A copse of trees, their leafless branches sticking into the gray, low-hanging clouds like skeletal fingers, moved by the buffeting winds as if trying to grasp something out of the air. As the camera turns, Ravenhearst Manor comes into view, obscured by the blowing snow. A long figure is braving the onslaught of nature, walking across the snow-covered lawn, clearly battling with the elements. As the scene cuts to the kitchen of the Manor, the snow-covered figure steps through the doors off the veranda, bringing a gust of snow into the house.
Myfanwy: Whoa, what were you doing out there? You look frozen!
Sanford Thibodaux: Maybe you can open the freezer, so I can warm up a bit.
Myfanwy: Or maybe a cup of tea?
Sanford: How about some bourbon?
Myfanwy: OK, tea it is.
As he brushes off the snow, Thibodaux grumbles something about never getting what he wants, but the way he embraces the tea shows that maybe it was not the worst option.
Sanford: Where’s the boss?
Myfanwy: I’m actually not sure, I haven’t seen him this morning.
Alistair McLean: He feel asleep in th' study, hud puckle picters oan th' desk.
The bulky Scot walks in, grabs a mug, fills it with tea.
Sanford: Pictures? What pictures?
Alistair: Loki, Cheshire, Max, V.E.N.O.M.
Myfanwy: Venom? Why Venom?
The Shadow: Because something seems odd about them, especially after Seattle. This voice, the foreign languages, it all feels so strangely familiar.
The Welsh redhead gives a start as The Shadow soundlessly glides into the room.
Myfanwy: Can you stop doing this? It gives me a heart attack every time!
The Shadow gives her an apologetic smile.
The Shadow: Attacking your heart this way is the furthest from my mind.
Seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, Thibodaux takes a long sip of tea, cherishing the heat going down his throat.
Sanford: Want me to investigate?
The Shadow: Feel free, but there’s not much to go with.
Sanford: Well, gives me something to do.
The Shadow: What are you trying to tell me? That you’re bored?
Sanford: No, no, it’s just not the same right now.
Myfanwy: What do you mean?
Sanford: Well, as weird as it might sound, I kind of miss when we had that whole Elisha thing going, it was dangerous, but exciting.
The Shadow: The thrill of the hunt, hm? Well, like I said, if you want you can have a look into this, I don’t have high hopes, but I rather be one step ahead than behind.
A smile appears on Thibodaux’s face.
Sanford: Thanks, boss, I’ll be right on it!
As he says this, he gets up and turns to head back outside.
Myfanwy: Tea, Sanford?
The Louisianian stops dead in his tracks and sheepishly takes a freshly filled thermos from Myfanwy.
Sanford: Thanks, Ma’am.
She shoots him an indignant look.
Myfanwy: Ma’am? Really? Do I look that old?
The Shadow looks at the two with an amused smile.
The Shadow: He’s from the south, anybody older than kindergarten is a Ma’am down there.
Sanford gives him a thankful nod before he disappears back into the cold.
The Shadow: Do I qualify for one of those, too?
Myfanwy whirls around towards him.
Myfanwy: One of what? An earful?
He puts his hands up in a gesture of a peace offering.
The Shadow: Tea, I was only talking about tea.
Myfanwy: Oh, I’m so sorry, here!
She pours a mug of reddish liquid and holds it out towards him.
Myfanwy: So your spidey-senses are tingling?
He snorts into his mug, coughing from some of the hot tea going down the wrong hole.
The Shadow: I guess you could call it that, or shadow-senses. But yes. There is something strangely familiar about certain things and not the good kind of familiar.
Myfanwy: As in you’ve met Venom before somewhere?
The Shadow: No, it’s not them. Even though they’re connected to it, remember Frozen Over? The whole thing with Eris and then this veiled figure and now this message and everything in Seattle. I can’t put my finger on it yet, but something is striking close to home and it worries me.
She puts her hand on his shoulder.
Myfanwy: Can I help?
He raises his hand to cover hers.
The Shadow: Yes, be careful, please, I have a bad feeling about all of this…
The picture fades to black.
Ravenhearst Manor on the day of departure to Tacoma. Bags and suitcases are being readied when a commotion from the front door catches The Shadow’s attention. Alastair and Myfanwy are talking to somebody and the tone of their voices is not the most cordial. As he approaches the door, he, to his complete surprise, hears Jimmy Allen.
