Summary: No one in Carlos Javier's merry band of heretics thought to inquire into the nature of Sister Wanda's vows.
Thank you: To resolute for beta and valuable suggestions. All mistakes are mine!
Author's Notes: This story is inspired by events in the main line of Marvel comics, as well as the 1602-universe. Title and epigraph come from Book 7 of Ovid's Metamorphoses. The speaker is Medea, a powerful witch and lover of Aeson. While she is best known as a tragic character who killed her own children when Aeson betrayed her, Ovid portrays the young Medea as a heroic, if somewhat ambiguous, figure.
Warning: Suggestion of light, consensual brother/sister incest
Title, Author and URL of original story: Awakening by aphrodite_mine
At my chant, the chariot of the Sun-god, my grandsire,
grows pale: Aurora, at my poisons, dims her morning fire.
On the first night she spent alone in the New World -- the first night after Father Enrique sailed away without a warning or the slightest leave-taking -- Sister Wanda dreamed, again, of the golden bird.
You have done well, my child, echoed the bird's rich burning voice. It curled its neck and raised its wings, and Wanda remembered the fires of Domdaniel, the procession of witchbreed who had passed by her into its flames, with their eyes she had never dared to meet.
"I have done nothing," Wanda answered.
The bird bent its head down toward her. Its breath was hot on her skin. The Inquisitor set sail for Newfoundland and found his way to Virginia.
"It was a happy chance."
You play with chance. It is your gift. The bird flamed brighter, and in its midst Wanda began to see a face. Sometimes, in her dreams, the bird had Enrique's face. Sometimes it looked like her Aunt Agatha, who had taught her so much. But while those faces were old, this one was young. While those always looked on her with some measure of kindness, this green-eyed girl sneered. It is not much of a gift you have, Sister Wanda. It has not done anyone very much good.
"I brought Enrique here," Wanda answered. "And he helped to save the world."
Yes, indeed, young one. Thank you for saving this world. And then the face of the green-eyed, red-haired girl dissolved in the light, dissolved in laughter and fire. Thank you for saving it for me.
During the nights in the Roanoke Colony, Wanda dreamed of the golden bird.
During the days, she sought about for ways to make herself useful. It was midsummer-hot now, but winter would come. When Wanda volunteered that she had some skill as a weaver, she was able to acquire a loom for her own quarters, and set to work making heavy cloth. Her brother Petros sat at her feet, the yarn wrapped around his hands, where he whistled bawdy songs he had learned at the Scottish court, and tried to tease her into laughter.
"The other boys, you know. Javier's witchbreed heroes, his Changing Ones. They believe you adhere to your prayers and your vows only to vex them."
"Why should they be bothered by my prayers?" Wanda frowned down at the loom, and didn't look at her brother. She had abandoned her nun's habit as a concession to Javier's boys. Many side glances, especially from Werner, told her that it echoed too much of Spain. But to insist she must give up all she had learned, all she had believed. . ."Did not Sir Richard declare that every soul here should be free to worship -- or not to worship -- as much and as far as they choose?"
Petros laughed and leaned back against her stool. The ruff of his stark white hair tickled her arm as her hands moved on the shuttle. "I do not imagine that your prayers or your soul enter much into it. I simply assume that such a collection of heroes would believe the only unmarried white woman between fourteen and seventy, within five hundred leagues, was destined for one of them."
"I am destined for no man," she answered crossly. "And you are wrong about those boys. Master Robert has set his cap for that Indian witchbreed you rescued from the Spanish missionaries."
"Oh, yes, Maria. The little girl he cannot touch." A bitter laugh. "That should go well."
"If you believe that will cause him to desire her less. . ." Petros' smile twinkled in the depths of his blue eyes, and his fingers danced up her arm, over the light cloth of her borrowed dress. She shook him off and turned back to her weaving. "If you believe that," she said severely, "then you know very little of the ways of men in love. Speaking of which, I assure you that Master Henry is more interested in roaming the countryside, giving Latin names to the plants and birds than in marriage, or at least than marriage to me. And as for Werner and Scotius. . ."
But her pronouncement regarding those two gentlemen would have to wait, because Petros had gotten to his feet and, hands still wrapped in a skein of wool, pressed his mouth against his sister's. Wanda had to gasp for breath at first, but once she had caught it, she let him go on until he lowered his hands and started to extricate himself from the yarn, at which point she ducked away and got to her feet. "Petros," she said softly and then, at his eager, hungry gaze, "Holy orders or no, I could never marry you under the laws of any land."
