A Rage In Heaven

From the Story Arc: Phoenyx Rising

Previous Story in the Arc: Coffee and Sympathy by Seraphym (Tuesday, July 05, 2005)

Next Story in the Arc: Into the Fire by Seraphym (Friday, July 22, 2005)

(posted Wednesday, July 06, 2005)

She was sitting on her rooftop, once again thinking over what Rory Hartlan had told her, when she sensed another behind her, and identified him by the peculiar cinnamon-scent of his flames as Red DJinni. She, who was a creature of fire herself, was acutely sensitive to the peculiarities of other fire-creatures.

"Heya cutie," he said as she turned to greet him gravely.

"Hello Red Djinni," she said, bowing her head slightly. She indicated with a wave of her hand that he should join her. He would not have come here by chance; he had pledges of his own to keep, when it came to that. He had promised to help her stay true to herself. Perhaps he had some insights....

"What you doin' up here alone?" he asked, extinguishing his fires.

"Thinking," she replied. She sensed he was a little surprised not to find her in tears.

His eyes narrowed. "...about....?"

"What I should be doing with my life," she said as he took a seat beside her, both of them looking down over the edge at the city below. "Because merely existing, waiting to go home, is a bad idea."

He considered that statement, and replied cautiously,"Heard you had a pow-wow with Rory."

"He is a very, very wise man," she said thoughtfully, looking out over the city below them. Such a strange and dangerous place it was, such a concentration of evil in all its forms. A "nexus," a place where everything for good and ill in the world had gathered. Evil had come first; good had come to oppose it. Why here? She did not know, though she knew she had known once. It was enough that it was here, and---and she was a part of the line to hold it back now. A part. She could no longer merely exist and do her duty. She must truly join with heart and soul, or she risked becoming a weak place in that line, a place where evil could break through and strike for the heart of those who opposed it.

Red Djinni was nodding. "When he's not cracking bad jokes, aye, Rory's wise enough."

She turned her regard on him. "Even the bad jokes have a point to them," she told him.

He shrugged. "They're often aimed at me, so I sometimes don't get past the annoyance factor. Anyway, I'm glad to hear you're intent on... staying." He seemed both relieved and uncomfortable. Or perhaps---awkward, as if he did not quite know what to say next. His comm unit crackled with life, and he took refuge in turning the volume down. "Chatty tonight," he observed.

She nodded gravely. "It is a sign that life is going on. And so should I,"

He cocked his head to the side. "Do tell." His words and posture invited her to elaborate, and she was minded to do just that, to put her thoughts between them and see what he made of them.

"Well...." she said carefully, "If I am the channel by which my siblings learn of mortality....a barrage of despondance is not....balancing. And if I become prey to despair....sunk in it....he does not believe I will go home even when I do die."

Red Djinni's eyes widened a moment, then he nodded. "He said that, did he?"

She turned her gaze back out over the city. "I am inclined to believe he is correct. Not that I would be Fallen--but that I would be---stalled Between. Neither Fallen nor Home."

There was a long silence as he considered the words, hers and Rory's together. "I think yer right," he said at last. "Rory's got a good head on his shoulders. That sounds... right. So... have any thoughts to bounce off ol' Red then?"

Tentatively, she offered the first of her conclusions. "I cannot define my life by who I love."

"This is true," he said after a moment, and by the ill-concealed relief in his voice, she knew she had said something he had hoped, but never expected to hear from her.

She went on to the next, without elaborating on the first. "I am damaging my friends by my own despair."

This time he did not bother to conceal his relief. "Also true." Now he looked at her with eager anticipation to hear what else she had to say. And by this she knew just how much she had been hurting them with her grief.

"I must learn how to live, and not merely exist," she continued, as his eyes smiled. "To live...one must have a balance. So I must---find that balance."

Now it was her turn to look at him, inviting advice or comment. It was one thing to come to a conclusion; it was another to be able to extrapolate what her next step should be. As she had hoped, Red Djinni had something of his own to offer. "First thing I'd suggest then... is learn what it is that makes us human."

She nodded gravely. "Joy, Rory said."

"That's part of it," he agreed. "For the sake of balance, we also have to learn how to cope with sorrow."

"And perhaps a part is to be played by joy's lesser sibling---'fun.'" she added.

She heard him chuckle. "Fun's a good one. You should try to have more of that."

