Fade in to a side of The Shadow’s mansion we have not seen yet, the actual entrance. A driveway leads up to the house, a sign at the beginning showing an ornately scripted “Ravenhearst Manor” before a wrought iron gate with two raven heads making up the top of each of the gates. The drone-mounted camera loftily floats over the gate and the driveway towards the house, passing it and crossing the winter-ravaged lawn that still shows far more brown than actual green. As it reaches the back veranda, it shows two familiar faces standing in the afternoon sun, looking out across the grass and the little river.
Sanford Thibodaux: So, we have news from Makhnovia.
The Shadow: That Finnish guy found things?
Sanford Thibodaux: Yes. His contact has managed to get brief access to the vault, where they keep all the medical records and research and he saw some treatises on experimental treatment. They did not have any names connected to it, but the methods are the same. He did not have much time, so he couldn’t make any copies or anything, but this is the closest we’ve gotten so far.
The Shadow: Good! And what about Golobayov?
Sanford Thibodaux: This is where things get really interesting now. We had thought that Golobayov had not left the Epicentre or at least Makhnovia in years, but actually…
The Shadow: Actually what? I hate it when you do this!
Sanford Thibodaux: He is not in Makhnovia. He is in England.
The Shadow: What?
Sanford Thibodaux: Yes, at the Institute’s Manor. Apparently he has been there for at least two months, I have no idea why, and that place is guarded better than Fort Knox, but there is someone, who has managed to find a way in.
The Shadow: Caledonia. But if you remember, she didn’t quite do it on her own and it didn’t work out that quietly either…
Sanford Thibodaux: Yes, I know, but she proved that it is doable.
The Shadow: What are you trying to say?
Sanford Thibodaux: I say we go get Golobayov!
The Shadow: OK, I’ll try to be diplomatic about this, but ARE YOU NUTS?
Thibodaux (grinning): Yup, and that’s why I’m here!
The Shadow (shaking his head): So what is your plan?
Sanford Thibodaux: Find Caledonia.
The picture fades to the babbling brook in the back of the estate of Ravenhearst Manor. The rays of the sun are reflecting off the small waves formed by the submerged rocks, giving the little river the appearance of a lively sparkle. Slowly the camera turns to show The Shadow and a stocky man, almost as wide as he is tall, the sides of his head shaved yet the remaining hair bound back in an elaborate braid and with a chin beard emphasizing a prominent chin, identified as Stefan Detwyler, one of the Druids. They both stand bows in hand, quivers on their back, two targets across the expanse of the lawn. Without acknowledging the camera, The Shadow begins to speak as he draws an arrow.
The Shadow: So Elisha, you finally have the reins in your greasy, grubby hands and right away you try to seize control of everything, yourself, the Institute, the world! No matter how assured you are of your victory, thankfully there still are people out there and in CWF that will not allow that to happen! I know that your definition of paradise does not exactly match that of most of the world. Well, when you and I are through at Paradise, you will feel like you are surrounded by a hippie commune giving out hugs and kisses and preaching free love for all.
But you are not on the menu this week, even though I am sure that you and your cult will show your faces again in Norfolk. No, my focus has to be on three other gentlemen, Mr. Starr, Mr. Azrael, Mr. Chris, nice to make your acquaintance, again, but it shall be all but a fleeting memory…
He places the arrow on his bow and as the camera moves around to show his face, we can see that he is becoming one with the arrow, slowing down his breathing before releasing the arrow. The camera whirls around to show the arrow one ring removed from the bull’s eye. As Detwyler notches his arrow, The Shadow continues.
The Shadow: It strikes me as funny time and again that The Forsaken are still viewed as a group of randomly put together people, yet half the time the opponents we face are even worse... Now I don't mean any disrespect to the individual athletes, but I have been in these seemingly random matchups before and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but I believe that we have shown in the past that we are more than just your average gathering of freaks.
Many people do not understand Ataxia and to be honest, I can see why. He is not your Average Joe, he does not have this linear kind of thought process that some may call methodical and others simplistic. But what most of these people do not realize is that despite the apparent randomness of his actions, there is a plan behind it, a grand plan. I think that I have been the person that has been paired with him the longest and he himself says that I, up to a point, understand him. I do not see him as the maniac, as the lunatic, as the idiot savant some people make him out to be, but as a person. Granted, it can be a little difficult to see through the burlap, so to say, but there is far, far more to him than it may seem.
And there is Mia Rayne, our latest addition to Forsakenhood. Another character that is grossly misunderstood. Yes, she is off kilter, yes, she also is anything but linear, again, there is a person behind all this that maybe just needs something like The Forsaken, support, a goal and that Ataxia and her are...an item... obviously helps. But she has proven in her short time in CWF that she is not just your regular nutbar that will go crazy at the drop of a hat. Just don't try to touch Link. Her cast-iron companion, in case you are not in the know. We are all outcasts in our own ways and as odd as it may seem, it is a common denominator that binds you together more than you would think.
Detwyler’s arrow has grazed the bull’s eye and he adjusts something on The Shadow’s bow that seems to be out of tune.
