Nightcrawler. Mutant teleporter. Member of the X-Men... for another minute, or so.
"Scott," Nightcrawler says pensively one morning at the breakfast table, "I'm quitting the X-Men." Shocked, Scott Summers freezes in place, leaving his spoon suspended over his cereal bowl. The milk spills out and plops back into the dish. He asks Kurt if everything is all right. "Yes. And no," Kurt tells him. "The X-Men don't need me." Cyclops starts in with a sympathetic appeal, but Kurt interrupts him mid-sentence. There’s no point in pretending the team needs him; they have a stronger teleporter in Pixie anyway. It's not the strategy that concerns him, Cyclops insists. Kurt says it doesn't matter. Since he is not teaching at the school either, he sees no reason why they need him to stay. Besides, he would not feel comfortable with the X-Men depending on him right now.
Scott shrugs. If Kurt feels he needs some time off, of course he can take it. He asks Kurt where he intends to go. In response, Kurt presents an invitation he received in the mail and hands it to Scott. He reads it incredulously. “You are cordially invited to the opening of The Nightcrawler Museum,” it reads. Scott notices the location of the museum—Winzeldorf, Germany—and recalls the name from memory. It was in Winzeldorf that Nightcrawler performed with a circus as a trapeze artist. Kurt confirms this, adding that although he does not know the true intention behind the invitation, he can hardly think of a more appealing offer at this time in his life—considering how irrelevant he has felt lately.
"This sounds like a trap!" Cyclops shouts. At the very least, he asks that Kurt take one of the X-Men with him to investigate. Kurt folds his arms and glares at Scott with a defensive look written plainly across his face. While he appreciates Scott's certainty that no one would think so well of him, he reminds him that he, unlike so many of the X-Men, does not maintain a rogues' gallery of enemies nursing personal vendettas. Put simply, he must go to Winzeldorf to gain some perspective—and to step out of the shadow that has fallen over him. He plans on leaving that night, once he finishes packing. Cyclops asks if he can gather everyone to say goodbye. Kurt tells him that would be nice.
As he climbs into the cab that takes him out of the lives of the X-Men, Kurt gives his friends a forlorn, half-hearted goodbye wave.
Sometime later, Kurt Wagner arrives to his hometown in Germany. Winzeldorf: The Home of Nightcrawler! boasts the hand-crafted sign that now adorns the entrance to the village. Kurt looks at it—specifically the smiling wooden caricature of himself that sits atop the sign—and shrugs. "That looks nothing like me." Looking toward the quaint village, Kurt sees surprisingly little activity in the streets and wonders if he is early for the party. As he walks further into town, he passes by a disappointed-looking woman wearing a set of pointed, blue costume ears. Next to her stands a sign that once displayed the price of entry: 15 Euros. That price has been scratched out and replaced with a discounted rate: 5 Euros. Kurt realizes he's not early to the party at all, but late.
After walking down the cobblestone street, passing by broken windows and curious villagers in the process, Kurt arrives at the town square. To his surprise, he finds a water fountain in the center of the plaza carved in his likeness. The statue stands proudly on the backs of four chiseled men, who hold him up in a rather Atlas-like manner. "Oh. I almost feel bad, standing on them like that," Nightcrawler says to himself. He smirks. "But I'll take it!"
With excitement, Kurt darts toward the doors of the museum, pushes them open, and shouts "Hello, Winzeldorf!" at the visitors inside. Surprisingly, he finds the museum completely unpopulated—save for the wide array of Nightcrawler memorabilia it contains. He looks at the shrine in awe. Suspended above the main viewing room is the head of a Sentinel. Kurt walks around the room, spotting several other relics from his past he never thought he would see again. "I really hope this is a replica," he says when he sees the living gateway Widget. As he passes by a shrine of pictures from his circus days, Kurt cannot help but feel strange at the memories these images spur; he honestly has a hard time remembering what it was like to be that happy.
