story #7 in Crimson series.
disclaimer: not mine. Nobody from Marvel is mine.
distribution: please ask first. unless I said you could have earlier parts of Crimson.
For a moment, they had simply stared at them, unwilling to accept the words. This moment was shattered by Betsy's outraged voice.
"BRIDE?!? I haven't been planning to marry anyone, and if I were, it would be Warren. What exactly makes you think I should have some union with the Crimson Dawn anyhow? Why is it not allowed on earth now?" Her questions seemed to hang in the air, echoing among the interior in a way that Warren's words had not.
The giant figure spoke, his expression showing anger. "How dare you attempt to reject this honor that the Crimson Dawn offers you? You accepted the aid of the Crimson Dawn, there is a price for that aid. You WILL enable the return of the Crimson Dawn!!"
"Look, I want to know where you get the idea that I should be this Bride..."
Betsy's angry voice was interrupted by a third figure, this one with a decidedly reptilian appearance, also bearing the mark over the left eye. "Shouting will change nothing."
"What will change things?" Warren's voice was quiet, the desperation clearly evident.
"We have been working to long, for far longer than you can imagine to secure the return of the Crimson Dawn. It is not something that we will give up on easily. But, perhaps we can reach a compromise. Come, Chosen, talk with me."
Warren found himself in a small room off to the side with the woman, uncertain of how he had gotten here, or where Betsy and Logan were located. He couldn't see the others, or hear them. He had only hope that they were alright.
She looked at him, her eyes lingering over the planes of his muscles appreciatively. "So, she has chosen you to be her mortal consort. How much does she mean to you?"
He looked at her, a bit uncomfortable with the way she was eyeing him. "Betsy is the most important person in my life. She's all I could want in a woman, and I came here to keep her from dying. What can I offer to buy back her freedom?"
The woman's lips curved into something that could only be called a smile by default. "Are you willing to die for her? To offer up your life, or a portion of it to save her? If I said that you could have her back, but only if you gave.... say, thirty years of your life, would you do it?"
"Thirty years? I... what do you mean? Like thirty years of... polishing floors?"
"No. A part of your life's essence and strength, offered to buy back her life. You will live your life as you would, but your death will be thirty years sooner than it would have been otherwise."
"For Betsy, yes. I would." Warren's voice was firm, without hesitation or doubt.
"Then we shall seal your bargain. Thirty years of your life, in exchange for her return to the mortal world." The woman stood, one hand outstretched towards him, the other holding a slightly curving bronze knife.
She passed the knife over the back of his hand, drawing a thin line of blood that welled up, and fell to the floor, creating a thin plume of smoke.
Betsy found herself in a small room with the reptilian servant of the Crimson Dawn. She couldn't feel the others, nor could she feel the woman or the giant that served the Crimson Dawn. It seemed that her bargaining would be done in private.
"Why does the Crimson Dawn need a Bride to return to earth?" There was no sense in not learning a bit more about her situation.
"The Crimson Dawn was banished by powerful sorcery. The taking of a Bride is not the same as a wedding between mortals, this is a mystical bonding. It is neccesary to bridge the worlds."
"It is changing me, in strange and alarming ways. I do not want to become something that isn't Betsy Braddock, someone that isn't myself. That seems to be what these changes are doing. I will not become someone else simply to ease the return of a mystical force." Betsy was frowning.
"You can be returned to who you once were, but the mark of the Crimson Dawn will not go away. It can be... made dormant, for a while. But there would be a price for that."
"What price?" Betsy was feeling cautious. This sounded too easy, too simple.
"The price would be the return of much of your original injury. The mark would not be removed, only slumbering within you. Can you accept this bargain?"
The shriveled figure moved to his feet, taking one of her hands in his, passing a curving blade over her palm, letting the blood drip onto the floor. He bowed over her hand, kissing the wound, and whispered a short phrase in a strange, guttural language. Bitter smoke rose from the place on the floor where her blood had fallen. "The bargain has been offered and accepted, my Lady."
Logan was in a small room, his teammates gone. The only other living, or at least moving, creature was the four armed giant. Grinning with anticipation, the giant lunged towards Logan.
They fought for a while, exchanging blows, the force of which left Logan's ears ringing, and occasional spots before his eyes. He could feel his blood pulsing, the troubles of the situation blurring away with the simplicity of the fight. He had no idea how long it lasted, neither gaining a clear advantage.
Finally, the giant stopped, his hands outstretched in what had to be a ceremonial gesture. "You are a brave warrior, and skilled. You have proven yourself. Are you willing to bargain for the woman?"
Logan sheathed his claws, sensing that the fight was over. "I'll bargain. What does the Crimson Dawn need a Bride for, and why Betsy?"
The giant shrugged, settling on a bench. "The barriers between worlds cannot be breached without a ceremonial bonding. I do not know why this woman."
Something seemed a bit off to Logan. "Have there been Brides before?"
"Yes. Each time, the Crimson Dawn has been banished back to this place. A Bride is required to return, someone given a touch of the Crimson Dawn to make a link."
"Who was the last Bride? What happened to her?"
"I do not know her fate, but the last Bride was a woman named Selene, from a city called Rome."
Logan growled slightly, not willing to let Betsy become like Selene. "What can I offer to the Crimson Dawn? I haven't taken the Essence."
"The Crimson Dawn has tasted you, through the drinking of the Bride. Each person that she tastes is tasted by the Crimson Dawn as well. You seem to have appointed yourself as a Guardian to her." There was a calculating gleam in the giant's eyes.
"So I've been snacked on. Huh... a Guardian? I suppose so." Logan's voice was thoughtful. Leaning back, he produced a cigar from his jacket, lighting it from one of the torches on the wall. Almost as an afterthought, he offered one to the giant, an offer that was accepted.
"Will you offer yourself as a surety? Will you have your life stand in for her?"
"Where would that go? What would happen if I agreed?"
"Your death would permit the crossing, just as a bonding with the Bride would create. It would remove the urgency of the Mark's demands and pressures on the woman."
"My death... I assume you mean as in a complete, final death, instead of just a bit much water, but brought back to health?" Logan wanted to know the particulars before agreeing, although this didn't sound too bad.
"Yes, your death, where the spirit has left your flesh, the heart has stilled, and your corpse has been consigned to the fate of whatever abandonment or funeral rites offered. Then, the barrier preventing the Crimson Dawn will be broken."
Logan pondered this for a few moments. Standing, he held one fisted hand towards the giant. "Fair enough. You want that sealed in blood?"
"Of course. How else will the bargain seal itself with the power of the Crimson Dawn?" With those words, one of the lower hands reached out, a curved knife held ready. The blade flashed, cutting deep into Logan's hand, spilling a spray of blood to the floor, where it sizzled and smoked.
They found themselves standing in the living room of the mansion once more, their bodies still darkened by the gritty air and smoke from the temple of the Crimson Dawn. Logan glanced at the others, catching the scent of blood from Betsy. She collapsed on the floor, her stomach oozing blood, the injuries on her stomach partially reopened. Warren caught her, the back of his hand marred by a half dried line of blood.
"So they got their pound of flesh... Best get her to the med lab as quick as possible."
They were so busy making certain that Betsy was taken care of that nobody asked Warren what had happened to his hand. Nobody but Logan noticed the scratch at all.
end Crimson Release.