"Then it is good we live under none." Hands free now, he touched her shoulders and began to kiss her again. Since the Inquisitor had left them, Petros took it as a point of great pride that he did not believe in anything.
Wanda permitted the liberty for a moment longer. She had found it calmed him more than an outright refusal. And since the act stirred nothing in her, surely, it did no harm to the promises she had made.
Then, she took a step back and looked into his eyes. "My vows, brother."
His gaze hardened and then a white blur moved in and out of her sight. When she looked again, the loom was empty and a white cloth folded in her chair. Petros stood in front of her, arms crossed. "Your blasted weaving is finished. Do you know what torture it is to watch you move so slow?" Before she could answer, he was at the door, looking back. "Find someone else to hang on your every word. I think I'll run west this time. Don't wait."
"I hope that you find the one you seek, brother." But when the words left her mouth, Petros had already gone.
After the seventh time that Wanda asked Master Summerisle if he could think of any way for her to help out, he sighed that he was about to go check the fences around the pasture. She said, eagerly, that she would get her traveling cloak. He looked at her in a moment's bewilderment, then pretended he had meant it as an invitation.
The sun was lowering, by then, and a breeze blew off the inlet. But it was still a long walk on a hot day, and they made most of it without speaking, until Scotius said. "You've nothing to atone for, you know."
"Oh, I am accustomed to walking. I am Romany by birth, remember -- Or, at least, the Rom raised me." When his forehead wrinkled over the ruby-bright visor, she offered hesitantly, "You'd say 'Gypsy'."
"I know who the Rom are. I --" Scotius stopped and struck at a railing in the fence with his walking stick, but it seemed to hold. He turned back to her. "I didn't mean you shouldn't atone by walking. I’m glad of the company, and I'm certain you can handle it. I meant -- that is --" He scratched the back of his neck, looked around, then the words came out in a rush. "Hal says you're keeping to your orders, which seems perhaps to be excessive considering we haven't even a priest in this colony much less a Church and whatever happened to you, whatever you were part of, it is over now and no one of us is asking you to keep punishing yourself."
"Do you want to marry me?" she asked.
He turned to stare at her. "I am sorry, Sister, but I must confess, I have great difficulty understanding you at times."
"Petros said that Javier's pupils all object to my vows because you think I should be married. I was wondering whether you thought --" Seeing his discomfort at the topic, she added, "Not necessarily to me, but -- do you think that you will marry one day?"
"I have considered that, perhaps, as we work to build this new land, it might be a duty --"
"A duty," Wanda repeated. "Not a desire."
"Not --Not anymore. There was a girl once but --" Scotius shook his head, then took a long look at her face. Wanda remembered something Henry had said, that the power behind Scotius's eyes could be the sun to a new planet. When he spoke, there was a new hardness in his voice. "Is that why you took your vows. Duty? Not because you enjoyed seeing your own kind burn at the stake?"
"No," she said. "I did not take pleasure in it. But I did do it. I made that choice."
He stepped toward her and looked down into her eyes. "Did you want to kill those people?"
"No," said Wanda. "I wanted to live."
"Well, then." Scotius clapped a hand on her shoulder and said, "There is no sin."
Then he turned on his heel and walked ahead of her in a way that brooked no discussion, as though even imagining the slightest doubt about the subject might invite too much pain.
The person Wanda wanted most to help, and struggled most to find a way, was Carlos Javier. She did not have the strength to carry him, as Henry did. She could not run or fly to carry his messages, and she could hardly have replaced Scotius’s skill in transmitting his commands to the others, even if she had wanted such a thing.
Besides, there was hardly an opportunity to speak with him as Javier spent most of his days in the lodging Ananais Dare had given him, with books and parchment, murmuring to himself. Wanda did not think that he was praying, but she found herself too shy to approach the man in his study. She had never gone to Enrique unless he called for her.
But one evening when Henry had carried Javier out to take the air, Wanda slipped into the room, thinking she might discover a task that could use her assistance – cutting quills for his writing, or replacing a burnt out candle.
She did not intend to give in to the temptation to stop at his desk. He was a learned man, and whatever he was writing might not be for everyone’s eyes. But she stopped short to see that the scratchings of his pen and parchment were not words at all, but a long line of complicated figures. Wanda moved close and put her hand to the paper.
She could not say how much time had passed when she heard Henry’s telltale cough at the door. “Are we – disturbing your orisons, fair nymph?”