"You!" someone shouts from across the museum. Kurt turns and sees a mousy, pleasant-looking girl in a green, turtle-necked sweater and purple skirt. She drops her cup of coffee and her freckled face goes slack. She can't believe it's him! She introduces herself to Mr. Nightcrawler as Mara Keller—his biggest fan. Kurt doesn't challenge her title.
Now embarrassed, Mara hopes Kurt does not think her crazy for collecting all this stuff and opening a museum. Kurt seems surprised she opened the museum all by herself. Still embarrassed, Mara asks him not to be scared of her. Kurt laughs; normally he is the one who does the scaring! He actually feels honored and impressed that she created this tribute to his legacy. He just has one question: why him? "When I was at university—in the States—you saved me," Mara says, adjusting her glasses. "From an alien invasion or something. I never really found out what was happening.” She pauses. “Besides, I was a sociology major. What else was I going to do?"
Suddenly, two gruff, bearded men burst in the door, allowing a gust of wind to blow some crunchy autumn leaves inside. "Hey! Beast! You've come back!" they shout in German. Nightcrawler smiles. They must be confused, he says; Beast is a friend of his. He understands the confusion, though. Beast is also blue, after all. In fact, Kurt is surprised they don't get confused more often. Ignoring—and possibly not even understanding—these sarcastic barbs, the irate villagers get in Kurt's face and ask if he plans to kill the monster, or eat his table scraps. Kurt looks at him with confusion. What monster? The monster they summoned him to defeat, the villager shouts! Since Nightcrawler is supposedly some big hero now, they have a monster for him to fight before it kills again!
Kurt cranes his neck toward Mara and asks if this is true. She thinks so; she saw the creature a few weeks earlier, running toward the woods. Not that, Nightcrawler says; did she truly invite him to Winzeldorf to take care of a pest problem? He berates himself for having such an inflated ego. Mara apologizes for luring him there on such dishonest terms. Admittedly, she did want him to see the museum! She actually thought he would never want to come see it. Conversely, the villagers didn't think Nightcrawler would come if they asked, so they struck a bargain. Kurt admits the villagers were right; he would not have come had he known the true circumstances.
One of the villagers now tells Nightcrawler than another child—a young girl—has gone missing. Mara adds that this monster, which they have dubbed the Vielfras, has also killed a man, and possibly his teenage son as well. Kurt looks at her in disbelief. Can't they get their facts straight? He reminds Mara that these same people once thought he was a monster and tried to kill him as well! For all Kurt knows, this monster is just an innocent, scared kid like he was!
Suddenly, a huge, roaring, crimson-skinned demon comes crashing through the glass ceiling. Instinctively, Kurt grabs hold of Mara and teleports her up to the balcony and out of harm's way. He tells her to stay there. Mara swoons upon realizing she just teleported. Kurt then runs back down the stairs and confronts the monster. "Well, so much for proving them wrong," he says. The snarling demon asks if Kurt is the hero of which the villagers speak. "Well I certainly was not last time," Kurt says, "but I think you are putting me in a much better light." While grabbing hold of the demon's horns, Kurt notices the two men from the village running for the exit. He asks if they might like to help. The men continue out the door, adding that if either one of the fighters die, the entire village is better off.
Nightcrawler teleports above the demon's head and strikes at the back of its neck with his knee. The monster howls in pain. Nightcrawler follows up this attack with an elbow to the monster's face, noting that he would appreciate it if he did not destroy the entire museum before he got the chance to give it a thorough look. Unexpectedly, the monster recovers, grabs Kurt by the neck, and tells him to go ahead and take a better look, then. He hurls Nightcrawler headlong across the room and into a glass display case. Luckily for Nightcrawler, this display case happened to house two swords. Picking them up, he charges back toward the monster, ready to duel. They exchange blows. The demon blocks the attacks with his horns and spiked bone fragments jutting from his elbows. Kurt successfully parries each of the demon's counter-attacks. "And here I was worried I'd be rust—" be begins to say. Suddenly, the demon scores a blow in the form of an uppercut, sending Nightcrawler soaring across the room. However, Kurt recovers in mid-air and teleports. He reappears behind the monster's back and holds him at sword-point. "That was rude. I was in mid-quip," Kurt says. He then drives the sword forward, impaling the monster in the left shoulder.