She smiled, very faintly, remembering the aftermath of the mission to remove a villain called Frostfire the day before. She had asked Blaze for help, and he in turn had invited a CCCP member she had not yet met, named Heavy Brother. "I learned how to have fun yesterday." When it was all over, some impulse had made her try tentatively to slide on the sheets and planes of ice in the final room. And then---when the rush of pleasure and excitement drove back some of her sorrow, she had called to the others to join her. They had been like children. "I never had 'fun' before....it made me feel---better."

"Is this fun?" she had asked Blaze, much to poor Heavy Brother's confusion. But Blaze had understood.

Red Djinni's eyes crinkled at the corners with a smile. "There's a lot more of that to be had."

"Blaze was playing too, and that made it good as well," she told him, and watched his eyes widen.

"Was he now?" Djinni said, as she nodded. "You had fun together."

She regarded him with grave eyes. "Yes, we did."

He gave her a long, considering look. "You. Fun. Together. Well! Who'da thunk it?" And his eyes practically vanished in his smile.

She looked back out over the city. "John and I never had fun. He was too ill, and there was too little time left to us."

The words, and the past, hung between them for a moment. Then Red Djinni nodded. "He was a trooper, right 'til the end."

She sighed. "We had great joy, we had laughter, and shared pleasure, but---not fun."

"You had to become human to have that," he observed, and she realized instantly that he was right. As a Seraphim, nearly everything she did or thought had weight and importance. "Fun" was too light-hearted a thing for her then---

But she said, wistfully, and with a sigh, "I wish we could have."

Silence held between them again, but a bond and not a boundary. He was waiting to hear what she would say next. She was deciding what it would be. Finally, "Djinni?" she prompted.

He responded instantly. "Aye?"

It was time for the largest, and most painful truth she had come to. And yet to say it---gave some relief from a burden she had been carrying for too long. A burden of expectation; it was time to lay it down. "Blaze is not John."

Stunned silence on his part. And then, "What?" he gasped.

Before she could answer, they were interrupted.

A column of darkness appeared in a muted rumble of thunder.

They both sprang to their feet, but she alone recognized the thing for what it was. Yet another of her charges, but one who predated her first step onto the pavement of Atlas Plaza.

Archangel Xavier. Falling, but not yet Fallen. Prey to the Dark One, but not---quite---consumed. She had had one encounter with him already. She had given him part of her immortal heart in an attempt to give him a guide and a guardian to lead him back to the Infinite. Somewhere inside him, it still whispered, still immortal, though the rest of her was now transformed. But he had not followed it as she had hoped.

And now---now he was here to confront her, when she was at her weakest and most vulnerable.

"Whoa!" Red Djinni exclaimed. "The hell...?" Reacting with commendable---if misplaced---speed, he flamed on.

She trembled with fear inside, but managed to keep a calm, if false, facade. "Hello Xavier," she said, grateful that her voice did not tremble.

The silky, sinister voice issued from the heart of the column of darkness. "Ahh the Flame; how you have changed...."

Red looked from Xavier to her and back again, as Xavier took on his more "human" aspect; a tall, handsome man in black armor, with snow-white hair that streamed down his back, and a diadem of black wings. But his eyes were not human; dark fires burned within them, and if anything, she feared this form more than the other. "I take it you two have met."

"Yes," she said shortly, all her attention on Xavier. She feared even more for Djinni than she did for herself.

"I need to be worried, here?" Djinni asked.

Yes, she thought. You should be terrified. You should be in flight. I cannot protect us both; I fear I cannot protect myself. But me, he wishes to win. You, he will kill out of hand, if he thinks of it.

I must keep him from thinking of it.

Xavier regarded her with shadowed curiousity. "I sensed something different in you the moment I set foot in this human land of misery," he said.

She bowed her head in acknowledgement. "Yes, Xavier, I have changed," she responded. There was no point in trying to conceal anything from him. Her hope for survival---lay in honesty. Djinni's lay in being able to Keep Xavier's attention fixed upon her. "I am now---merely mortal. Though the part of my heart that I gave you remains celestial."

And dear Red proceeded to undo her work by trying to interpose himself. "Easy with the misery talk, Mister. Flame and I were just having a nice conversation on 'fun.'"

Xavier chuckled cruelly. "Of course you were," he said, with utter contempt. "Such a human emotion---fun."

Djinni appraised him, before Triste could interpose herself again. "By the look of you, you should try having some sometime."

Xavier took a step towards him "Ahh the Djinni speaks," he said, the contempt becoming tinged with menace.

