The picture fades in to a living room of Ravenhearst Manor, overlooking the lawn in the back, bathed in sunshine, a gentle breeze stirring the remaining leaves of the trees surrounding the old graveyard. As the camera turns around, it shows The Shadow in an oversized armchair, his left leg propped up, his right eyebrow showing some stitches and a black eye making his left eye look as if he was wearing makeup. He seems to be asleep as Myfanwy comes in, seemingly unaware of him being there. As she walks over to the window seat across from him, he softly speaks, still causing her to start.
The Shadow: Good morning.
Myfanwy whirls around.
Myfanwy: Nefoedd wen! What are you doing here? You should be in bed!
The Shadow: Couldn’t find a position, so I came down. Managed to get two, maybe three hours of sleep.
Myfanwy (with a sad face): Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear!
The Shadow: Don’t be, there’s nothing you could have done. I just...hurt. That’s all.
She looks him up and down.
Myfanwy: You look like you took on a freight train and lost!
The Shadow: ‘Twas the evening express to Artoriaville.
Myfanwy: You still manage to crack jokes??
The Shadow: What else am I supposed to do? Everything else hurts…
She cannot stop herself from laughing out loud.
Myfanwy: I’m so sorry! But--
The Shadow: Stop apologizing! I want to laugh and keep the spirits up. But not too much, because then that hurts, too.
She walks over to him, sitting down on the armrest of the chair. She gingerly touches his eyebrow, making him wince.
The Shadow: No!
The Shadow: Na-ah!
The Shadow: Dah!
The Shadow: Dim!
Myfanwy: You-- Was that Welsh?
He starts to laugh.
Myfanwy: Or did you just call me--
She slaps him against the shoulder. He continues to laugh and she punches him harder.
The Shadow: Aah!
She immediately bends forward, putting her hand on his shoulder, looking worried.
Myfanwy: I’m-- Well, I…
He takes her arm and pulls her into the chair.
The Shadow: You are sorry, I know.
Myfanwy: You faked-- you are dead meat, Mister!
She moves in to potentially strangle him.
Alistair: Ahem, kids, play time has tae wait, ah have news.
Both stop dead in their tracks.
Myfanwy: For how long have you been here?
Alistair: Jist walked in, nae worries.
The Shadow: You said you had news?
Alistair: Aye, yer match fur Winnipeg.
The Shadow: Out with it!
Alistair: Uh, a handicap match wi’ Dorian aginst Devereaux, Allen och Loki…
The Shadow lets his head fall back against the chair, closes his eyes and takes a deep breath.
The Shadow: Seriously?
Myfanwy looks worried and brings her hand up to gently put it on his shoulder.
Myfanwy: Are you sure you are up for this? Look at yourself.
The Shadow shrugs.
The Shadow: Well, I’ve done stupider things…
A look of utter disapproval makes its way onto the redhead’s face.
The Shadow: Seriously, I’ll be fine. And this is important, they cannot just get away with it.
The Shadow: Mia, their little war they declared at us, Ataxia.
Alistair: Ataxia was Ripper, nae them.
The Shadow: Ataxia would never have acted like this, if this had not happened.
The Shadow picks up Ataxia’s bloodstained mask from a table next to him.
Myfanwy: I wonder what happened, if he is ok…
The Shadow: I’m not entirely sure what happened, but he is still out there and he will be back and may the Lord have mercy when he does, because hell with have no fury like him…
He lifts Myfanwy off him and gets up, wincing slightly as he puts weight on his knee, but after flexing it a few times he seems to be ok.
Myfanwy: Now what?
The Shadow looks at her with a determined look.
The Shadow: We have a situation to take care of!
He walks out of the room and after looking at each other for a moment, Alistair shrugs and follows, leaving a worried looking Myfanwy behind.
The picture fades in to the flickering of candles. Zooming out, the camera shows cobwebs and dust clinging to them. Wallpaper is peeling off the walls in between old paintings and portraits too dusty to properly see. The wooden floor shows gaps and dark stains, while being covered in dust, showing that nobody has set foot in these halls for quite a while. The creaking of a floorboard makes the cameraman whirl around, the camera darting back and forth, trying to locate the source of the noise. The sound of claws scuttling across wood can be heard, making the camera’s movements even jerkier than before, the breathing of the cameraman becoming more audible.
A soft whisper brushes past the microphone.
