John Maddox stands in the pulpit of his church in Vermont, unaware that this is the last day of the rest of his life.
As far as he knows, it is just a normal Sunday service. At the moment, he’s busy delivering a sermon. It’s a rather good one, he thinks, about humanity. He loves talking about humanity. When two men enter in the midst of his sermon, Reverend Maddox recognizes one immediately: Bobby Shumacher. His wife, Laura, lives in fear of him. He’s counseled her to leave him when she talked to him about it. Last he heard, she had. He doesn’t know who Bobby’s pal is, though later he learns that it’s a drinking buddy. As it turns out, they’ve been drinking, even at this early hour. Their presence worries the reverend, but he figures Bobby’s there to talk to him about his wife. When he seems both men produce assault rifles from under their long coats, Reverend Maddox immediately realizes he figure wrong.
The reverend wants to scream out a warning, but it’s too late. They open fire into a church full of God-loving congregants. He’s the one they’re there for, but they’re not exactly concerned with who else gets hurt. Too shocked to move, Reverend Maddox realizes that he should be doing something, saying something, somehow convincing them to put down their guns and surrender… instead his throat seizes up. He has nothing to say. He looks down and sees their deacon, Ben Foster, sweetest man in the world, lying in a pool of his own blood. Dead. Screams rip through the air.
Before he knows it, Reverend Maddox find himself collapsed himself on the floor and Bobby Shumacher standing over him, his gun pointing straight at him. He’s the only real target there, the reverend thinks. His last thought is that he’s relieved that his wife and son are visiting his in-laws. At least they will be safe. He takes his last breath.
And that’s when Rahne Sinclair, aka Wolfsbane, crashes through the stained glass window.
As the lupine Wolfsbane begins to tear into Bobby, Reverend Maddox can’t help but think that, for a while there, he had always been terrified at the prospect of an X-Factor member showing up. Every time they did, it seemed that they brought along someone who was out to kill him. He supposes he could make that argument again, though oddly it doesn’t occur to him. All he is is grateful.
Seeing his friend mauled by an apparent werewolf, Bobby’s friend opens fire against the creature, only to hit too high. With a snarl, the wolf-lady quickly grabs the fallen Bobby’s rifle and fires back, with every shot she makes hitting its target. Back on his feet, Reverend Maddox calls out to Rahne by name to stop. At first, she seems to regard him as an enemy, but Maddox reminds her who he is and asks her to put down the gun. Wordlessly, she complies and soon the rifle is dropped on the floor. As she leaps back through the broken window through which she appeared, Reverend Maddox thinks to himself that the Rahne Sinclair that he knew would never have opened fire on anyone, no matter what the provocation. He doesn’t know who that was just now, but it wasn’t Rahne.
Of course, he doesn’t tell any of the emergency responders who arrive any of this. When he speaks to the police, he’s as vague as possible about the nature of their savior. The last thing he needs are too many questions. Of course, he has his own questions about the shooters, but one of them will never be able to respond and Bobby is unconscious. Perhaps never to wake up. Oddly, the reverend finds himself not caring. He wonders if that’s a flaw in his personality. All he knows is that Bobby came and shot up his congregants. He doesn’t give a damn why he did it. He’s just glad he’s dead. After the ambulances and police leave, Reverend Maddox asks God to forgive him for his lapse. He hopes that He does. And if He doesn’t… well… he might not give a damn about that, either.
It is some hours later when he’s finally done talking to the police, at least for now. There will probably be more conversations tomorrow. For now, as he’s sitting behind his office desk, the only conversation he’s interested in is the one he’s having with his wife. He swears to her, he tells his wife over the phone, he’s fine. No, she doesn’t have to cut her trip short. He swears to her, everything is perfectly…
Suddenly, Reverend Maddox cries out in fright as Wolfsbane, still in her lupine form, lands on his desk. No! he proclaims to his wife over the phone. Everything’s fine. He just… he saw a mouse is all. He then suggests that he call her back so he can go kill it.
By the time Maddox has hung up with his wife, Wolfsbane has once again resumed the apparent human form of Rahne Sinclair. Asking if she’s all right and told that she’s “fine,” Reverend Maddox replies that she doesn’t look fine. She looks like she went 10 rounds with a mixmaster. The reverend then invites Rahne to sit and adds that he supposes he shouldn’t knock her remarkable timing. A lot more people would have died if she hadn’t shown up when she did. Starting with him. So, thank you.
Lacking any emotion in her reply, Rahne tells him that he’s welcome. Seeing something is amiss, Maddox asks Rahne what happened. To her, he means. The last time they spoke, she decided that she was going to try to be a mother to Tier. Is he with her? Is he… He’s dead, Rahne interrupts, clutching her own shoulder. Staggered, the reverend haltingly replies that he doesn’t know what to say. He’s so sorry… How did it happen? If she doesn’t mind him asking…
Guido, Rahne answers again curtly. Guido killed him so he could take over Hell and raise Monet form the dead. Dumbfounded, Reverend Maddox surmises aloud that he’s obviously missed some stuff. Clearly. Would she mind filling him in if it’s not too much… No, Rahne replies, closing her eyes. No trouble at all.
