The picture fades in to a big cauldron standing over a roaring fire, its contents bubbling lively. Over the bubble noises a harsh whisper can be heard.
“Double, double toil and trouble
Fire burn and cauldron bubble
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake”
Suddenly the surface of the cauldron becomes smooth and shiny, showing the faces of Jarvis King and Loki Synn.
“Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,”
Loki’s reflection dissolves in a ripple in the surface, while zooming into Jarvis. Suddenly his likeness cracks and the top of the brew shatters like (a) glass (ceiling) breaking.
“For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
Once more the surface becomes smooth and Loki’s mask returns. And just like Jarvis’ reflection it cracks and shatters, but before any details could be made out, the bubbles return to the surface, obscuring what lay behind the mask.
“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.”
// This passage is taken from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It refers to the prophecies that the witches deliver to Macbeth, all of which in the end come true.//
The picture fades in to nearly complete darkness. A few stars can be seen twinkling on the dark firmament, but it looks like a new moon. The camera moves down to show Ravenhearst Manor, all dark itself, save for one window on the second floor illuminated. It then moves in through the back door, through the almost completely dark house, up the stairs to The Shadow’s study, its door slightly ajar. He is not sitting at his desk, though, but in front of the fireplace, looking into the flames. A hand comes into the picture, slowly moving towards his shoulder when he softly speaks without looking up.
The Shadow: You should be sleeping at this time of night, Myfanwy.
The hand stops a few inches shy of his shoulder.
Myfanwy: How did you know that I--
The Shadow: There are not a lot of people here that would actually try to be quiet enough not to disturb anybody else.
She walks around him, a blanket wrapped around her, sitting down opposite him, about half of her hair loosely bound together in a ponytail, the other half a wild tangle.
Myfanwy: You should be sleeping as well, though.
The Shadow: Yes, I know, I tried, but just couldn’t. My mind is racing at top speed and no matter what I try, it just won’t stop.
Myfanwy: Jarvis and Loki?
The Shadow: Yes and no. Sure, I’m getting ready to meet them yet again, but this time just us, nobody else and for the titles. But it’s not that really that what’s keeping me up. I-- I’m torn, because Mia is waking up, but Loki is trying to crush her spirit and keep the upper hand. Loki knows that I would never hurt Mia, so I’m worried that she is going to try to play on that.
Myfanwy slowly nods in understanding.
Myfanwy: She could pretend that Mia is coming through to throw you off and gain the advantage.
The Shadow looks over at her with a smile as she yawns.
The Shadow: Yes, detective. And that is a worry. It was a brutal attack that got Mia into this predicament, so I don’t want to send her straight back into it.
Myfanwy: But if she is just pretending and she beats you, it would give her a boost that could overpower Mia again as well.
The Shadow: I did not think about that actually. So what would you do?
Myfanwy chuckles lightly.
Myfanwy: I would not be in this situation to begin with, because I would probably be in a hospital somewhere.
Now it is The Shadow’s turn to laugh.
The Shadow: You know what I mean.
Myfanwy: Yes, I do and either way could spell doom, but also think about Jarvis. He will not have any second thoughts about attacking you or Loki, or Mia, to get to where he wants to go. Any punch you will not make, he will and he will take advantage of any sign of weakness. If you want to help Mia, then holding back will not do the trick.
The Shadow’s gaze veers off into an almost vacant stare for a minute.
The Shadow: You are right. Crushing Loki’s resolve and will is going to help Mia more than anything else. This much I owe to Mia and Ataxia.
The last words come out as a whisper.
The Shadow: Solum mente infirmis manes possunt videre…
Myfanwy stares into the flames, silhouetted against the fire.
Myfanwy: Only the infirm mind can see the ghosts…
He lifts his head to look at her with a surprised look on his face. After a few moments of silence Myfanwy tilts her head in his direction and raises her eyebrows.
Myfanwy: Yes? Don’t look at me as if I just sprouted a second head, I was forced to take Latin in school as well and some things are still sticking around, even if most of what I remember comes more from the school of Asterix than the actual schooling.
The Shadow: You never cease to amaze me.
Myfanwy: Good, keeps you on your toes. *yawns* But seriously, it describes the situation of Loki and Mia to a “t”. Not that I want to imply that Mia has an infirm mind, but someone just knew exactly how to exploit a weakness.
The Shadow nods.
The Shadow: Milenko knew there was a vulnerability and he just really managed to worm his way in. But now just like he had sown the seeds of doubt himself, Loki is in the same position. The realization of what has happened and is happening again just in reverse, makes her vulnerable in return, even if that could make her just all the more dangerous and more unpredictable than ever. But you are right about Jarvis, too, whoa!
