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Thread: Desert Storm PPV PROMO THREAD

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    Desert Storm PPV PROMO THREAD

    Post your promos for the Desert Storm PPV here. Promo deadline is Saturday, February 27, at midnight Pacific time. This is Sunday, February 28, at 3 a.m. Eastern time and 8 a.m. British time.

    You can request extensions in the promo discussion thread, or via PM to mods, no later than 24 hours before promo deadline.

    Curious or unsure about how much time is left before the exact deadline? Click HERE to see a second by second countdown to the deadline.

    Please refer to the new extension policy in place for 2021 in regards to requesting an extension. Click here to view it.



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    Re: Desert Storm PPV PROMO THREAD

    MICHELLE von HORROWITZ
    in
    [VOLUME 46]
    THE BANDIT QUEEN.

    ***
    1872. The American Midwest. Winter.
    Part One.
    ***


    "as the sun is sinking low, and the evening's tucked in tow.
    on the horizon, my true love I see.
    she ain't fancy, she ain't fine, while her fingers number only nine.
    she's the belle of the ball of the insurgency.
    "


    Southern Missouri.
    20 miles north of Sandgate.

    The young man felt at home within the shadow of the trees. He listened to the wind softly rustling the bare branches around him as his cigarette smoked itself to nothing, finally extinguished by the pressing cold. He let it fall out of his mouth and onto the ground, placing his heavy boot atop of it to ensure the acres of dry wood around him didn’t consort with its final embers. As he did so, his spurs softly jangled, echoed and amplified amidst an otherwise silent night. Partly to mask himself and partly to fend off the cold, he pulled his dark green neckerchief back over his face and placed his hat atop his crown. He continued to stare out into the South with piercing, distant eyes.

    Somewhere nearby stood a dozen men that he had enlisted to help him in tonight’s task. Some of them he'd known for years, and had been a regular fixture in the gang since the early days in Illinois and Michigan. That number was smaller than he’d like, though, and seemed to get smaller still each time he rounded them up, This in itself was quite the feat: dispersed, as they often were, in separate corners of the Midwest. He'd never seen most of the men that had been enlisted for this misadventure before, though, and the majority were generally local ruffians drafted in because of a shortfall in numbers. Sometimes, he worried that the next time he’d be in their company would be in the sheriff’s office, on opposite sides of the argument. His closest 'friends' (in the fashion that he had any, which was far from the conventional definition) told him he was becoming paranoid, and perhaps they were right. Most likely, he’d never see those enlisted again. But still, the worry was as real to him as the cold.

    He took a few steps forward until he felt the railroad track beneath his boot. He struck a match and held it in front of him, the miniscule radius of the light barely enough to reveal the large barricade that had been mounted on top of the tracks. It was mostly wooden sleepers that they’d taken from the service stop a few miles up the track, and finding himself happy with its height and its girth he shook the match until it went out and lowered himself onto his knees. Carefully and deliberately, he placed an ear against the iron of the track. He could hear the track beginning to vibrate. Somewhere in the near-distance, a train was traversing the rails at all the pace that the technology of the time would allow. The man stood up, smiling to himself at the untimely timeliness of the train, and then began to mount the barricade.

    Finally, in the distance, a beam of light appeared, foreshadowing the arrival of the train to which it was attached. When the light centred itself on the barricade that blocked its path, a thin, high whistle sounded out. The man shook his head. He was unsure if the driver had sounded it to ask them to kindly move out of its path or to alert any nearby souls (of which there weren’t any) of its oncoming doom. Both actions were futile and quite frankly ridiculous. Smoke began to billow, the result of the friction of the train’s brakes as it accepted its fate and began to slow towards a halt.

    The man upon the barricade reached to his side and removed his shooter from its holster. The grip felt comfortable, despite the fact that he was missing two fingers on his right hand from the second knuckle. He slowly raised the pistol into the air and cocked it, the delicate click of the mechanism being matched by a dozen similar weapons all around him.

    ***

    Lonehill, Western Missouri.
    Sixty miles north of Sandgate.


    It was a new night, but the saloon was exactly the same. Its most notable feature, now and always, was that it was almost empty but for the handful of poor, lost souls who were employed there. The first thing that one noticed upon entry was the large stage at its northern wall, upon which one man played the piano whilst another solemnly tap-danced to an audience of none. In front of the stage was the dancefloor, large enough to house half a hundred revellers but currently as barren and empty as the badlands that surrounded the small town. Away in a dark corner, the old, lecherous man who lived in the small hut at the foot of the hill was being entertained by a shapely but buck-toothed whore he’d brought back with him from Kansas City. And behind the bar, Ms. Montgomery ran an old rag around the rim of a tankard, staring down at it with a glum countenance and a lack of discernible hope.

    The sheriff walked across the dancefloor and towards the counter. She stared disapprovingly at the old letch as he buried his head in the prostitute’s bosom, eliciting a high and ugly laugh from his girl. The sheriff was done chasing whores and Johns and the general illicit nature of their exploits. She’d learned in St. Louis that such errands were useless. . That was about all she’d learned in St. Louis. The old man seemed to enjoy her disdain, and placed his hands just above the girl’s hips and gently squeezed, causing her to throw her head back and thrust her barely-covered breasts into his face. He smiled at the sheriff with his yellowing teeth, and she couldn’t help but look away.

    She took a seat on the opposite side of the counter from Ms. Montgomery, and looked upon the not-uncomely but quickly-aging woman. The saloon owner stared across the saloon at the old man. She shook her head and placed the now-clean tankard down on a shelf, turning towards the sheriff with a look of despair.

    “They’ve been here hours,” Montgomery said, reaching below the counter for the bottle of bourbon that she already felt assured the sheriff would ask for. “It’s this sort of behaviour that'll keep the regular customers away, once they’ve built the new line.”

    Michelle cocked an eyebrow as Montgomery pushed a large measure of bourbon across the surface of the bar. The sheriff placed out her hand to stop it, grasped it with her pale fingers, and then took a long pull of the amber liquid. Montgomery was always talking about the new line, and had been doing so since she’d first moved to the town nearly a decade ago. The sheriff had been here just over a year, but she’d observed the older woman enough to decipher at least a partial history. Ms. Montgomery had moved to the town of Lonehill after her husband died, and used the money he’d left her to buy the saloon. At the time, the locals were buzzing about a planned railroad between Kansas City and somewhere in Illinois that would pass right through the town. They had even built a station in preparation for the track. The plans had stalled, though, and even if they had never been cancelled completely it now seemed little more than a pipe dream that the railroad would be built here and bring some customers to Ms. Montgomery and her saloon. Two years ago, a different track had been built to the south, passing by somewhere near Sandgate before snaking round to Kansas City, which seemed the final nail in the coffin of the Lonehill line. But still, Montgomery talked of the prospect often, even if hope had long-since disappeared from her voice.

    “Still,” she started, an ulterior motive plain. “I don’t suppose they’ll want to build a new line here anytime soon, so long as we’re harbouring known gunslingers in town.”

    Michelle stared down at her drink, one hand around it and the other playing with one of the five points on the gold star that was pinned to her waistcoat. She understood the woman’s meaning. The saloon owner had made the same thinly-veiled suggestion many times before. The sheriff finished her drink and signalled for another.

    “You don’t know he’s a gunslinger,” Michelle began, catching the sliding drink once again and helping herself to another greedy mouthful. “You don’t know anything.”

    Ms. Montgomery smirked derisively and shook her head.

    “Were you always like this?” she asked.

    “Like what?” the sheriff replied. She had a habit of answering a question with another.

    Scared.”

    Michelle didn’t turn towards her, and found herself shamed by the truth of the accusation. It had been this way since St. Louis. Instead, she stared over at the piano player and the tap dancer as they came to the underwhelming climax of their routine.

    “I’ll have to let Randy and Chris go if this keeps up much longer,” Montgomery said. “Did you hear about the robbery near Sandgate last night?”

    Slowly, Michelle nodded her head.

    “I heard.”

    “Well, are you doing anything about it?” the saloon owner pried, picking up another tankard and beginning to wipe that one down with her rag. Michelle didn’t feel the need to point out that it was already clean.

    “The Kansas City department is looking into it,” she answered, reaching into her pocket for her pipe and tobacco. “I think the Sandgate sheriff is there as well. There’s no need for me to get involved.”

    “I’m sure they’d disagree if they knew who was here,” Montgomery asserted, quite confident in her words. “Did you hear the eye-witness accounts? A man with three fingers on his right hand? You think Mr. Parr has a brother, and that it’s a genetic condition?”

    Michelle finished her second drink and placed her glass on the counter, internally remarking upon the fact that the saloon owner seemed better informed of local criminality than the sheriff was. It was well-known that Montgomery had her ear to the ground for anything pertaining to the railroad. Still, a witch hunt was the last thing the sheriff needed, and Montgomery had had it in for the young man with three fingers on his right hand ever since he'd first come to Lonehill. She let out a sigh, both at the trajectory of the conversation and the work shift that was about to begin.

    “I’ll send a telegram,” she conceded, sliding her empty back up the bar towards the saloon owner. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

    “Mhm.”

