Ravenhearst Manor, the lawn and babbling brook are illuminated by bright sunshine. The veranda in the back of the Manor is set up with a couple of small tables and lounge chairs next to them, pitchers of lemonade, iced tea and other cool beverages spread out. A few of the druids, The Shadow and Myfanwy are sitting in the shade, and a few fans are trying to battle the stifling heat.
The Shadow: Sanford, are you serious that it is usually this hot in New Orleans during summer?
Sanford Thibodaux is sitting on the other end of the veranda, looking cool as a cucumber, barely breaking a sweat.
Sanford Thibodaux: Oh yeah, just with more humidity, this is nothing!
Eye rolls all around.
Christian Fagermo: I’m from the north, THIS is more than enough!
He takes a long sip of iced tea.
Christian Fagermo: So any news from Berardi or that Finnish guy?
Sanford Thibodaux: Viirala is trying to get in touch with his contact in the Epicentre to see, if he can get him any kind of information on the security of the place. We don’t want to send anyone over there without a chance to not just get in, but also...out…
The Shadow: Of course, we cannot jeopardize Myfanwy’s life, no. Berardi has been on that book for weeks now, I know Ataxia could help him, but has he managed anything so far?
Sanford Thibodaux: Yeah, he said this morning that he’s about done, he will be back here within the next few days, unless you want him to just go to Columbus or Jamaica? Ooh, Jamaica would be nice...
The Shadow: Excellent news. And wrong Jamaica, haha. Yes, maybe he can come directly to us, so we don’t have to go back and forth.
Sanford Thibodaux: Sure thing! He said that Ataxia’s hospitality is incredible, but that this dude has some weird shit…
The Shadow: Haha, I don’t doubt it!
Ciaran O’Fathaigh: We’re going to be busy this week, Dane, Box, Oreos, Silas.
At the mention of Silas Artoria The Shadow’s face darkens and Myfanwy’s eyes next to him are displaying a fire that matches the colour of her hair.
Myfanwy verch Owain: He had NO right to do this to Tara! I have never met her, but she was only doing her job and she is NOT a wrestler! You guys train for this kind of stuff, we have to do something about this guy!
The Shadow nods.
The Shadow: Yes, and something will be done and it is not just us, you should have seen Mia when she heard about it, she wanted to introduce Lynk to him and to make sure he had understood right introduce Lynk again and again. The only reason he probably is still breathing is that the Oreos gave her a sugar overdose and she managed to be even madder at someone else.
Myfanwy verch Owain: Can I have a moment with him?
The Shadow reaches across the table and puts his hand on Myfanwy’s.
The Shadow: I understand that you want to and I admire your courage, but this man is dangerous. If he puts an innocent interviewer through a table, what could he be capable of, if cornered? I don’t want you to get hurt, Myfanwy, I really don’t. Leave it to us, and no, it is not because we are men, look at MJ, Caledonia, Amber, I have seen, and felt, first hand that the ladies most definitely can hold their own.
Myfanwy verch Owain: Then why will you not let me go?
The Shadow: Because you already selflessly volunteered to help me solve the mystery about my wife’s death.
Ciaran clears his throat.
Ciaran O’Fathaigh: Ehm, excuse me, sorry to disturb the, uh, moment, but Columbus is calling…
The Shadow: Yes, right, sorry. OK, Sanford, seeing that Elisha and his cronies might show up again, I’d say that we should bring Ciaran, Matthias, Alastair, Simon, Dean, Stefan and Damiano, I do not want a repeat of last week, nobody alone, at least two at all times. Christian, I’ll put you, Francis, Andrei and Myfanwy on anything related to the Epicentre, let me know immediately, if there is anything coming from Viirala, ok?
As Thibodaux sets out with O’Fathaigh, the rest files out and towards Druid HQ. All of a sudden alone on the veranda, The Shadow looks around, then raises his head, closes his eyes and a solitary tear rolls down his cheek as the picture fades.
The LeVeque Tower Residences in Columbus, Ohio. The Shadow is leaving his room and marches down the hall, where he gently knocks on a door. There is no reply, so he knocks again, loud enough to be heard throughout the stately room, but not enough to disturb the other guests. A muffled voice comes through the door.
The Shadow: Mia, it’s me, would you please open the door? I would like to speak to you.
The voice grows louder and angrier, almost a primal growl.
AMIAla: I said...NO.
The Shadow closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.
The Shadow: I know you are not happy with how last week went, but locking yourself in will not solve anything.