He quickly reaches over to grab Myfanwy’s shoulder as she is about to keel over having fallen asleep.
Myfanwy: And that’s why, uh, what?
The Shadow: You just fell asleep just sitting there.
Myfanwy: I was not, I was listening!
The Shadow: So what did I say?
She scratches her head while trying to remember.
Myfanwy: That Milenko is reversing into Loki and something about unpredictable seeds or something?
Despite himself The Shadow cannot prevent himself from starting to laugh at an increasingly indignant looking Myfanwy.
The Shadow: Close enough. I was saying that you were right about Jarvis, too. He will not hesitate to take advantage in any way possible, not least since his true colours have once more come to the fore, being as ruthless as he is flamboyant, as cunning as he is arrogant.
Myfanwy yawns and leans over, putting her head onto The Shadow’s thigh.
Myfanwy: And both of them are dangerous. They have proven that they will not stop at anything to get what they want. And that worries me.
He gently strokes her hair.
The Shadow: Yes, they are dangerous, trust me, I have felt that before…
She shifts slightly to look up at him.
Myfanwy: Is it worth risking it all again?
Slowly his gaze moves from the blaze to Myfanwy.
The Shadow: How do you define “worth”. I could win the big belt, yes, I could be in the spotlight holding both championships, but while others will disagree, fame is not everything. It is less about actually winning the belt, but more about not giving either of them the satisfaction of holding it. Jarvis’ actions in the past might have gone unpunished per se, but that does not mean that I cannot do anything to make sure his unscrupulous actions are not rewarded.
Myfanwy: I’m more worried about Loki, though. Especially since she has put a target right on your back.
A mirthless smile plays around his lips as he stares into nothingness again for a moment.
The Shadow: She has, but at the same time we managed to give the sleeping beauty in her brain a little wake-up call and now Loki suddenly has to battle at a warfront that she did not expect to have - her own mind.
Another yawn from Myfanwy.
Myfanwy: All true, but the whole thing still worries me. They have the Aces, the Sentinels of Synn or whatever they’re called, they could show up at any given moment. You know that they’ll exploit any *yawn* signs of weakness and I don’t want to see you get...
Myfanwy’s emerald eyes slowly close as The Shadow continues to stroke the unruly red mane. His voice drops to a whisper as he smiles at her.
The Shadow: So little time, so much to do, but sleep well, my dear, we will need all the rest we can get… I have to write the next chapter...
The picture fades to black.
The sound of rain drumming against a roof, the sound of wind howling outside. Slowly the picture fades in to an old, seemingly abandoned building, from the looks of what we can see in the light of torches set in sconces along the wall, it once seems to have been a quite stately mansion, now dilapidated, worn, forgotten. Some of the walls are showing cracks, some outright holes, air rushing through, making the torches flicker, casting shadows across the ceiling and torn carpets. Tattered tapestries line some of the walls in the stairs, moving in the endless draught plaguing the old halls, spiderwebs clinging to long-defunct chandeliers, rotten curtains and statuettes, their shadows performing an oddly haunting dance along the walls. Slowly the camera descends a spiral staircase, pieces of the stone balustrade missing, the boards creaking ominously under the weight of the cameraman stepping on them.
A faint glow emanates from one of the doors at the bottom of the stairs, the cameraman drawn towards it. The ticking of a clock breaks the sound of rain and wind as the camera passes through the door into a narrow passageway. A heavy curtain obscures what lays ahead, but an ancient looking big, old grandfather clock is standing against one of the walls, still working, its pendulum steadily swaying.
The Shadow: Time is ticking away…
The picture slowly fades and when it comes back we see grains of white sand falling.
The Shadow: We are mere grains of sand in the grand scheme of time…
Upon closer examination, the grains of sand slowly morph into what looks like pellets of ice.
The Shadow: So it is time to dance and step into hell - after it froze over…
The picture briefly fades again, just to show a large hourglass similar to the huge version of Frozen Over, standing in the centre of the room beyond the curtain, four torches set around the room, one on each wall, casting their light upon the scene, the sand within the hourglass fittingly looking like ice.
The Shadow: Loki Synn…
Loki’s face briefly flashes across the glass surface of the hourglass.
The Shadow: Jarvis King…
Now it is Jarvis’ turn.
The Shadow: Two of the best CWF has ever had to offer, all in the same ring, fighting for what once was theirs.
The CWF World Heavyweight title appears on top of the hourglass.