    The air outside was cold and the dark had already taken hold. Michelle lit her pipe and looked out over the one-horse town that was now home. It wasn’t St. Louis. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. Change is neither good nor bad, but sometimes it's necessary. That's what she'd been told, anyway. She began to ascend the dirt track that led up to the jailhouse, sucking lethargically at her pipe and intermittently staring at the pale, crescent moon that smiled down upon them. It seemed somewhat ironic, considering that the people here were invariably miserable. She passed the stables, a half-dozen small houses, the convenience store, and the undertaker’s on her way, and chuckled to herself: she had accomplished an exhaustive tour of the town of Lonehill in less than a pair of minutes.

    She pushed open the doors of the jailhouse in a more abrupt manner than intended, startling the young man in uniform who occupied one of its two desks. He sat up straight, appeared flustered, and pushed a few strands of untamed hair out of his eyes.

    “Oh, it’s you,” he began, relaxing once more before getting up from his chair. He picked up his jacket and his hat from the stand, placing the former atop his head and slinging the latter over his shoulder. Deputy Grayson was not a particularly courageous man, or a particularly strong man, or a particularly smart man. He was dutiful and loyal, though, and these were perhaps more important attributes in a deputy than courage, strength, or intelligence. He was never late for a shift and never clocked off early, and she was led to believe that this had been the case long before she had come. “I was worried you were going to be late again.”

    “Got somewhere to be?” the sheriff asked, more out of mischief than anything else. In this town, nobody ever had somewhere to be. “Did I miss anything today?”

    “Just the usual,” Deputy Grayson said, pulling his arms through the sleeves of his jacket and making his way towards the exit. “Those two have been harassing the saloon owner again. The standard kind of stuff.”

    He nodded at the jailhouse’s one cell, within which the Valanders soundly slept, a long, thin piece of hay perched haphazardly between the younger brother’s teeth.

    “I think the randy buggers just need to sleep it off,” Grayson added. He gave her a nod, and took his leave.

    Michelle sat at her desk and took a piece of paper from one of the drawers. She began to scribble onto it in her rather childish hand, stopping after almost every word to check for legibility as well as coherency.

    Report received regarding train robbery near Sandgate. Rumour reached town of a three-fingered bandit spotted at the scene. Such a man lives here and possesses an ill-reputation. Only innuendo at present. Signed, Sheriff Michelle von Horrowitz. Lonehill.
    She sat back in her chair and reread the telegram: wincing at the heavy-handedness of it, flinching at her lack of conviction, recoiling from the absence of evidence. She shook her head at its unsatisfying climax, and finally decided it was better suited to the bin. She crumpled it up into a tight ball and threw it across the room, watching on as it bounced off the rim of the basket and landed on the floor.

    She placed her boots on top of the desk and pulled open her bottom drawer, retrieving a bottle of bourbon and a dirty glass.

    That night, whilst asleep at her desk, she dreamed (as she often did (as she always did) of St. Louis. She was standing in the cemetery, the full moon high above her, listening to the cackles of the woman - The Bandit Queen - as she had done during a thousand similar dreams. Not similar, the same. The sound was imprinted in her consciousness, along with the words that she spat out that night under the pale moonlight.

    ”You know, you’ve brought this on yourself.”

    She awoke in a cold sweat, and Deputy Grayson reliably informed her that she’d been muttering about The Bandit Queen and how she'd worked it out and that it had to be her and that it was the only explanation and she was sure sure so sure not a single doubt left in her addled mind. He asked her what she was dreaming about, but she lied and told him that she couldn’t remember. His lack of belief was obvious, but he didn’t press the point.

    ***

    Even the most unobservant observer would notice that, over the coming days, the strange young man who had recently moved to the town - the one who was the constant subject of the saloon owner's ire and who simply went by Mr. Parr to all but his closest friend - began to show more wealth than was suggested by his apparent lack of employment. As he was seemingly rather generous with it - providing clothes and food and the like for local youths when their parents couldn’t quite make ends meet - not many of the townsfolk seemed to mind. When he handed out these gifts to the youngsters he wore a padded glove upon his right hand so as to hide his missing fingers and not scare them, or invite unwanted questions from their parents. This new fortune was a mutually agreeable situation, and so the people of Lonehill barely questioned the recently-attained or suddenly-discovered wealth of Mr. Parr.

    That is, of course, with the notable exception of the saloon owner, who questioned his upturn in fortune at almost every opportunity, and invariably within earshot of the sheriff.

    “You know he was here last night?” Montgomery was saying, the sheriff only half-listening as she eyed up the tap dancer and the piano player from across the room. “Buying drinks like he was Robin Hood… tipping the artists… telling the punters - the real punters - that he planned to open up a school nearby. A school?! What are we to do with a school?! If he really wanted to help, he’d be lobbying for the railroad. I imagine it’ll end up a whorehouse…”

    “You’re still talking about Mr. Parr?” she asked, dragging her eyes away from the performers and observing Montgomery carefully.

    “Of course I am!” she continued, barely managing to keep a lid on her overflowing anger. “Did you ever send that telegram to Kansas City?”

    Michelle didn’t answer.

    “You know, at the very least, you could talk to him,” Montgomery said, returning to her rag and a freshly dirtied tankard.

    That evening, she found her courage and went to see Mr. Parr. As she walked up the dirt track towards his house, she saw him reclining in a rocking chair on his front porch. He had a pipe in his mouth and was looking unblinkingly into the sunset, but she had the unshakeable feeling that he was watching her approach out of the corner of his eye. When she was a few metres away, two young men emerged from the house and shared a few hushed words with its owner. He nodded affirmatively, and they took their leave. They passed by the sheriff as she approached, and each of them took their turn in eyeing her up carefully, searching for the meaning of her visit.

    “Evening, sheriff,” Mr. Parr said, taking off his hat as an unnecessary sign of respect. She had come to a halt at the gate, one hand on top of it, the other nervously fondling one of the points of her badge. She reached for her own pipe, for no other reason than to keep her hands busy. “You’re not coming in? Sean and… well, I forget the other one’s name, but… they’re both for the saloon this evening, so it appears I’m at a loose end.”

    He was smiling as he smoked, but she found it uncomely and deceitful. When he took his pipe out of his mouth to flick out the ash she regarded the missing fingers on his right hand.

    After a few moments, she realised that she had said and done nothing in response, and felt all-the-more stupid for her inactivity.

    “I’ll fetch another bottle,” he said, picking up the conversational slack as he stood from his seat. He lethargically made his way into the house. Outside of his presence, she felt liberated from the paralysis that she had inconveniently found herself under. She pushed open the gate and walked up to the house, spotting a second rocking chair across the table from Parr’s and dutifully sitting in it. His porch offered about as fine a view of the town as one could hope to find, and she allowed her eyes to drift over the stables, the saloon, and the unused railway station. Her heart sank at the pathetic and sorry nature of it. She pictured it as a town-sized jail, where all of the region's failures would come to wile away their hours until polio got them, or a horse kicked them in the chest, or they succumbed to whatever grim end fate had in store. Fate as malleable as clay, she thought, before cursing herself for the anachronistic reference.

    Parr reappeared and - delicately, she thought, for a man with only eighty percent of his digits intact - placed a bottle and two glasses down on the table. Michelle was packing tobacco into her pipe, and the man struck a match for her before taking his seat.They sat in silence for a very long time, the young man staring out over the landscape with his vaguely-unsettling smile upon his face. They both smoked their pipes and drank their bourbon, the sun making its retreat from the day in cowardice and casting a band of bold, orange light across the horizon. It would be a while yet before the moon and the stars made their appearance, and for the moment it felt as if the world had been abandoned by the other celestial bodies, forgotten about and alone and left to its own devices.

    Eventually, after pouring himself a fresh glass and placing his pipe down on the table, Mr. Parr broke the silence.

    “You know, when I first moved here, I thought I’d grow tired of this view. Maybe I still will. But I don’t feel so sure now.”

    Michelle looked out upon the same landscape and found it lacking. She had no interest in discussing it any further, and abruptly – bravely, she felt - changed the subject.

    “Why did you come here?” she asked, setting her own pipe down and holding her glass at Parr for him to fill up.

    “It’s quiet,” Parr said, without thinking. It appeared that he had thought about his answer to this question without ever being asked it. “You have probably noticed in your line of work that not a lot happens here. Unchallenging. Easy. Sometimes a man needs that. A woman too, I imagine.”

    “How do you mean?” she asked. He smiled at her and she felt it in mockery of her lack of comprehension.

    “When you’ve had a life like mine, and seen the things I’ve seen, a quiet life becomes more desirable,” he answered. She didn’t feel like this cleared anything up. “You know, I grew up in a place like this. I may have moved away, but you always come back home – or some reasonable approximation of it – eventually. You can change your surroundings, but you remain the same.”

    She thought carefully about his words and found herself agreeing with them. She wondered if he knew about St. Louis, and if this utterance was meant as a catalyst for self-reflection. Either way, that was its effect.

    ”You know, you’ve brought this on yourself.”

    She could hear The Bandit Queen’s words once more. She could see the tombstones in the cemetery. She could taste the damp St. Louis air on her tongue. Hear the rain thudding against the earth, turning it to mud. She closed her eyes tightly and suddenly to block the memory out, not a thought for how this would look to Mr. Parr. Eventually, she opened them, and found that he was staring off in the opposite direction.