It is becoming clear that the cameraman does not want to be there and he begins to walk, the picture’s movements erratic and hectic, turning around and into every doorway that he comes across. His footsteps echo in the empty halls and the floorboards crack every now and then, both from his feet and also further down the hall, not aiding his mood or anxiety. The slow creak of a door ahead stops him dead in his tracks, as it moves as if caught in wind, but not a breath of air is stirring. An eerie glow emanates from the opening between the door and its frame. Slowly, timidly he edges closer and we see his hand come into view, reaching out for the door, slowly pushing it open.
“Welcome to the Cabinet of Curiosities.”
As he steps across the threshold, he sees The Shadow sitting at the far end of the room, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and black tie and a black top hat, while Myfanwy is by his side, in an elegant black dress, hat and veil. Two lanterns are hanging off hooks to either side, casting their flickering light across the room that is filled with cabinets and shelves, full of trinkets and jars and many other things.
The Shadow: I am glad you could make it, because we have a special spectacle for you tonight, all especially set up for our friends at Hostility. I must say I actually was surprised at Hellbound that none of you interfered with any of the other matches. I would not have expected such kind of...behaviour. No making an example of how you are going to tear up CWF, no mission statement of standing strong and together, nothing. I am a little disappointed, hostile ones. Has the Big Bad Wolf lost his bark? Has the tsunami ebbed to a tide?
Don’t worry, I will not take you any lighter because of it, I mean, look at Hellbound, two wins and one hell (he chuckles) of a main event, which, even though not victorious, has painted a very, very bold picture of the jester.
He reaches over into one of the shelves and pulls out a crown, some of its gemstones missing and showing a few dents.
The Shadow: So now that we have left hell behind us and are moving towards Northern Crown, the two remaining Forsaken are going to be facing all three of you. Almost poetic. The big mean jester that has put it on her banners to destroy the Forsaken has the last two served on a silver platter by whoever managed to sneak this in now that Ataxia is missing as well. Mia already is gone, somewhere only you guys know where, Ataxia went, well, nobody knows where he is.
Myfanwy walks over to a cabinet and opens it. As she reaches inside, a rattling noise can be heard and pulling back her hands we see a puppet on a string.
The Shadow: How deep must the thorn in your side sit, Malenko, to carry this grudge for so long before actually acting on it? Either it hit you more than you thought, outsiders laying waste to your precious roster, showing you that maybe your federation has not been the bees’ knees after all, or you are just a truly vindictive person that does not believe in the saying of revenge being a dish best served cold. No, you let it simmer and fester like the black death’s boils, waiting for the right moment to let them burst open and unleash the long pent up fury upon the federation that you blame to be the demise of yours.
In a day and age, where ADHD reigns supreme, actually a commendable feat not to have forgotten your grudge, picking up new soldiers on the way, striking alliances and promising God knows what in return for their loyalty. But be honest, Milenko, this is not their war, this is not their hurt ego that is driving them forward, this is all yours. A personal vendetta, trying to avenge what you perceive as the root cause for everything evil that befell you since that fateful invasion, taking away your precious baby. Reminds me of the kin liability of old… Loki, you are targeting the Forsaken, not the whole fed. Jimmy, you are targeting Dorian, not the whole fed. Milenko, you stay in the shadows, pulling the strings like a master puppeteer.
Suddenly a big shadow falls off the wall and rolls into the lanterns’ light. The stuffed head of a big wolf.
The Shadow: Ah, the big bad wolf. Tobias, you are… I am not exactly sure what you are other than a supporting role in this dramatic story, but given that you only came here after Milenko staked his claim I would assume that you have been hired as a foot soldier, you are basically waging somebody else’s war dancing their dance, you are out there on the frontline, putting your body on the line. For what? Is it the allure of money? The promise of fame?
I will admit that you have been pretty impressive in your brief stint around here, beating Dorian and I together with Jimmy into what now feels like a precursor to this meeting, beating Autumn, which admittedly is not as much of a chip on your shoulder, but still, you are yet undefeated. You are somewhat of a wild card, the one nobody really knows much about, the Ragin’ Cajun. Silent waters indeed run deep and you do not say much yet hit all the harder in return. It has not been a very pleasant affair to be in the ring with you and you surely are a tenacious character. However I question where your loyalty really lies? The cause of avenging the demise of Hostility? Is it with Milenko? Or his cheque book?
Whichever it is, do not count on that loyalty to get you far, because he who lies with the devil will burn in the fire and we will be holding the torch to your pyre.
As the camera turns back towards The Shadow and Myfanwy, she is holding an old, carved Japanese mask in front of her face, every line emphasized by bold brushstrokes.
The Shadow: Konbanwa, Allen-San.
He takes a bow.