Stop it, Red! she cried inside, as he replied "I do that sometimes," bracing himself for a fight, without having any notion of what he was about to fling himself against.

She interposed herself. "Xavier," she said, rivetting his attention back on herself, and feeling her heart quail as he turned his dark eyes on her.

"Yes," he replied. At least she had done this much; Djinni was now forgotten completely."My concern for you remains," she told him truthfully. That, at least, was as true now as it had been when he first began to Fall. He, too, was her duty, her responsibility.

He sneered. "Your concern has changed now, though, hasn't it?" Of course he knew about John; his link to the Darkness gave him whatever knowledge the Darkness wished him to have. And that was a potent weapon for his hand, that knowledge.

"Change is inevitable," she said, as bravely as she could.

Now it was no longer merely contempt that infused his words, but anger. She felt his rage at her change, as if he thought she had somehow abandoned him. "You can no longer feel what I feel."

That, at least, was not true. Not with emotions as powerful as his seething just below his surface. "Actually---I can," she replied simply.

For a moment he lost his anger in surprise. "How is that?" he asked, the question startled out of him.

"Weakly, as a mortal can," she told him. "But I can."

The sneer was back. "With what remains of your human heart, I suppose."

She braced herself, and looked within him as best she could, though she knew what it was she would find. "Your pain is still greater even than mine," she said, with sorrow.

Red Djinni stared at her, hard. "Triste...."

She ignored him. Therein lay his only safety, if Xavier thought he was no more than a casual aquaintance, not highly regarded.

Xavier seethed with anger. "You know naught of my pain! We have discussed this before, Seraphim---"

She shook her head, forstalling him. "A Seraphim no longer. My name is Triste, now."

Xavier's lips twisted in a parody of a smile. "Triste---how quaint."

Confess to weakness and mortality now. Do not let him ferret it out. Honesty and truth are your armor and weapons. "I am no longer a Celestial Flame. I am a Fire of Sorrow. And still I can sorrow for you as well as myself."

He laughed silently. "An awfuly large burden for a human is it not?" he taunted. And yet---beneath the contempt, a hint of uncertainty. She pounced upon it. Doubt was a weapon for both of them.

"And still I ask you to open your heart and soul to the voice of the Infinite," she begged, as she had pleaded before. "It calls you still!"

The contempt was gone. The anger only smouldered. But the menace---oh, that was new. And it was bent upon her. "A different voice calls me now---Triste."

She felt the dreadful power behind him, and closed her eyes, breathing very deeply, searching for a weapon against that dark force. A single tear fell from her eyes, and splashed on the roof between them.

"I know," she said, quietly. "And I hear that voice too. More strongly than you can know. It lies, Xavier."

She opened her eyes to see him start, taken aback. "How is that possible that you hear?" he exclaimed. Then defensively, added, "It does not lie, it tells me everything I want to hear, to know, it shows me the way to true power!"

"It wants me as much or more than it wants you," she said slowly. "What a prize I would be! A Seraphim among the Fallen!"

He let out his breath in a hiss. "Yes, yes, so very true---"

She had hoped for doubt, for jealousy. Unfortunately, she had given him another weapon, instead. She took a step backwards, shaking her head in denial at the dawning intelligence in his dark eyes. "No, Xavier---"

His voice took on a sinister, silken sweetness, seductive, "Think of what I can give you---"

I can give you power, the voice whispered in her heart. I can give you pleasure. I can give you dominion over these mortals. I can give you this man you love, give him to you heart and soul again.

She trembled in every limb. "It will never share its power with anything nor anyone," she replied aloud. "I will not heed it, and neither should you!"

"Oh," Xavier smiled, confident now that he had the means to take her. "But you will---"

You can have the man. Merely by snapping your fingers.

She shook her head, "Nothing you could give me would be anything but poisoned, Xavier," she replied.

I can give you myself, better than any mortal.

Red Djinni wisely moved slowly behind her, finally sensing that this creature was something other---and greater---than he had thought.

Xavier tilted his head to the side. "Why do you speak that way?" he asked, pretending hurt. "I offer you something you have never felt---"

He doubted. She had inserted doubt into his mind. But before she could follow up on her advantage---Blaze Phoenyx dropped down out of the sky in his human form, landing between Flame and Xavier.

He had no fires of his own anymore, but still, his anger was a palpable force. "That's enough," he snarled, clenching his fists at his side.

Overcome with dismay, she supressed a whimper. Behind her, Red Djinni whispered, "Steady...."

