neck as they continued, keeping her eyes open for anything unusual. It was not until the path opened up on the other side of the mountains that she found what she was looking for. There, leaning against a large rock that lay beside a dying tree, was the queen.

Alacoroquen was devoted to Rogue, but could not overcome the aura of evil that surrounded the other woman. She stopped several feet away from her, refusing to take another step in her direction. Rogue dismounted and stroked her mane, whispering soothing words in her ear before approaching Jeanne.

The Lady of the Phoenix, no longer surrounded by flames of any sort, posed seductively on the rock. She was dressed in foreign garb that would be considered unsuitable by even the loosest standards of the day...a strapless black leather corset laced up in the front, black panties, knee-high black leather boots, black arm-length gloves, and a long, flowing black cape with a red interior, held together by a single red rose. Around her neck she bore what appeared to be a collar of sorts - black with sharp silver spikes around it. Her hair was also arranged in a style that did not fit the times - part of it was wound in a bun on the back of her head, part hung in tight curls down her back, and the rest formed a set of ringlets that framed her face. She smiled at Rogue as the other woman neared.

"I knew you would come," she began, looking down and fingering the blood-red flower at her collar delicately.

Rogue stopped a few feet away and slowly reached across her body. "Did you now?"

"Come now, lady, I know everything about you," she replied casually, without a hint of fear.

"I'm sorry that I cannot say the same," Rogue said, drawing her sword and pointing it tentatively at her friend. "Who are you and what do you want?"

"You are not serious," Jeanne laughed balefully, standing upright and looking Rogue in the eye. "After what you've seen, you dare threaten me with a scrawny sliver of metal? I don't know if I should be amused by your confidence, or insulted by your lack of respect. Do you require another demonstration of my powers?"

In Jeanne's eyes, Rogue saw a terrible abyss, a lifelessness she had never seen in a mortal soul. The only sign of life was the slightest flicker of what looked like a flame dancing behind her pupils. This...thing...was not the queen, despite its outer appearance. She did not trust it. And yet, if it had wished to kill her, she had no doubt it could have done so with a mere thought. Her weapons were useless here. She sheathed her sword without hesitation. "Why have you brought me here?"

The creature appeased, at least for the moment, once again leaned back on the rock behind her. "You are here to discuss an alliance..."

"Between whom?"

She smiled again, a smile without mirth. "I could destroy you right now. You, your precious friends, your kingdom, your entire world...and I could do so without as much as batting an eye. But I have decided instead to invite you to join me. You are a skilled warrior, and you have a gift I admire...I would rather have you as an ally than an enemy."

"And my people, my country?"

"They would be spared as well," she said, dismissing them with a wave of her hand. "I have no use for the majority of them, but I suppose I could find some way for them to serve me."

"You would make them slaves."

Jeanne laughed. "I would allow them to live; their only other option is death."

Rogue moved to speak, but was interrupted by a voice behind her. "It is a generous offer, Rogue, you should take it." Raven morphed from a wolf to her natural form as she spoke, moving to stand beside Jeanne's. "It is the highest of compliments, really, to be asked to join such a powerful entity."

"You belong at my side, mother. You were appointed to protect the queen."

"And so I am..."

"That," Rogue cried, pointing at Jeanne, "is not the queen! I know not who or what it is, but it is not the lady I have known all these years. The lady Jeanne is gone, replaced by some demon who apes her form..."

"Oh, but I am Jeanne," the woman replied, approaching Rogue. "See for yourself, I am the Lady of the Phoenix..." She paused a short distance from her friend, then a burning crown appeared and floated over her head. "But I am also the Black Queen, beautiful and deadly. It is my right to rule this world as I see fit, so choose your next words carefully, or the fate of Órënár will rest in the hands of a child who is not yet ready to lead..."

"Not if I have anything to say about it." Logan said, stepping out of the shadows. He had left his horse at the mountain gap and came the rest of the way on foot. He thought that would allow him a greater element of surprise.

"Ah...the wolverine," Jeanne purred. "And now our little party is complete. I was wondering when you were going to show yourself."

"He is of no consequence," Raven uttered nervously, "he has no power to negotiate in this matter...he was not even invited..."

"Neither were you, as I recall," the Black Queen replied, glaring over her shoulder before returning her attention to the man-beast. "But Logan and I are old friends, aren't we?"

"I don't know what you're talkin' about," he replied gruffly.

"Perhaps not," she said, walking up to him. She locked eyes with his for a few seconds before continuing. "Oh, my dear Wolverine, what have they done to you?"

"I still don't..."

She began to circle him slowly. "Your mind has been fractured...your memories broken into a million little can no longer recall the past...indeed, you do not remember me, do you?" She stopped when she was once again facing him. "More's the pity."

"I remember..."

"You remember nothing. You cannot form coherent thoughts of events that happened long ago...but I have an excellent memory...and I have not forgotten what you did to me when we last met." She brought her right hand up to his face and grasped his chin gently. "Kill me once, shame on you, kill me twice..." She let her voice trail off, slowly removing her hand by pulling her velvety fingers down his jawline. "Well, let's just say I've learned my lesson."

"My lady," Raven ventured cautiously, "the hour runs late..."