The Shadow: Jimmy Allen, traitor extraordinaire. You may have been the person I have misread the most in a long time. It was a pretty facade you had put up when you came here under the pretense of reuniting with your old friend Dorian. Well, it did not last long before you showed your true colours, didn’t it? I don’t know what really happened between the two of you that made this friendship go sourer than a glass of milk in Arizona, but I get it, you two are not seeing eye to eye. What I do not get is your sudden association with Milenko.
Or is it because Loki is in cahoots with Milenko and her declared target is us, the Forsaken, so why not team up with her to achieve your goal to disrupt, break up, annihilate us? Milenko is just collateral, because he just happens to be associated with Loki and in turn the Forsaken, because we are associated with Dorian? Well, you’ve had your revenge on Dorian in the ring several times now, but that’s not enough, is it? You still want more and if you can drag him down more, then why not, the others be damned.
I know that you have not had any part in Mia’s disappearance, but what’s good for you is good for us, by aligning yourself with her, you have become an accessory, guilty by association and you shall feel the wrath. Sure you’ve beaten Dorian three times now, sure we have been decimated to the last two men standing, but that does not make us weaker, Jimmy, no, all it does is make us more dangerous. What do we have to lose? Everybody sees us outnumbered, overpowered, destined to lose, bound to be broken up into pieces once and for all. Well, you have never seen us cornered, you have never seen what we are capable of doing when we are forced to.
He walks over to another cabinet and the cameraman reluctantly follows. Inside sits a jester figure, its formerly immaculate white garb stained and ripped, bells missing off its headgear and its head askew.
The Shadow: And finally the jester, the regaler of the kings. Or is it rather a fool? Loki, the same goes for you. You think you are all high and mighty because you rolled over everything and everyone and even managed to get a title shot mere weeks after showing up on the scene. You feel like you are on top of the world and have everything within your grasp. Another reason why you must be floating a foot off the ground is what happened to Ataxia, his disappearance. No, I don’t think you have had anything to do with his, I think that this is another story altogether, but your scuttling of the Forsaken seems to be moving ahead quite well for you, doesn’t it?
But behind all the sick and twisted bravado lies more, something far more calculating, something that Milenko has his fingers on or in. Some kind of power or allure he has over you. I have noticed a few things about you that feel - familiar. More familiar than they should for someone that just crashed into my, into our life. I can’t put my finger on it yet, but it is there, just outside of reach, just -- there. Oh, it is frustrating beyond belief, but the key is here somewhere and I will find it, even if it’s the last thing I do.
Too many things feel oh so reminiscent of-- well, let’s say that you remind me a lot of someone closely connected to the whole conundrum we find ourselves in these days...
He flashes a quick smile towards the camera that hints at him knowing more than he lets on.
The Shadow: You know Loki, it is easy to get swept up in the tidal wave of a tumultuous appearance such as yours. You surprise everyone, take everybody unawares and use this confusion to pounce and stake your claim. You made your intentions very clear from the beginning, but suddenly your attention swayed, you set sights on other things and it is almost as if you forgot about us poor Forsaken.
No, don’t flatter yourself, we did not, just because you are distracted by something shiny we would not make the mistake of writing you off as out of sight, out of mind. I know how dangerous you are and I will not do you the favour of underestimating you. You took Mia, you drove a wedge between the Forsaken and you put it onto your very own banner to destroy us. Well, it takes more than the jester of the fools to break us apart.
He opens the cabinet and carefully takes out the jester figure.
The Shadow: The harder you will hit us, the harder we will rebound, the harder we will hit back. You may knock us down, but we will - not - stay - down!
So Hostility, just because we are two and you are three does not mean that we will back down. Prepare for the fight of your lives, because when we will get to this ring, the numbers do not matter, it is the heart and the mind that matter. Bring your dreams, bring your plans and prepare to watch them being shattered.
Winnipeg. Main event.
Something Wicked This Way Comes!
He raises his other hand and gives the jester’s head a flick, causing it to fall off and hit the floor with a dull thud.
The Shadow: Come, my dear, we have important things to attend to.
With that he extends his arm and Myfanwy steps forward, taking his arm and they stride towards the door. Before exiting, he briefly pauses and casts a last glance at the camera.
The Shadow: See you in Winnipeg. Semi colon…
Myfanwy: Right parenthesis.
She gives a brief wink and they turn to leave the room. The camera now shows that the room continues behind the door and there is...a black coffin with shattered top. As the cameraman cautiously comes closer, it shows hundreds of picture of Mia and a tattered burlap mask. Suddenly the lights go out and all that can be heard echoing is