Swiftly, she strove to reclaim Xavier's attention. "I do not need to feel what you offer to know it is false---"

Too late. The burning black gaze was now on Blaze. "Who is this?" he demanded. She felt the dark power building in him to strike the interloper down.

"John Murdock," Blaze said, rage seething under his surface. "Now who the hell are you?"

Again, she interposed herself. Again, she offered the truth. "This is he for whom I sacrificed my nature," she said, voice trembling now, shaking in every limb.

Xavier smiled. "Ahh of course your---" he coughed "---sacrifice... How nice for you Mr. Murdock."

Blaze stepped forward, fists clenched. "Watch it...pal," he snarled.

"Blaze---no!" she whispered, trying once again to step between Xavier and one who stood in danger of being destroyed where he stood.

"Careful Johnny!" Red exclaimed, finally understanding that this was not what it appeared to be, "This... feels wrong!"

Xavier regarded him with an amusement that sent terror through her. "I am not of this world, Mr. Murdock, and while you may think the same of yourself, I am one with the darkest places, realms where you should fear to tread...."

"Yeah?" Blaze snarled. "You're talkin' like I give a damn."

Somehow she managed to ignite her fires, and slipped in front of him, to stand between Xavier and the two mortal men.

Her voice shook with fear and anguish, but she would not let them fall. Not while she could prevent it. "Though I can only oppose you thus, I still oopose you, Xavier," she said, her tone pleading as well as determined. "I had rather save you---I had much rather save you---but I will oppose you if I must!"

Once again, she had his attention. "There is nothing to save---" he growled.

"Xavier---I beg---" she cried, her voice full of naked pain. "Listen to that other voice! You heard it once! You can hear it again!"

Yes! Real doubt conflicted in him, Her conviction shook him! "Yes---but it has gone---"

"No!" she cried passionately, stepping forward again. "It is still there!"

He glanced away from her, as if he could not bear the anguish and concern in her face. "I now hear one voice, one dark voice and it tells me to ---" his voice dropped to a whisper. "---to do oh, such terrible things---"

She refused to allow him to take refuge in his denial. "I can hear it, even diminished!" she insisted. "You can hear it if you will listen!"

Listen! She pleaded in her heart. The voice of the Infinite calls you even now!

For she could hear it, hear the Source of all, calling for its prodigal wanderer, and the voice of her siblings mourning for their lost brother.

Djinni looked wildly from her to Xavier, to Blaze, and back to her again. "Someone please tell me what's going on here...?"

Listen to me, Xavier, she cried silently to him. Listen to that other voice. "Its power is not in strength, but in sureness!" she told him with everything she believed.

But to her horror, Xavier responded to Djinni's plea, with an evil smile. "I can no longer hear the word of God, my friend," he said, with a sinister inflection on the word "friend." "But I can hear the word of another...."

She tried desperately to reclaim his attention. "You can, and you must!" she cried.

Now, finally, too late, Djinni understood. "Holy shit...." he said quietly, taking a step back, and another, the true horror of the situation only now dawning on him.

Xavier's smile broadened. "I hear the voice of a Fallen one, much like myself, and abandoned by God."

As Djinni fell back she moved forward again, and made a gesture of denial that finally caught Xavier's attention again. "Not abandoned, Xavier!" she cried. "Never abandoned! To be Fallen does not mean you may not Rise again! It is a choice---I swear it by all that I once was!"

But he echoed her gesture with one of rejection. "I have found the way, and it is not the path edged in gold. While you still may have powers you are no longer one with the angels."

She shook her head violently. "Xavier---no---" she replied, mustering every atom of strength and conviction she had---

But Xavier had not even begun to exert his real power---and now spheres of dark force appeared, circling them, orbiting Xavier and Flame. Low cries of anguish and terror eminated from them, howls of fear and pain. She had seen these things before. He had told her they were trapped spirits, his unwilling servants---and their agony beat at her defenses, penetrated her conviction, weakened her strength.

"Feel them, the trapped souls," he whispered, his eyes fixed on her.

"---Xavier---" she choked out.

"They yearn to be free," Xavier persisted, with a terrible smile.

Behind her, she heard Red muttering at her. "C'mon darlin'... keep it together...."

But he might as well have been a million miles away. The grief of those trapped creatures joined her own grief and loss. Their pain was her pain. They were alone, abandoned, and so was she.

