Author notes: this story is based on the ‘Magik (Storm and Illyana)’ mini-series and centers on the character of Illyana Nikolaevna Rasputina. Though the Magik miniseries is more or less written in the first person, I decided to write this in the third person (even though the narrator is Illyana). Summary: Part of the ‘Samantha Stark’ universe. What if Illyana, kidnapped by Belasco, met different people in Limbo? Would that have shaped a different Magik? Warning: the Magik miniseries is dark and so is this story Rating: FR18 (I may adjust to FR21 depending on how I write some later chapters) Disclaimer: fandoms I do not own anything of
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Anything related to the Marvel multiverse
- Stargate SG-1 Reviews are very welcome.
I was born in a small house in a land so vast you could walk for days and never see another living soul. From another point of view, I was born shortly after the USSR was dismantled, replaced by the old Mother Russia. It didn’t change much for my family. We were poor farmers scraping the earth like so many before us.
However, our family wasn’t completely ordinary. We bear the name of a man who became famous in the last years of the tsarist regime. In fact, this man, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, is my great-grandfather. This is perhaps why he sought me. Perhaps he knew that, under my then childish innocence, my blood bore the corruption of a man that held pages of the Darkhold in his hands. Or perhaps he didn’t but his masters certainly knew… but I digress.
As I said, we were poor which is probably why my parents took the chance to send my brother Piotr study in America when this man with the German accent came. Later, as the situation became worse, my parents sent me rejoin him. I was six, nearly seven then.
What I didn’t know was that my departure for America marked the end of my normal life. I was soon plunged in a world of mutants, demons and sorcery. A world I never left.
I am Illyana Nikolaevna Rasputina and this is my story.
She was lurking in the shadows, watching. The landscape before her was hellish, not that it was anything new to her. She had already seen it all. What was interesting her was the scene taking place near the stone altar on the barren, volcanic plain. Near it was standing the red shape of the being she hated the most in the whole multiverse: the demon sorcerer Belasco.
He looked very much like the classical devil. Fairly human except for the small horns on his brow, the reddish skin, pointed ears, tail and, of course, the eyes that burnt with unholy fire. His clothing always reminded her of some old peplum movie, tunic and cape of crimson cloth adorned with heavy gold bracers, skull necklace and belt, his right arm always hidden by the cloak. In the old days, she probably wouldn’t have taken him seriously. In fact, she hadn’t and she had paid the price for it.
He had some demon bodyguards but they were of no consequence, just easily dispatched minions. The two other protagonists needed more attention. She knew one of them very well. She was a middle-aged redhead woman with pale, almost livid skin, clad in a burgundy robe. She also looked completely exhausted and leaned on a rock standing near the altar in the desolate plain.
“Look at her, my dear Willow,” he said to the exhausted woman. “She is so delightfully pure and unspoiled. Even Dawn wasn’t this innocent when I finally claimed her.”
His red, almost clawed hand caressed the cheek of the third protagonist, a blonde child that laid on the rock. The lurking woman forced herself to calm. She was in no good position to act now and she needed surprise. She continued to move in the darkness.
“Illyana is the perfect instrument to extend the dominion of the Elder Gods, first to her Earth, then to all others,” continued the demon.
“I… I will not allow it!” yelled Willow.
Purple lightning cascaded out of her extended hand, striking the sorcerer who merely smiled.
“Useless. Even at the height of your power you were no match for me. What hope have you now that you deny yourself so much?”
He extended his left hand on the child, saying something about awakening her to her destiny. A ghostly shape soon rose out her body, floating as she curiously watched around. A piece of her soul in astral form… she doesn’t look afraid. Yeah… just like I was that time,
thought the lurker bitterly.
“No! Leave her alone!” said Willow.
The sorcerer’s smile deepened as, under his fingers, the ghostly child started to grow, soon becoming a teen.
“Behold, Willow, the woman hidden in this child… the woman I will shape her into.”
He laughed and the ghostly child joined him, her face now distorted by malice.
“Do you remember when this was done to you? How eagerly you surrendered yourself?”
Willow averted her eyes, her face full of shame. The sorcerer’s hand moved again as he wove another spell, turning the ghost child into a small, red sphere he held delicately between his fingers.
“And now, for the finale,” he said while placing the stone in one of the five emplacements set in a golden pendant laid on the altar.
“You see, my little Willow, this medallion is what was missing when I took you and your friends. There is no escape for her. She is forever bound to me and trough me to my dread lords. Once the medallion’s pentagram is complete, the five bloodstones set in place, the dimensional walls will burst. By the way…”
He extended his hand and hit her with the same purple lightning she had used. But, where the spell had been useless against him, she was writhing in pain.
