Kingdom of the Man Ape:
T’Challa’s old enemy, the Man Ape, hears of the Black Panther’s death from his spy network and cheers. He has no time to enjoy his triumph though, as a moment later he is informed they are under attack. The Man-Ape sighs, figuring the rabble is looking for the next king to topple. Who is the aggressor? Wakandans? Nigerians? Americans? Neither a mob nor an army, he is told… Death is coming. A glowing man has killed the Man-Ape’s soldiers, Morlun, Devourer of Totems. The soldiers stand their ground for their king only to be consumed until it is the King’s turn who doesn’t stand a chance either.
A little later, a messenger who fled in time informs W’kabi and S’yan of Wakanda of what happened (though certainly speaking nicer of the Man-Ape’s role). He explains that Morlun sucked the very life essence out of him. Feasted on his mind and body, until all that remained were ashes. So how did he survive? W’kabi asks pointedly. With his dying breath, his king bade him leave, the messenger claims, to spread the word that he had died bravely in battle and to find some way to avenge his death.
Why come here? he is next asked. His master wasn’t fond of the Black Panther. They were both proud warrior kings, the messenger claims. They were more alike than different. His lord would never want a brother king to fall to evil without a warning and without a fight. Besides, he knows that with proper warning Wakanda would erect adequate defenses to stop Morlun and that the generous nation of Wakana would protect and reward someone who provides information that might aid their people…
S’yan orders W’kabi to put their forces on defense alert alpha. And have their network verify the man’s story. Under four eyes, S’yan tells him he fears they could be facing a tidal wave of refugees at the very time they should be closing their border. Better assume the worst and be prepared for it.
On another plane of reality, Death orders the Black Panther who refuses to come, insisting it’s not his time. Death tells him he will find no peace in the waking world, no justice. Nothing he could have done matters in the end. His life is over. It’s time to enjoy his just reward T’Challa thanks him, then refuses. His wife and his nation need him. He will not go. Perhaps there is another who can change his mind, Death decides and his father T’Chaka appears before him.
In Wakanda, S’yan is informed that the queen was last seen leaving with the queen mother. The tracking chip on the vehicle was disabled but they had them on satellite. Early reading suggests… S’yan angrily shouts not even the queen mother would think to look for answers there!
Soon, S’yan arrives at Zawavari’s cottage. Zawavari inform him he has a patient now. If he’d like to make an appointment… S’yan orders him to open the door or he will personally burn this place to the ground. Persuaded, Zawavari lets him in.
What is he doing here? Ramonda exclaims, seeing her brother-in-law. Isn’t that what he should be asking her, he retorts. T’Challa will nail all their hides to the wall when he learns that she consulted with this crackpot. She will do whatever it takes, Ramonda replies simply. S’yan wants to speak with the queen and asks were she is. Indisposed, comes the evasive reply. They don’t have time for that, he shouts out. The people think their king is dead! The queen needs to address the nation and allay the fears of the people, lest they have a panic on their hands. That’s a lot more important than wasting time on mystic mumbo jumbo that—Enough! she interrupts him and reminds him she is the queen mother and he will do as she says.
A silent contest of will follows, then he gives in and apologizes. Until her son and Ororo return, she will govern in their stead, she announces. Still, S’yan insists that relying on this crackpot’s voodoo is madness. He may be right, she concedes, but it’s the only hope they have. She’d better be right, he warns her. If she’s wrong her newfound authority will be short-lived.
As he leaves, Ramonda warns Zawavari, who witnessed the exchange amused, that this had better work. All he can do is open the door, the shaman replies. The rest is up to them.
Elsewhere in the palace, Zuri speaks to Shuri. They know she’s trained hard and is as ready as anyone could be. But there is no way to truly prepare for the unexpected. Warriors and kings know this. She knows this. S’yan joins them and sees everything is ready. They may begin. Zuri explains to Shuri that, once she ingests the herb, she will commune directly with the Panther God. She is ready, but take nothing for granted, he warns her. Nothing is certain, even now.
Where is her mother? Shuri demands. She can’t be here, S’yan replies curtly. Can’t or doesn’t want to? Shuri pouts. S’yan orders her to grow up or her petulance will be the death of them all! She promises she is ready and bites into the herb. A moment later, she falls back unconscious. What now? S’yan asks. Now they wait, comes the reply.
On the astral plane:
T’Challa withdraws from his father. He’s not real, he states. He is, T’Chaka assures him. He’s been watching over him all his life and he’s so proud of the man he’s become. He touches T’Challa’s shoulder. The man he knew he’d become. And T’Challa acquiesces.
The Panther God’s realm:
Shuri finds herself on another plane of existence too, staring up at the giant white Panther God. “Oh my” she mutters and then stutters out a “hello.” Crouching in front of the Panther God, Shuri explains she’s prepared for this moment her whole life, to be ready to face it to request its blessing and that’s what she’s doing. She is ready, Shuri announces, ready to step out from her brother’s shadow, ready to embrace her destiny. To be what she was born to be. She is ready! She jumps up. Give her what she needs to save her people. The Panther God sniffs.
Elsewhere, T’Chaka implores his son. He’s worked so hard. Fought so many battles, endured so much. But even for the greatest of kings and champions there is an end to conflict. An end to battle. A time to lay down arms and rest. T’Challa refuses. There’s still so much to do. There will always be more battles, T’Chaka replies, but not for him. Let others take up the work. He can’t, he has to go back! T’Challa knees down in despair. He failed them. In the end, he wasn’t strong enough. His father comforts him. He is not to blame for being human. It’s time for him to give up the fight. He gently steers him toward the light.
“Give up,” T’Challa repeats. He is not his father! he shouts. T’Chaka turns into Death and sighs. If a peaceful path is not enough to persuade him…
The Panther God announces that for the ten thousand years the greatest of champions of her people have come before it. Their names are spoken in the hall of kin, their deeds are written on the scroll of destiny. And here she is, daughter of a great king and queen, sister to the greatest warrior her nation has ever known, and instead of humbling herself before her god, she declares her worthiness. Shuri looks up afraid.
It shows her images of her predecessors and asks what they would say to such a demand. How would they respond to such arrogance? The mantle of the Panther is not about entitlement but sacrifice! About putting the greater good before the pursuit of glory.
It shows her images of her past, sulking about being in her brother’s shadow. She sees the Panther as a trophy to be won or lost. Jealousy has festered in her heart since her brother took up the mantle of the Panther. Of all the enemies she faced, hubris is the one she has never defeated. She is not worthy to be the Black Panther! It isn’t her burden. It is not her destiny and never will be! Shuri begins to weep in shame. The Panther God turns away and orders her to leave and consider what she will do, knowing that she will never follow in her brother’s footsteps.
On the astral plane, Death sends animated corpses to torture T’Challa, trusting pain may show him the futility of denying the inevitable. T’Challa fights and holds his own. Death is impressed. His will to live is strong but the armies of the dead are endless. Still, T’Challa refuses to give up. His family, his wife and people are suffering because he failed to protect them! He’s going back to them and nothing will stand in his way!
Skeletons overwhelm him as Death states that his defeat is an actuality. He has already lost. He orders the skeletons to bring him to the light.
Suddenly, the skeletons are blown away as Storm appears, lightning crackling around her…