The Shadow: Each vying for either retaining or regaining the big belt, the biggest piece of prestige there is in this federation. But there is one factor that can alter the game board, change the face of the game.
In this moment the hourglass shatters, the pellets exploding into all directions and through the resulting cloud of dust and snow step two hooded figures, one with a staff in hand, its head ornately carved into a raven’s head, the other having wild red hair spilling out from under her hood, the scarce light casting more shadows than actually illuminating the scene of destruction.
The Shadow: A darkness so deep that will blind your senses and permeate your souls to their very core. Welcome to the frozen wastelands of Frozen Over, prepare to meet thy makers for nothing will ever be the same again…
Looking around at the wreckage of the hourglass a sad smile comes to his face.
The Shadow: Time is such a fleeting thing, some seem to be running out of it, others have so much, or think that they do, that they squander it away aimlessly, applying to both “real” life and also here in CWF. Now don’t make the mistake to equate time with age, because if you look at some of the players in this game, they aren’t old in numbers, but for some it is their window of opportunity that is closing, some faster, some slower.
Taking Myfanwy by the hand they step out of the leftovers of the hourglass and forward towards two side-by-side high-backed chairs with ornately carved backs that sport figures that seem alive in the flickering light of the torches.
The Shadow: An interesting threeway dance we have at our hands, coincidentally uniting big players of the three big factions. Add to that not just one, but two titles and we have something that could be a battle for the ages. I think that it is fair to say that we all have quite the history with each other, one way or the other, and that no matter what the stipulation or the title(s) involved this is more than just yet another match at a PPV. This, on so many levels, is personal and entwined that nobody should expect this to be anywhere close to a normal affair.
He stomps his staff onto the ground and a picture of Jarvis King appears hovering above the broken hourglass.
The Shadow: Jarvis, are you tired of meeting me in the ring yet? I cannot promise that it will be the last time, but maybe you’ll find some closure this time around, at least with me. You are one of the people I had mentioned about not being old per se, but that your window is quickly closing. I’ve said it before and you have shown it yourself, your body has aged far beyond your years, your neck, your knee and probably a lot of other body parts in between that have either taken at least one beating more than they should have or were caught overcompensating for whatever ailments that had befallen you elsewhere. How much longer do you think that you can still keep this up, at least at the level you would want to still compete at?
Look at Harley Hodge. Granted, he is a good bit older than you, but he came back for another hoorah, but had to realize that his body could not quite match up his mind’s fervour anymore. This might be your last shot at the big one or at the very least one of the last ones and the competition is steep. On top of that you come into this as part (or even leader?) of the Glass Ceiling, which definitely has soured a lot of things around here, attacking Mia, attacking us and things surely are not on friendly terms with the Hostile Takeover either, upstarts trying to take a cut of your territory.
He holds up the Paramount title.
The Shadow: This once was yours, a title befitting a king. Holding it, cherishing it, making it feel like the most important thing in the world. But going into Frozen Over, what does it still matter? Yes, the fight is to unite the titles, but we all know that once the Heavyweight title comes into the picture, this one pales in comparison, just like the twilight years of your career being outshone by the brightly lit flames of the ones that came after you. The ones that held the big title while you tried to persuade the world, persuade yourself that the only one that mattered was the one you had around your waist in a feeble attempt to hold on to a shred of relevance in CWF.
You even teamed up with the Smokin’ Aces and Jace, may he rest in peace, to form the Glass Ceiling, trying to establish your reign of terror among the CWF, which was reeling after almost being torn apart by the aftermath of the big fedquake, trying to elevate you back to the level you see yourself at, all the way at the top. Has it paid off? Well, you are in this match, you finally have your shot, but at what price? You’ve given up a lot to make this step, no, to make this final leap to get here. It has taken a toll on you, mentally, physically, spiritually.
He produces a twig from somewhere in his robe, holding it up.
The Shadow: Will this battle make you or break you?
With a smile he breaks the twig in half.
Another stomp of the staff and Jarvis fades in favour of Loki Synn’s image.
The Shadow: Ah yes, Loki Synn. A cruel mind slowly, but surely, faltering under the pressure of what is lurking within. Solum mente infirmis, manes possunt videre. Only the infirm mind can see the ghosts. I must say that it was a truly masterfully orchestrated piece of psychological warfare that your “friend” James Milenko kicked into motion after the Smokin’ Aces turned rogue and followed the stench of his blood money to beat you within an inch of your life. Well, Mia’s life, since yours only really started after the fact, when Mia went dormant and his infiltration tape slowly but surely weakened her mind even further, breaking down the last barriers to allow the virus that is Loki Synn to filter through and take control of what was left of her.
