It is a gloomy day in Calgary, the clouds are hanging low, the fine veil of fog is drifting through the air, bringing an unusual humidity to the city. The branches of trees and bushes are crusted with hoarfrost, its strange crystal-like structures giving nature a look of bizarre beauty. Turning around, the camera shows Ravenhearst Manor, its roof and trim decorated in a similar way.
The Shadow: I’m fine, I said I’m fine!
The camera cuts to the inside of the dining room at the Manor, where Alistair McLean is apparently fussing over the bandage over the gash on The Shadow’s forehead, where he had hit the announce table in his match against Loki Synn and Jarvis King at Frozen Over.
Alistair: Ah jist want tae make sure it is weel dain.
The Shadow: Myfanwy checked it this morning, cleaned it up, put new gauze and everything, I appreciate you being worried, but I’m fine, Alistair.
Alistair: Ye used tae come tae me fur thes.
As Alistair grumbles and puts his medical bag back together, The Shadow begins to smile.
The Shadow: I know I used to come to you for this stuff and I still do. But you were so fast asleep this morning that we couldn’t bring ourselves to wake you up. And Myfanwy has gone through medical school as well, remember?
Alistair: Ah know, ah know. It’s jist…
The Shadow: Jealous?
Alistair turns red.
Alistair: Nae, aam nae jealoos, boss. Wa woods ye say 'at?
The Shadow: Just forget it. Just rest assured, it’s all good and you can check it again tomorrow to make sure it is all how it should be, alright?
His mien brightens at these words.
Alistair: Aye, boss, thank ye.
He grabs his bag and turns to leave, almost running over Myfanwy, who is just coming into the room.
Alistair: Och, lassie, careful, dornt want tae gie rin ower by thes auld scot.
With this he leaves, leaving Myfanwy look from him to The Shadow and back.
Myfanwy: Say what?
The Shadow is trying his best to stifle a laugh, but is only partially succeeding.
The Shadow: Alistair was a little hurt that I let you check my wound and did not come to him. He’s our Druid Doctor after all.
Myfanwy: Oh, yes, I didn’t try to take that away from him.
The Shadow: I know, but he’s all good now. Where were you?
Myfanwy: Oh, I was outside with your son and his friend. She is a real cutie!
The Shadow: That she is. And she’s the only one that can tame the tempest that he is.
As he gets up, he motions for Myfanwy to follow him to the bay window of the living room, taking a seat, Myfanwy at his side. He pulls out his phone and searches for something for a moment before passing it to her.
The Shadow: They are one of the reasons I managed to keep my sanity after everything that happened.
As she flips through the picture Myfanwy “aawww”s several times.
Myfanwy: Oh my God, are they for real?
The Shadow: Yes, they are. They’re a yin and yang like I’ve never seen.
Myfanwy: No wonder this helped you.
The Shadow: When I see them, I see future, I see happiness, I see something worth living for. And that’s why compared to others I come back home so often between shows. I know that it adds a lot of mileage and adds more strain to me, but it’s things like what you see there, they make it worth it and they fuel me.
Myfanwy looks over at him looking kind of blankly out the window as she puts down the phone. The look on her face is clearly conflicted between happiness over the pictures she had just seen and what they meant to The Shadow on the one side and the underlying melancholic implications on the other. She gently puts her hand on his arm.
Myfanwy: I am happy to hear that part and I can definitely see what you can see in them.
He closes his eyes with a smile before putting his hand on hers.
Myfanwy: But we have to get ready for Seattle, I know it’s not a long flight, but we have to make sure you’re in shape.
The Shadow: You know what else is fueling me?
Myfanwy: I don’t know, food? Adrenaline?
The Shadow: Yes, yes, but not what I mean. Hearing the word “we”...
His voice trails off as a smile forms on Myfanwy’s face. The picture fades to black.
Night has fallen and the weather has brightened up somewhat. The moon is out, even though the temperatures have fallen even further. It is the night before their departure to Seattle and The Shadow is in his familiar spot in the bay window of the living room after everybody else has retired to bed. As he looks out over the backyard, he sees the movement of some branches, catching his attention. He is not sure why, but he feels compelled to check on it, feeling that it has some significance. As he reaches the spot, where he had seen the movement, he realizes that it is the beginning of the path to a quiet spot with a little waterfall, a small oasis of tranquillity that Mia had made her own.