    “You know, I have the same question in my mind,” he began. “Why did you come here? I don’t mean Lonehill. I mean to my house. Not that I don’t enjoy visitors.”

    Michelle sipped at her drink and rocked in her chair, wondering what degree of honesty would get this over with fastest and allow her to leave the man’s company. She found it overbearing and heavy, as if he exuded an intensity that she found altogether alien and unenjoyable. Eventually, she decided to just come out with it.

    “Some people here in town… they heard about the train robbery down near Sandgate. They heard rumors of eye-witness reports. Of a man with three fingers on his right hand.”

    She let the statement linger in the cold evening’s air for a moment, falling just short of an accusation but well on its way to being one. Mr. Parr simply smiled, and held up his right hand in front of him, observing the missing fingers in turn. The sheriff couldn’t help but follow his gaze, perusing the soft and pale skin at the end of each shortened digit.

    ’Some people here in town’,” Mr. Parr began, still smiling to himself at nothing in particular. “And what about you? You’re the one with the star pinned to your chest, afterall.”

    “Rumor and innuendo is all I have,” she answered, prying her eyes away from the man’s deformed hand and looking out to the horizon again. A thin smattering of trees led from the man’s hut to the river at the base of the hill, and she found herself hypnotized by the manner in which the trees softly danced this way and that in the wind. “All anyone has.”

    “Sometimes that’s enough,” Parr suggested.

    “Not for me,” she answered. “Not anymore.”

    This time, it was Parr’s turn to cock an eyebrow. He had heard enough about the sheriff to find the declaration intriguing.

    “Excuse me if I’m overstepping,” he said, in-between sips of his amber. “But what happened in St. Louis?”

    Michelle looked up at him immediately. The mention of the city’s name hit her like a sledgehammer to the chest, and she suddenly found it difficult to breathe.

    “You know I was in St. Louis?” she asked, not even noticing the poorly-lettered manner in which she phrased the question. He nodded his head, and she inferred from this that everyone knew she had been in St. Louis. Fortunately, though, more specific details of her acrimonious exit seemed to have been lost on the road from there to here, given that the strange, young man was asking her for them now.

    And suddenly, under the power of some strange and inexplicable force that she couldn’t understand, she felt the words fall out of her mouth.

    “It was eighteen months ago,” she began, slowly and painfully.

    She remained pensive and silent for a moment. She wanted to turn back, to stop the tale’s progression in its infancy and return to the jailhouse and open the bottom desk drawer for her bottle. His whiskey was objectively better, but she found his company uneasy. The point of no return, however, had already been passed.

    “I guess it started a few months before I left. I’d been there for half a decade. Carved out a pretty good reputation for myself, I guess, too. We’d just strung up a pair of rapists that had been plaguing the townships to the north of the city, and everyone was generally pretty high on me. Most respected in the sheriff’s department, no doubt. Not that this was much of an achievement. But still, I digress. It was about that time that the whorehouse attacks started. There were two in the south of the city to begin with, and I was sent up to talk to the working girls who’d survived it. I felt sure on the way up that it was some misogynist scum who’d faced rejection one too many times, but that was my first mistake. The first of many. It had been a gang of three women and a man, though the latter invariably stood as lookout whilst the girls entered the brothel. They hadn’t touched any of the clients. The leader - older than her followers, though still comely and with a wild look in her eyes, according to the reports - would fire once into the air and instruct them to leave. Then they would kill the madam, shoot two of the whores in the knees, set fire to the beds, and then leave. It was the same in both of the attacks, and everyone was pretty confident that it meant something. I wasn’t so sure, at least at first.

    “It was around then that the priest first came to see me. They just called him The Crow, even to his face, because the young man followed death around as if fascinated by it. Thick Irish accent and a big grizzly beard, and twice the size of any man of the cloth I’d seen before. He would’ve been interesting if he wasn’t so Godly. He spoke at length about debauchery within the city. Of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all that sort of stuff. The whorehouses were his principal bugbear, and he spoke of the recent attacks as a modicum of revenge taken out by the divine. All sins must be purged, he would say. He said that a lot. I think he liked how the words felt on his tongue. The quickest way to stop whorehouses being attacked, he said, was to close all the whorehouses. I felt it was a drastic suggestion, and one that would prove immediately unpopular. And besides, I wasn’t a hypocrite, and had a whore all of my own.

    “Her name was Belle, and she worked in a large, well-run place in a quiet part of the city somewhere to the West of the jailhouse. Belle was enough for any woman, and at times felt like two entirely separate entities. She would change with the weather, and for better or for worse a different girl would be waiting for my arrival after each long shift, after each new brothel attack. Sometimes, she would impetuously run to the door upon my arrival, throwing her arms and legs around me as soon as they swung open. At others, she would sit in her room and wait, staring patiently and pensievely at the moon. Often she would ask for news of the attacks, and would stare blankly past me as I engaged in this macabre pillow talk. I was not going to close the whorehouses, regardless of whether it was in my power to do so, because then how would I see Belle?

    “The robberies continued, and Father Crow had started speaking at the doors of the brothels that had been attacked and ones that he thought might be next. His favourite topic was Sodom and Gomorrah, and sometimes he’d get as far as Lot and his daughters before one of the deputies ushered him away and told him he was disturbing the peace. It was, of course, well known that Father Vincent himself frequented some of the more ill-reputed establishments in the city, and if he were to practise what he preached then Sodom was a letter short. He spent a few nights in the jailhouse, but he saw himself as a messenger of God, and no length of internment would prevent him from spreading his truth. It was then that the church robberies started up, right alongside the brothel attacks. Almost all of the whorehouses in the city had been hit at least once, and the ones that reopened afterwards were promptly sabotaged again. Madam quickly became the most dangerous occupation in St. Louis. There were similar signs left at the churches. Windows were smashed. Money was taken. Most telling was the arson, though, which tied this rampage to the one that was driving through the heart of prostitution in the city.

    “It had been happening four months by the time the rumours began to circulate. The madam of the brothel at which Belle, my Belle, was employed had begun to show wealth unbecoming of her profession. She’d bought a tavern along with a few properties in one of the slums in the north of the city, and fingers were being pointed. I asked Belle about it, and she told me that each night the madam would arrive with a new piece of gold on her hand or around her neck or hanging from her ears. It was the only thing the girls talked about, Belle said, and it appears that this wasn’t only with each other. They called her The Bandit Queen, and the moniker was deemed satisfying enough to coin generally around the city. Word spread that this upturn in fortunes had coincided with the beginning of the church robberies. This would make sense: nothing was ever taken from the brothels. Of course, the whorehouses had their share of damage, but this seemed out of spite more than for another’s material gain. It added up, and by this stage every whorehouse in the city except Belle’s had been hit at least once, and most twice or three times. It had been a long four months. People were ready for it to end, and wanted decisive action to be taken. It was all they would talk to me about. And back then I listened.

    “On the night I walked into the whorehouse, three of the girls were dancing in the lounge as a man played and sang on an old and out of tune piano. Mimicking their own trademark, I shot once into the air, and told all of the men that they had ten seconds to leave, or the deputies outside would be taking them off to the jailhouse. The man on the piano was the first out of the door. They believed my bluff, but the girls were less convinced. They knew there was no appetite in the city for a raid on the whorehouse, the last whorehouse, despite all of the evidence pointing in its direction. A quiet solution was preferable, and everyone stood within the room knew that. Still, I was the one with the shooter in my hand.

    “I asked the madam, The Bandit Queen, if she was going to give herself up. She smiled, and told me to go fuck myself. So I shot her in the knees, just like she had done to a dozen girls across St. Louis. I told the rest that they should deliver her to me at the jailhouse before midnight, or I’d be back for all of them.

    “She was delivered to the jailhouse, but with her hands and feet bound and her throat cut from ear to ear. There was a note on her body, instructing me to deliver myself to the cemetery before midnight, or she’d be back for all of them.”


    Michelle paused, and when she finally found the strength to continue, she found herself stood within the cemetery in St. Louis all over again...

    Eighteen months earlier.
    St. Louis, Illinois.

    "she's my bandit queen, lain beneath the moon
    in a bandit cave, a blanket laid for two
    if I could find a way to your hideaway by the sea
    o bandit queen, steal away to me.

    "
    The sheriff had come alone, as the note that was left on the madam’s body seemed to imply she should. Really, there was nobody in the department that she trusted. She worked it out on the way to the cemetery, and cursed herself for not doing so earlier. Of course, Belle waited for her there, a smile on her face and a gun at her hip.

    All that Michelle could think to ask her was why, which was an inherently stupid question.

    That was when Belle had laughed, the thin and high cackle that haunted the sheriff in her dreams, even now in Lonehill.

    “Shit, because I can.”

    Michelle steadily moved her hand towards her holster, but left her pistol within its sheath for now. This action did not go unnoticed. Belle smiled, and pushed her hair out of her eyes. The rain hammed down onto the earth around them, lightning illuminating the tombstones around them and heralding the thunder that would intermittently puncture the silence.

    Finally, Belle went on.