The Vielfras lets out an anguished cry of pain, then charges for the exit. As it leaves, Nightcrawler cannot help but note its impressive prowess in battle. He takes a look around the museum and sees it is now in shambles. Kurt blames himself for ruining everything! At this point, Mara Keller comes running back down the stares and asks Kurt if he's kidding or something; his fight with the demon was the most amazing thing she has ever seen! Hanging his head, Kurt claims he should have gotten the monster outside right away. "Trust me," Mara says to him. "In a town of torch-wielding xenophobes, I took out plenty of insurance before putting your face anywhere near this place." Even so, Kurt promises to help her make any repairs she needs and replace anything he broke.
Mara tells him to be careful about what he promises; she might just show up at his house and take anything she likes! Something about his expression reveals to Mara that he intends to go after the monster. She asks if that is the case, to which Kurt replies he must. The monster, whatever it is, is dangerous. Mara makes him promise to return. If he doesn't, Kurt says, she can have all of his stuff. In a puff of purple smoke, Nightcrawler vanishes. His sudden disappearance initially startles Mara, but once she settles down, she basks in sulfuric smell of his brimstone stench and takes a big, adoring whiff.
After a seemingly endless series of teleports through the woods, Nightcrawler finally happens upon an isolated campfire. He slinks into the shadows and closes the rest of the distance on foot. If the Vielfras does indeed have the missing child, Kurt only hopes he reaches her before something horrible happens. Unfortunately, when he reaches the his campfire, he sees the large demon tearing into some recently cooked flesh, while a skull and ribcage continue roasting on the spit. Kurt watches in horror, certain he arrived too late.
"I have very good hearing, you know," the Vielfras suddenly says while finishing up a piece of roasted flesh. He turns to Nightcrawler and tells him he should not have come. As he wraps his claws around Nightcrawler's neck, he tells him that at the very least he should have brought swords, as he is not strong enough to take him down. Kurt groans. He tells the Vielfras that he only came to save the child, but sees that he was too late. "Child?" the demon asks. Just then, Kurt teleports out of his grip and reappears high up in the air. He doesn't have to be stronger than the Vielfras, he says as he dives at the monster; he just has to be smarter.
Nightcrawler levels the monster with a well-placed punch. As it crashes to the ground, Kurt admits he understands why it would want to take out its aggression on the close-minded people of the village. What he could never understand, however, is how he could have done such an awful thing to a small child. What could she have possibly done to deserve that? The Vielfras picks himself up and, rubbing his head, asks what he means about a child. Kurt narrows his eyes. "The child you captured. That you killed," he says. The Vielfras strikes back at Kurt with a tree branch and insists he never killed anyone! If that's the case, Kurt asks, then why does he keep attacking? He cracks the monster over the back of the head with a makeshift club.
"You're here to kill me, aren't you?" the downed Vielfras asks. "I didn't want to give you the chance." It explains how it heard rumors in the village of an American superhero coming to kill him. That is Nightcrawler, isn't it? At first, Kurt sneers at this notion, but then realizes the perception is entirely correct. However, he informs the Vielfras that he does not kill people, so the rumor was not as grave as it seemed. Regardless, he asks the monster what it was eating just now if it was not the child he supposedly didn't kill. Exasperated, the Vielfras explains he was eating a deer—or what was left of one, anyway. He even offers Kurt a portion. Kurt tells him he wants answers, not food.
He asks the Vielfras who—or what—he is, specifically if he is a mutant. Bowing his head, the Vielfras gives his name: Henrik Weber. "And I was just a sixteen-year-old kid," he adds, until he got involved with some Gypsies. Kurt knows all about Gypsies.