Jimmy Allen: One never gets a second chance to make a good first impression. I’m not here to fight, only to talk and make amends if that is even possible.
There were not a lot of people he would have expected less than him, not after completely turning on him and the Forsaken. Despite the doubt, he figures that the least he could do would be to hear him out, not least due to him also seeking Dorian, and by extension Chloe, to atone for his mistakes.
The Shadow: How about we go inside where it is a bit less hostile?
Taking a seat in the living room, a lively fire in the hearth driving away the winter’s cold, Jimmy admitted his faults and despite his actions not giving him a lot of reason to believe, The Shadow senses that Jimmy’s efforts in making amends are sincere.
The Shadow: You seem sincere, and I want to believe you. You must realize that the rift you created is vast. Dorian’s word does cary a great deal of weight with us. For now, I would propose a truce of sorts. You stay true to that and it will become permanent over time. Betray that truce and, well you get my point, I’m sure.
They part after a handshake to seal the truce and The Shadow stands in the open door for a long time even after losing sight of Jimmy through the swirling snow, without saying a word. A hand on his shoulder brings him back to reality.
Myfanwy: You should come back in, you catching death out here will not help you in any way.
He closes his eyes with a smile before turning around and closing the door behind him.
The Shadow: So, what do you think?
Myfanwy: If he would have done to me what he has done to you guys, his head would still be spinning, but he really seems to have seen that what he did was wrong. So I agree with you, he deserves a second chance, but we should not let our guard down, just in case.
The Shadow smiles at the redhead, puts his arm around her shoulder and leads her back towards the living room.
The Shadow: Thank you for confirming what I thought. And this place is getting busy, Lok-- Cheshire last week, Jimmy this week, who is it going to be next week? Ataxia?
Myfanwy: Just say his name three times and he shall appear…
He stops and can barely keep himself from laughing out loud.
The Shadow: He is not Beetlejuice.
Myfanwy continues walking.
Myfanwy: Close enough.
This pushes him over the edge and he begins to laugh.
The Shadow: Maybe you are not that far off after all…
As cold and snowy Calgary was, as wet and soggy the Puget Sound area is, however it is a true sight to behold when the sun rises behind the iconic silhouette of Mount Rainier. Pink and orange hues of light stand in stark contrast to the black outline of the dormant volcano, one of area’s best known landmarks. The camera zooms out to show The Shadow and Myfanwy sitting in the back of an SUV, the back door open, facing the sunrise.
Myfanwy: This is beautiful.
The Shadow: Yes. And hard to believe that it also is one of the decade volcanoes.
Myfanwy turns towards him.
Myfanwy: What is a decade volcano?
The Shadow: A dormant, yet still active volcano fairly close to a densely populated area, so that there’d be a great loss of life.
Her eyes grow wide.
Myfanwy: So… why are we this close to it?
He puts his hand on hers, trying to reassure her.
The Shadow: Don’t worry, there hasn’t been any eruption in 165 years, so I think we’re safe.
She visibly relaxes.
The Shadow: There will be an eruption in Tacoma, though, second round of Modern Warfare… Willkommen in der Realität, Herr Becker, die Zeit für Spiele ist vorbei… But I guess that we should probably stick to English, ja, Herr Becker? Welcome to reality, Mr. Becker, the time for games is over…
So now I am not sure, if I should be impressed with you winning against Jarvis or if it has become the norm by now, the poor man has not won a match in weeks, if not months. But I kid, it still is a quite big feat to defeat the East Coast Excellence, even though I did manage to shatter the Glass Ceiling at Frozen Over. But enough of this, this is not about Jarvis, right, Max?
I must say that you have left quite a splash when you dove into the murky waters that are CWF, more than many newcomers. You’re bringing some German efficiency to the place, but before we get to that, what on earth has happened to you that turned you into a caricature? Why am I saying this, you may ask? Well, look at yourself - or much rather listen to yourself.
He reaches behind him, pulling a file folder into the back.
The Shadow: Now I don’t know any of your history outside of what little could be found on the CWF website, you helped revive professional wrestling in Germany, then went to Japan with rather limited success, and now you are here, trying to tear things up. And hearing you with your odd affinity towards American rapper slang, you are exactly what the crowd just gobbles up. The big boy from Kölle that sounds like an American rap guru from the hood.