    “You know, you’ve brought this on yourself. Sticking your nose into business that self-evidently does not concern you. That has always been your problem. Your pride leads you into situations that you simply cannot come out of unscathed. You oscillate wildly: at first an all-encompassing superiority complex, the bubble finally breaking, giving way to wallowing and self-pity. But you are worthy of none of the pity you so readily deal yourself. It is your own hubris that puts you here, facing me and my pistol, your survival dependent and determined only by my whim. And if you’d just kept yourself to yourself, and investigated rapists away in the townships, you’d have been a hero. But now?”

    The Bandit Queen slowly reached to her side, and the sheriff followed suit. They were perhaps twenty yards apart, and the land in-between them was flanked by tall and old tombstones, crumbling in the face of the immeasurable time yet before them. Thunder struck overhead. Belle smiled. Michelle had seen this smile before, but it was not the version that she enjoyed. Her eyes narrowed. Both of their eyes narrowed. Michelle’s fingers felt the hard, iron grip of her shooter.

    High above, the clouds peeled back, and the moon poked its head over the scene, shining a spotlight onto the two protagonists as they prepared for their final battle.

    Instinctively, her mind distracted by its otherworldly light, a sudden and contrasting appearance in the previously grim setting, Michelle’s eyes were lifted to behold the moon. The man upon its face smiled at her benevolently. Rain still lashed down upon them and around them.

    And then Belle took out her pistol and shot the sheriff in the shoulder.

    All of the air was driven out of Michelle, and instantly she found herself on one knee. She dropped her own pistol, and heard Belle cock hers again. The sheriff used one hand to cradle the wound and the other to feel around in front of her for some purchase, but the ground was soft and muddy from the rain, and she was soon flat on her stomach. Footsteps heralded her opponent’s approach.

    The last thing she felt before she passed out was The Bandit Queen’s gun pressed tight against her temple, and then the weapon being withdrawn.

    She had left St. Louis three days later, after waking up in the hospital.

    ***

    "somewhere in a mountain, by a starry water fountain
    in an alcove hid by some trees
    amidst a pile of treasure, reclining at her leisure,
    my lady-love sniffs at the breeze.

    "

    She had finished her glass twice over whilst telling the story, and Mr. Parr looked at her in an inquisitive (and not unkind) fashion. She looked only at the stars, transfixed upon them even through the snow that had begun gently falling during the tale. She felt a flake land on her nose. Suddenly anxious again, she absently scratched one of the points on her sheriff’s badge. She felt his eyes boring into her, and her emotional nakedness had her squirming under his relentless gaze.

    “You don’t think I’m guilty,” Parr began, swirling the amber around in his glass before taking a long, thoughtful pull. “You know it. But you are doing all that you can to avoid the confrontation.”

    “I’m here, aren’t I?” Michelle said, and in retrospect she felt both the words she chose and the delivery of them to be hollow.

    “Yes, you are here,” he conceded, returning part of his attention to the preparation of a fresh bowl for his pipe. “But you are not here to confront me. I don’t imagine you’ve done any of that since you left St. Louis. You wear the badge, yes. The clothes. The shooter. The spurs. You certainly look the part, Michelle von Horrowitz. But this past few months, since my eye has - rather naturally, given the circumstances - been turned upon you, you have done everything but play the part. You drink, and you run, and you hide. And that’s about it. You know I’m guilty, and so does everybody else. But they don’t really care. All but for that idiot behind the bar in the saloon, who will soon realize that I will bring her the customers she desires, even without the new line. This is how they want to see me. And, more worryingly, perhaps, this is how they want to see you.”

    Finally finding her courage, she turned to look him in the eye. He simply went on smiling. Dusk was now thick around them.

    “What is your point?” she asked, regarding her empty glass and the fact that he had stopped refilling it.

    “My point, sheriff, is that the time has come where you must make your choice. You can hide behind past failures, and put the state of Missouri between you and your memories. Hell, you could get on a boat and sail across the Pacific, if you wanted. Or you can finally face the truth, and do what needs to be done. What the office you hold insists you must do. I can’t decide for you. Fight, or flight. But what you’ve been doing? This lethargic middle ground? This just won’t do.”

    With this, he poured them both a healthy measure of bourbon. He picked his glass up, tipped his hat at her and at the night, and then walked inside his house.

    ***

    The horse slowly padded up the dirt track, and the young woman atop it swayed gently from side to side in the saddle, as if with the wind. The animal’s hooves left heavy imprints in the mud. The rider’s hat was pulled down low over her face, but if you could see beneath it you’d see a glum and acceptant countenance. She held the reins lethargically, somewhat slumped forward in the saddle with a posture that clearly depicted an apathetic dejection. She sighed heavily, and turned the horse around so that she could see the town once more. She ran her eyes over the smattering of houses that sat around the unused train station and the excessively large saloon. The only structure she had any semblance of feeling about was the undertaker’s, but that was for reasons entirely unrelated to her stay in Lonehill.

    She reached for her chest, to stroke one of the points upon the star-shaped badge that had been attached to her waistcoat for years. She found herself grasping at the material of her clothing, and allowed her hand to return to the reins.

    She turned the horse around once again and gently prodded the beast’s sides with her spurs. She rode at a trot around the brow of the hill, towards an uncertain horizon.

    "and sitting up, she adjusts her turban, and takes another swig from a bottle of bourbon
    and listening to the whistling of the train in station:
    odds are it will never reach its destination.

    'cause the bandit queen, astride her steed will ride.
    o, let me be the one to lay within your thievin' arms tonight.

    "





  3. #3
    All About That Ace
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    Re: Desert Storm PPV PROMO THREAD

    TITLE: Ahh, barren like a desert.

    Cosmic Horror sat idly in the halls of the Ilvermorny School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He’d grabbed himself a beanie bag for comfort, he couldn’t be sure how long he would be relegated to this menial task. The bell rung for the third time that day, and students exited classrooms in droves, arguing about this spell and that. They did not notice him, even as his tentacle protruding mask demanded they did. They did not notice him, until one student did.

    “Hey, isn’t that a Cosmic Horror mask - from the FWA?”

    J.J. JAY! grinned beneath his mask. He was starting to feel humbled, it comforted him to be finally noticed.

    “Quite so, quite so.”

    The student looked around and realized no one else was taking notice of the strange masked man sitting on the beanie bag chair.

    “You’re not a student, are you?”

    Uncle grimly shook his head. By the time the student thought to run - a strange man in a horrifying mask that only you could notice is not a good sign in a school of witchcraft and wizardry - Quiet emerged from behind, lifted him up easily, and the three disappeared through a door.

    They re-appeared in the middle of J.J. JAY!’s starship. The student brandished his wand as soon as he could gain a solid footing. Quiet looked at it skeptically, but JAY! crossed his arms, unimpressed beneath his mask.

    “You’re- you’re actually J.J. JAY! aren’t you? Not just a fan?”

    “The one and only.”

    “I didn’t think you could actually do all the shit you do.”

    “You’re a fucking wizard, why so shortsighted? Actually, I should admit I’m not the J.J. JAY! you’re familiar with in your universe, though we’re near identical. You see, I’m J.J. JAY! from a universe where your school is just backstory fodder for a mediocre fantasy series. I needed to find a universe where a parallel J.J. JAY! was in the exact same situation I was in, but there was also a solid wizardry society.”

    The student was dumbfounded.

    “Don’t let that get to you. We’re all just backstory fodder for someone’s mediocre fantasy series in some way or another. The only thing that matters is that you try to have some fun.”

    He tried to see if Quiet might offer to make some sense of J.J. JAY!’s rambling, but he simply shrugged.

    “But why’d you kidnap me?”

    “You were the first person to notice the mask! Only someone who could recognize my mask would notice me. You were the first to do it. It appears the students at Ilvermorny have shite taste. It is what it is. What’s your name, by the way, it’ll make it easier for everyone reading this.”

    “Ja-”

    “We’ll call you Harry Potter!”

    “Harry Potter? That famous wizard from the UK?”

    “Yes, revolutionary leader turned copper. What a disgrace! In my world, your entire wizardry world is centered around him. He even got a blockbuster eight film franchise. Do you know Daniel Radcliffe? Man, I wonder how successful Daniel Radcliffe is in this world? Ah, let’s not linger on that too much, we’ve got bigger fish to fry. So, Harry!”

    “Can’t I just give you my first real name?”

    “You could, but I don’t have to respect or acknowledge it. You see how my name is capitalized? It’s J.J. JAY!. All caps. I’ve been writing it like that since I signed here. I’ve done it like that in all my segments. I’ve done it like that in my promos. And yet, they still disrespect me. They find it too hard to just write it properly themselves. It’s aggravating, I swear it. If they don’t have to respect my name, then I don’t really have to respect someone who at most is part of a school we never even get to read about in my dimension.”

    “Just because you’ve been treated like shit, doesn’t give you the right to treat me like shit.”

    “You’re right, you’re right. But I don’t want to come up with an actual name for you, so we’ll keep it at Harry.”

    “I have an actual name, you don’t have to come up with it, I can just say it.”

    “Whatever you say, Harry! Don’t you have bigger ambitions than making me acknowledge your name? For example, you’re stuck on a spaceship in the middle of who knows where. Sure, you could do some hocus pocus wingardium leviosa bullshit and it would alert the wizardry authorities but we’re in space, the wizardry authorities don’t know space traveling. They’re not coming to rescue you. What I’m trying to say is, you’ll have to find an alternative method of being rescued. I actually have a suggestion. Comply with your kidnappers and they may release you!”