Moving on, Henrik explains how he fell for a beautiful Gypsy girl named Trista. He thinks he loved her, but he wanted more than she would offer. So, he found a girl at a dance who gave to him the physical satisfaction he desired—but never thought how it would make Trista feel. Unfortunately, he found out exactly how Trista would feel when she caught him in the act.
After he regained his senses, Henrik went to Trista's place to apologize, but she would not see him. Her grandmother did, however. She confronted Henrik outside their camp and marked his forehead with blood. Although Henrik didn't understand what the words she chanted meant, he got the message loud and clear—or so he thought. It was not until he woke up as a creature resembling the Devil himself that he understood the gravity of this curse. Henrik was admittedly terrified. His father—who was in no condition to deal with this either—was even more terrified. He died of a heart attack upon seeing the monster in his son's room. When Henrik carried his father's lifeless body out of his room, the villagers assumed he had killed him, and drove him out of the city limits. They never gave him a chance to explain what happened. Henrik tried to find Trista, but her family had already moved on, leaving him permanently transformed. Worse, whenever he gets near the villagers to explain himself, they try to kill him! Now, his life is ruined simply because he messed up at love. He acknowledges that he made a stupid mistake. However, he also acknowledges that he is only sixteen; he hoped to have more time to figure things out. With tears in his eyes, he turns to Nightcrawler and asks if it gets any easier.
"What? Love?" Kurt asks. "I...I joined the priesthood. That is not generally a choice made by those who have 'figured out' women."
Suddenly, from behind, a baritone voice commands the demons to come out of the woods. If they come willingly, they will receive a quick death; they might not like the alternative. Kurt and Henrik turn around and gasp at the sight of an angry, torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mob from the village. Immediately, Kurt springs into action. He teleports into the middle of the mob and begins dispatching angry villagers and neutralizing their weapons using his martial arts. He would love to sit down with them and talk this out, Nightcrawler tells them, but he's had enough experience to realize that is not an option.
A bullet rips through his left shoulder. Nightcrawler gasps, coughing up a stream of blood in the process, and falls to the ground, completely defenseless. A shotgun-wielding villager stands proudly over his body. As they encircle him and prepare to deliver the coup de grace, the enraged Henrik leaps at the mob and challenges them to a fight. It's him they want, Henrik says, gesturing toward himself. He flails violently at the members of the lynch mob, choking some, cracking others over the head, and smashing the faces of others into trees. He holds an old man up with one hand and prepares to claw off his face with the other when Nightcrawler stands up and asks him to stop. Henrik, snarling, asks why he should. "Because—this is it. What you are doing," Kurt begins, "...you will never be Henrik again. Not to anyone in this land. Not to yourself. You will only be this creature. This Vielfras." Henrik insists the villagers left him no other choice, but Kurt rebukes him. In life, one always has a choice; Kurt knows from personal experience. When one looks like they do—or like so many other mutants who have faced persecution—one must be better than the rest, just to come out even. "And it isn't fair," Kurt adds. "And it isn't easy. The only other option is that you become exactly the monster they think you are."
As Kurt's words sink in, Henrik lets the old man go and hangs his head in shame. At that moment, the old man's granddaughter—the little girl who initially went missing—appears from behind a tree, the tears evident in her eyes. Kurt realizes he must get the little girl and her grandfather out of the area before they get hurt in the violence. Grabbing hold of them, he takes them via teleportation to the edge of the woods and lets them go. While the two frightened family members embrace, Kurt heads back to Henrik's campfire pit. "That would have been hard enough without getting shot," he says. "I've still got to get back there. Before—"
CRA-KOOOM! The sound of a gunshot rips through the quiet night air. By the time Nightcrawler makes it back to the campfire, he finds Henrik lying face down in a pool of blood, with the recently fired shotgun still gripped in his hand. Kurt gasps. Why did he do this? He still had a choice! "I pray I did not make you feel otherwise," Kurt says. "And I pray...I pray to God he take you now. And you may be at peace."
