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Bishop: The Last X-Man # 4

Issue Date: January 2000

Story Title: Over The Hills And Far Away

Staff: Joseph Kelly (writer), Charlie Adlard, Georges Jeanty & Art Thibert (pencils), Jon Babcock (letters), Jason Wright (colors), Jason Liebig (editor), Bob Harras (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description:
Bishop and his team finally find the city the Witness had sent them to: Dunduine. However, the city looks rather odd. It looks more like a huge house with an immense wall built around it, and none of the people seem to dare come out of their houses. Bishop, Jinx, Link, Nom and Michael are welcomed by Dunduineís mayor, Duncan Jericho, who offers them a place to sleep and gives them some food. However, he refuses to give them information about whatís wrong with the city. Bishop suggests to his team to have a good nightís rest first, and ask questions in the morning. During the night, Nom starts wandering around and finds a cat. He follows it to a platform, where he goes to stand on. Suddenly, the platform starts to make noises, turns around, and someone slashes through Nom. As the platform has turned around, Nom has vanished! Scorch has seen the whole thing happening and informs his teammates about it. They are confronted by the mayor, who reveals the cityís history and informs them that they are under attack by dark creatures known as the Kith. Dunduineís citizens failed to defeat the Kith on their own and tried to make a deal with their enemies by sacrificing some of their best citizens to it, but the plan didnít work. Now, Jericho wants to sacrifice Bishop and his team as well, but of course they donít agree with it. Bishop and the others fight with Jerichoís guards and promise to do their best to defeat the Kith. The mayor accepts the offer, but doesnít believe Bishop will succeed. Bishop leaves Michael behind in the city for safety reasons, and leads his team to the platform where Nom disappeared. After a while, the team is face-to-face with the Kith, who quickly defeat Bishop and the others, taking them away afterward!

Full Synopsis:
Bishopís statements: ďIt all happened so fast. I led them for days. I was so certain that I could. Then we came to this place. And then we lost Nom. Scorch, Jinx and Link stayed with me. Iíd led them this far. What choice did they have? In his last moments, the Witness had said to go to Dunduine. And so we had. God help us all... Ē

Standing on a platform in the middle of a desert, Jinx looks in front of her, but canít see anything. Scorch hopes it stays that way. Link thinks that perhaps, the Dunduine people come out at night.

The previous day...
Bishop and his team had been out on the march through the desert, and he led them, all the way using Linkís powers to turn them invisible to possible predators. Bishop says itís like he vowed to do after the massacre at the refugee camp. Fitzroy had struck a blow. As the Chronomancer, Bishopís old foe had come to this time from the past and assumed control in a new world that offered little resistance. It was on that moment that Bishop arrived. Bishop is not sure how he came to this time, but that didnít matter to Fitzroy. The villain tried to take him out... and all those around Bishop. Some survived, but others didnít. Those who did, decided to keep following him.

An exhausted Scorch wants to know why they stop walking at this point, when theyíve already traveled so far. He mockingly thinks heís the only one who remembers they are made out of flesh, and that there are plenty of things out there who eat flesh. He reminds his friends that they are at the High Plains now: monsters live on the High Plains! Jinx jokes that Scorch doesnít have to worry: sheís certain heís far too salty to make a good meal. Scorch mocks Jinx is quick to the better end and never would have counted wit among her assets. Responding angrily, Jinx doesnít want Scorch to mind her assets. Bishop suggests to cut the chatter, adding that nobody wants to be there.

Link gets a headache and canít keep everyone hidden anymore, so they become visible again. She feels like her head is going to burst. Bishop compliments Link for doing her best. Sheís an untrained telepath and knows she has a hard time using her powers to great lengths. But, Bishop noticed, Linkís headaches never seem to weaken her resolve. He also compliments the band at how strong they are, and are powerful mutants who never sit idly by. Once upon a time, Bishop admits, this group even would have made fine X-Men. And, together in this time, Bishop thinks they might yet. Somehow...

