Winzeldorf, Germany. A circus, deep within the backwoods. A little known language, Ancient-Germanic Tribal Dialect is being spoken, an incantation to be precise. Within the circus tent, a body lies on the ground, engulfed in flame. Another is twisted around one of the poles holding the tent up, and one more is crushed beneath a ten-ton weight. In the middle of the circus ring, candles surround a pentagram, illuminating it from the darkness which engulfs the rest of the tent. Within the pentagram, a two-headed man, one of the circus performers lay bound, while a cloaked figure that has been chanting the spell kneels before the performer, holding a two-bladed dagger over his chest. The performer cries out, asking what makes them so special? The mysterious figure tells them that their souls are what she needs, as her own power fades, and their sacrifices restore her powers. She proceeds to tell them that their sacrifice is not in vain, as her mission is one of mercy…and absolution!
Muir Island Research Center, off the coast of Cape Wrath, Scotland. Home to world-renowned scientist, Dr. Moira MacTaggert, and her friends and teammates, Excalibur. Today, Nightcrawler, the leader of the super team composed of mutants and superhumans, is taking a well-deserved break…enjoying time off. The mutant is in a computer-generated simulation, of the circus he once performed in with his adoptive family, in Germany. Kurt Wagner was raised swinging from one trapeze to the next, and has an excellent sense of spatial judgment. However something has gone wrong this time – and the trapeze he was about to swing to dematerialized as he grabbed it, and he plunges to the circus tent floor, while crowds of viewers watch in horror, and shriek that there is no net.
Kurt Wagner, is a mutant though, and has more than just keen acrobatic skill, he has the mutant power to teleport. Before he hits the ground, he disappears with a “BAMF” and a smell of brimstone, before landing on his feet in front of the amazed viewers, and replying to someone’s how does he do it, with “it’s a trade secret”. Suddenly, someone says to Nightcrawler, that secrets have ever been the Szardos family’s stock-in-trade yes? Kurt is puzzled, but when he turns around, he sees Sabu, his old acrobatic mentor. Confused, as he was not supposed to be part of this scenario, Nightcrawler tells the computer to terminate the holo-program.
The computer replies that there is too much extranormal interference and the sequence can’t be shut off. Nightcrawler thinks that the villain Nightmare may have something to do with this, as he only recently attacked Excalibur. Kurt talks to his mentor as if he was the demon Nightmare, saying he dare threaten them again? The mentor replies back, that he does dare, though he is not the demon Nightcrawler thought him to be, though Nightmare played a part in gathering the intelligence need for this encounter. The figure of Nightcrawler’s mentor suddenly returns to its true form –that of Belasco! Belasco makes a comment about Nightmare having a very interesting method of interrogation, but is insulted for being mistaken for someone as lowly as he. Holding a sword up to Nightcrawler’s throat, Kurt is rather taken aback, and asks the demon what he is doing here.
The powerful and cunning ruler of Limbo tells Nightcrawler he is here to make a deal. In exchange for permanent custody of the powerful Winding Way, he will give Kurt his mother, Margali who is ruler of the Winding Way. An image appears out of thin air, and Nightcrawler sees Margali caged and in pain held captive in Limbo. Kurt attempts to challenge Belasco, who tells him to save it, his words mean nothing. Belasco tells him that Margali has perverted the sacred path to mystical empowerment from which her sorcery is drawn. Belasco shows Kurt images of the tortured circus performers from Winzeldorf, the legacy of Margali Szardos; murder, deception and manipulation. Margali breeds a legacy of corruption, desecrating the Winding Way, and handed down from mother – to daughter!
Nightcrawler is stunned. Amanda did this? Kurt does not believe the demon, and tells him that his mother’s employment of the dark arts has always been for helping people not harm, as has Amanda’s. He tells Belasco to show his illusions elsewhere, as he is not buying. With an evil grin, Belasco tells the mutant to suit himself – but does he still not wonder where – and why – Amanda disappeared to after quitting Excalibur? Belasco tells him the answer awaits at “home” before vanishing.
In the shower Nightcrawler thinks that this may be a trap. Belasco is after all the Prince of lies, and though Margali raised him as if he were her own, she has often given him reason to doubt her good intentions. Last time they crossed paths she was destroying London, and was the Red Queen of the London Inner Circle. Kurt realizes that the mystical forces Margali and Amanda control can become dangerous for the undisciplined, but Amanda succumbing to the dark side? Kurt never thought it possible of her. If Daytripper did have anything to do with this, then it accounts for her mysterious resignation from Excalibur and why she had not contacted him.