The Shadow: Mia? Please.
Slowly the door opens to reveal the distorted form of Mia Rayne, or was it Amelia? It was so very hard to tell anymore and her current appearance didn’t help matters at all. Her face shows her distress, rage coming across her eyes, followed by a slight look of surprise from seeing The Shadow, followed by anger, and finally… Blank. Physically, her face bears the markings of the same makeup that she was wearing at Golden Intentions, when she became “Amelia.” The heat outside is evident, but Amiala is wearing a long sleeved hoodie, one that her hands are hidden deep inside the sleeves. Leggings cover her legs, a pair of shorts holds her phone, and a pair of combat boots completes the look. She’s seen...Better days.
The Shadow motions Mia to follow him to the elevator and she reluctantly does. She looks at him with a suspicious look as he hits the topmost button, but decides it best to just not mention anything. The Shadow had given her no reason to not trust him prior, why start now? As they reach their destination The Shadow leads her towards a narrow spiral stairwell leading up and up until reaching an iron door. He turns towards Mia and puts a hand on her shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze before opening the door and stepping through. They are on the top platform of the LeVeque Tower, a stone balustrade surrounding it. Looking up, the sky is black, no star or moon can be seen, while the lights of the city sprawl out all around them, fading into the distance. Just below, not far from the tower there is the illuminated rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse. As The Shadow turns around, he sees Mia with her back flat against the wall next to the door.
The Shadow: Do not fear, there is no danger. Just don’t look down, look out across the city and enjoy the serenity up here. I know that high places are not your favourite, but trust me, I did not bring you here to scare the living daylights out of you. And yes, I know that there are no daylights here. Being cooped up in your room will not help you clear your mind, the freedom, well, relative freedom, here might.
He spreads out his arms and turns, as if to offer the complete view to her.
The Shadow: This is where you may exact revenge upon Dane and for Box, well, he already did not like me to begin with and me beating him last week probably hasn’t helped things along. One thing you probably were wondering about in Pittsburgh was why none of us came to your help when the Oreos descended upon you. Several of the Chosen were waiting for me in my locker room, Thibodaux was knocked out in a corner and they put a sack over my head, bound and then gagged me. Luckily McLean and Carvanha came by not long after, but alas, it was too late to help you.
He walks over towards the edge, peering out into the distance.
The Shadow: At least it means one thing, we are getting closer, they are getting more nervous. I apologize, if my actions may put you into danger, but we have the Book of the Moon Child and got the information from Golobayov, but you are guilty by association to them…
He turns again and walks over to crouch down next to Mia, who has slunk down and looks mad, miserable and insecure all at the same time. She rubs her throat absentmindedly and The Shadow notices that the bruise from Elisha’s grip hasn’t left her neck. Narrowing her gaze and electing just to listen, she hugs her knees closer to her and concentrates on a specific point over the horizon.
The Shadow: But I don’t want to lecture you or tell you how or what to think or do. Just know that I will always be here, well, there if you need to talk or want advice, reassurance or anything of the likes. I know that Ataxia is as well and Dorian, he has a lot on his plate right now with Chloe having been hurt, but you will always have the three of us there for you.
At the mention of Chloe’s name, Mia clenches her knees closer to her and The Shadow straightens out and walks around the centre of the platform to the other side, his face darkening. As he reaches the other side of the platform, he walks up to the balustrade, places his hands on it and looking out over the sea of lights that is Columbus, he takes a deep breath.
The Shadow: Life writes some of the weirdest stories sometimes, The Forsaken are probably one of the best examples of reality sometimes being stranger than fiction. By all means of rationality we should not be, four outcasts, four isolated creatures with their own demons coming together and form one of the tightest units CWF has ever seen. But that is not even what I am talking about.
Eric Dane and Bronson Box. It is funny how this has been playing out, at first Bronson Box facing off against me, then Amelia battling against Dane and now all of a sudden we are facing each other once more, just in a tag team match. Only a fool would call this coincidence… And despite this and our brief yet tumultuous history with each other, it is an odd matchup for sure.
He turns around and performs a sweeping bow, complete with flourish.
The Shadow: Eric, you came into CWF as the knight in shining armour to save MJ Flair from the claws of the mighty Oreo, then we actually faced each other in that fateful bout that saw Revenant betray me and deliver me and also you to his new friends from the cookie aisle. Then you began to work your way into this federation, twisting and turning, bringing in Bronson Box and then beginning to rub my dear Amialia the wrong way, more than once.
