At Angel’s aerie, now, the members of the latest incarnation of X-Force are gathered. They include Domino, Vanisher, Archangel, Elixir, X-23, Wolverine, and Warpath. To all present, Wolverine asks Warpath… “Who the hell is Eli Bard?”
Warpath informs him that he’s the man that was with Risman, the man that almost killed Laura. He’s the bastard that dug up the graves of his tribe and desecrated their bodies. Ghost Rider showed him, he showed him who did it. That’s what made the Demon Bear manifest. It was Bard. The spirits showed him everything. They showed him his whole life. Domino quips and she thought they were busy. Vanisher adds that he has no idea what the hell he just said. What’s a “Ghost Bear?”
At that moment, X-23 realizes that something is wrong and that Wolfsbane isn’t there. As she heads off to go and find her, Elixir follows her. Wolverine then tells Jimmy that if he’s got a story to tell, then tell it.
Warpath reveals that it started almost two thousand years ago in Rome. His name was different then but it was Eli. He was a high-ranking politician and respected by the military. He was wealthy beyond measure, a member of the elite and loved by one of the most powerful women in all of Rome. He had everything but it was all a lie.
When he goes to see his wife, a beautiful blonde, she throws her drink in his face and calls him an imbecile. She tells him that he’s a stupid, pathetic excuse for a man. His little “speech” to the Senate about supporting Mascius while the Emperor is away almost ruined everything. Eli pleads to his wife, Aurelia, but she cuts him off. She tells him to be silent. He humiliated Mascius in front of everyone. Had he not been there to control things, he would have been ruined. Eli begins to state that he meant no… but he is cut off again by Aurelia, who tells him to get out of her sight.
Eli asks his house, no, he will not leave his own house. Removing her jewelry, Aurelia says his house? She tells him not to forget whose house this really is. Do not forget who pays for his life. When she found him, he was a starving poet. If not for her, he would be begging for food at the marketplace. Tossing her jewelry to Eli, she tells him to have the slaves polish them on his way out. Eli again begins to protest but Aurelia tells him to be gone. Her and Mascius have… business… to attend to. As the two engage in a passionate embrace, Aurelia tells Eli that if he interrupts them, she’ll make him fan them while they work.
Warpath adds that Bard was a pathetic little man, put into power by people who wanted nothing more than to use him.
Sitting outside his house, Eli hears his name, Eliphas repeated over and over again. Looking up, he asks if someone is there but only finds a small child. Asking her name, the girl informs him that it is Claudia. Standing up, Eli tells her that she looks like she could use a meal and gives her some bread. Taking it, Claudia tells him that her parents are hungry too and asks if she can bring it back to them. Eli tells her of course and gives her Aurelia’s jewels to take back too. Claudia is speechless but Eli says to her that she’s most welcome and tells her to head off before her masters discover that she’s gone missing. As Claudia heads off, Eli hears the sounds of Aurelia moaning at the touch of Mascius.
Warpath states that Eli wasn’t an evil man. He wasn’t man enough to even make the choice. It was going to be made for him.
Wolverine then tells Warpath that for the love of God, tell him this is going somewhere. Her interest piqued, Domino says not to be so hasty, he wants to hear more about this “Mascius” guy. She likes his style. Warpath tells him this is where it’s going. And trust him, they’re not going to like it. So Eli hits bottom. His entire life is a sham and he knows they all know it. They’re all laughing at him. And that’s when it happens.
As he walks through the streets of Rome, he hears his name Eliphas again. Turning the corner, he finds a beautiful raven-haired lady who greets him by his name. Eli asks the lady if he knows her. She responds no, but she wants him to. Showing him her carriage, she asks him if he will honor her with his company. Eli again asks her who she is. The lady replies that she has many names but he may call her Selene.
Tossing a glass against the window, Wolverine exasperates that he’s got to be kidding him. When Vanisher inquires as to who the hell Selene is, Archangel tells him that she’s an immortal mutant, Black Queen of the Hellfire Club, bad news. Warpath states that he wishes that this was a joke, believe him, he has no idea how bad this story gets.