Kurt wishes it was some other demon that was involved, one that Kurt and his friends did not have such a history with, as in Limbo awaits the soul of Illyana Rasputin, Colossus’ sister and Kitty’s best friend. Thinking it best not to ask his friends to accompany him to Limbo, he decides he should go alone. He tells the computer to activate the Midnight Runner’s auto navigation, heading for Winzeldorf, Germany, before bamfing out of the changing rooms.
At the Midnight Runners hangar, Nightcrawler’s teammates, and perhaps his best friends, Shadowcat and Colossus approach the flight vessel, while contemplating what Kurt is about to do. Kitty tells Colossus that it is ludicrous, after all who better to go with him than the two of them? They have been to Limbo before, and have faced Belasco. Not to mention Illyana…why is this even an issue? Ever the voice of reason, Colossus tells his companion that however illogical Kurt’s decision may seem to them, he has his reasons.
While Kurt is attempting to take off, Shadowcat uses her mutant power of intangibility to phase through the computer system, knowing that her powers disrupt technology. Kurt seems mildly annoyed, and just asks her why she couldn’t have used the door. Kitty tells him she thinks he would have taken off without her. Colossus enters, and tells Kurt that they are here for him and that he shouldn’t have to do this by himself. Nightcrawler tells Piotr that he should – as it is a family matter and he doesn’t want to involve strangers. Understandably Kitty is hurt; she tells Nightcrawler that what he said really hurts – after all they have been through, as X-Men, Excalibur, friends, she would have thought they were family too. Kitty and Colossus walk out before Kurt tries to apologize, and he takes off in the Midnight Runner.
In Limbo, on his throne, Belasco watches Nightcrawler leave Muir Island, and tells the captive Margali who is naked, and cramped in a small cage hung above a pit of fire, that Nightcrawler is going to be heartbroken when he discovers the ‘sinfully delicious’ evil that his sister is up to. And as if mocking Margali the demon asks her what kind of stress will that put on her little family? Resting on a ledge above Belasco’s throne, an imp, who resembles Nightcrawler, tells his master, it would put a great deal of stress on. Belasco snaps back, telling the imp if he wanted his opinion he would give it to him, the imp bamfs away just before Belasco strikes him.
Now turning to Margali, Belasco asks her why she is so quiet? He makes a joke about Cat being here, but no, she couldn’t be, as he would know if she were sniffing around. So Belasco concludes that Margali is silent because she has finally accepted the fact with the Soulsword in his possession, he has usurped Margali’s position as ruler of the Winding Way. He continues to taunt the powerful sorceress. Telling her she is a sight, what with her body filthy, covered in sweat and grime, and her powers must be depleted for her to look such a sight, what with Margali Szardos being so image conscious and all! ‘Must hurt like the Dickens’ Belasco says. The sorceress thinks to herself, not as much as he is going to hurt when she breaks free – as he has no idea of just who he is messing with!
Having arrived at the real Jahrmarkt circus in Winzeldorf. Kurt thinks it ironic, how he began his career in the circus and cannot bring himself to enter. He truly believes Amanda is innocent – so then why is he so nervous about confronting her? The circus tent is pitch black when he enters, then suddenly there is a candlelight – and with unbelievable style and poise the mysterious cloaked figure now stands illuminated by it. Ever so slowly the hood his dropped, revealing Amanda Sefton aka Daytripper, Kurt’s foster sister, and off-and-on again girlfriend, as well as former Excalibur member, long serving ally to the X-Men, senior-in-house flight attendant, and sorceress of considerable power who represents the X-Men's dream - humans and mutants working together…however Amanda was the last person Kurt expected to see under that hood.
Amanda says to Kurt that she knew he would come, however Kurt’s feelings of concern over the recent events subside when he sees her – its Amanda! Overjoyed he teleports over to her, telling her he has been so worried, and all this time without contacting him. He reminds Amanda of how she only told Colossus she was departing, as she wasn’t feeling herself and that just up and leaving was so unlike her. Amanda sticks her hand up to his face and looks away, telling him now is not the time for celebration. Kurt thinks otherwise, as they are together again, after all he has missed her, and she missed him – didn’t she?
Nightcrawler thinks something is wrong, and asks Daytripper if there is something she is not telling him. With good reason, she answers him, and instantly the circus big top tent lights up, and Kurt sees the circus performers, tortured around him. He remembers the words that Belasco said to him: “She breeds a legacy of corruption, handed down from mother to daughter”. With fear in his eyes, he says that this cannot be happening, but his sister tells him that it is. Belasco has thrown the gauntlet, and it is time for his blood to be spilled – the last blood spilled will be theirs, and they will make Belasco pay. To ensure victory, Amanda tells Kurt that familial blood must be let, and hands him a dagger, asking for him to do for her what he did for their brother Stefan many years ago. As Amanda says ‘Swear the Vengeance Oath, give me your blood’, Kurt remembers the pact he made with Stefan Szardos.