Speaking of Bronson Box, the Scottish “Wargod”, interesting match last week, I guess it speaks of your experience that you are able to conceal these closed fists so well… Now I am not quite sure why, but you seem to be going to great lengths to let the world know, how much you seem to despise me. Let’s say that after last week these feelings have grown more mutual. While I did not have any problems with you, both your words and actions have changed my point of view considerably. I can understand that while being at a show meeting a fervent fan might not be the highest of your priorities, but even if Alastair was not one of my Druids, your attitude was despicable, but then again, it seems to match with your attitude towards anybody around you. Interestingly enough - even the people whose side you allegedly are on… But I’ll get back to that.
So I am not quite sure what your end game is, Mr. End Boss, but there definitely is something rotten going on. I do not trust you, plain and simple. You are all jovial with MJ Flair, helping her in an hour of need, allegedly to repay a debt to her father, which in itself already is suspicious enough, because it shows that you did not ride in on your proverbial stallion out of the sheer goodness of your heart, but because you did not have much of a choice. Even though that in itself actually shows that there still seem to be some threads of integrity left in you. Unless even that is just done out of pure cunning and calculation.
He points towards the other side of the platform, where Mia presumably still is.
The Shadow: Just last week in your match with Mia ... Amelia … Amialia … this girl right here, on the surface it looked as if you realised that she was in trouble when the whole pack of Oreos descended upon her and heroically turned back to storm down into the fray to rescue the damsel in distress. It is a beautiful, selfless story, you sticking out your neck and risking your personal well-being to come to the aid of a young lady that you just had pounded into the mat mere minutes before… Oh, the Great Dane. But if you look closer, you see that not everything is like it seems, though. It is not as if you had won the match, made your way up the ramp, the cookies came down and after evaluating the situation you bravely come back and do the right, chivalrous thing. No, you actually bailed to begin with, but then seemingly realized that you were supposed to be the knight in shining armour, that you had a facade to keep up, so you turned around to make yourself look good.
I called you a flag in the wind before and this just proves it once more - you don’t care about doing the right thing, about helping allies, about forging lasting alliances based on integrity and conscience. You care about what makes Eric Dane look good and what brings Eric Dane the maximum exposure and the maximum profit in the end, regardless of what side you stand on or if you have to switch sides, if it suits you best. There is no passion, there is just business sense. And that is what makes your alliance with Bronson Box so odd. He might not be a paragon of integrity himself, but at least he is fighting his own fight, trying to get to his goal, even if he has to go through people. He does not employ the same level of depraved cunning that you do.
A breeze has picked up, making The Shadow turn towards it, facing out towards the city once more, looking out over the Scioto River, reflecting the city lights.
The Shadow: And despite you calling him your “insurance policy”, this does NOT look like something that should work, but as I said earlier, stranger than fiction, opposites attract and sometimes it works out. You two have this odd kind of familiarity around each other, the attraction of the opposites, but Bronson, you do not trust Dane either, do you? You did not trust him when he showed up at the bar in Banff and you still do not trust him further than you can throw him. You know that he is not this selfless kind of guy that will rescue someone from the goodness of his heart, neither Mia last week, nor you from the bottom of the whiskey glass.
Can Dane trust you? Well, I am not convinced by that either, too deep does the resentment seem to run between you two to forge a union, standing side by side, or back to back, fending off the enemies. Like I said, Eric Dane, I do not know what your ultimate goal is and I do not place the trust into you to prove to me and everybody else that your intentions indeed are noble and not defiled by greed and opportunism. However I do know that we have a common enemy, but that does not make us allies. As sad as it is, I would not even hold it beneath you to align yourselves with them, if it meant the best business for you…
With that he pushes himself back off the balustrade and faces the camera straight and with a steely look in his eyes he continues.
The Shadow: Whatever your plans are, you better not bank on them, because they will be changed right here in Columbus, whether you want to or not! We are everything you are not. We are the antidote. You will hate us, but you will have to realize - we are all you have left…
From the shadows, a figure rises off to The Shadow’s side, a hood obscures most of the face. Amelia starts to giggle, her half painted face no longer showing the signs that were there a moment ago as The Shadow was talking to her. No, this is a look of pure, psychotic, rage. The giggle is high pitched and chaotic, enough to make the skin of a demon baby crawl and then her voice…. It is other wordly, high pitched, and one that even seems to take The Shadow aback. Four words is all she says, but they linger in the air.
Amelia: Semi colon. Right parenthesis.