The blood rose to Wanda’s face as she realized she had been crouched over the desk, her penhand moving furiously. “I am so sorry!” she said, but when she turned, she saw that young McCoy’s eyes twinkled in amusement. He set Javier down in his chair, and drew the blanket over his lap.
Javier’s eyes, as always, were hard and dark, but Wanda did not fear them.
“I was only interested in your figures. Here you see –“ She pointed, and both Henry and Carlos leaned forward to look. “It’s only a small number off, the first time, but if you repeat the calculation and repeat it. The end result is something quite different. Numbers are odd things that way, not nearly so well-behaved as one might think they should be.” When Henry looked up again, his eyes shone in new admiration. Wanda flushed and ducked her head. “My aunt always said so, that is. I learned reading and writing from Enrique, but my aunt taught me to figure.”
“Your aunt,” Henry asked, “did she belong to the same order as you?”
“Yes.” Wanda nodded. “Agatha Harkness, of Wundagore. I had my vows from her.”
“Henry.” Javier raised his gaze slowly from the parchment. “Will you go to the kitchen and ask young Virginia if she is willing to share some of that excellent tea I can smell her brewing?”
Knowing a dismissal when he heard one, the boy made a little bow toward Wanda, and scampered from the room with surprising grace. Now Javier turned his eyes onto her and said quietly, “These vows you have taken, Sister Wanda. I am beginning to believe they must have been quite extraordinary."
She put a soft hand on his shoulder, as she used to do for Enrique, and said softly, “It is rather curious,” she admitted, “that no one – not the Inquisitor, not one boy in your merry band of heretics, not even my brother – has thought to inquire what my vows consisted of.”
A smile stole across Javier’s face, but was gone as quickly, and he looked down. “Your work seems flawless – and, if true, it troubles me greatly. I would like to discuss it with you further, but it only seems fair that I should ask, if you have any questions for me.”
“Only one,” she asked him. “Who was the girl?”
For the first time, Wanda saw Javier's dark eyes soften, and he looked immeasurably sad.
"We called her John Grey. Now, I fear, we must call her Phoenix."
That night, Wanda dreamed of the phoenix-bird, but this time, she was prepared.
When the great bird arched its neck and spread its wings, Wanda reached out to grab a handful of feathers. It turned its haughty gaze on her, How dare you lay your mortal hands. . .
Her skin burned, but she let the pain spread through her hand, and as the animal eyes looked on her in disbelief, they became the green eyes of the girl. The feathers in Wanda's hand became strands of copper hair.
"How dare you --?" came the voice, but now it was only the girl who spoke.
"I know who you are," Wanda answered. "I know your true name. Jeanne Grey."
“How dare you call me that mortal name! I am Phoenix. I am endless, and --”
“I know you,” Wanda said again. “I have always known you, I think. Since I was a girl, you have always been a part of this dream. Both of us have been part of it. But for a long time, I did not know your name. I could not see your face, until. . .”
“Until I died? Or should I say? Until Javier killed me?”
“Javier warned me you were a creature of lies!” Wanda cried. "Javier loved Jeanne Grey. So did Master Summerisle. . .and . . .and Werner, I think.”
“Oh, yes. All of them loved me. So very much. Javier loved me like a child, gave me books and toys, and pretty clothes to play dressup. Scotius loved me so much he longed to touch and Werner so much that he did not dare. They loved me so much they used me and burned me and threw me back to the sea, but you, you clever girl. You steered the Inquisitor's ship to this shore. You helped me find them again.”
The flame burned away and nothing remained but the white teeth of the bird girl’s smile.
Wanda sat up in bed, the cold sweat clinging to her skin.
Three days. If the figures she and Javier had worked out were correct – and Wanda knew they were correct; they burned in her soul -- the arrival would come in three days.
“Will you be ready?” Javier had asked her.
Wanda wished that she knew.
It was the morning of the third day and the Changing Ones were playing a game in the courtyard.
Scotius had broken them into sides. They had to make it from one side of the square to another. His team -- himself and Petros -- was only allowed to use a portion of their powers. Wanda and Robert had to use all of theirs.
Wanda hated this game. Petros dashed and feinted at her, and she tried to disrupt him with her baubles of light. His smile when she missed almost a sneer. "Come my little witch," he called, zipping past her. "Hit me with your hex bolts."
Wanda hated this game like she hated her brother's silly name for her silly power.