Standing inside a pentagram, Amanda tells her foster brother that the portal to Limbo is open, and he must make his choice. For with the Soulsword in his position, Amanda chooses her word carefully now, their - "mother‘s" position on the Winding Way can be usurped, leading to many kinds of disasters. In a very unusual trait for Amanda she puts the guilt trip on Nightcrawler – if he can forgive himself the guilt of not helping the woman who saved him as a child, then he should leave, and she will rescue Margali alone. Kurt takes the dagger, and draws blood, though he is still very wary – the last time he did this he was forced to take Stefan’s life. He prays that Amanda will be spared the same fate.
Amanda tells him to drop blood in each point of the pentagram, as it will safeguard their passage to Limbo. As Daytripper opens the gateway to Limbo, Nightcrawler asks her why she has become involved in black magic as before she always only practiced white magic. His foster sister tells him that she has done whatever necessary to defeat a nether-lord like Belasco. To defeat a demon…one must become a demon…and with that the siblings enter the gateway to Limbo.
Upon arriving in Limbo, Nightcrawler comments on how Amanda’s teleportational abilities, even the trans-dimensional ones she used to get to Limbo, were no more disorientating than his own teleportational powers, and asks her if she had been practicing. All she tells him is that all of his interdimensional traveling has reinforced his tolerance, and that he is lucky. Kurt tells Amanda that he is just lucky being here with her, when she says nothing he tells her that was a pass. As if uninterested she just tells him they have arrived – at Belasco’s enormous palace!
Watching the heroes from his throne, through a viewing cloud, Belasco torments Margali more, by telling her how proud she must be to see her children coming to her rescue, and concerned about her welfare. Though only if they arrived sooner… However, in the cage, while it is Margali Szardos’ body, it is, in fact, the mind and soul of her daughter! Disgusted, Amanda thinks to herself awful this is – her own mother switching bodies with her, and leaving her to suffer at the one remaining hand of Belasco the gimp. Wait till she gets out of here, then her mother will have a lot to answer for (as always). As she attempts to pick the lock with a perfectly manicured fingernail, she is suddenly stabbed in the hand!
It is the imp who looks like Nightcrawler. With a sword in one hand, he hangs to the side of Amanda’s prison, and asks her why she is leaving the “party” so soon? It is just starting! He tells her he doesn’t know why, but he has come to be fond of her. Very fond of her - and he knows she has too. Aghast, Amanda asks him what he is talking about. With his face pressed up to hers, the imp tells Daytripper not to be so surprised. He is on to her. While she may have fooled the power hungry Belasco, did she really think he wouldn’t recognize Amanda Sefton’s mind trapped inside Margali Szardos’ body? That was mistake number one. Mistake number two, is that he will tell Belasco what is going on when she makes another attempt to escape – unless she is willing to help him.
Daytripper asks the imp what he wants from her, and after he whispers it into her ear she cries out, in the absurdity of the idea, telling him he is insane, wanting to steal the Soulsword (with her help). She is cut off when the imp wraps his tail around her mouth, telling her to be quiet or Belasco will hear her. When they look over at Belasco, he is still watching Nightcrawler and Amanda/Margali at the palace gates. The imp tells Amanda – her liberty for the sword. And she mumbles ‘deal’ from under his tail. He tells her that was a wise decision and kisses her on the lips, before remarking that Belasco’s rule over Limbo ends – and his begins! He teleports away, leaving Amanda covered in the filthy brimstone smell, coughing and spluttering. Belasco tells her to settle down – as their guests have arrived!
Staring up at the huge palace gates, covered with skeletons, strung by spikes, Nightcrawler makes a joke about how this just screams “Willkommen”, and Amanda/Margali tells him this is no joking matter, as once inside the gruesome gates, the only way out is victory – or death! Taken aback at being called ‘child’, Kurt tells Amanda/Margali that she is only a couple of years older than he, when he is cut off by a rumbling – and S’ym bursts up through the ground. Nightcrawler is a little surprised to see him, and the demon makes a joke about Kurt recognizing him even now that he has the Transmode Virus. With that he grabs Amanda/Margali and says that some people are recognizable no matter what – especially those belonging to double-dealing sorceress’ with too much attitude. S’ym says that he’d always recognize that streak of wicked witch, and magically transforms the face of “Amanda“ to that of Margali.
