Gods and Monsters

AUTHOR: Kibou No Tenshi

RATING: Unrated

SUMMARY: "This story turned out to be about qualified success. A pyrrhic victory. Both god and monster; white knight and dragon; Magnus acheived peace, and the recognition as savior he craved, but it was at the cost of human life. At the cost of the world."

'How can one man be both dragon and shining knight?' - X-Men: Magneto War

"His name shall be sung for eons to come; will be written in letters of gold on the pages of history. He will be covered with wreaths of violets, for he was faithful to his people, and rosemary, for he shall be remembered," Anna read in her high, clear voice, stumbling over the more difficult words, "His name meant great and it was a portent of his destiny. He was chosen above all to lead our people to freedom. Magnus."

"Very nice, liebchen," her grandmother praised, "You read beautifully."

"I wish I knew what I was reading," Anna complained, her rosebud-mouth askew, "Could you explain the story to me, grandma, in English?"

"With pleasure," she picked up a fluffy, blue ball of yarn, casting on with surprising nimble fingers. The clickety-clack of the wooden needles provided a pleasant counterpoint to her soft, accented voice. It was a ritual as old as their relationship, lips knitting the strands of a story together as hands did with yarn.

"Long ago, I lived in a land where people had forgotten how to love each other. They remembered how to hate though, as surely as they remembered how to fight, fear and kill. Most especially, however, they hated anyone different to them. Consequently, when the presence of people with superpowers was made known to them, they were very afraid. After all, if you were just an ordinary person who could not fly or see into people's minds, wouldn't you be scared if you were told that your neighbor could turn into stone or could destroy a building with a single thought? Wouldn't you want to protect your children? It was into this world that Magnus came; somewhere where mutants were seen as both gods and monsters by those who did not understand them. In this sleeping, dark land, Magneto dreamt a dream for all of us. He conceived of peace and freedom for his people; a kingdom where we could live in harmony for a thousand-thousand years. Earth had been completely colonized by humanity by then, but the endless expanse of space belonged to no man or mutant. Using the technology of an alien race - called the Shi'ar - and engineers carefully selected for their loyalty to him, Magnus built a paradise on an asteroid which he had brought into orbit around the earth. A few years later, when hatred of mutants became law - when Operation: Zero Tolerance was in full force - the Exodus began. Streams of mutants travelled to Tintagel, some bringing with them little more than hopes and the clothes on their backs."

"Were you among them, grandma?" Anna asked, interrupting. Her blue eyes were rapt as she looked up at the elderly woman.

"Nein, liebchen," she shook her head, "I arrived much earlier; My parents were among the first settlers in our new land. My grandfather insisted that we join him on the asteroid, when he saw which way the tides were turning on the planet."

"Your grandfather?" the girl sounded surprised, "You've never mentioned him before in your stories."

"Ist wahr, Anya. After my mother was widowed, when I was six years old, she avoided my grandfather, refusing to allow me to see him. Mother blamed him for my father's death, I suppose. I remember parts of him though - being swung up on strong arms, higher than I could have thought possible, then swooping down to earth again. I also recollect him tucking me into bed at night and planting a kiss on my forehead, telling me that Tintagel was my birthright. However, most of all, I remember his eyes - they looked like they had seen so much pain, and I recall wishing that I could brush it away with one touch of my hand," her eyes grew shadowed with memory, "But that is irrelevant to my tale. Where was I?"

"You were telling me about the mutants?" Anna prompted.

"Ah, yes. I watched the refugees through the high, glass windows of the shuttle bay as they arrived. They looked so poor, unhappy and hungry, yet I laughed because I knew with the undying, unquenchable optimism of a child that their misery would soon be ended. Tintagel was paradise for a few short months. How can I describe the wonder that I felt as a child when I saw it? It was an electronic fairyland with its silver steel and twinkling lights. The thrum of the machinery was my lullaby the first night I slept there, murmuring promises to me of paradise. The parks and cooperative vegetable gardens seemed like all the jungles in the world when I walked through them. Best of all there was finally peace after decades of war. How could I have seen that the worst was still to come? After a few months of harmony, the paranoia of the human governments became too great and they declared war against us. We were not warriors, Anna, as they believed. We were children and artisans; babies and farmers. The next year was hell. I recall the relentless missiles launched against us; the hunger as our crops could not supplemented from Earth; the blackouts to try and escape their endless attacks. The war affected us all - most families lost at least one member. In my case, it was my father. He died sheltering me from the shrapnel of a missile that exploded near our quarters. His speed was not enough to save him. . . . I remember him running down the hall with me in his arms, faster than I could have dreamed, until the world was a blur of silver and black. I recall the sudden jerk as he was struck in the back of his skull by a flying piece of metal, then him falling. When the dull thud of the bombs had finally given way to an uneasy silence, I crawled out from underneath his limp body, unable to believe that he was dead. Oh, Anna, six is too young to lose one's innocence! It was then that Magnus realized that they would never leave us in peace. That our freedom was as false as the air which we breathed, tainted with iron. He would not tolerate that. Some call it pride; others call it revenge; most call it concern for his people. The end result was the same. Using his control of the electromagnetic spectrum, he turned Earth's nuclear missiles against them. The entire population of Earth, destroyed in one brilliant, flash of energy, while we watched from our cosy asteroid! Tintagel was saved, mutantkind was free, but at what price?" she was silent for a long while, "That is why they say Magnus is a hero; why they sing his praises from East Wing to West; why he will always be remembered. Yet, it is up to future generations of Tintagelleans to decide whether it will be as a god or a monster. Or both."

"And you, grandma Luna, what do you think?" Anna asked, curiously.

The old woman stood, leaning on her cane and slowly walking to the window. Her eyes jumped from star to star, coming to rest on the wasted planet that shone like an opal in the black-velvet of space. From here, there were no signs of the atomic winter that held the planet in its icy grip. The enormous cities that had become graveyards overnight. It seemed that far beneath the milky clouds, people still scurried from place to place, and that nature was as lovely and mutable as ever. Her mouth twisted.

"About the man, I am not sure, but I do know that for one sunset, or one wild daisy, I would trade all this," Luna Maximoff-Wagner blindly swept her arm to indicate the asteroid, "I would trade the prison of Tintagel, for Earth and its chains."