Yet it was something to do. Wanda could almost forget that the third day had come.
And then, as they worked at their game, the Angel fell from the sky.
"Werner!" Wanda cried, and Petros zipped to kneel beside the boy's still body. He touched Werner's face and looked to the sky, mouthing prayers he no longer believed.
The other boys ran ahead, while Wanda tripped after them, ankles caught in her damnable skirts. She arrived only on in time to hear Scotius pronounce, "Dead."
Out of instinct, Wanda placed her hand on her brother's shoulder and, though they had not spoken three friendly words together since that day at the spinning wheel, he covered her hand with his. Then she raised her eyes and saw the figure walking toward them, red hair on her shoulders like seaweed, her body rose-white and unclothed.
Even then, Wanda did not want to believe.
"What devil is this?" she asked her brother.
But she knew.
The rubies on Scotius' eyes gleamed. The devil-bird-girl said his name.
He answered with hers. A French name, a woman's name, but his Scottish tongue turned it into something else, turned it into the name of a boy he thought dead. "Jeanne," he called her. It sounded like John.
Henry stepped out of the house, Javier cradled in his arms, and the old man moaned, "I was afraid it would come to this."
Wanda turned to him, and their eyes met. Javier's voice sounded in her mind. Now.
She stepped between Scotius and Jeanne Grey, and placed her hand on the girl's pale burning throat.
And everything went white.
They stood alone in an empty room. Somehow, Wanda wore the scarlet robes she had discarded. The girl who was a bird who was a demon wore nothing, but Wanda could not make out her body, only the blinding brightness.
The Scarlet Witch raised a hand to shield her eyes. "Am I to fight you now?"
She could hear the curl of the lip in the bird girl's voice. "Don't you know? Then step out of the way. You led me here, now you're no concern of mine. I came for the boy." Wanda saw an image of Scotius, the jewels ripped from his eyes, all the light poured into the golden bird. The power of a sun. She saw an image of his strong body, his hesitant smile, ripped apart and discarded by this hungry god-thing.
Wanda stepped toward it. "I think that I do know," she said. "I think that I have been made ready for this my entire life." Wanda raised her hand, and circles of light sprang up around her in the air.
"You think to fight me with lightning shows, witchbreed? You think to defeat my power with one of your hexes?"
"You do not understand, Jeanne Grey. Witchbreed I may be by accident of birth. But a witch I am by my true inheritance. In the shadow of Wundagore Mountain, my aunt took me into her ancient sisterhood. And they showed me many worlds."
Now Wanda raised both her hands, and the white walls of the bird-girl's mindscape began to shift and shiver. First, they stood in the courtyard of the village, Javier and the boys all frozen in their positions. Then, the sun seemed to blink on and off, and they stood on the same hill but looked over a barren swamp. The head of a monstrous lizard broke through the water. Then the light shifted again and they hung in the air, a desert plain stretched out far below them. Wanda clasped her hands together, and the shifts came faster and faster. The red-haired girl yielded entirely to the golden bird, which spread its fiery wings and craned around its enormous head. Worlds, so many worlds. Its voice trembled with greed, and it turned its terrible eyes on Wanda. Where are they?
"Why, they are here," she said. "Beneath our feet. Didn't you know? Every world contains within in it the possibilities for every thing it did not become."
I want them.
"Each and every one? You think to devour them all?"
I think to do as I please. I am Phoenix. I am eternal. You are as Jeanne Grey was. Only a girl. You are like her. You cannot win this game.
"No," Wanda agreed, "I can never win this game. But I can change it." She reached out with her mind, running faster and faster through all the worlds that might have been. The Phoenix beat its mighty wings, as Wanda grabbed onto the edge of a single possibility. Then, as she prepared to commit the very last act of the Ancient Sisters of Wundagore, she smiled up at the haughty bird, and said the three simple words that Agatha Harkness had taught her.
"No - more - changing."
The world went white.
When reality formed around Wanda again, she was kneeling in the earth of the courtyard, and the redheaded girl was sobbing into her shoulder. "I’m sorry I'm so sorry. I saw it happen but I couldn't stop it. I was only angry because I didn't want to die, but I shouldn't have let it -- I shouldn't have become that. I'm sorry."
"It's all right, Jeanne," Wanda soothed, and pulled off her traveling cloak to drape over the girl's bare shoulders. "All will be well."