Inside Selene’s carriage, Eli tells Selene that he’s never seen a carriage like this before. Selene informs him that it’s not from Rome and neither is she. Eli says that if he may ask, what business brings her to their fine city? Selene tells him that she has come there for him. Eli says he sees, and asks if there is some way that the Senate can help her. Putting her hand on his leg, she tells him no, only he can help her. But she does not seek the man that sits before her.
Eli tells her that he’s afraid he doesn’t understand. Selene says to him that he was once a good man before this wicked city corrupted him. He was a great soldier before politics softened him. And not so long ago, he had the ability to love deeply and passionately before his heart was broken. This man, this is who she has come for. Surprised, Eli asks her how she knows all this. Selene informs him because she was there. She was there the day he was born. The day he first took a man’s life as a soldier and the day when a spear broke his body, ending his years on the battlefield. She was there when he fell in love, and there again when she broke his heart. She has been waiting for him since before there was a Rome. She has always been there and now it is time for them to begin their journey together.
Eli tells her no, what she says is impossible. Pulling a candle off the wall, Selene tells him that she has lived for thousands of years and she offers him the same. She can make him young, healthy and stronger than he can imagine. She can make him impervious to the ills and suffering of mortals and that is just the beginning. In time, he will have the power to control the beasts of the night and the elements themselves. To prove herself, she makes the flames move at her control. She adds that he will live a life eternal and have her love for all time. An ageless love that will be as beautiful and passionate today as it will be 10,000 years from now. Eli asks her what she would ask of him in return. Touching his face, Selene tells him that she wants every soul in Rome.
Eli knew what was happening. He was a worm but he knew true evil when he saw it and it scared him. Maybe he would have done the right thing, maybe he would have even made the right choice but fate made that choice for him.
As he makes his way for a session of the Senate, Eli is surprised to see Mascius standing with the other Senate members. One of them says to him, Eli, that they were surprised to hear he was stepping down, the people of Rome shall miss his service. But they are glad that he chose Mascius to take his seat. Eli asks his seat and begins to ask Mascius about it but he is cut off. Mascius tells him that he, Eli, is stepping down and needs him to take over his duties immediately. Those were his words to him. Eli stammers of course and asks for forgiveness. Mascius tells him that he is forgiven and tells him Aurelia has some exciting news for him. When Eli makes his way over to his old house, he sees a bonfire in front with his possessions ablaze. Standing on the balcony, she tells him that he may die now and that he can burn along with his possessions for all she cares. She has need of him no longer. Enraged, Eli stares at her with great disdain.
Warpath points out that they say a man with nothing left to lose is the most dangerous man of all.
With Selene, Eli tells her, his queen, that he will do whatever she requires. Selene tells him she requires only godhood. Tomorrow the arena will host the largest battle the city has ever seen. Thousands of souls at once, and they are only the beginning. Giving him a kiss, she tells him that she’s shown him the sigils, the runes. Take her blade, he knows what to do. Together they will live forever.
The next day, Eli makes his way to the arena. As he does so, he repeats to himself five points of a pentagram, all of Rome will burn. They will pay for what… they will all pay…. Just then, Eli sees Claudia off in the distance begging for food. Warpath recants that, in this time, Eli wasn’t evil, just weak. But one moment of kindness changed everything. Eli then made his way over to Claudia and tells her what is about to happen. He tells her to tell no one but her family and that she must go now.
In short time, Claudia’s father made his way up to Mascius and tries to tell him that something terrible is about to happen. At first he doesn’t want to listen but when he mentions Eliphas’ name, Mascius stops to listen. Claudia’s father then tells Claudia to tell her what she knows. When she tells him she can’t, her father yells at her to tell him now.
Warpath indicates that Selene chose her pawn well. He was well known enough to get where he needed to go but at the same time no one cared enough to ask why he was going there.
