Every time she stepped into that arena she wondered, the city was never the same, the faces in the crowds were never the same, but the images racing through her mind, they were the same.
Marie saw him then, the beautiful man she had loved, the man who had killed himself through her, Alex. His own life was not the first one he had taken that night; there was a woman, Lorna, the beautiful angelic Lorna, mutant name Polaris, the love of Alex’s life, the reason for his despair, and the woman for whom he took his life.
To be with her, to be near her once more, and though Marie believed in precious little, she believed in them, in a love strong enough to transcend the planes, a union that surpassed time and motion, that offered peace and redemption.
It was an emotion she had known precious little of, only the remnants of the love that had existed between Alex and Lorna remained and had embedded itself to her memory, permanently etched there, at times she felt it was beyond cruelty, taunting her with a promise of a sentiment she had never, and could never have experienced.
And she wondered what it was to kill the one thing, the one person that was loved beyond life itself.
Alex’s life was a movie reel that played repeatedly in her mind whenever she felt the need to dredge his soul from the depths that was her haunted mind. He had been a fighter, a hero, a leader of an underground movement, before his capture he had commanded a unit of expert mutants that sought to redress the balance, which sought freedom and justice for their kind.
Lorna had been his first love, he had been hers, and they both had been betrayed, their unit ripped apart, their efforts rendered useless, their punishment was to be separated, scattered to the various brutal camps, destined to never meet again, destined never to touch, to love, or to hold each other again.
But fate, oh fate is the cruellest mistress, it holds us forever enthralled in its far reaching tendrils, and it batters us in its cruel winds, we are useless, we are forlorn against it.
The various mutant camps ran fighting dens, ran competitions where mutants were pitted against each other, later on that would expand to include the worst sorts of human society, the lowest, the criminals, society had at last found a novel way of ridding themselves of those that would not obey the law.
They literally killed two birds with one stone, they would toss them into the cages, the whole turned into a blood thirsty sport, a spectacle for the depraved, the one time it was perfectly legal to watch a mutant rip apart a human.
And occasionally these fighting dens travelled, bets were made against rival camps, and the whole would pack up like a demented travelling circus and arrive at another arena, where money would be exchanged on fights, on life and death.
Tournaments would be set up, and the spectacle would last for days, weeks even, until the strongest remained, until the need for killing, the thirst for blood was quenched.
It was here, in amongst the steel cages, in amongst the dirtied floors that cruel fate intervened, Lorna was drawn to battle against Alex. A fight to the death, there was no other, nothing else to be done.
She had understood perfectly their situation even as the steel doors slammed shut behind them, she had screamed for him to attack, knowing, always knowing that either one of them died this night, or intervention from the humans meant they both did. She had goaded him into attacking, had pushed him through bitter lies, telling him he meant nothing to her.
And in the end as he held his broken love in his arms she whispered what he had always known, she whispered her love to him, and had confirmed it with a tender kiss, a last breath brushing past the tears on his cheek.
Lorna had transcended that night, left all the misery and the ache of this world behind, only to be joined later that night by Alex, through her, through Marie he had found his release, and in those moments, that remnant of peace derived from their love she could forgive him.
That memory had been her saving grace, the bald-headed cripple she had been sent to kill, Professor Xavier, he had probed her mind, and he had seen in this, this death at least she was innocent.
They were the new freedom fighters; they were the heroes, fighting for the mutant kind, fighting for justice.
And they did it all in his legacy, in his name, in his memory they fought on, led by Alex’s brother, Scott and guided by Xavier, they fought, won and lost, died and were reborn.
Join us, he had hammered the single mantra into her head, join us and I promise you freedom, join us and be free, fight with us, stand with us, seek redemption, forgiveness and accept solace.
This is the promised.
She wore a Kimono, a pitch black silky material that flowed effortlessly over her curves; it was covered with flowers, the Japanese weeping willow, blood red flowers that accentuated the black background against which they were set.
In her hands she held a beautiful black ornate scabbard, sheathing a deadly blade, a weapon forged by expert hands, deadly metal shaped by ancient Japanese swordsmanship. She stepped into the arena, her hair falling about her in waves, the white bands covering her face, she stood under the spotlight, the crowds cheered, her head remained bowed and her features remained hidden.
She waited for her opponent, waited to prove herself once more, here in this arena, she fought the bitterness that climbed into her heart, beat against the words Xavier had tried to imprint on her troubled mind.
There was no redemption for the likes of her, to fight against the humans was futile, there was no freedom, there was no solace.
There was only death. This is the promised.
An unholy silence descended on the arena, her opponent was coming, and the one with whom she would fight to the death. They cheered louder for him, it was only natural, this was his camp, and these, if such a thing could be believed were his fans.
The whole stadium was plunged into darkness, waiting for that perfect moment when he would step into the cage and the lights would finally reveal the two fighters. All she knew of him was the mutant name they had given him, Wolverine, and all he knew of her was the mutant name they had given her, Rogue.
Her eyes, sought through the dark, she barely made out a large, muscled figure step through the steel cage door, heard the heavy scraping of his feet and his breathing, shallow, calm breaths, like her he was a seasoned fighter, a pro.
The deafening hum of the cage being electrified was what signalled the lights to be turned on dramatically, and she saw something of him at last. He had his back turned to her, naked from the chest down she took in the impressive muscles of his back.
He wore only a pair of dirty jeans, his feet were bare, the pants being the only thing that covered him at all. She narrowed her eyes, what sort of mutant had powers that allowed him to step into the arena completely unarmed and exposed like this?
The roars of the crowds threatened to deafen her, but she had learnt long ago to dismiss their noises, their pathetic baying for blood was always the same, the cities changed, the arenas changed, faces changed but the noise, the calls for death were always the same.
He turned to face her at last, and her world collapsed.
There was no forgiveness, no redemption, no faith…only this, fate, cruel fate…the unrelenting mistress of us all.
This was the promised.