“Why so surprised? This outcome was inevitable. I am immortal while you cling so desperately to your humanity and have become frail. A pity… you were showing so much promise.”
The lurker had finally reached the correct angle and aimed carefully her crossbow. I’m going to wipe that smirk out of your face, butcher.
She fired and smirked as the bolt lodged itself in his back. She started to run, her hand reaching for the weapon in her back.
“Slayer!” yelled the demon.
He turned quickly, firing a whole cone of fire at her. The red lochaber axe in her hand swung, cutting the flames.
“That’s me,” said the dirty blonde woman in black leather holding the weapon. “The original bad penny. And as usual, your blasts cannot touch me!”
“The same my dear,” said the sorcerer, his smirk returning, “applies to you and your fabled Scythe. Till we meet again...”
She roared as the demon vanished in a blast of hellfire.
“Every time… every time I get close enough… he pulls out his disappearing act.”
Willow got up slowly and looked at the Slayer, feeling her heart ache as she saw how much her friend are changed. They had both aged of course, though not as much as they should have considering how long they had spent in that hellhole. She thought that the worse was the hair. Her friend had been particularly vain on the matter back in the old days while she now sported a wild mane of tangled hair.
“Who’s the brat?” she said while sheathing the Scythe.
“Another poor soul lured here by his honeyed words. Come nearer, it is better I transport us to my sanctum before Belasco returns with reinforcements.”
Slayer nodded while Willow took the little girl in her arms. An instant later, red light spiraled around them and they were elsewhere.
Limbo was still relatively inhabitable as far as hell dimensions go. Contrarily to some other places, it still had an atmosphere breathable for humans and the climate remained in bearable though harsh weather patterns.
The fact was that this particular hell dimension had a way to react to the whims of its master Belasco. Globally, it reacted to the state of his soul and the hellish state of the place was a reflection of its master’s darkness. Belasco had also found numerous ways to transform things in it, even though he did not have full control.
This was why this valley existed, carefully hidden in the arid mountains. It was small and one would have to fly right over it to see the lush green among the rocks, if it wasn’t hidden by several layers of intricate illusion. The ground entrance of the valley was likewise hidden, needing one to thread through treacherous caves.
Inside the valley, things changed radically. A house with bleached walls, reminiscent of the old haciendas from the Spanish period of California stood on the bank of a small lake. All around, the place basked in the scent of orange and olive trees.
A spiral of red light shone on the house’s patio as Willow and Slayer materialized here. The redhead walked softly, taking care not to wake up the child in her arms. With a small gesture, a set of doors opened, revealing a room.
Another gesture and the kid’s stained clothes were replaced by a pink pajama adorned with unicorns. Willow didn’t have to turn to know that Slayer was rolling her eyes. Ignoring her too cynical friend, she just tucked the child in bed and left the room in silence, closing the doors behind them.
“Sorry not to have intervened earlier but…”
“You wanted to try for a heart shot with a blessed crossbow bolt,” replied Willow.
“Yeah… didn’t work. The Scythe is probably the only thing that can kill him.”
“I think that’s not all, though.”
“No… who is this girl? She’s human. That shouldn’t be possible. There shouldn’t be any human left in Limbo.”
Willow raised her eyes to heaven. It had been all too easy to notice that Slayer did not include the both of them among humans anymore.
“I think he found another way… or rather another world.”
“Shit!” said Slayer while kicking a stone who fell in the water at the other end of the pond.
One of the few comforts they had in this place had been for long that Belasco was just as trapped in that hell dimension as they were. They had tried everything they could, but even with the help of the Scythe they could not hack through the barrier between Limbo and their world.
“You know that Belasco was human once.”
“Yeah, you told me he did the whole Mayor slash Ascension thing and that finally he was thrown here in Limbo. He reigns on the place but he cannot leave it.”
“But he can contact other worlds and send servants, particularly if they were mortals once. This is why… he did this to us and now to this little girl… I must break her link with Belasco.”
“Last time you did that it almost killed you.”
“I am wiser than I was, my friend.”
“There is a simpler solution.”
Willow looked at her friend with pain in her eyes. She knew all too well which solution she was speaking about. They had been nearly twenty when they arrived in Limbo. Too often already, Slayer had taken the matter into her own hands, offering their friends a quick death while there was still something left to save of their souls.
“No… enough. I will not consider it. I have observed the portal Belasco created and I think we can take advantage of it to escape this place. We will not be able to return to our Earth, but we should be able to go the girl’s.”
Willow and Slayer turned, feeling a presence observing them. A little blonde head was looking at them with fearful blue eyes, almost hidden by the slightly ajar door leading to the room they had left her.