As he follows the path, he sees a shadowy figure sitting right where he had been talking with Mia several times. Despite his quiet approach the mysterious figure calling herself Cheshire has sensed his presence and calls him down. Not sure what it is all about, he steps out from behind the trees and takes up a seat next to her, a little apprehensive, but at the same time curious.
The ensuing silence both evokes memories of Mia beginning to feel safe and at home, but at the same time the happenings of the last few months and most recently the controversial triple threat match at Frozen Over are still very fresh in his memory, when Cheshire breaks the silence.
Cheshire: I’m sure there’s confusion right now, you’re trying to wrap your head around the events that have brought us here to this very moment; a kind of awkward meeting of Champion and Challenger… Mentor and me, your student at one point if that memory serves.
He is not sure how to take it, with everything that has happened, but he is willing to hear her out. While she assures him that she has come in peace and that Loki was a thing of the past, trying to make amends for everything that had happened under Loki’s influence, there remains this layer of doubt, as this Cheshire personality seems to have taken over and still is not letting Mia come back to the fore.
As she continues to talk about Mia still having a lot to learn, and having needed her, Cheshire, to come in to save the day, he cannot shake the feeling that while she seems like a lesser evil, there still is something that does not feel right.
The Shadow: You underestimate her.
As he utters these three words, he realizes that it had been the first time he spoke since he left the Manor. Her response, though, takes him a bit by surprise.
Cheshire: We’ll see Shadow. We have after all, only just begun this dance.
They both smile at a briefly shared tangent, but the feeling of uneasiness remains, the wariness of all too often things not quite being what they seem. As she once more breaks the silence with an assurance that she had not meant to taint his victory at Frozen Over, that he did deserve the belt and how much he meant to the federation as a whole, he does feel this familiarity, he senses the essence of Mia in these words, which again comes through as Cheshire quotes her.
Cheshire: What is it that Mia used to say that is quite catchy and feels fitting in this situation? Oh yes…
Semi colon. Right Parenthesis.
Despite the tenseness of the situation he can’t help but grin at Mia’s catch phrase, rolling his eyes at the same time. Sensing that the conversation has ended, he turns to head back to the Manor. He opens his mouth to say something, but suddenly he hears rustling in the bushes again. He sees Ataxia step out of the trees, heading for the spot he had just sat in, where Cheshire is looking out into the distance with a vacant stare. Knowing that the two deserved a moment of their own, he turns and heads back to the Manor, his thoughts and feelings conflicted between hope and doubt, between the relief that one chapter of the story was over and not being able to shake the worry that this was not over yet.
The picture fades in to a very different looking weather, there is no snow, no frost, even though the low-lying, grey clouds still give the scenery a very dreary and gloomy look. A fine drizzle fills the air, giving everything a hazy veil, obscuring details and also the tops of the higher buildings, such as the Space Needle, are hidden within the clouds, giving everything a feeling of closed-in-ness, creating shadows where there should not be any.
The Shadow: Seattle, Emerald City. Or maybe City of the Eternal Drizzle, if you look at it… But whichever way you look at it, it is the place, where a new chapter is being opened…
The picture cuts to one of Seattle’s many piers, normally bustling with tourists, but now deserted with nobody wanting to venture out into the dreariness of a Washington winter day. Here at the waterfront a chilly wind is churning the waters of the Puget Sound, adding yet another layer of charm to the Jet City that most people could easily go without. It is there, on a lonely bench, that a long figure sits, a black trenchcoat wrapped around him, a hood flapping in the wind, torn off his head, his hair trailing behind him. The Shadow is staring out into the grey haze across the Sound, as if focusing on some unseen thing in the distance. Without acknowledging the presence of the camera, he begins to speak.
The Shadow: So it looks like I indeed wrote the final chapter of the requiem of Loki Synn at Frozen Over, even though the end will forever be a thorn in my side. Yes, the record books will only show me as the winner of the match and thus the title, but I will never forget how it went down. You, Cheshire, or whoever has her hands on the wheel right now, gifted me the win. And millions of people out there saw this, too.
My grasp on the belt is tainted by this now, so much that as much as it goes against many things I stand for, I hope that you and I will make it to the semi-finals, so we can settle this once and for all in the ring, one-on-one finally. Yes, you came and sought me out, in Mia’s special place, but while you said all the right words, how much trust can I place in them yet? The book of Mia has a new chapter, with you as a new protagonist, or is it an antagonist? We will see. Cheshire, I do not know who you are yet and what your ultimate goals are, but I will find out, just like I managed to find out Loki’s true identity.
He quietly chuckles.