    Harry’s eyes shifted between the two kidnappers. He was a skilled wizard, but Cosmic Horror was right, even if he found someway or another to incapacitate the two, he had no way of getting back to Ilvermorny. And furthermore, what are the odds the wizardry authorities would believe him when he said he’d been kidnapped by a Cosmic Horror nut from an alternative dimension.

    “What do you want?”

    “Compliance! Perfect. You know very well that in our upcoming pay-per-view, Desert Storm, I’ll be facing off with the man known as The Mad Wizard, Konchu Hao.”

    “Yeah, but he’s not a real-”

    “A real wizard? Come on. You don’t think there’s some wizards whose ambitions are to become professional wrestlers? A living wrestling Cosmic Horror is standing before you and you don’t think there’s any wizard out there who vowed to become a professional wrestler themselves! Man, for a wizard you really have little imagination. What do you think Epsilon is? He’s a House Elf! Do you think anyone would willingly serve an idiot like Konchu Hao if they hadn’t been enslaved to the cause.”

    “Actually, now that you mention it-”

    “Right. Epsilon is absolutely a House Elf.”

    “Here’s the thing J.J. JAY! - see what I did there, I said your name respectfully because I don’t have to lower myself to your level just because you’re disrespecting me - I don’t see why you need my help.”

    “What could you possibly mean? It’s only logical I would contact another American wizard to figure out how to deal with a different American wizard, no?”

    “Yeah, but you did that whole shpeel on twitter about how it only takes you like 3% to beat Konchu Hao, so why do you need my help? Plus, you beat him in a tag match. Why go through all this trouble of kidnapping me? What sort of insight are you expecting from me?”

    “Ah. Good question, good question. Do we have an answer, Quiet?”

    “... ... .....?”

    “There you go!”

    “What? What did he say? It was just silence.”

    “Looks like he didn’t hear you, mind repeating yourself, Quiet?”

    “.., ... ....’. .... . ....: ... ... .....?”

    “Did you get that?”

    “No. Could you just say what he said, the sooner we get through this charade the sooner I can go back to what you’ve explained to me, is a rather unexceptional existence.”

    “Oh, don’t take it to heart. I know you thought you were special because you were a student at the only American wizardry school, but you should see this as a kind of freedom. You are unshackled now. You can do anything you want. Be a wizard space traveler!”

    “Yeah, sure, sure. Just tell me what Quiet said.”

    “Right! He said: for the promo!”

    “The promo?”

    “Yes, to solidify my victory over Konchu Hao & GiGi, I have to come up with a superior story that will make the powers that be reward me with victory.”

    “So all that math was just horseshit.”

    “That it was! At the end of the day, I have to come up with a tale so wondrous and superior to the tale my opponents will spew that it will award me the win. I may be a Cosmic Horror but my power has limitations. For example, you watched Valentine’s Day Massacre, right?”

    “You mean, did I watch you get your ass kicked in so hard you started bleeding?”

    “How’d you know I got hemorrhoids? Even the referee didn’t notice. The match would’ve ended much sooner if he had! How lucky was I?!”

    “No, I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant Michelle proved you weren’t in her league and fulfilled the conditions to victory easily.”

    “Oh, right. Well, yes, did you watch that?”

    “Sure. I never miss an FWA show!”

    “Terrific! Well, you saw how I had that boring entrance, and basically was devoid of personality, and completely uncharacteristic?”

    “Yeah, I guess your entrance was kinda lifeless, especially compared to the last Fight Night.”

    “Precisely! Sometimes I’m not in control of my own faculties, sometimes others are in control and they care little for what I bring to the table so I end up being this wooden dude with nothing going for him. Even Quiet didn't make it onto the show! Did anyone question why? No! He pops up in every one of my promos. He's basically my manager. My life partner! And yet, he can't even make it onto the show? Alas, I can only control so much of what happens on Fight Night, really, these promos are basically the minimum I can do to influence the show. I could do more on my own but there’s only so much time in the day-”

    “You’re a dimension traveling Cosmic Horror, surely time isn’t something you’re very concerned with.”

    “You got me, you got me. And I do have an explanation but we would go too far down the rabbit hole on that one, so just trust me when I say, if I could, I would ensure every time I stepped out, I was my utmost charismatic self, ALAS, I cannot guarantee it.”

    “Okay, let me see if I got this right: you kidnapping me isn’t actually a means of you gaining an advantage over Konchu Hao, the actual purpose of kidnapping me is because I’ll serve a part in a-. Okay dude, I tried to wrap my head around it, I still don’t get it.”

    “You’ll serve a part in the story I will use to justify to the powers that be why I deserve to win over Konchu.”

    “Mhm. Well, then. What’s the story?”

    “What do you mean what’s the story? This is the story!”

    “This isn’t a story! We’ve been having a back and forth conversation about nothing. Isn’t your story supposed to have some big gotcha moment where you like, insult Konchu or something.”

    “Oh, like: Konchu Hao, you fucking hack! You’re just a poor imitation of me! Something like that?”

    “Yeah, but elaborate and clever. That was half-assed. I thought you said you were saving some material for when you actually faced Konchu with the title on the line.”

    “I lied, admittedly. I’m devoid of material for Konchu. That's why we're doing this. He’s a hack wizard, what do you want me to come up with. Actually... I did have this other idea! I was going to pretend to be Uncle Dursley-”

    “Who is Uncle Dursley?”

    “Oh, he’s Harry Potter’s uncle. Not you, obviously, the actual Harry Potter-”

    “Yeah, I get it.”

    “Right, so Harry Potter used to get locked up in this closet-under-the-stairs, right. This was like before he knew he was a wizard. So, I was going to play the role of Uncle Dursley and Harry Potter was going to basically be Konchu Hao, right. So I’d be making Konchu’s life a living hell and then he would’ve basically imagined up this alternative fantasy where he’s a wizard. Then we’d reveal he calls himself the Mad Wizard because he went mad all those years spending time locked in that closer-under-the-stairs place. Thoughts, critiques?”

    “Eh. I’d have to see the execution. It’s honestly better than this though, feel like there’s more effort in that idea.”

    “Ah, too little too late.”

    “It’s not. You could send me back. Forget we had this conversation, and just do that instead.”

    “No, we’re committed. I don’t go back on my ideas once I’ve started them.”

    “This is barely an idea. You’ve got a title on the line. The Triple J Championship! Aren’t you supposed to beat all the former X Champions!”

    “Pfft! I’ve already lost against Michelle so it’s basically like a failed questline at this point. We gotta come up with another storyline.”

    “Yeah, but what about Gerald Grayson, you said you had to do everything in your power to stop him from reclaiming the title! What if he wins it and stalls out with the X title? You’ve barely even mentioned him. There’s an argument to be made that you at least put in effort in making Konchu relevant in this promo, but you can’t forget about Grayson, aren’t you in love?”

    “Hey, now Harry, don’t you go questioning what I love or don’t love. I’ve done the math. GiGi has already faced me so he probably doesn’t have much else to say about me that hasn’t already been said. Plus, he has no incentive to win this match, he might even WANT to lose. Konchu, on the flipside, surely wants to win this match. He even came up with a whole new match stipulation to give him the advantage. He’s undoubtedly going to put in more effort in this one than either GiGi or me!”

    “I don’t know. He lost against Shawn Summers-”

    “Yeah, I saw that. At least I lost against the best wrestler in the FWA - at 10% effort - but Konchu Hao lost against a sellout scrub who says controversial shit for the pennies. You might be right, Konchu might not have it in him.”

    “In which case, Grayson will probably win, he’s proven he could be an X champion before, if you’re not on game, and you really aren’t, he’s totally going to win it again.”

    “You know, Harry, you might just be right. This might all just be a grand set up for GiGi vs. J.J. JAY! the rematch at Back in Business. All three of us were supposed to fight at Valentine’s Day Massacre, I bet you GiGi would’ve won for that mighty mighty momentum meanwhile me and Konchu would have our spirits broken by defeat. Not that my spirit is broken. Like I said, I was at 10% effort so I don’t need to feel any guilt over that defeat outside of my presentation.”

    “Wouldn’t it be best, if we are to argue that the so-called powers that be wanted this rematch at Back in Business, that you actually perform to your utmost capabilities to alter their plans? I won’t pretend I’m your biggest fan, but you seem like the sort of guy who wouldn’t really be into being forced into neatly laid out plans.”

    “Yes, yes, but sometimes you realize there’s only so much you could do. Did I want to be a bit player in Michelle’s momentum redemption ahead of her showdown with Parr, no. Did I want to be a bit player in Cyrus Truth’s rivalry with Eli Black, no. I can’t control these things. If I have to go fight GiGi at Back in Business because that’s what people want, then that’s what’ll happen.”

    “I gotta say, that’s real pathetic of you J.J. JAY!. This is your, what, eighth promo and you’re out of ideas? You’ve got a whole week to come up with another brilliant one, you don’t have to force this one out! You can still defy fate and make sure you retain the Triple J Championship, at this point it sounds like you’re just coming up with excuses.”

    “Quiet, do you hear this?”

    “. .... .....”