There was a moment where Jeanne was herself - Logan saw something in her eyes change...they returned to their characteristic warmth and kindness - but she was quickly lost once again, overcome by the Black Queen. "That it does," she agreed, tearing her attention away from the man before her. "Lady Rogue, what say you to my proposition?"


"Does she not deserve some time to consider the proposal, my queen?" Raven asked tentatively.

"I need no more time," Rogue interjected. "My choice has been clear from the moment your supposed 'generous offer' was presented - I would rather fight, rather die, than stand by your side."

The Lady of the Phoenix gave her another empty smile. "I though you would say as much...and yet, I find myself willing to give you time to reconsider your answer. I suppose that I am fonder of you than I first thought." She walked past Rogue and Mystique, and continued into the darkness. "You have three days...after that, you will meet your fate, whatever it is to be..."

Rogue watched her disappear into the night, continuing to stare into the void long after her friend had faded into the blackness. "I am not afraid to die," she finally said after a sizable amount of time had passed.

"That is the most selfish thing you've ever said," Raven scolded. "What about your people? Are you afraid for their lives? Would you sacrifice them? Would you watch them suffer and die because you are too stubborn to submit?"

"You would have me yield, throw down my weapons and embrace that abomination? She says their lives will be safe, but I do not trust her...if she does not kill them outright, she will force them into servitude. You ask me if I would have them die - yes, I would have them die fighting for their freedom rather than sentencing them to horrors that I cannot imagine."

"But, daughter..."

"Do not call me that," Rogue replied, turning her back to her mother. "You have betrayed your country, your daughter, and your queen. You have chosen your side, and I have chosen mine. Do not expect any mercy if I come across you on the battlefield." As she walked towards Alacoroquen, who had become much more subdued since the Black Queen's exit, Logan followed her. She stopped to rub the animal's neck, then continued on; there was no need to grab her reins - the mare trailed behind her mistress and Logan as they walked through the mountain pass.

It was only a matter of seconds before an unwanted guest emerged from the darkness and joined Raven. "You said she would be easily swayed," the other woman complained quietly. "You said she would not be a problem..."

Raven crossed her arms. "I said that it was possible...I made no promises."

"You dare lie to me? Do you know who I am?"

"Do you know who I am?" Raven spat back, facing her. "Do you have any idea what I have done to prepare her for this moment? You think that you are all-powerful, White Queen, but my daughter could take you out with a simple touch..."

The Lady Frost wore an ensemble exactly like that of Black Queen, with a few notable exceptions: first, her clothes were white, and second, she wore a thick fur coat rather than a flimsy cape. "And I could turn your brain to pudding before you could inform anyone of my, are we through threatening each other? I would like to get down to business..."

"Did you find anything out when you read her mind?"

"No." The White Queen shook her head. "Her thoughts are as incomprehensible as Wolverine' telepathy cannot distinguish the personalities that she has absorbed over the years from her own. I suspect that the Lady of the Phoenix herself could not read her mind without a concerted effort."

"She may still be swayed..."

"I rather doubt it. Her will is much stronger than you let on, and now that you have lost her confidence, who is left to change her mind?"

"Rogue means to kill the Black Queen, that much I can tell...and I'm sure the lady's husband will object to such a plan. If he is unable to convince her, there is still another who may be able to influence her decisions..."

Rogue and Logan had walked in silence until they reached his horse. Too many things had happened back there, she needed time to collect her thoughts and fashion a tentative course of action. For his part, the wild man was thankful for her decision to remain quiet. He was at a loss for what just happened - the creature had spoken true, of that much he was sure...but he could not make out the meaning behind her words...

"I would have you run an errand for me, my lord," Rogue said, facing him. "If you are up to it."

"Anything I can do," Logan replied, with a slight bow.

"Then ride with haste to Parmarondo...are you familiar with the city?"

"Aye, it holds the great hall of records..."

"Exactly," she interrupted, leaning close to him and lowering her voice. "And within the hall of records, there is a hidden room...they call it Fólërondo. You must go to the hall and find the room, then you must pour over what parchments you can, and report back to me tonight."

Logan looked to the east, where the sky was beginning to change color. "That does not give me much time."

"No, you must leave immediately."

"What shall I look for, milady?"

Rogue closed her eyes, replaying all of the Black Queen's words in her head. "She says that this has happened before...she says that you were there..." She opened her eyes and looked at him curiously. "You truly have no memory of the event?"

"No...I...what the lady said was accurate; my mind has been tampered with...I can only remember so far back, and then I am faced with a chaotic collection of images and sounds."

"For that I am sorry...but I must know what happened back then if I am to come up with any kind of plan."

Logan helped her mount her horse before mounting his own. "How am I to find Fólërondo?"

"That I cannot tell you...'tis a secret not even I know. Rumor has it that it can only be located by those who genuinely need to access the papers within. If you have lived through this terror once before, and forgotten the outcome, I can think of no other being who would require these historical documents more."

"Then I bid you farewell until tonight, my lady."

With a swift kick to his horse, Logan rode like the wind across the plain. Rogue headed in a slightly different direction, back towards Rámaurúva...there was much to do before the sun rose...


...Coming Soon - Chapter 5...