“Willow? Buffy? What happened to you?” asked the little girl.
Willow wondered for half a second how the girl could know her but she remembered something. There had been an event back in the old days that Xander had called the Wish-verse, because it had been created by Cordelia’s wish to a vengeance demon. It had been a universe with a different history, a universe where Buffy never came to Sunnydale and she had herself become a vampire. The little girl knows us, or rather she knows other versions of us.
“I am afraid I am not the Willow you know, little one. What’s your name?”
“I’m Illyana Nikolaevna Rasputina. Are you a sorceress like Amy?” So trustful… A child with no reason to do otherwise.
“I prefer witch, but that’s the gist of it.”
“You… I mean the Willow I know isn’t. She’s younger and she told me she liked computers.”
Willow felt a stab go right through her heart. What would she have given to go back to the time before she started to dabble in magic!
The little girl advanced cautiously, never letting her eyes stray from Slayer. Willow smiled gently to her and pointed her to a seat.
“You are right, we are probably older than the people you know.”
“It is a difficult story, Illyana. What I will say for now is that, a long time ago, Belasco came to our world. He tricked us like he tricked you…”
“But he said he loved me!”
Slayer snorted, flexing her hand. She’s just a kid, only a kid. She doesn’t know,
she thought, trying to control her anger.
“He lied to you, just like he lied to us. At the time, we were facing a very bad creature and Belasco told us he would help us, show us how to beat him.”
“You’re heroes like my Buffy and Willow! Are you part of the X-Men too?”
Slayer and Willow both looked shocked at the little girl. Both had their ways, either through Slayer-enhanced senses or aura sight, to feel when people were telling the truth. The little girl had just used the word ‘X-Men’ like another would have asked if one’s dad was in the police. Is that the truth or just something she believes to be the truth? Could such a world exist? It would explain some things, though,
They both only had vague memories of the comic books they had known in a youth that was now half a century away. Xander had been the one with a lot of knowledge on the matter and he had died before the final battle against the First Evil. Xander… a stupid accident that curiously happened only a little before Belasco became really involved with us. Same for Andrew, minus the stupid accident part,
thought Slayer. Accidents my ass! He knew they could identify him and got rid of them!
“No, Illyana, we are not part of the X-Men,” said Willow. “Tell me, what was the year in your world?”
“1998,” replied the little girl. They’re barely dealing with Angelus,
thought Slayer. Well if we suppose things went the same for them as they did for us.
“Can I go back home? I want my brother.”
The name Illyana was nagging her. It was something she had forgotten, something Xander had said in a discussion about the best comic book storylines. Unfortunately, it had been more than half a century ago.
“I won’t lie to you, Illyana, it will not be easy,” said Willow. “I have an idea on how to send you back to your world, but first, I must free you of Belasco’s enchantment.”
“Oh, thank you, Willow, thank you!” said the little girl while hugging the redhead. “Will you and Buffy be coming with me?”
“No!” yelled Slayer as she struck the wall with her fist.
“I… I’m sorry Buffy.”
“Buffy’s dead! Forget her!” said Slayer as she stormed out of the garden.
“As I told you,” said Willow, “this is not easy. Come with me to your room. I will begin the spell.”
Illyana laid on her bed while Willow touched her brow, concentrating to make the link between their minds. Quickly, the witch felt her perceptions fade, replaced by others as she delved in the little girl’s soul. Good… now to find the junction between her soul and the medallion.
She felt a pinch of nostalgia as she contemplated the pure psychic landscape of the kid. She was no stranger to such journeys but she usually visited her own soul and what was deep in her was a lot less pleasant. Here I am… Goddess!
No more pure, virgin territory here, deep in the recesses of Illyana’s soul. Not even the chaotic fury of a child that did not find her bearings yet. Willow knew all too well who inspired what she saw. She had seen it more than enough in her own soul, in the places he had tainted.
Jagged spires of black stone rose under a blood red sky laced with rivers of magma. She coughed as the air was already thick with toxic fumes. She walked slowly, taking great care not to cut herself on the obsidian blades rising haphazardly from the ground. In such a short time!
“You better believe it, Willow,” said the voice coming from above.
Willow looked up and saw her. It was a blonde teen standing on a broken spire, all dressed in blood red leather.
“Give the lady a gold star! Cute, huh? Consider it a preview of what I’ll be once Belasco’s had his wild, wicked way with me. I can hardly wait.”
The girl jumped, still balancing herself without effort and Willow could now see the little things… the horns, the fangs and the eyes that burnt with unholy fire.