"Jean," her voice trembled, but hardened into a resolve as she said, "Just Jean Grey. I've never been French." Rising unsteadily, supported by Wanda's shoulder, she held out a hand. "Scotius? Won't you -- ?" Pulling the cloak around her, she stepped toward him. "At least I'll never be taken for a boy again." Then she covered her mouth. "Oh, God, Werner. I -- I --Werner!"
Wanda saw Scotius's hand tighten on Jean's wrist, but before he could speak, a voice rose from the ground beside them. "Why are people saying my name as though I were in some sort of trouble?"
"Werner!" Jean cried, and leaped from Scotius arms to hug the other boy.
Werner gasped, glanced down at the robe that did very little to hide her blossoming body, and said, "Master Grey?"
Henry, who had been seated on the ground next to Javier, looked up at Scotius and shrugged. "Perhaps certain attributes are not nearly as unmistakable to some, as certain others might assume them to be."
"That boy will the death of me," Scotius murmured, but as he said it, he almost smiled.
Javier looked up at Wanda as though he were about to speak. Then he stopped, with a troubled look, and at almost the same moment Werner stood, showing a smooth bare back, and leaving a large pile of feathers scattered wildly around his feet.
They all fell silent, but Petros was the first to understand. He turned toward Wanda, made as if he were going to run, then stopped with his foot in front of him, seemingly paralyzed. "Wanda of Wundagore," he said in an icy voice, "do you care to tell us what you have done?"
Wanda had been waiting for this moment, had been bursting with her eagerness to explain. But now that it had come, she was suddenly far less certain of the reaction she could expect. Glancing at Javier, she took his cold eyes as enough permission, and said, "The bird was coming. It was going to destroy us. To destroy everything. Professor Javier asked me to stop it. And so, you see, I found us a world. A world with no magic, no witchbreed. I thought that the bird couldn't follow us here." She smiled. "You see, I was right."
"Say, that's very clever!" said Robert. He held his hand in front of him and shook it, the way he would when he went to form ice. Nothing happened, and so he gestured to Wanda. "When do we get it back, then?"
"Don't you understand, you halfwit?" Petros snapped. "She doesn't know how." He shook his head, muttering, "Little girl, messing with things beyond her." He tried to take another step, tripped over himself again, then stomped his foot and swore. "Can't run, can't even walk."
"I think you could at least consider the part where she raised the dead," Scotius snapped. Glancing from Werner to Jean, he said, "I, for one appreciate that."
Petros's gaze slid from Jean back to Werner, and finally to Scotius, leering as he said, "You would, I suppose. No chance of an empty bed for you any time soon, though I'm sure you'll find a way --."
Scotius lunged toward Petros, raising his hand to pull away his visor, but stopped short when no blast came out of his eyes. He let the ruby band clatter to the earth, then turned back to Jean. "Well, you look at that." Forgetting Petros, Scotius walked back to take the girl's hand, and when he flashed a smile at Wanda, now, there was no mistaking it.
Petros brushed by Scotius and Jean. "You two excuse me if I'd rather bathe in my own vomit than watch you. Javier!" He pointed at his sister. "Tell the witch this is unacceptable!"
"Petros," she sighed, but as she trusted that he would soon be himself and could never stop loving her, she didn't pay much mind to his complaint. It was Javier's frown that troubled her more. She had wanted so badly to help him.
"Indeed, Wanda," Javier said. "I must admit that your actions trouble me. I had thought, as a member of your order, there would be other tools at your disposal to dispatch the Phoenix."
"Perhaps," she admitted. "I might have trapped it in one of the other worlds. I might have tricked it into returning from where it came. But to be honest, I did not think you would mind so much. Everything that has happened between humans and witchbreed has made us all so very unhappy."
"I understand the sentiment, Wanda, but you can't simply take it on yourself to change things that are simply fundamental to the sort of people. . ."
Robert burst in to interrupt, "Is she just going to leave us this way?"
Other voices joined the chorus.
"The circumstance presents us with a vexing conundrum, which might best be considered. . ."
"Your eyes, you know, I like them this way. . ."
"But if I can't fly, the Inquisition may as well have burned me!"
"Make her put it back!"
Listening to this cacophony, the Scarlet Witch of Wundagore had little to do but turn her back and walk toward the sea. They would sort their feelings out for themselves. They would decide to hate her or not. In the end it made no difference. No longer witchbreed, no longer witch, no longer slave to orders or vows, Wanda Maximoff was only a girl. She could not change the world anymore, not one little bit. Not even if she had wanted to.