Scorch doesnít think that standing in the middle of a desert is an option for them. He mocks that maybe they can succeed in making the predators dizzy before they swarm them. Link tells Scorch to shut up or sheíll do it for him. He knows she can. Bishop looks in front of him and assumes the sun still sets in the west. If thatís the case, the west ends in the mountains they see up ahead and he notices the sun is setting quickly. Bishop reminds his people they need to camp and that he doesnít see the lost city anywhere. Scorch suggests they head back the way they came. He mentions he heard stories about Dunduine and none of them made him feel fuzzy about the place. He thinks the Witness was mad to send them there.

Jinx thinks Scorch is crazy for saying that. Scorch doesnít get it. He thought he saw signs of settlement back a ways to the South. He believes they could rest here and make it the shelter for the night. Jinx believes they would find nothing but bones and that theirs would soon add up the pile. She reminds Scorch he knows bad things wait for her in the South. Michael wants to know how they can all live there and not know where to go? Scorch jumps out of their cart and wonders who asked the kidís opinion. Link wonders if Scorch is calling himself a kid, or Michael.

Bishop has had enough of the whining. He asks Nom to put the cart down and asks everyone to take a look. Michael canít see anything. Bishop points the childís head into the right direction, and they can see more of the desert in front of them, but this time a building stands in the building. Bishop believes they are dealing with a walled city, which got smacked down in the middle of nowhere and reaches high into the skies. Link recalls that the Witness didnít mention anything about walls. Bishop still believes theyíve found Dunduine. Scorch isnít impressed. Bishop suggests they bring everything together so they can go check the place out.

Nom carries the cart with everyone in it closer to the immense gates of the building. Once they are near it, the gates are opened. Jinx is amazed at how huge the gates are, and never felt so small in her life. Bishop sees that the rest of the city looks more their size, but that doesnít mean it makes him feel better. He asks Scorch to stay paranoid. Scorch mocks Bishop that his ways are chiseled deep in stone. Bishop asks Jinx what she knows about this town. Jinx doesnít know much, but says from what she has heard, far more than news fails to cross the Plains to this place. She sees nothing but badly taken care of buildings, and nobody on the streets. Where is everyone?

A voice happily welcomes the strangers. Bishop becomes concerned and pushes Michael behind him. A man wearing Roman clothes appears and laughs. He promises his new friends that nobody there wants to find them. He introduces himself as Duncan Jericho, and is the mayor of this city. He apologizes for the guards he brought along, but mentions Dunduine doesnít get many visitors, even though their door is always open. Duncan takes a closer look at the big Nom and compliments he sure is a big guy, but Nom doesnít say anything back.

Bishop explains to the mayor that his friend isnít very talkative. But, he adds, Nom is as tired and hungry as they all are, and also in need of a good nightís sleep. Bishop introduces himself and explains they have come a long way. The mayor understands and promises he will see to it Bishop and his friends are all well fed and will have a good rest. He promises that they will find nothing but hospitality in Dunduine. Jinx whispers to Scorch she can feel something is wrong there. Scorch is just looking forward to a warm bed. He mocks Jinx if she really wants to stay in the Plains they can pick up her remains in the morning.

A little later, Bishop asks around if anyone ever heard about the Witness and if they had any idea why he had send them to this city. But Jericho only smiles and shakes his head Ė as though his happiness to have Bishop there might be answer enough. As Bishopís team follows Duncan further in the city, they can feel the eyes of Dunduineís citizens watch them from the shadows, from the thinnest of cracks in dark doorways. Nobody of the team feels comfortable in the city, but Scorch puts there has to be a reason this city is surrounded by walls!

Once set up in their sleeping quarters, Jinx peeks through their door and is starting to like this situation less and less by the second. She thinks Dunduine is a ghost city and wonders why they are there. And, Jinx also wonders, if the city has so much room to spare, why would they house them in such a secluded area of the town? Scorch thinks itís so they would have some peace and quiet. But he does feel sad for Nom, who hardly fits into the small room. Bishop agrees with Scorch. He reminds the gang that the Witness sent them to Dunduine, and itís not like they had options once the sun went down. He asks Link how she feels about all this.