“This is my domain, witch and you enter at your own risk.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” said Willow while clapping her hands.
The sound of her clap resonated like thunder, extending in almost visible ripples that shattered the jagged volcanic glass under the demon girl’s feet.
“Nice move! My turn!”
Willow winced as she saw the obsidian shards cease their fall to become a torrent aimed at her. She hastily raised a shield that took the most out of the attack. Still, she was now bleeding from several places. I underestimated Belasco…
“A pity… if you did not maintain the most of your power sealed, this might be a fair fight,” said the demon.
Willow raised another shield to block another rain of shards. Something was wrong. She was tiring out too fast.
“And another gold star! Yep, it’s leeching your white magic and powering up my own spells… remember old bat, my place, my rules!”
The smoke was becoming heavier almost… no, not almost. It was now solid, its tendrils lacing around her limbs while cold spread through her body with every second of contact. She fell on the ground, feeling her strength abandon her.
“So frail… I could kill you so easily,” said the demon girl as she exited the smoke. “But I’d rather not. Let me help you to be yourself again, the true Willow that was awakened by Belasco’s kind touch.”
The demon girl caressed Willow’s face and with thanked the fact there was no mirror here. She knew what that tingling in her skin meant. She knew that her hair was darkening, her skin covering itself with black veins, the blue of her eyes falling into pitch black darkness.
The witch knew she had little time. The corrupted persona was too powerful for her normal power. Pardon me, Tara…
She found that dark place in her soul she had reached for the first time after the death of her beloved Tara. It was a place Belasco had cultivated, a place she usually kept under a tight seal.
Power suffused from her in black, icy waves that ate the psychic landscape. She rose, feeling her energy come back.
“This is what I meant! Show me your beautiful self!”
“There is no beauty here, changeling.”
The black light escaping her was reducing the obsidian spires into nothingness. She saw the demon girl cease to smile to concentrate on her defense. Good, it was her time to smile. It wasn’t something pleasant. It was the cruel smile of someone who found joy in the suffering of others. Maybe there is beauty here after all…
She winced as she realized the feelings creeping through her mind, whispering unholy thoughts. She didn’t have any more time. Sighing, she broke the spell, fleeing back to her own body.
“I suppose it didn’t work?” said Slayer as she helped her friend to set on a chair on the terrace.
“At least you’re still alive, but…”
Willow took a strand of her hair and held it in front of her. While not pitch black, it was a now a noticeably darker shade of red than her usual.
“A few hours of meditation and I will be all right again.”
“You’re playing with fire. One day you will be lured to call on it again and you’ll lose yourself.”
“I know, just as I know that this day, your blade will end me before I can go to him like a good little sycophant.”
Willow looked at her friend. A long time ago, Buffy Summers had been the rock against which they all leaned. She had done what was right, been a hero even if it cost her the ultimate price. Belasco had been subtle when he twisted her. He had played on her desire to protect and made her harsher, made her think things like ‘I dirty my hands so they don’t have to’. After she took in the power the Shadow Men offered her, using the tricks Belasco taught her to keep her mind, she didn’t care anymore about morality, only about objectives.
She walked to the house’s kitchen and started to prepare hot chocolate, Slayer in her steps. She needed that sweetness after the icy cold of Illyana’s mindscape.
“Do you want some?”
“No. What’s next?”
“I cannot heal her of that taint, but I can teach her to control it, just like I did.”
“You know what that means, right? You will have to teach her magic. You realize the risks?”
“What other choice do I have… and don’t even think about telling me to murder the kid in her sleep to save her soul.”
“That’s insane… the more she will know, the more powerful she becomes. It will be easier and easier for Belasco to find ways to corrupt her. Just like he did with you.”
“Buffy,” she replied slowly. “I know that. I know what magic cost me and what I did because of it. You’re not the only one who lost her humanity that day! The difference is that I fight every day to regain little pieces of mine. You don’t. You just turned your hate toward him. What will you do if you manage to kill him? Find another target?”
“There will always be evil to fight. And you… what will you do? Claim this realm?”
“Maybe… because maybe I could heal Limbo as a whole instead of just this little valley.”
“Or fall and become just another demon mage.”
Willow didn’t reply. She just filled another mug of hot chocolate and set it in front of Slayer with a box of cookies.
“We agree to disagree?” asked the redhead witch.
“Humph!” replied Slayer while taking a cookie.
The witch could only smile as she watched her friend slowly eat the treat, her eyes hidden by her messy hair.
“I need to sleep a little,” said the warrior woman. “We’ll talk again tomorrow.”
“You’ll be at your usual place?”