As he listens, Reverend Maddox notes that Rahne speaks to him as if from very far away. Her voice is flat and detached. She could be speaking about someone else’s life. She tells him a long involved story, where a bunch of hell lords are battling each other for world domination… a war that is eventually won by Guido through he expedient of slaying her son. At the end of the fight, Tier vanished in a glow of light that grew brighter with every passing second. Wolfsbane attacked Guido at that moment. She didn’t have any plan. She was nothing but consumed rage. And then came an explosion. It was massive, and yet had absolutely no sound. It came from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Rahne was sure that she was dead. For a moment, she actually felt relief, that she would wind up in the next life with tier and they could be together forever.
And then, when the energy detonation faded… Wolfsbane found herself alone. Really, truly, totally alone, standing in a frozen wasteland. It wasn’t her first experience with an Arctic landscape. Apparently she and some teammates got stranded when going up against some super villain. This time, though, she was alone. She had no idea why she was out there, or where she was. What she was heading toward. If anything. She was clueless as to how many hours or even days she wandered. There is no sunrise or sunset. Nothing but her. Eventually, her legs gave out and she collapsed in the snow. She had no idea how long she lay there. And then...
“Hello, my love,” Hrimhari interrupts, wakening Rahne from her sleep. As she clutches herself against his fur, speaking his name and asking how he is there, Hrimhari replies that he’s the one who should be asking “how?” How did she come there to Niflheim? Pulling back, Rahne repeats the name and asks if that isn’t the place for… for the dead? Is she dead? Is that what he’s telling her? Gently touching her face, Hrimhari answers that of course she is. How could she not know?
Together, the two sit onto the ground and snow. Tier, their son, Rahne speaks first. Asked what about him, Rahne informs Hrimhari that she failed him. He’s dead. She brought him into combat and he’s dead. Of course he’s dead, Hrimhari replies. Does she think he doesn’t know that? He’s with him? Stunned, Rahne repeats his words, which Hrimhair confirms. He’s taken up residence in Valhalla with him. Engaged in an eternity of glorious battle! Would she like to see him? “Yes!” Rahne replies. “Oh yes!” As the two once again embrace, Hrimhari whispers that they’ll be together again for the first time. A family at last! That sounds wonderful, Rahne tell him, grinning slightly. Finally… Finally… She can be happy.
Though she is where she wishes to be in her mind, in the world of the corporeal Rahne hugs not her former lover, but a polar bear, which violently swats her away and into the snow. Rahne regains her senses in time to spy the giant, white bear towering over her, ready to strike.
However, before it can attack, the bear explodes in fire. Stunned by the polar bear’s demise as much as its appearance, Rahne staggers to make sense of her world. Before she can do so, a voice informs her that the damned thing was about to eat her. Looking up to the source of the voice, Rahne finds Guido the hell lord standing before her, still smoldering from the hell fire he had just tossed. Incensed by his presence, she asks him what he’s doing in Niflheim, to which a confused Guido rejoins that she’s in the Arctic. What, did almost getting eaten by a beat not tip that off to her?
Immediately, Rahne transforms into Wolfsbane and attacks, yelling that Guido killed her son. Yeah, he did that, Guido counters, as he deftly uses his tri-bladed spear to knock her back. He did it so he could transform into this and bring Monet back to life. Set the world right. And if he felt like it, he could kill her just as easily as he killed Tier. Easier. In punctuation, Guido traps the fallen Wolfsbane’s neck between the blades of his tri-bladed spear. She’s got no energy, he adds. Her reflexes are for crap. It’s amazing she’s still alive at all. Then do it, you son of a bitch, Wolfsbane snarls back. Do it! DO IT!!!
Grimacing slightly, Guido tells her former teammate that she has no idea how tempting it is. But he has no idea where she’d wind up. Either she’d end up driving God nuts… or else she’d be on his side of the track… and he’d be stuck with her for eternity. With that, Guido lifts his spear, freeing Rahne. He’s not going to do either, he explains. Because he did kill her son. And he can’t make that up to her. He can’t even bring him back to life. There’s rules, y’see. Kind of complicated. The point is, he owes her. Whether he wants to admit it or not. So, he’s going to send he where he thinks she’ll be happy. Even the timing is right. So long, kid, he concludes. If she’s lucky, she’ll never see him again. As hellfire magic begins to emit from his spear, engulfing her, the last thing Rahne hears is Guido telling her to give Johnny his regards.
In the office of Reverend John Maddox, Rahne passes along Guido’s regards. Rubbing his chin, the reverend remarks that that was very… considerate. Considering her words, Maddox notes that he materialized her outside the church just as the shooters showed up. Does she think he sent them as well? To this, Rahne replies that she doesn’t know. Maybe, though. It’s not like they canna produce their own lunatics. So, she continues, as she rises to her feet. She’d better get going. G’bye John.
Before Rahne makes it to the door, Maddox call out her name. One of the people who was killed today was their deacon, he informs her. He lived in a small apartment out back. No wife or kids. There’s a training process involved, but would she be interested in learning what it takes to become a deacon around there? Unless she’s got a better offer on her plate.
For a long moment, Rahne looks at the reverend with an expression half disbelief and half hope. The reverend’s answer comes in the form of a wordless hug, which he takes as a yes. Told that it is, Reverend Maddox tells her to come to his house. She’ll take a shower and they’ll get her some clean clothes. That sounds wonderful, she replies.
As they walk, Reverend Maddox can’t help but think that the day turns out not to be the last day of his life, but instead the first day of the life of Rahne Sinclair. And somehow, he figures it’s going to work out for the best. He hopes.