In the bowels of the arena, Eli uses his own blood to draw four pentagrams and drops bones at the base of each one. As he does so, he says every soul, every soul in Rome and she will be reborn a goddess, and she will love him forever. Selene’s plan was simple. Use Eli to help cast a spell that would allow her to devour tens of thousands of souls, all at once. One life gives Selene power, they’ve seen it happen. Taking that many lives would make her a god. As he finishes drawing the fifth and final pentagram, Eli says out loud that they will live forever. Before he can drop the bones, he is punched out by Mascius who asks him live forever? He won’t survive the night.
Warpath tells his fellow X-Force members that this was Eli’s last day as a human. No one knows where Selene came from, who she is, what she is. She claims she’s older than mankind. Maybe she’s a mutant, an external, one of the first like Apocalypse. Maybe, he doesn’t know. But whatever she is, she wants to be more. She wants power, she wants to be worshipped as a goddess. Maybe she could have done it, but she made one mistake. When she attempts to conjure her spell, it doesn’t work. When she asks what is happening, her body is riddled with arrows which knock her to the ground.
Looking up, she sees that Eli has been captured and hears Mascius say that one would think a witch could do better than he. Charging them, Selene asks that if they think they believe they could kill her? She can never die and she will have their… Before she can reach Mascius, he stabs her in the head with his sword. He then orders his men to bind her body, take them outside the city, and burn them both at the stake. As Eli is carried off, he calls out no, no, no.
If only it were that easy. Outside the city, Eli and Selene are tied to stakes. Eli proceeds to beg for mercy over and over. When the guards make their way over to toss the flames at them, Selene uses her powers to burn and kill the guards instead and then free herself. All the while, Eli continues to call out to the gods to help him. Once free, Selene hisses to Eli that no god can help him now. Putting her hand on Eli’s chest, she tells him to look at her and what he’s done to her. Looking at her deformed face, Eli apologizes to her. Selene tells him that she offered him everything and he betrayed her. Eli tells her that he did not want this, he only wanted a life eternal with her by his…
Selene tells him that he will have life eternal, a life of eternal torment. With that, she pulls some of Eli’s life-force out of him, giving herself life. She then informs him that he will live forever and forever she will deny death to him. She will deny her presence to him. Pray he never sees her again. As she leaves, Eli calls out NOOO!
Seven hundred years later, a farmer is digging in his garden when Eli reaches out of the ground and kills the man, drinking his blood. Upon exiting the ground, Eli calls out Selene’s name.
Warpath then says that for hundreds of years, he walked the earth, looking for Selene. After everything she did to him, he still loved her. And everywhere he went, he brought death. Eventually he left the old world, following Selene’s trail to the new. There he found Warpath’s people, who recognized him for what he was. They were unable to defeat him and their deaths were blamed on the diseases brought to their lands by the colonists. He was getting closer and closer to her, tracking her all the way to the present day. He found her in Nova Roma but he was too afraid to approach her, too scared of her wrath. He needed something to appease her, an offering. And finally, he found one. A sacrifice that even Selene couldn’t ignore – the Purifiers, thousands of them. Holding up a blade, he tells Wolverine and the others that Eli was going to use the blade again and cast the same spell. He planned to sacrifice the Purifier’s black souls to Selene, every last one of them. He wanted to make her a goddess. He wanted her to love him again. That’s all he cares about now.
Domino remarks that it’s romantic, messed up, but romantic. Vanisher tells them to screw them, he’ll take his chances with the tumor. Archangel then asks Warpath what this has to do with the Technarch or his tribe. Warpath informs him everything.
In New Orleans, now, Eli Bard makes his way to a house where Selene is staying. Flanked by a number of techno-organic infected Apache corpses, he tells her that he has missed his queen. Surrounded by her people, Selene tells Eli that he’s made a terrible mistake coming back to her and orders her children to kill him. Eli informs her that he has an offering for her. Selene informs him that she does not know what foul science has given him these slaves, but she has no need of them.
Eli replies that she misunderstands. They are not his offering and introduces to her a revived, techno-organic infected Caliban. He tells her that the dead mutant before her in life could track any mutant on the planet. But in death, he can find all those lost to the world. Once found, he will resurrect those mutants just as he did this Apache and his tribe. It is those mutants, their power, and their souls that he offers her. Smiling, Selene looks at Eli with great intrigue.