The Shadow: What makes things even more ironic, there is a chance I might meet none other than Jarvis in the second round yet again, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, because before that I have a man standing against me that is more than capable of wreaking some quite serious havoc all on his own.
He turns towards the camera, his blue eyes devoid of any amusement his voice may have carried before.
The Shadow: Tobias Devereaux, mon ami Cadien, les temps des jeux est fini. You haven’t been in CWF for long yet, but you definitely have had a stormy ride to get to where we are now already, aligning alliances faster than some people manage to change their underwear. At first coming in as a lackey to Milenko, then striking up a team with Jimmy Allen and now after Milenko’s demise and a break-up with Jimmy you still have the tag team belt in your sweaty Louisiana paws, just with Nathan Paradine by your side.
So what does that tell us about you? Compared to when we first met, quite a lot of things have come to light. First and foremost - what does it tell us about your trustworthiness as an ally? It seems that everything you touch turns to gold at first, but at what price? If it happens once, it can be coincidence, but once this becomes a recurring event, one has to wonder what toxicity you bring into any of these “relationships”?
He pulls out a pack of cards.
The Shadow: You’re a hustler. You look out for yourself first and then maybe others, but only for as long as they serve a purpose. The purpose of furthering where you want to go and what you want to get. But in Modern Warfare, there are no alliances, there is no hustling. Here it is every man or woman for themselves. Just look at it, Ataxia could face Dorian and there is nothing we can do about it.
We’ve met in the ring once before, right when you came into the federation with Jimmy and I must say that I made the mistake of underestimating you. Granted, I barely knew anything about you. So what has changed? For one we both are holding gold right now, but while you have had a chance to study me prior to our first match, that advantage of surprise is no longer there. I have been able to follow you for months now and don’t think that these are just empty words. Your association with Hostility and with that Loki Synn in itself gave me enough reason not to let you out of my sight. And now our paths cross again.
He randomly takes out three cards from the pack, fans them out and holds them up. Suddenly an arrow whistles past his head, taking one card out of his hand before embedding itself into the wooden railing in front of him with a dull thud. He leans forward, plucks the arrow out of the railing and turns over the card, which is a king of hearts.
The Shadow: Some might say that the pressure will be on me, because I am the champion now, I am the one that has nothing to gain, but everything to lose in this tournament. But if you look at this, what different is it than to have a standalone match in defense of the title? And then another one the week after? If anything it actually helps me, because it enables me to somewhat plot out who I might face.
But in the end while they still are connected within the same tournament, every single match is just another title defense. If I win, I have another defense the week after. Does it matter that it all happens under the umbrella of an overarching tournament? No. In a way it actually plays all into my cards, because while everybody else has to go through the others, trying to keep their chances alive to at one point step into the ring with me for the title, I just do what I would be doing anyways.
He draws three more cards and another arrow sails past, taking one of the card with it. After taking it off, it shows a jack of clubs.
The Shadow: But back to you personally, Tobias, you could really leave a mark here, you suddenly have this golden opportunity to hold two belts at the same time, among them the most coveted piece of gold this federation has to offer. You are now free from any connections to Milenko and the stigma of being nothing more than a minion that followed his money to do his bidding. You don’t have to dance to somebody else’s tune anymore, but you are in it for yourself, no strings attached. Is this now in turn an advantage for you or a disadvantage? No longer being within a framework you just have to follow, not having to worry about the greater implications, but also operating without a safety net that could cushion your fall in case something went wrong?
I think that forming longer lasting relationships is just against your very nature, the hustler, the gambler within you is too strong to allow you to let your guard down and really trust anybody besides yourself. Sure, you don’t burden yourself with any potential emotional baggage that can come with such a thing, but at the same time you also alienate yourself.
Finally he takes the rest of the deck and throws it into the air. As a third arrow shoots past him, the camera turns to show his face with Myfanwy walking up behind him, her red hair like a wild flag in the wind, a bow in her hand.
The Shadow: When we meet in Seattle, it will be just you and I, though, no more games no tag team partners, no politics, no outside interference. All cards will be laid on the table, no jokers up your sleeve. Speaking of jokers and jesters, Cheshire, I know you will be seeing this, you better not try to put your nose into this match, because like I said, I have not forgotten what happened at Frozen Over and while I am happy to hold this title, I am not - done - with - you…
He gets up and both him and Myfanwy walk out of the picture. The camera turns around to show the final card stuck in the wooden railing. It is a joker. The picture fades to black.