Of course, a gift from Raven was likely coming soon. She wouldn't let an opportunity like Karla and Warren's shared birthday go unremarked. The only question would be if she knew what Warren's gift had been--and, if so, how she would attempt to outdo it.
Once beloved. Once sister. Now they were both hollow, twisted shells of their former selves. Warren had gone to Earth and come back corrupted by Apocalypse, managing to hold onto himself for only a few days before being lost completely. Raven had tried to protect her Queen for as long as she could until Archangel's games had driven her over the edge and released her demonic side. Now Karla was trapped between them as they raged back and forth for possession of everything Karla held dear.
She only wished that was limited to herself.
"Karla, you should sit down." Her former mentor, Helene, had been visiting the day Warren had torn Sidra from the rest of Balmia, using his powers to partially phase it out of reality with the rest of Kaeleer and put it into some kind of time bubble vortex thing that, even now, Karla couldn't quite understand and Warren was not inclined to explain. All she knew was that it cut Sidra off from the Winds, from Portalocity, from any contact with the outside world. A small blessing, that. It meant the rest of Balmia and Kaeleer was safe from them--at least, until one or the other emerged victorious. Karla found it hard to regret her friend's presence here, even though it meant she was in danger. But she needed a mother figure right now more than ever--especially one who was also a powerful Black Widow. "You need to rest."
"I'm not feeling very restful," Karla growled, using a fist to try to ease the nagging sensation in her lower back. A bit of Healing would vanish that pain entirely, but even that was beyond her capabilities now. "And chairs are too much of a pain in the ass to get into and out of unless I plan to stay sitting for awhile." And she didn't. There was important pacing to be done. "You should go inside. One or the other of them will be dropping by soon and you know they don't like it when our little chats are interrupted by others."
Helene grimaced. "I don't understand why you allow these so-called visits," she said by rote. It was an old argument by this point. "They're dangerous--"
"To everyone else except me," Karla interrupted. "I'm the bone they're wrangling over. That gives me a measure of safety. One that you don't have."
"I've seen wild dogs fight over scraps before," Helene retorted. "Believe me, the scraps come in a distant third in that contest. And you can't protect yourself from either of them."
"I am well aware of my limitations," Karla said, trying to find a position that eased her various aches. "But trust me, this is safer than the alternatives. Right now, keeping them fighting each other is the only protection we have."
Helene nodded at Karla's stomach, large and round under her airy shirt. "And when the baby's born? What then?"
"Then I'll have my Craft back," Karla said, ice-blue eyes narrowed. "And then we see about evening the score."
[For the two villains so named! Sidra in