"Sorry, friend. But this boy is coming with me," a voice says. Nightcrawler turns and, to his utter horror, beholds the demon Mephisto. Grinning deviously, Mephisto tells Nightcrawler he would say he's looking well—but he hates lying. Even though he has met Mephisto before, Kurt is quite shocked to see him. Was this entire ordeal simply a way for him to get revenge on Kurt for refusing his earlier offer? Is he trying to teach Kurt some sort of lesson because he wouldn’t take his side in his demon war? Mephisto tells him not to be so arrogant; this was never about him. He has spent a great deal of time in this village over the years, Mephisto says. It only takes a small catalyst to unleash such fear, hatred, and simmering violence. In this case, the catalyst was merely whispering to a pretty young friend to come play in the woods. Mephisto hardly thinks it is his fault the worst parts of these fallen men got the best of them. “Though I will own the result,” he adds, leaning uncomfortably close to Nightcrawler. “Twelve blood-thirsty souls spilled out—and I drank them all.”
Kurt asks Mephisto why he brought him into this. “To show you,” Mephisto says. “To show you exactly how you are going to end up. Feared. Hated. And alone.” Kurt averts his eyes, catching sight of the lifeless face of Henrik. Mephisto redraws his attention. He reminds Kurt he is a demon; even his mutant friends will never truly understand what that entails—if they can ever completely trust him. He asks Nightcrawler if he feels that irresistible pull downward. He can only fight what he is for so long.
Nightcrawler tells Mephisto he is wrong. Ironically, by coming to Winzeldorf, Kurt saw his past enshrined, and saw the obstacles he overcame embodied by Henrik. These things made him realize he is truly proud of the person he has become and the choices he has made. Although what happened today truly qualifies as tragedy, it did at least serve to remind Kurt that he is no longer like Henrik. “Well don’t feel too proud,” Mephisto says as he turns to leave. “That’s a deadly sin, you know.” He leaves Kurt standing alone, over a pile of dead bodies, while the campfire burns out of control behind him and envelopes the forest.
Back at the Nightcrawler Museum, Mara is sweeping up the shattered glass when Kurt returns and asks for a bandage—and perhaps some antiseptic. He’s bleeding, Mara gasps! Kurt informs her he was shot. She wonders how he can just stand there, and insists he see a doctor. One gets used to these things, Kurt says. He takes this opportunity to extend his thanks to Mara. She doesn’t know what he means. For all this, Kurt answers, gesturing toward the museum. Although Mara insists there is no need to thank her, Kurt is persistent, and he takes her in his arms. “Now, I’ve got a fire we need to put out,” he says. He gives her a deep kiss.
A week later, back in San Francisco, the X-Men struggle to subdue Grotesk and his horde of Lava Men. Cyclops repels them with his optic blasts, while Emma, in her diamond form, surprisingly finds herself overpowered. Things are starting to look desperate for the X-Men. Suddenly, Nightcrawler teleports into the middle of the battle and immediately begins to fight. Cyclops asks what he’s doing. Kurt tells him he’s just pitching in, and then asks for a sit-rep. Their opponent, Cyclops explains, is Grotesk, the last surviving member of a race destroyed by humans. Kurt remembers hearing about him, but is confused; didn’t Grotesk die?
“Death cannot hold Grotesk!” the armored villain says. His minions resurrected his indomitable spirit, which Grotesk houses in his impenetrable, mystic armor. Emma explains to Kurt that Pixie already tried to teleport inside the protective field but nearly died because of the magical feedback. Kurt supposes it’s a good thing that his own powers do not require magic. He teleports into Grotesk’s supposedly impenetrable force field, clutches the villain’s helmet, and twists it off his head. To the collective surprise of Nightcrawler and the X-Men, Grotesk’s head twists off as well! As they watch, slack-jawed, the head dissipates into a cloud of mystical pink smoke and drifts away.
Kurt’s eyes widen in disbelief. Emma says she wouldn’t have cared either way. Armor wonders why villains reveal so much about themselves in the first place. Cyclops, however, pats Nightcrawler on the back and asks if he is back for good. Kurt smirks. “I should say so,” he says.