Slayer nodded slowly as she took the mug and the box with her. Willow watched her leave the house and walk in the woods. This was another thing that had changed, another poisoned gift of Belasco. Contrarily to Buffy, Slayer only suffered the trappings of civilization and felt more at ease in the wilds.
Willow finished her chocolate and took stairs spiraling downwards, in the rock where her laboratory lied. She needed to meditate to get her taint back into control.
Illyana woke up, trying to shake off that strange nightmare she had last night. She did not want to think about the mean, older Illyana she had seen in it, not after what she did to Willow.
She saw that someone had laid clothes for her, a nice little sundress that matched the blue of her eyes, a pair of flat shoes and some clean underwear. She went to dress up but stopped.
“Ew!” she said as she held her pajama at arm’s length.
She started to explore and smiled as she noticed the nearby bathroom. The adventures of the day before had really left her stinking. She observed the shower and nodded as she noticed it was a rather standard model. She washed quickly, as she had been used to at her parent’s home were hot water was sparse. She felt with delight the grime and oil come out of her hair and dried up. There was a dressing table in her room and she spent some long minutes to brush her hair after she had dressed.
“A lot better,” she said while looking at her reflection.
Her hand followed the curve of her face, wondering once again about this older Illyana Belasco had shown her. She wasn’t in a hurry to grow up but… She banished the thought and walked out of her room, wandering through the house. She soon heard noises she knew very well. Someone was busy cooking. She smiled as the noise suddenly become accompanied by the smell of pancakes.
“Good morning, Willow,” she said as she saw the redhead busying herself in the kitchen.
“Good morning, Illyana. Please, sit down, this will be ready in a short while.”
“Buffy… I mean Slayer is not here?”
“She doesn’t like to stay in houses too much. She will probably be back later. You don’t have any problem to call her Slayer?”
Willow put the pancakes on the table and sat in front of the child.
“No,” said the little girl while she started to eat. “It’s like my brother Piotr. He has a second name too: Colossus.” Now this is more familiar!
“Do you know how you arrived here in Limbo… I mean on that altar with Belasco?”
“I’m not sure. I think we were already in Limbo for a while. I was so afraid when we ran in the tunnels. Finally, Buffy’s Dad managed to beat the monsters, making them all burn in blue light while Amy opened a gate to go back home.”
Willow frowned. She had not met Hank Summers many times but, though enough to have a rather poor opinion of the man, particularly after he didn’t even come to Joyce’s burial. The main problem was that he was a normal human, not a magic user. Unless… unless their Buffy…
“Tell me Illyana, who is your Buffy’s Dad?”
“That’s easy. He was the one who came to seek my brother all those years ago. He has a German name… Lehnsherr, Erik Lehnsherr. But he also has a second name like Slayer or my brother. That’s Magneto.”
Willow thanked the fact a night of meditation had left her serene enough not to do a spit-take. She could barely wait to tell this to ‘her’ Buffy. Oh dear… all the things that must have turned differently because of that simple fact: Joyce married a different man. More than that: she married Magneto. Does that mean…
“Illyana, does your Buffy have powers?”
“Yes… I’m not sure which ones though. She told me it was complicated because she was the first mutant Slayer.”
This time Willow choked on her tea.
“Are you all right?” asked Illyana.
“Yes… I am just a little surprised. We do not have mutants on my world.”
“I wonder what kind of powers I will have. Doctor McCoy said I had the X-gene. I suppose I will have to wait. For my brother it didn’t come until he was thirteen.”
“You spoke about Amy. Is that Amy Madison?”
The kid nodded while continuing to wolf down her pancakes.
“Do you know how she managed to open a gate out of Limbo?”
“No, sorry. I just know it’s something she has learnt with the Sorceress.”
“She lives in Sunnydale like us, but not at the school. I never met her but Amy is her apprentice.”
Willow was busy reading on a lounge chair on her house’s terrace. She had left Illyana take a nap after a morning spent teaching her some basics about magic.
“You have started to teach her,” said Slayer, coming out of the woods.
“I have… will you oppose me?”
“Last night, I had a Slayer dream for the first time in fifty years. Holy… her world, it’s real. The X-Men, the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and all the rest. It’s not exactly like the comics but it’s real and we have doubles there.”
“You seem to be Magneto’s daughter there,” said Willow with a smirk.
“Figures… at least he would have believed me when I spoke about vampires back in Hemery rather than send me to the madhouse like Hank did. The kid is the key. I will go away for a few months, see what I can discover about Belasco’s portals. Make sure she stays fit. I will start to train her when I’m back.”
“You don’t oppose me teaching her magic?”
“No… I know it’s risky but we’re barely a nuisance for Belasco at the moment. I want that to change.”