    “WHAT? YOU AGREE?! Quiet, what betrayal! Me - Excuses? I would never! I’ll have you know, Harry, I’m quite enjoying our conversation. You may think little of it, but it’s not every day I get to talk with an American wizard from a parallel dimension. If other people don’t find it as tremendous a tale as I do, then that’s their issue. I’m sticking to my guns. I believe our conversation is good enough to beat both GiGi and the Hack Wizard!”

    “You’re rambling! By this point they probably just want you to cut this short. You know what they say, quantity doesn’t equal quality.”

    “Unless you’re Michelle von Horowitz.”

    “....”

    “Agree. And you’re not! At the very least you could’ve described your spaceship.”

    “It’s kinda like the one from Cowboy Bebop but less broken down.”

    “I meant at the start of the, oh, forget it.”

    “I could probably describe you too! You look like a teenage William Jackson Harper. That’s that guy from the Good Place!”

    “I’m wh-!”

    “My promo, my description. The world needs more black wizards.”

    “It’s basically blackf-”

    “What else should I add? More dialogue tags? Some color? Naw, fuck it. We're going AU NATUREL for this one. Only bad promoers need to embellish their shit. We know we getting that 10 out of 10 creativity. And besides, I do think you’re right. This has gone long enough. Let’s wrap it up. I actually have the perfect ending, a couple pals, came through for me when Uncle told them he needed some ideas. Let me know how this sounds: GiGi, Konchu. I’ve got one last message for you NEPHEWS! In the mighty words of an original name: my mind is as dry as the desert... BUT SOON, A STORM IS COMING!”

    Quiet claps.

    “Liked that delivery, didn’t you, I did it verbatim.”

    “What if you yelled it out?”

    “Yelled it out?"

    "Yeah, yeah. Old school WOLF style, you know?"

    "Well, I guess we could give it a try. Alright... ready? Okay: GiGi, Konchu. I’ve got one last message for you NEPHEWS! In the mighty words of an original name: MY MIND IS AS DRY AS THE DESERT... BUT SOON, A STORM IS COMING! Like that?”

    Quiet shakes his head.

    “No? Quiet says no, what say thee Potter!”

    “That’s my bad. I think you had it right the first time.”

    “Hmm. Okay, well, can I try a different take. One last take?”

    “Sure, sure. I’m at your mercy. I’m the hostage, don’t you forget that.”

    “You’re too agreeable, Harry. Thanks. Okay, one last take: GiGi, Konchu. I’ve got one last message for you NEPHEWS! In the mighty words of an original name: My mind... Is as dry... As the desert... BUT! ... SOON! ... A STORM IS COMING!”

    Quiet lifts a hand to indicate a mid reaction.

    “I see what you were going for there but it felt a bit amateurish? Like someone doing their first promo, you know?”

    “No, I get you. Maybe we had it the first time?”

    Quiet nods.

    “First time was pretty solid.”

    “Alright, let’s try that first take again. You gotta experiment sometimes to really know what works, even if you get it right the first time, so I don’t even regret trying it. Okay, okay, wrapping things up. Actually, any final words Harry? This is like a one-off for you so I doubt we’ll ever see you again.”

    “Hmm. Not sure. You know, I had my reservations about this. I feared for my life at some point. But you’re right, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Whatever comes of it, I just want you to know that I was glad I got to participate, thanks Uncle.”

    “It was nice having you, nephew. I hope you graduate and don’t become a copper like the actual Harry Potter. Do something useful and fight for house elf emancipation or something. Read some Marx while you’re at it. Some Paulo Freire, you know. Alrighty, let’s do this. Aherm. GiGi, Konchu. I’ve got one last message for you NEPHEWS! In the mighty words of an original name: my mind is as dry as the desert... BUT SOON, A STORM IS COMING!”


  4. #4
    Bo Dallas Mark
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    Re: Desert Storm PPV PROMO THREAD

    1. February 12, 2021


    “You sure you good? I mean, I believe you are tough already. But seriously? Staying in some random woods for what? A week?”“One day and a half. Don’t worry. I’ve spoken with local officials and gamekeepers. As long I don’t disturb any wildlife I’m fine. Besides, I have a good bit of food and a cooler.”“Well, what if you miss an important text or something?”“Hotspot is a brilliant thing you know. I’m restricting myself though. Think of it as a self-journey AJ.”“Why are you going on this journey in the first place?”“To clear my mind. To disconnect from the world. To train in peace!”“Whatever man. Stay safe X, text me when you are safe.”“Will do”X hung up the phone as he drove into a parking lot. He picked out a spot that was already given to him, in a small garage. He stopped the car as he exited the van as he went to the back of it and opened it up. He had already Packed his bag and a cooler. It was all the necessities, like toothpaste, water, food, deodorant, and a notebook. Of course, he had other stuff. He locked the door to his van, shut the back, locked that, and headed off.

    As he entered the forest, he found himself a small path. This would lead him for the next 30 minutes of his trip. Throughout those thirty minutes, he admired the wildlife. He took pictures of trees, streams, birds, deer. Whatever he could find. He never felt connected to nature, living in urban areas. He thought he would have the chance once he was out in the world. But problems came up. Having to make shows, paying car bills, and other stresses of life. But once he joined FWA, he began to feel that he had more independence. The schedule was more spread out, he felt more creative. That’s not to say he didn’t feel bad.

    Life issues and whatnot always plagued him. He never felt like the best, even when he was on top of the world. He can pull off a facade, but he can’t transition it well. Lucky thing he didn’t have to speak often. He made his way to the end of the trail and decided to set up camp there. Moving weeds, clearing poison ivy. He eventually got a nice even area set up, so he could get his tent up. For the next ….. Three hours, he attempted to get the tent up. Despite arriving at 3:00 PM, it was now 7:40 PM. It was dark outside as he finally got the tent up. He then set up his other stuff, like his sleeping bag, his cooler, a portable oven, and a lamp.

    Once he got some light around his area, he pulled out his notebook and began to jot some stuff down.

    ‘Day 1

    As I got to the forest, there was already a man-made trail. From what I’ve heard, it’s been there for decades. Lots of plants grow along with it. I got to see a good number of animals, including a few deer. I must have been on the path for 30 or so minutes. My back was aching. It was about 70 pounds on my back alone, plus a cooler for some food. Checked my emails, the big guys at FWA don’t have anything for me next Fight Night. If I was dumb, I’d stay here for another week. But I only packed enough materials for 2 days. I could always leave for 2 hours and go to the store, but where is the fun in that?
    He closed the notebook up and left his tent. He pulled out a mat from his bag and set it by the Portable Oven. He then began to do some miniature workouts, pushups, sit-ups. It felt safer out here. Normally he would do this in parking lots. Sometimes strangers gave him money. It felt awkward. He was technically homeless but didn’t need the money. He didn’t need charity. He needed to work for it. As he got to a 75 push up, he heard a bing. He forgot to turn his phone off. But it was an EMail from the FWA Staff

    `Dear Mr. Saus X,

    We do not have a slot for you on our next Fight Night, but we have found you a spot for Desert Storm. It will be an X Rules match for a number one contender’s shot at the X Championship. You will be facing Chris Peacock, Humanity, and Donvan Moore.

    With your best regards, FWA Staff Member.
    Ok then. X made sure he read the EMail correctly before he shut the phone off. He thought about the opportunity. But what if he screws up again? Not these thoughts again!‘Why am I panicking. It’s only an opportunity. Against three better wrestlers. Ok, let’s think things through. I have an entire forest to myself for the next day. Perfect time to train.’
    X took a few deep breaths before standing up. ‘No need to worry. Worrying creates hesitation. It’s getting late though. Probably should sleep’
    X went into his tent, pulling some food out of a cooler. And he slept, moving towards the second day.
    February 13, 2021

    The sunlight peaked through an open hole in the tent, jolting X to his feet. He pulled himself up onto his rear, stretching a bit. He looked through his journal to find his goals for Day 2


    • Climb a Tree
    • Meditate


    Oh right. He never finished it. Oh well. X stept out of his tent, setting up his Portable Oven. From the looks of the sun, it was around 9 AM. He had his entire day ahead of him. After making a few pieces of bacon, some eggs, and some hashbrowns, he was ready for the day. He put his stuff back and set off through the forest. He walked for about 40 minutes, ping-ponging thoughts through his head.‘I can beat them. I know I can do it. But … I’ve been on a losing streak.’

    X found a tree that seemed suitable to climb. So he did what he thought was best to climb it, using his hands, which were covered with gloves. He began to scale the tree, using thick branches to pull himself up. He encountered his first hurdle though. He was a good …. 10 feet in the air when he encountered a cluster of branches. They looked to be mixed with messy, spiny, and weirdly shaped branches and smooth branches.

    ‘Humanity. A twisted mind. Split into two sperate, yet equal personalities. Combined to be a machine. I can’t back down here. I just got to …. Get through. Find my opening’
    X began to look at the branches, slowly moving his way up by grabbing the smooth branches and avoiding the messy ones. This tested his strength. He struggled to pull himself up, but he managed to do it.

    ‘A broken man for sure. There seems to be a way around him. I should think less about what he can do, and more of how I can stop him.’