Link canít get a read on these people, though Jericho does seem genuine enough in his happiness to have them there. However, she also does believe somethingís happening in Dunduine, but keeping that hidden all day has worn her out. She hopes that tomorrow her head stops beating like a drum, so she can fully figure out whatís going on. Bishop agrees that the Dunduine people do seem pleased to have them around. He thinks that perhaps these walls around the city arenít enough protection. He suggests that they spend the night in this house and ask questions in the morning. After all, Bishop states, theyíve got Nom to protect them. ďAmong other things,Ē Bishop concludes as he puts a knife in the wall to make a point.

Later that night, Nom hears a padding sound nearby. He goes to check it out, and strangely enough finds... a cat? Nom smiles. Nearby, Scorch wakes up and wonders what Nom is doing. Nom picks up the cat and decides to explore the place. He quietly moves on, and finds himself standing in a huge platform! Screws from several machines start moving around and make a lot of noise. The cat panics and jumps out of Nomís arms, leaving him behind alone. Nom sees how the cat jumps down from the platform, which has now moved up high in the air! Nom is too scared to jump down as well, and is stuck. Suddenly, the platform starts to move again and a mysterious being slashes through Nom! The platform gets back to normal and Nom... has vanished?!

Below, Scorch had followed Nom and saw the whole thing happening, and is freaked out about it. He rushes back to his teammates to warn them about Nomís disappearance and enters Bishopís room. After opening the door of the room, someone puts a knife against Scorchís throat. Itís Bishop! Bishop angrily warns Scorch to never again sneak off and back again like this. Scorch is too startled to say anything, so Bishop tries to calm him down. Scorch tries to explain what he saw happening to Nom, and Jinx, Link and Michael appear as well. Jinx tries to calm Scorch down, and he admits to Link she was right when she said somethingís wrong about this place.

Bishop looks outside, and notices they arenít alone anymore. Jericho stands in front of the team in his night clothes. He reveals to Scorch that he just saw the Kith, and adds Scorch has no idea how lucky he is to still be alive. Scorch tries to attack Jericho but Bishop holds him back. Jericho begs the team to stay themselves, stating thereís no need for hostilities. Bishop tells Jericho that he is a reasonable man, and he knows it when thereís no need for hostilities. And this isnít such a time!

Jericho reveals that his father once told him that the... key to leadership was in the execution of diplomacy. But also that the stomach to make the difficult decisions when all other efforts have failed was what truly sent a leader of men apart from those who follow him. Scorch is ready to fire his eye beams, and Bishop tries his best to hold the kid back. Scorch demand to know what Jericho did to Nom. Bishop explains to Jericho that there friend has disappeared and that they need answers... now! Jericho suggests that in that case, the team better listens to what he is about to say.

He will fully explain the burden his leadership has offered him. Duncan reveals that, generations ago, the people of Dunduine built their city and decided to place high walls around it. It was hoped in that way, the city would be ready for any attack and that they were shielded from the hard land around the city. For years, the walls kept Dunduine safe. But, the citizens never dreamed of an attack... from the skies! Dunduine was attacked by a dark entity known as the Kith. They are an ancient race, or so it is said. The Kith are savage and unrelenting. And the people of Dunduine were so soon at the Kithís mercy!

Bishop asks Jericho, if these Kith are as fearsome as he says they are, he asks why the city is still populated. Jericho doesnít know where else the people of Dunduine could go. He tells Bishop he has seen the land surrounding them and believes the people would fare just as badly. ďNo,Ē Duncan states, they built this city and did their best to defend it. But his father taught him long ago that a leader is resourceful. And when the people of Dunduine couldnít defend their city anymore, they made a deal with it.

Jericho speeches that Dunduineís citizens are strong and brave. They understood what had to be done. They select people according to their guidelines, sacrificing the few so that the many might be spared. It was a mix of young and old, strong and slight. The Kith didnít care. Duncan explains that the Tithe selection process is a simple enough one. Duncan says that he was first administered by his father, and stayed that way until this... duty was passed on to him. It was a practice Duncan would follow religiously, like his father had done before him. He knows being a leader is no small thing. You have to be detached from emotion from feelings, or empires will fall down. It was a stance Duncan never strayed from, even as he selected his own wife and child in the fairness of the Tithe. He begins to cry.