Nightcrawler is stunned, and demands to be told what is going on. While Margali (still in Amanda’s body, though she now wearing a magical aura surrounding her face, showing her true face) attacks S’ym with magic, S’ym tells Kurt he is breaking and entering, and he is here to make sure things stay broken. Teleporting out of the way of S’ym’s powerful fist before it hits him. Kurt is now beside Margali, and tells her that as much as he is inclined to leave her here to S’ym’s mercies, he will have to call her and do it some other time, and teleports his mother out of S’ym’s fist. Turning towards Kurt and Margali, S’ym tells Nightcrawler not too look so surprised, after all, it is old news that Margali is a backstabbing, two-timing woman. In her usual authoritative tone of voice Margali cries enough, and tells S’ym to go back to the damnable pit that spawned him, and using her powers, she opens up a pit and the over-grown demon falls into it.
Fearing that if S’ym could see through her disguise then Belasco could do the same, Margali tells her son they must act quickly. Extremely angry, Kurt yells at Margali, asking her what she has done. Margali tells him to walk the Winding Way in her shoes before judging her. She reveals to him that her failure in London left her extremely weak and vulnerable. Belasco exploited that weakness, and captured her. Her options were very limited. She could either die as his prisoner, therefore forfeiting custody of the Winding Way, which is the Szardos’ family’s charge to defend, or she could escape – by any means necessary, however diabolical.
Though she did not want to do what she did, as it went against all of her maternal instincts, she chose the later. Margali assumed control of her daughter Jimaine, and switched their bodies. Amanda’s life essence was drawn into Margali’s caged form while hers was liberated into her daughter‘s – a body charged with power – enough power to confront Belasco as an equal again.
Looking somewhat forlorn, Margali fears it may have cost her her soul. She asks her loving son to forgive his old mother, and to help her reclaim what is left of her ailing soul. Nightcrawler tells Margali that it is one thing to have used him, who his kin solely by the goodness of her heart, however departed it, may be. But to ask him to call her “mother” after the way she has treated Jimaine - her own flesh and blood, and so callously and selfishly as well. Kurt tells Margali he is not sure he can call her mother ever again, and looks away from her in disgust. Margali looks at him, somewhat broken, before turning away and breathing out an ‘I see’.
Suddenly, a giant hand breaks through the soil – it is S’ym! The demon grabs Margali and tells her she could use a taste of her own medicine – instead of her breaking apart the family, he will break her apart. In vain, Nightcrawler tells S’ym to release her, to no avail. Though as she is sucked beneath Limbo’s soil she tells Kurt to leave her to her fate, and rescue his sister. They must stop Belasco, as they are her only hope.
Now alone, Nightcrawler considers his options. He is a man with no mystical abilities, trapped in a timeless Hell where today is yesterday, and tomorrow may never be, desperately trying to save a damsel in distress from a demon lord, and his minions. He wonders what his idol Errol Flynn would do in this situation…with that Kurt teleports into Belasco’s throne room, telling the demon to surrender.
Armed with the all-powerful Soulsword, Belasco comments to his slave the imp on how his good self has arrived, and how he actually believes he has a chance of rescuing his mother. The imp realizes this is the chance he was waiting for, and tells Belasco that the only fool here, is Belasco himself. He throws Nightcrawler his sword and tells him to slay Belasco while he rescues Amanda. Kurt is a little astonished, and asks him what he is doing. Handing Daytripper a cloak as he frees her from the cage, the imp tells Nightcrawler he is keeping a promise… before he is slain by Belasco, who mutters good help is hard to find these days.
Belasco now points the Soulsword at Daytripper, still thinking she is Margali. Unable to gather herself, it looks like Amanda’s time is up – until Nightcrawler teleports to the cage, grabs his sister and they jump out of harms way. Amanda begins the attacks on Belasco. The demon puts two and two together – ‘”Amanda” – you mean you’re not--?’ Right body. Wrong soul. Amanda tells him. Amused Belasco thinks Margali had a very clever ruse going on, using her own daughter as a “human shield” while she recovered from her injuries, and let her powers rejuvenate. How clever. Still casting a spell against Belasco, Daytripper comments on how sinking to an all-time low impresses ghouls. She rhetorically asks Belasco if he finds her spell impressive. Belasco does not seem to be amused and, calling her ‘little girl’, tells Jimaine that her mother is only half the mystic he is - so Daytripper is way out of his league.