"But I won't let them have their freedom," Xavier murmured, now bringing the full force of his dark powers to bear on her, magnifying her sorrow a thousandfold, isolating her behind walls of agony. "Why is that, I wonder...."

In a paroxysm of grief, overwhelmed and overburdened by Xavier's power, Triste fell, sobbing, to her knees. There was nothing left for her but pain, isolation, and unbearable loneliness.

Nothing, not even the release of death---she had been abandoned, and was left utterly, completely, alone.

And then, from a far, far distance, a voice that was not xavier's. "No!" Red Djinni called. "Get up, Triste!"

Xavier interposed himself again. "They call for you---" he murmured persuasively.

"Xavier, no--" she whimpered,

"They ask you," he replied. "They need you. Come with me."

Come with me, and you will no longer be alone. You can share your pain with these, with me. I can take your pain from you. Come with me, come---

"---no---" she whispered in desperation.

From that vast distance, she sensed Blaze trying to interpose himself between them. "That's goddamned enough!" he shouted.

He might as well have been on the moon. "I will give you things you could only imagine," Xavier pledged, and she could hear the expectation of victory in his voice.

She summoned up a flicker of---not hope, because it was gone. Not joy, for that was lost in despair. A whisper of defiance. "---no---" She was crushed to the ground beneath Xavier's power. She sobbed with agony.

Again, from the far, far distance, she heard Red Djinni, his voice fraught with anguish of his own. "Triste! To thyself, be true!"

Darkness was enclosing her. There was no hope. "---no---" she gasped.

And Xavier's Dark Servant manifested, trapping her between itself and Xavier. Completely cut off from the others now, she struggled to breath. surely they would, must flee, leaving her alone with him. Yes. Yes. And she would succomb to him---

Djinni backed up a step. "What the... where'd that come from?" he exclaimed.

"There is nothing to be true to," Xavier sneered.

"Get away from her...." Djinni muttered in impotent fury, as Blaze vibrated with rage.

Xavier returned his attention to her. "Be true to me---"

I am your special charge, your first duty, whispered that voice. You have done all you need for these mortals. You sacrificed all that you were for this man Murdock, and he could not even keep his pledge to remember you, much less love you. I am steadfast, I alone. Come to me. Join with me.

Somehow, Djinni lit his fires as darkness engulfed all of them. Somehow he got past the Dark Servant to Triste's side. But darkness invaded her vision; despair was all she was. Her voice was the faintest of whispers. "...no..."

She felt someone holding her by the arms, trying to help her to her feet. It was Djinni. "Hey!" he cried, his voice cracking with fear. "Hey!"

Then, the first, tiny mistake. "Feel the anger," Xavier murmured. "It makes you stronger---"

It was not she who was angry---

It was Blaze.

"Your first and last warning." he growled, somehow shoving in beside Djinni to stand at her side. Not running. Not abandoning her. "Leave."

"Remember who you are!" Djinni cried, anguish of his own, fear---for her!---coloring his voice.

From somewhere, she found words "....anger...serves...nothing...."

"Remember..." Djinni called, and there was a note of hope in his despair. "Who you love!"

Xavier rounded on him, snarling with rage. "Love is a concept---only there is no such thing! Take my hand!" he demanded, holding it out to her. "Come with me!"

"You know that isn't true darlin'," Djinni urged, ignoring Xavier, as she fought, seized on that note of hope, and began to push back the despair. "You've felt it!"

"I need your help now---" Xavier called, changing from threat to seduction and entreaty again---but she did not, could not believe him. Dared not. And yet---she felt the pull, from Xavier, and it was strong, strong....

Despair flooded over her, and she sought and found refuge in only one place. That he had denied love. She would not fail that thing for which she had given her all.

She pushed the despair back, and raised her head a little. "---no---" she choked out.

Blaze shoved at Xavier, and every line of him told her that he would die before he let Xavier take her. "Now." he said. He did not know what he faced---but she knew that even if he did know, he would have stood to her defense anyway.

She straightened her back, and raised her head further. "---no!---" she said, her voice

"You gave up so much for love," Djinni cried. "Now hold on!"

She lifted her head enough to look Xavier in the eyes. And she did not flinch back at the look in them; angry, powerful, and determined to have her. It was not just Xavier who looked back at her. It was the Prince of Lies himself. "---no!---" she cried, denying him, and everything he was.

Now Xavier's attention was divided among the three of them, He chose to be distracted by Blaze.