Then you began to run roughshod over CWF and began your reign of terror that eventually actually brought you the belt that we will be fighting for in Omaha, but what did it bring you in the end? Look around you. Milenko is history. The Hostile Takeover has imploded. Your grand scheme is unraveling. As much as you would have hoped for it, Mia is not dead yet, no, she is awakening from her slumber. And trust me, I will do anything to be the wake-up call… And I am sure that a close friend will be right there with me - and he’s capable of waking the dead, trust me.
He absentmindedly falls silent for a moment.
The Shadow: I looked back and we never actually met in a regular one-on-one match, despite all of your jabs and threats and promises, funny that now that we meet in a one-on-one match for the title. Well, a one-on-one-on-one, but you get what I mean. You wanted to destroy the Forsaken, you wanted to destroy me. And look where you stand now and look where we are. Sure, we are battered and beaten up, Ataxia is still finding dirt in places he didn’t even know he had, but we are still standing. The only part of us that is missing is Mia - and even she is fighting with us, just from a far less advantageous position, but she is fighting nevertheless.
Loki, you surely have not made many friends within CWF in your time here, but as strong or powerful as we might be, standing strong and opposing you, there is one force that could give you the fight of your life, the proverbial enemy within. Could this make our match a handicap match for you, facing not only Jarvis and me, but another voice deep within your mind?
The camera zooms in on his face, mostly obscured by the shadows while his voice drops to a whisper.
The Shadow: I know you pride yourself of a strong will and mind, but you are the infirm mind and Mia is the ghost you see. She is the enemy within, the one that is fighting to stay alive and maybe your strongest opponent...
His voice trails away as he smiles under his hood.
The Shadow: Now Jarvis, Loki, the two of you are actually more alike than you would think. Your basic MO’s are so very different, yet your approach is so much the same. Both of you try to have your opponents’ amygdala win over the frontal lobe, to have their fear win over reason. But at Frozen Over you will not have that luxury, because there is nothing to be afraid of. I have beaten you several times, Jarvis, and you Loki, are more torn than Azrael’s grip on reality. I know that this makes both of you dangerous, the one thirsting for revenge for losing his beloved title to me, the other even more unpredictable than before.
So what does that make me? Stuck between a rock and a hard place? The one that does not fit with the others? Well, let’s be honest, throughout my CWF career this has been a position that has suited me well and despite the turmoil that the Forsaken have been plunged into with the attacks by the Glass Ceiling and in conjunction with Loki taking Mia away, Ataxia going missing and Dorian falling off the wagon, we are still here, I am still here. Undeterred by all the naysayers and the ones that so wisely announced my fall, claimed I would not be able to break through the proverbial glass ceiling or be destroyed or whatever else, I am still here.
I have defied the odds for a long time, I have drawn strength from seemingly standing on the wrong side of the tracks, way beyond CWF and Frozen Over will not change that.
Almost seamlessly Myfanwy takes over.
Myfanwy: And should your Sentinels of Synn, Loki, or your goons or your, uh, “associate”, Jarvis, or whoever else have any plans to interfere with this match, you have got another thing coming.
He places his hand over hers.
The Shadow: Yes, there will be, hm, precautions put in place to ensure we will not have to worry about outside distractions and make this a night to remember… Three very different personas will be entering the ring at Frozen Over, each with their very different agendas. While the ultimate prize is the CWF World Heavyweight title, of course, the path to get it could not be more different than with each of us.
Jarvis with a maybe last hoorah and gung-ho attempt to hoist the big belt one more time, the flamboyant king of CWF, the Icon, the Excellence. Loki trying to solidify her grasp to the crowning achievement in CWF and thus her reign of terror, the Janusian Jester, the venomous madwoman that will lay waste to anybody and anything in her way. Me, well, I am just a humble man that sticks to the shadows, remains in the background and instead of searching the limelight rather observes and then strikes when the time is right.
He gets up, staff in hand, offering his hand to Myfanwy once more. Slowly they traverse the room again, back towards the remnants of the hourglass.
The Shadow: Time, what is time? It heals wounds? It knows no mercy? It is irrelevant? It will tell…
His voice trails off just as they reach the broken timepiece.
The Shadow: Yes, what will time tell? Whose story will go down into the annals of CWF? Three protagonists, but for two of them it will be the script for their requiem and I have been writing it for weeks…
He gives the camera an ominous smile before turning and re-entering the hourglass as the picture fades to black.