No, I am not protesting cultural appropriation, it just feels – odd. Now Germans often are met with this expectation of stereotype. Harsh, structured, hard-working, well organized, often lacking emotion, with the occasional political throwback to WW II and what happened before it, so looking at you one has to wonder, if you actually are German, if you know what I mean.
He takes out a picture of Max.
The Shadow: You are immediately likeable, you are both the impressive giant, yet at the same time the charming underdog. It feels like your opponents will see you as a physical force to be reckoned with, but at the same time also as a lumbering lug that is too slow and big for his own good to maneuver in the ring and keep up with a faster opponent. But looking at your matches here so far, one should never underestimate you, because there is far more to you than what it seems like. If I look back at the last 12, 13 months and the people I faced in this federation, I’ve come across almost every kind imaginable, both in size, in weight, in character, so it is very difficult to truly surprise me anymore.
As the sun creeps closer to the top of Mount Rainier, he glides out of the back of the SUV and begins to pace behind the car.
The Shadow: Now what makes you different? What sets you apart from the rest? Right now definitely this wave of euphoria you are riding on. You came into CWF and you came in with a splash, no, I’m not referring to your size when you hit water, creating this whirlwind that just plainly overpowers the competition. And now, more by the luck of the draw than anything else, you find yourself in a match that could get you the most coveted piece of gold in CWF in one of your first matches.
He pauses and fixes the camera with a piercing look.
The Shadow: How does that feel? Does it give you this extra boost of confidence that you have been breaking through your opponents so far and are just on a roll and I am just going to be another victim of your undefeated streak? Or has it set in yet, the prospect of suddenly being on top of the CWF world? Oh, I am sure your Brigade is already salivating at the thought of you rising to the zenith in no time flat. They will be clamoring for you to ascend to the Olympus, they will assure you that you can do it. They will come to expect it before you know about it, because they believe in you. And then what? Do you feel the jitters yet? Do you feel the pressure mounting?
This pressure has made stronger men buckle, the fear of disappointing your faithful followers making you freeze up. But I am in the same position, aren’t I? No. I don’t have anything to prove anymore, I am taking everything one match at a time. That I have the belt, well, belts? Does not make the match anything different. I’m in it to win, no matter what. The pressure? I have battled the likes of Elisha in a forest and on a pirate ship. I went against Silas in a Hell in a Cell. I have been in a triple cage match. I have gone through attacks by the Glass Ceiling, by Loki, so what’s one more?
He turns to face the mountain, his look turning vacant as he stares into the distance.
The Shadow: I have been through more things in life than most people ever will. You know the old trope of life giving you lemons? Well, for me life raided a citrus plantation and loaded up a giant bazooka with it and put it on auto-fire. So if you think that there are a lot of things left that will faze me, think again. I looked cancer in the eye and I walked away alive. I lost my wife and I am still standing.
Almost as if snapping out of a flashback he turns his head towards the camera again.
The Shadow: So you talk about destiny, a controllable destiny. There is no such thing. You cannot control destiny, you cannot control fate. Trust me, I tried. If I could have controlled it, things would look a whole lot differently. There are certain things in life you can influence, but you will realize that a lot of it, too much maybe, you can’t. But keep your belief that you can shape your destiny, just don’t be surprised when the realization sets in that you can’t...
Now I can appreciate originality and creativity, but if you have to put someone through the rap meatgrinder, at least get your facts straight. Jarvis has no ties to North Carolina, he is Canadian. I don’t think you’d be happy, if someone announced you as coming from Düsseldorf (1), no? On Tuesday you will meet yet another Canadian, but as inspiring as your ascent in CWF has been so far, the fairytale will end in Tacoma. While I have no doubts that you have great potential to succeed in this federation, you are not ready for what you will face when you step into the ring with me.
The camera turns as Myfanwy steps next to The Shadow, their back to Mount Rainier.
The Shadow: Prepare to step forward to the place, where darkness is the brightest light, Max.
The picture slowly fades to black as the sun crests the mountain top and turns the two into dark silhouettes.
(1) There is a huge rivalry between Cologne and Düsseldorf, so this would be considered a big insult to someone from Cologne.