Bishop is sorry for Jerichoís family, and the lives everyone in Dunduine has lost. He still doesnít know why his team has been brought to this city but promises theyíll do anything they can to help Duncan fight the Kith. And they will find a way to defeat it Ė they will just need Duncanís help with it. Duncan tells his new friend Bishop that he doesnít understand. He explains they have no choice but to pay Tithe to the Kith, but thinks that, only for today, his people will know their own flesh was spared. He believes that today, Dunduineís people will know their hospitality has been returned to them. And then some.

On that moment, lots of security guards point their spears to Bishopís team. They have been surrounded! Bishop realizes Jericho set them up! Scorch fires up and easily destroys the metal shields the guards carry. Bishop slams Jericho against a wall and demands he stops this now. Jinx quickly runs around some guards and disarms the startled people. Michael starts to panic. He shouts out that heís from New York and didnít ask for any of this. Link follows him and starts to stop Michael from running away. He bumps into some guards, who want to attack him. Link uses her telepathic powers to enter the guardís minds, and compliments they are both strong, handsome men who donít want to attack her.

Unfortunately, Scorch wants to take out both his and Nomís vengeance on the guards. He transforms his body into that of a huge fire creature and wants to kill them. Link tries to stop him but he wonít listen to her. Jericho tries to apologize for Bishop for doing this to him, and hopes that he will never have to make decisions like this in his life. Michael runs towards Bishop and asks him to come with him, warning that Scorch is about to kill some guards and he needs to stop it. Bishop meets up with the kid and tells Scorch killing the guards isnít the right way. He has an idea that may be hard, but it may be the only way to get Nom back. He promises Scorch he doesnít need to be afraid. Scorch powers down and turns back to normal, promising he isnít afraid.

Some time later, Bishop and his team proudly walk through the city of Dunduine, and all of its citizens look frightened at them. He warns his team not to pay attention to fear, as itís contagious. Michael tells Bishop he canít just leave him there, and wants to come along. Bishop drops to his knee, and places his hands on Michaelís shoulders. He tells the kid that heís a tough boy. He believes that and now needs Michael to believe that as well. But he canít have him coming along this time. Michael understands. Jericho and other people of Dunduine go to stand behind Michael. Duncan explains itís being said that the Kith keep their prey alive after they have been taken. He suspects Bishop will be awake the entire time. And while Duncan doesnít share Bishopís optimism, he promises to keep Michael safe in his absence. Bishop thanks Duncan for that, and states theyíll meet with the Kith in their own territory. They go to stand onto the platform, which goes high up in the air. Now, itís time to wait.

The present...
Jinx looks down from the platform and notices how high they are, and wonders how the Kith can find them this high up. She sees how hard the wind is blowing, and thinks that perhaps the Kith can smell them or something. Scorch doesnít care. The Kith took now, and he just wants to be brought to him. And he isnít afraid. Bishop tells Scorch he sees something in the distance up ahead. It looks like... dark smoke. Bishop is startled. It isnít smoke. And itís up here, with Bishop and his team.

Below, Michael can see how the Kith slash through his friends, and panics. The platform turns around, and suddenly, Bishop, Jinx, Link and Scorch are all... gone!

Characters:
Bishop, Jinx, Link, Michael, Nom, Scorch

Duncan Jericho

Jerichoís guards (unnamed)
Various other citizens of Dunduine (all unnamed)

In Jerichoís flashback:
Duncan Jericho (as a kid)
Jerichoís father (unnamed)

The Kith
Various citizens of Dunduine (all unnamed)

Notes:
First appearance of the Kith and the citizens of Dunduine.

This issue celebrates Marvel Comicsí sixty anniversary of publishing super-hero comics.

Issue Summary written by: Homer Jay


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