As if on-cue, Nightcrawler teleports beside Belasco and tells him that what his sister lacks in sorcery, he makes up for in swordsmanship, and asks the one-armed Belasco how he fares. Belasco tells the mutant that he astounds him far more than he insults him, and the two begin a sword fight. As the battle leaves the throne room, and enters the balcony Kurt asks Belasco why he astounds him more than he insults him. The demon tells him it is because even after he Kurt saw what his mother did to his friends and her own daughter, which should certainly should cause an uproar, what with Kurt’s religious beliefs. Yet he is here, in a corner of Hell, sacrificing himself to save the sacrilegious Margali Szardos. While Kurt is distracted, Belasco strikes him with the Soulsword, and asks him how he reconciles it.
Kurt tells him it is a matter of faith, something that he would not understand. Suddenly the Soulsword is flung out of Belasco’s hand, and tumbles over the balcony, far down to the ground before the castle, while the demon cries out in shock. Suddenly, Daytripper appears, and says ‘Oh. I’m sorry. Did you need that?’ Belasco is furious. Calling Amanda an impudent wench he asks her if she realizes what she has just thrown away – power beyond reckoning, power destined to be his.
‘Or so you dream’ says Margali as she flings S’ym’s broken body onto the balcony. S’ym apologizes to his master, only saying that she got to him. The witch asks Belasco if he feels it. Feels the tingle running down his spine, the numbing chill crippling his fingertips. For they are they last of his power flowing out of his body into hers. Margali continues, saying that all who invoke the sacred mysteries of the Winding Way must suffer a time of weakness, where the scales may be balanced. Her time has ended, and Belasco’s has only begun. Belasco lunges at Margali who is standing on the ledge of the balcony, telling her that the power he has waited eons to claim is at last his, and she will give him his due. And as the once powerful Belasco plunges into a pit after Margali made her body intangible, he falls into a very large black hole in the ground, which closes up behind him.
Margali apologizes to her daughter, telling Jimaine that she never meant to hurt her. Weary, Amanda tells her mother to give her body back, promise she will never pull a stunt like this again, and she may consider it. Margali obliges, and no longer in the filth covered body, she is once the beautiful Amanda Sefton again. Margali calls Kurt her son, but tells him she knows not what to say. He tells her to say nothing, though her actions have violated every belief he holds dear, she is still his mother, if not in blood but by spirit, and that perhaps he will be able to forgive her, one day. Margali tells him she looks forward to that day, whole-heartedly. And with that, the powerful sorceress becomes a green glow, and wishes her children well, wherever their ways my wind, before disappearing.
Kurt is stunned – that’s it? And she’s gone? Holding each other closely, Amanda reminds him this is their mother, you know her, and she will be back when they least expect it. And after all, someone has to watch over Limbo – but she is interrupted, as several little goblins who had been watching the drama unfold from a safe distance, approach Daytripper and ask her if she is their mistress now. Amanda does not seem very impressed. First her mother steals her body, and now leaves her with the responsibility of cleaning up her mess. She doesn’t know about Kurt, but she says she will never forgive her mother for this, before sighing and bringing back to life all circus performers from Winzeldorf. The performers seem rather pleased, pleased to be back in their own bodies, and pleased that Margali’s ruse was a success. That by getting Belasco to believe they were dead, when in truth their souls lived on, giving her strength.
Daytripper asks her foster brother if he forgives their mother, and Kurt tells her that seeing Amanda alive and safe, and their friends the performers returned to life makes him feel better, though he is still chilled by the measures which he knows were taken to achieve it all. So he thinks it best he reserve judgment for now. Amanda thinks that is fair enough. But she tells her brother there is only one loose end to contend with. Kurt tells her that she used a very curious choice of words, and asks if that is all he has become to her over the last few months. A loose end? Something to be cut? But Amanda tells him not to be silly – he is something to be held onto, and as the two share a passionate kiss and embrace, he agrees.
Afterwards Nightcrawler and the circus performers depart from Limbo in the Midnight Runner. Kurt thinks to himself he imagines this is just as hard for Amanda as it is for him. At first, she was never comfortable with the mystical “manifest destiny” which Margali fostered upon her as a child. And now she is forced to temporarily assume not only the Guardian of Limbo, but the Custodian of the Winding Way too, neither of which she would have chosen for herself. Though it breaks his heart to leave the now tear-stricken Amanda, Kurt has responsibilities to attend to himself – to Excalibur, the X-Men and the missing Professor Xavier, and also to himself. However he knows their paths will cross again one day, they seem to be luck that way. He hopes to himself that Daytripper will be able to forgive him for his ambivalence towards their mother, and that she will forgive him for it – after all, if you cant forgive the ones you love, who can you forgive?
An unknown amount of time after portal closed behind the Midnight Runner, an armored hand strikes through the ground – holding the Soulsword…