The Shadow: Now enough about us, let's have a look at the other side. Christian Starr, Azrael and Crazy Chris. The self proclaimed "King of Wrestling" teamed up with an archetype of apathy and a self-proclaimed madman. You have to admit, it is a somewhat unlikely alliance to come together as a unit, especially when looking at some of the words that were said in the past... I know that words are somewhat fleeting with the wind, but if someone gets personal it might be a little harder to put that behind you and I am sure that at least a few people in and around CWF were not too sad about Mr. Starr losing his title to Jarvis last week…
Detwyler hands the bow back to The Shadow, who notches another arrow and releases. The arrow is considerably closer to the bull’s eye, but still is just not there.
The Shadow: Crazy Chris. One of CWF's longest standing veterans, former tag team champion, former Paramount champion, so definitely a highly decorated gentleman, but with all these accolades - you never really hit the ground running, you never managed to take these successes and build on them. For many the Paramount title is the first step, then they advance to Impact etc. You managed to secure the title when it first came back and then went right back into the shadows. But despite complaining about not getting chances and always remaining in the shadow of your brother, you seem to be content to remain in this partial obscurity, to stay within your bubble. Where is your ambition, your challenge, your goals? With the exception of an occasional moment in the limelight, you have been treading water ever since I came into the CWF and where I and many others have weathered some rough waters and even rapids, you just stay in your kiddie pool.
What most people remember you by is how hard and tenaciously you try to convince everybody within earshot how crazy and nuts you are. You are a cliche, Chris, one that you have been trying to further and make relevant all on your own! But you know what, if you repeat the same thing over and over again, people will eventually stop listening. The truly crazy people will not try to emphasize with every living breath, no, they keep that side hidden, so they have the advantage of surprise. When you go into this mode, you are not crazy, my friend, you are just annoying and nobody will take you seriously anymore. Living off the achievements of the past can only get you so far and when they say that actions speak louder than words, you have managed barely more than a whisper.
The next arrow of the Swissman goes completely off target as the loud squawk of a bird causes Detwyler to give a start just as he released his arrow, embedding itself into the trunk of a tree behind the targets.
The Shadow: Azrael, Archangel of Apathy, you are one of the biggest enigmas of this federation. You are a formidable competitor, you have the size, you have the moves, but even though therapy seems to be working well for you, where is the drive to compete, the will to excel, the inner fire to succeed and win? You are the one competitor I shared the ring with in the past, in our little stint in Korea, but you seem to have come quite some ways since then.
Now the question that comes up for me is - if you already have trouble riling yourself up, if a title or title shot are on the line - how on earth will you be able to get into the zone for a seemingly random matchup such as this one? You have all the makings for a star, but in the end you are your worst enemy, far more than I or anybody else ever could be.
After checking the wind, The Shadow notches his final arrow and after several seconds of no breathing and total focus, it finally hits the bull’s eye. Not smack in the centre, but still, in the eye. He moves to the side with a somewhat elated look on his face.
The Shadow: And finally Christian Starr. The king is dead, long live the king? You had made a tremendous case to make the Paramount title your own, swimming on a high tide of confidence and cockiness. Your reign, without a doubt, was impressive, but let me ask you, how does it feel now that you have been knocked off your high horse? Now that your throne has been usurped by someone else, by someone who many deem the only true king? Everything you built over weeks suddenly collapsing like a house of cards and suddenly you find yourself in a match like this. Well, at least you are faring better than in the Middle Ages, when dethroned kings would be cut down to size, quite literally. Ask Louis XVI what it was like when the guillotine gave in to gravity…
Your mouth works overtime and then some more and you have been able to back up your loudmouth very well, but if you look closer, then you see Payne, well, truth be told, you don’t have to look THAT close to see him, but you get the point. You have your own, built-in backup plan, if things don’t go as planned, hey, just send in the cavalry. But while I agree that anybody should have a good support network, if you have to rely on them to save the day, how powerful of a king are you truly? If someone proclaims himself to be the “king of wrestling”, shouldn’t he be able to conquer his foes all on his own to show his superiority? Shouldn’t he rise to the occasion, especially in the eye of the greatest challenge so far?
You would think so, yet when it mattered the most, when you faced your biggest challenge - you failed. What does that say about you and your reign? Not trying to take anything away from your opponents, but a champion’s reign is only as glorious as his last match and while it was one hell of a match, well, it will still go down as your first, bitter loss after all. Now you have referred to both of your companions here as inferior and weaker and a few other choice things, yet now all of a sudden you have to rely on them, you have to place your faith into those exact abilities that you had denounced in the past. So that brings us to the next question, other than the will to win, even though that might be disputable in some cases, what motivation do they have really to give their all to lead you to victory? And we all know that you will try everything in your power to be the one to make that pin. Why would they want to do the dirty work and give you the glory?
Detwyler has an arrow notched, but it feels as if he turned into a statue, completely unmoving for what feels to be an eternity. As he finally releases, the arrow goes off and nearly splits The Shadow’s in half, leaving the Weaver of Dreams with an incredulous look on his face, alternating between the split arrows and Detwyler, who has a big grin plastered to his face.
The Shadow: So many questions, yet so few answers. Yet CWF, 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…
Fade to black...
"The concession stands are now selling those cheap hotel room round soap disks that I have personally blessed for $100’s a bar….AND SINNERS….I suggest you buy one, and use it, because if you think your God wants you in his heaven smelling like a 3am New York City uber ride you got another thing coming."