"Mr. Murdock," he growled. "Do not underestimate the powers that I command---"

She threw up a hand. "NO!" she cried. Once she had commanded powers that rivaled Xavier's. Now all she had was will---

---will, and the love of her friends.

"And don't you dare think I won't boot your ass from this roof!" Blaze proclaimed, still completely without understanding what he was facing.

Xavier gathered his power around him like a cloak of shadow, and drew himself upright. "Unless you want to join the shadows that surround me, step aside," he warned, and Triste choked on fear as she sensed him about to deliver a killing blow.

But Red Djinni interposed himself. "John....," he urged. "Step back... talk to Triste!"

Blaze glanced aside, then, his eyes met Djinni's and something he read there made him turn away, step back and come to Triste's side.

Swift as a striking snake, Xavier again put the full force of his power and determination against her, making his voice a whisper of entreaty. "Come with me---" he pled. But the pressure on her of his power was not of pleading, but of demand.

She struggled to her feet, swaying beneath the force of his will. "No Xavier. NO." She held to her own will as Djinni stepped between them again.

"Get lost," he said flatly.

Blaze turned to her, taking her hand, and desperately trying to catch her gaze, that gaze that was trapped by Xavier's eyes. "Flame...remember! Please, if I'm trying, then you gotta help me!"


"I need your help," Xavier said, holding her with his eyes. "They don't need you anymore, I do. Come with me---"

"Don't know if John could've hurt ya pal," Djinni snarled. "But believe me when I say I can."

"Damned straight I could," Blaze echoed.

Could he? Or was this a bluff on Djinni's part?

It was; he knew, he sensed what Xavier was. He was giving her a moment of distraction, so she could escape the mermerizing trap of Xavier's words. She shook off his powers, drew strength from Blaze, from Djinni. and stood straight at last, frail. but unyeilding.

Once again, the contest was between the two of them, and she faced him, and proclaimed that she knew him for what he was. "That---is---a--lie. There is nothing you can give me that I would want," she continued. "Nothing!"

For a moment, his surety wavered. "Oh but there is," Xavier said, but there was a kernel of doubt as he faced her gaze. "You just don't see it---"

But Djinni looked at her with hope, and laughed. "Atta girl!" he murmured.

Blaze looked deeply into her eyes. "Stay strong." he begged.

She met Xavier's gaze, and saw doubt growing there. Doubt---it broke his hold. And she felt strength coming back. He had driven his greatest weapons against her, and she had survived them.

Now she must drive him back. "If I cannot save you, I can save myself," she told him, steadfast.

"I can give you everything," Xavier proclaimed, but his tone wavered, just the least little bit.

And at the steady look in her eyes, Red Djinni stepped back, eyes twinkling.

"You cannot give me hope---" she said, feeling the words, and feeling too the support of Blaze, and of Djinni. They had stood with her. She was not alone. Xavier's greatest weapon had been shattered. "You cannot give me joy---" she continued. "You cannot give me peace---You cannot show me the way home again---And you cannot give me love!"

Red Djinni crowed with glee.

Xavier gathered himself, and in a voice that echoed through Steel Canyon and made the whole zone fall silent, he hammered her with his will. "I need you, know, come with me! I can give you love, the love only an angel can give! You remember that love?"

Yes. She did. It was that love that had made her give all. It was not what Xavier offered. In a voice as as quiet as the whisper in the trees, she replied, "No."

He stared at her.

"Your 'love' is a poisoned thing," she said, slowly, deliberately.

"No!" he retorted, desperation now added to doubt. "That is an illusion brought on by human paranoia---I am love, I am compassion, I am strength, I need you now!"

"I was a Seraphim!" she retorted, "The angels of Fire and Love! I know what you offer, and you cannot conceal the taint from me!"

In a voice not wholly his own, Blaze suddenly turned a fiery glare on Xavier. "Enough! Warshade---you stain the earth where you walk! Be gone!"

Again, she stepped forward, holding out a hand stop Blaze and Djinni. "Blaze---John---no---" she urged, as Blaze transformed to Peacebringer.

With an clap of thunder, Xavier took on the form of a Warshade. "Mr. Murdock," he snarled. "I am afraid I can do the same."

"Yeah?" Blaze retorted. "You wanna see who's left standin' when we're through, then?"

"No---" she said, but they paid no heed to her.

"We are very similar, you and I," Xavier began---

She gathered all of her strength, and with a prayer, flung out both hands in an echo of the days when she had been Seraphic Flame.

She had not expected an answer to her silent ple