    As X made his way up the tree, using his same tactic, he came to a point where the mixture was gone. He overcame the first obstacle, 2 more left from what he could see. As he climbed, he encountered a random bulge in the tree.‘Donovan Moore. Man of the hour. Of course. I gotta think about this technically. It’s a roadblock for a reason. He can trap you and hit you hard. If I can someone manuever myself over … ‘

    X began to reach for the top of the random bulge. He got himself a grip, and began to move away from the underside of it.

    ‘I’ll be able to escape and move up’

    He began to climb up on top of the random bulge, before getting some footing on it. Another overcome. He was on the final leg to the peak of the tree. The leaves above him began to dance in the wind, one leafy branch even hitting him in the face.‘And last …. Chris Peacock. Probably the most loved guy by the fans. I respect him. Not enough to hand him a win though’

    He began to climb through the dancing branches, getting closer and closer to the top.

    ‘You beat me once before. I won’t let that happen again. I won’t fail again. I won’t be a failure anymore’

    He climbed through the dancing branches, breaking free from their hold. He got to the top of the tree, sitting himself on a sturdy branch. As he stared over the trees, he felt on top of the world. A feeling he rarely felt. He felt the need to let the world know …. He wouldn’t fall again. He would continue to go to the top, even if it meant taking a few losses.

    “You see me world!? You can’t beat me down that easily! Desert Storm is gonna be my night!”

    X looked around a bit more before coming to a realization. How is he gonna get down? So he began to start the tedious task of exiting the tree. It took him maybe 20 minutes to get down safely but he did it. And he took a 30-minute walk back to camp. In total, he had been gone for at least 3 hours. It was around 1 PM, 3 hours before he was gonna leave. He got his lunch in for the day and set off to find a river. He was gonna meditate to clear his mind. Release his stress.

    In about 20 minutes, he found a small riverbank, with a perfectly good rock. As he made his way over to the rock, he stared at the river. Life. Rivers represent the life of the world. He began to think back on his life. Discovering wrestling, getting bullied, training with his dad. He wanted to get stronger so he wouldn’t be seen as weak. But now, he’s back down to that level. Compared to everyone else on the roster, he’s like a geek. The water boy of a football team. Last Place in a marathon. Why does he continue to do it?Glory, recognition? Those play into it, yes, but X does it for himself. Wrestling is a way to get better, to better yourself. Sure, it’s nice to have people ask you to take a pciture on the street, but that doesn’t matter to him unless he’s the best. It’s a common goal for anyone, but it’s different for him. He’s always been bottom of the barrel, despite how hard he tries. Despite being able to run fast, he failed in comparison to everyone on the track team. Despite being a professional wrestler, he fails in comparison to any other independent talent. He can be the lovechild of the greatest Technical Wrestler and the greatest Brawler and still be one of the worse.

    That’s just who he is. Bottom of the barrel. But does he have to be there? If he can win at Desert Storm, he could move up from the bottom. He can stop being worried and nervous over the past and the future. Is this why he came here? To find the root of his problem? He found it.


    • A few hours later *



    X got all his stuff back in his van. Lucky thing he wasn’t robbed. He took one last look at the forest, the place where he left his worries. He pulled out a finger gun and shot it into the forest, before heading off in the van.
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  5. #5
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    Re: Desert Storm PPV PROMO THREAD





    A jeep's tires roll through the mud in the Ecuador jungle as the black screen's fade eases into reality. In the red jeep is a man dressed in khaki shorts and a khaki shirt, the camera pans to a different angle to show the jeep being driven by none other than the FWA World Champion himself Saint Sulley. The jeep comes to a screeching halt in the mud, as the FWA World Champion gets out.

    The champion takes a look around in the jungle, and inhales a big breath of air into his nose with a smile.

    Saint Sulley: 'Ello there! Welcome to the jungle. I'm Saint Sulley, here for a one time special. We're here today to take a gander here at some special animals here in the jungle, and boy are there some doozies.

    But good news is, I'm not here doing it alone.

    I've got a very special friend who's come to help out.


    Some rustling can be heard in the leaves behind Saint Sulley...

    and out pops none other than Bindi Irwin!

    Bindi Irwin: Hello! I'm Bindi the Jungle Girl! That's right, today we're joining up with Saint Sulley to take a very special look at some special things this jungle has to offer.

    Saint Sulley: Hi Bindi! Thank you so much for joining me.

    Bindi Irwin: Oh it's my pleasure. I just absolutely adore Ecuador, there are so many beautiful creatures here in the Amazon. South American Tapirs, three toed sloths...

    Some howler monkeys can be heard in the background, provoking quite the smile from Bindi.

    Bindi Irwin: Oh that's right, and the howler monkeys! So Sulley, what is it we're checking out today?

    Saint Sulley: Frogs!

    Bindi Irwin: Crikey! I was hoping you'd say that. The Amazon has so many frogs. But we have to be super careful!

    Saint Sulley: Oh? Careful? What do we need to be careful for about frogs?

    Bindi Irwin: I'll tell you in just a moment! Let's first head out and see what we can find!

    With that, Saint Sulley and Bindi Irwin start to traverse the Amazon Jungle in Ecuador. Sulley and Bindi are looking for frogs, but in the rain forest those tiny little things can be difficult to spot. The two end up traversing down a ravine, and make their way all the way to a creek bed. The perfect place to find the amphibians they're looking for!

    Suddenly, as if Sulley and Bindi needed any more challenges traversing through this dangerous rain forest...staying true to it's name, it begins to rain!

    Saint Sulley: Oh no! The cameras!

    Bindi Irwin: The cameras will be fine, we paid for the waterproof. And this rain you may think is a problem, but let me tell you...it's actually a good thing! It'll draw those little creatures we're looking for out.

    Saint Sulley: Oh if you say so...


    Bindi chuckles.

    Bindi Irwin: Trust me...and keep up!

    Bindi and Sulley continue, making their way up the creek bed.

    Suddenly, some croaking can be heard.

    Sulley and Bindi both stop in their tracks. Their ears perk up as they keep their eyes out...

    Saint Sulley: Right there!

    Sulley points over into the leaves, and the camera quickly follows.

    The camera zooms in now to get a look at the beautiful looking frog.




    Bindi face gets a huge smile, as she slowly picks up the frog in her hands.

    Sulley gasps at the sight.

    Saint Sulley: Bindi! That's a poison dart frog! You can't touch it!

    Bindi giggles and she holds the bright little frog on her finger tip.

    Bindi Irwin: Actually it's called Ameerega bilinguis, otherwise known as the Ecuador poison frog. And it's okay if it touch it! I just can't lick it or eat it. Just as long as I keep him moist and my fingers just as wet, I'll be fine! You might be asking...why so colorful? Wouldn't the frog want to camouflage itself in the jungle and not stand out? Every predator can see this thing from a mile away.

    Saint Sulley: I know why, Bindi. It's why I wanted to come out here today...you see...these frogs...they remind me of some people I know.

    Bindi Irwin: Crikey that's right! You're defending your world championship against Gabrielle at Desert Storm. Everyone in Australia knows that is a match that's been building for over two years now. But what's that have to do with the frogs?

    Saint Sulley: Well let me answer your first question before anything else. No, the frogs don't camouflage themselves from predators. They do exactly the opposite! The color we see on these frogs is called aposematic coloration. You see this color is a warning to all the other predators who might see it. The bright colors are an advertisement to stay away...I'm not worth eating! And it works. Predators see the colors, and they know that eating these tiny frogs would mean they'd be eating their last meal. Some have a poison that can kill in minutes!

    Bindi Irwin: That's exactly right Sulley! This particular frog I'm holding isn't generally as toxic, but be careful before touching them. Remember, the bright colors mean stay away!

    So Sulley, now can you tell me what this little fella has to do with your fight?

    Saint Sulley: He reminds me of someone I know.

    Bindi Irwin: OH! He reminds you of Gabby! You know what I can totally see it...

    Saint Sulley: Whoa slow down there.

    Not quite, Jungle Girl. You're right, we'll find Gabrielle somewhere in this jungle soon. But that toxic little fella isn't her. No...do you want to know who the real poison dart frogs are? I see a few on the roster. But the biggest one that comes to my mind is Michelle von Horrowitz.

    Think about it Bindi. Who is the most outwardly aggressive person on the roster?

    Michelle.

    Her erratic behavior...her colors...they're a message.

    Stay away.

    I am dangerous.

    And you know what? I respect that. I'm rooting for her in her fight against that worm Mike Parr. He tried to go after the dart frog, and he is going to pay. Michelle has shown the entire world just why she shouldn't be messed with. If she wins at Carnal Contendership, and fights me at Back in Business...just know it's going to be a good fight. But for now, I've got to deal with my other little frog before I can even think about that match. Gabrielle intentionally tried to thwart her investigation by falsely accusing Johnson and I of being the attackers. It was the wrong play...Kujo didn't get his revenge like he wanted, but I'm not Kujo. I have not forgotten what Gabrielle's actions, in an attempt to hurt both me and Michelle, have done. Michelle may not have time to get revenge for that specific incident, she may not even remember, but I do.

    Bindi Irwin: How fascinating! Michelle von Horrowitz as the Poison Dart Frog! So if this little guy isn't Gabby, then who is?

    Bindi let's the frog hop off her fingers and back into the jungle.

    Sulley doesn't answer her.

    Instead he walks a little further into the jungle, until he finds what he's looking for!

    With that Saint Sulley hops down and picks up yet another tiny little frog.

    It looks almost similar to the first frog he and Bindi found!




    Bindi looks on with fascination at what Sulley found.

    Saint Sulley: Now get a load of this...

    Bindi Irwin: Crikey! That's no Ecuador poison frog is it? Tell us what you've got there...

    Saint Sulley: This my friends is an Allobates Zaparo. Check out those bright colors. It looks just like our toxic little friend from earlier, doesn't it?

    Bindi Irwin: It sure does. But the Zaparo is a very different type of breed. Remember everything I said earlier about the warnings that those bright colors give off? Well, with the zaparo, it's a little different. That fella is actually completely harmless!

    Saint Sulley: That's right. Despite it's flashy colors, he isn't poisonous at all! What he's doing is something called Batesian mimicry. It's an effect that takes place when non dangerous animals end up mimicking the species that don't get eaten! It's a defense mechanism, that keeps them alive. And although they aren't actually toxic, predators see those flashy colors and know to stay away!

    Bindi Irwin: It sure is quite the trick! Smart little fellas.

    Saint Sulley: And I bet you can take a guess at who our Zaparo is in the FWA, can't you?

    Bindi Irwin: Well if it's all about smoke and mirrors...let me take a guess...

    Saint Sulley: You don't have to. I'll tell you right now, it's Gabrielle Montgomery. Unlike the real poison dart frog, who's flashy colors serve as a real danger sign for people to stay away...Gabrielle's is all just for show. Like the Zaparo, Gabrielle puts on this little act that she's dangerous. That she shouldn't be messed with. She'll run around backstage and spread rumors, she'll sleep around the roster, and she'll play keyboard warrior on twitter...but it's Batesian mimicry at it's absolute finest. I do have to applaud her however, it's a very clever defense.

    I've seen many do it before. I mean, you kind of have to right?

    Think about when Gabrielle first started in the FWA all those years back. Weak little Gabrielle...coming into the FWA years ago at Trial By Fire, being paraded down to the ring by her boyfriend at the time Jack Severino. That's all she was known as...Diamond Jack's girlfriend. She stood by ringside and watched Jack beat up on scrubs like JD Andrews or Brandon Reid on SMASH. She wouldn't even fight Anyanka or Alexx in a tag team match with Jack...she wasn't a wrestler.

    But then all of sudden, she was.

    All of sudden, the Gabrielle we all know now was born. But she was surrounded in a locker room full of men, and all she had to her name was being the girlfriend of Diamond Jack. What else can you do? You have no choice. You don't have that same danger that Jack brings to the locker room. You don't have that danger that Michelle von Horrowitz has today. No, you're just the pretty girlfriend.

    She did the only thing she could do...Batesian Mimicry. She mimicked the behaviors she saw from all the other testosterone meatheads in the ring. And although they were all just for show, they served their purpose. They gave us all the illusion that Gabrielle Montgomery was more dangerous than she really was. I'll admit she had me fooled when I debuted in 2012, and she took me under her ring in the locker room. Did I know all she wanted was to write my name in her little black book at the time? No I did not. She was this big star, and all I saw were the colors. I didn't know what I know now...I thought Gabrielle was the poison dart frog that she appeared to be...

    I didn't realize she was nothing but a Zaparo.

    I didn't realize that when Gabrielle defeated my at Quest for the Best two years ago.

    And I didn't realize it when I beat both Gabrielle and Cyrus in a triple threat match the last time we had Desert Storm.

    But I did realize it...I realized it on Devil's Night...October 30th, the night that I put Gabrielle out of action.


    Bindi listens on in fascination...

    Animals have always fascinated her.

    Animals in the wild especially, but what many people fail to see are the animals we see every day. The animals that walk among us. There is no closer thing to an animal than those in the FWA locker room.

    That there is nature at it's finest.


    Bindi Irwin: So just to recap here... Michelle von Horrowitz is the Poison Dart Frog, her colors...or in this case he aggressive behaviors, are a warning sign to stay away because she's dangerous. But Gabrielle more closely represents the Zaparo, a frog who mimics the dangerous frogs with it's colors but it's really just a disguise for protection?

    That's all quite fascinating...but if those two are those frogs...what are you?

    With that Sulley smiles, and gives a motion to Bindi with his hand as if he's saying "follow me".

    The two trek once more through the amazon, following the river.

    They pass through some trees and some leaves, and it's with great joy what they see next...






    Bindi Irwin: Oh crikey! That's an Ecuadorian Jaguar! These beautiful cats are the third biggest in the world, but their population is shrinking. There's only around 15,000 Jaguars left, and this right here is one of them! Jaguars also have the strongest bite of any cat...so don't get too close.

    Saint Sulley looks on with a smile...

    Saint Sulley: You wanted to know what I am, Bindi? I'm that right there. I mean sure, I might more closely compared myself with a Lion. But a Jaguar is pretty close...

    Bindi Irwin: But I don't understand...if a Jaguar would eat a dart frog, it'd still get poisoned.

    Saint Sulley: But Jaguars don't bother with dart frogs. Do you want to know why? Because they're way higher on the food chain. They're at the top. They don't need to show flashy colors to stay away...or pretend to like Gabby the Zaparo. They are the top cat. The cat that nobody else can touch...they are the ones that all the other species in the Amazon are hiding from.

    He...is me.

    I am the world champion.

    Now a two time world champion.

    Tell me what Gabrielle has that I don't? She's a two time world champion...so am I. The only difference is, it's been seven years since Gabrielle last held this title. Me? In the last year and a half, I've held this title all but 27 days. Gabrielle once held the distinction of having the second longest reign with my belt too, after Matt Boudreau's historic reign. She held it for 363 days...which was impressive and all, up until I had my go at it. In just my first title run, I held the FWA World Championship for a historic 407 days. The only man who held it longer is dead.

    Not only that, but between July 15th 2018 and November 28th 2020...I went 867 days straight holding at least one title. That is almost two and a half years. It's 28 and a half months. Dudes went to prison when I won my record breaking X Championship, and got out before I lost my FWA World Championship. Of course they didn't even get their first piss test from their parole officer before I won it back, on Christmas Day no less. Sorry for ruining your Christmas by the way, Mike...I guess I am the Ghost of Christmas Future? Because you're seeing the future right here...

    Gabrielle...you little fake frog...do you think I can't tell how up deflated you've been watching me the past two years? Seeing me accomplish everything that you can't anymore because you're...just too old. I can see it...I can see it in your eyes every time they lock with mine. You don't have that same "Oh I'm just here for fun" attitude like Devin Golden. No, you're hunting for my championship. You need my championship, and you want it more than anything else. I can see it so hard...and if you don't win? There will be no greater demoralization. You can see the changing of the tide. The fans are sick of seeing the Gabrielle's, and the Cyrus Truth's, and the Mike Garcia's...no...they want the real poison dart frog...because she's actual dangerous. Unlike you...

    If you don't win this title right now, at Desert Storm, then you won't get another chance again. And you know it...Desert Storm, if you lose, may very well be your last match. 1

    And if I'm being honest...I can't wait to make that happen.

    But do you want to know the true difference between you and me? The difference is, if I don't win...it's not all over for me. I have a different perspective on my life...my daughter taught me that it's not so important putting so much stress and energy into a match. When I went into Crossfire Christmas, I did it with a different attitude, and I never felt so alive. The fact of the matter is...if I lose, I'm not totally lost. I don't have to search for a purpose. I'm one tag team title win away from being just the fourth ever Grand Slam Champion. How far away are you from that? What you need a North American title win, and an X Championship win? Well, I can give you some pointers there.

    Do you know the last time I lost a true singles match? A planned one on one bout? It was in February 2019...that's right, two years ago. And it was to you...you know that's on my mind, and I know it's on yours too. I hope you keep focusing on that match, and I hope you keep thinking it's the same. I am so different than the man you saw in the ring two years ago, Gabs. And even if I'm not...even if I lose...it doesn't change anything...I can keep bragging about how you're the only person to beat me in a one on one match in over two years. In fact, 2017 was the last time anyone other than you beat me.

    But you? If you lose...it doesn't all stay the same.

    I want you to know that Gabs.

    I want you to remember that.

    You aren't the poison dart frog. There's nothing about you that's dangerous. It is all for show. Just flashy colors to make yourself look stronger than you really are. But me? I'm the fucking Jaguar...and you aren't even on my radar.

    Sulley looks over to see if the camera got all of that, but to his absolute dismay...Bindi took the camera man to get a closer look at the actual jaguar. Leaving Saint Sulley by himself and in absolute anger.

    "Wait, did you get all of my monologue! That's important dammit!" Sulley shouts...but neither Bindi or the cameraman appear interested.

    Poison frogs, Jaguars...the animal kingdom sure is strange.

    And the FWA is no different.

    The only question is...who is at the top of the food chain?


    "In the animal kingdom, one of the keys to survival is to outwit your enemies.
    And when you're surrounded by carnivores, one of the best strategies is to fade into the background and disappear."
    ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

  6. #6
    HOSS MOD
    Cyrus Truth's Avatar

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    Re: Desert Storm PPV PROMO THREAD

    Exile Chronicles (Volume 3)
    Chapter 13: The Trial of Cyrus Truth

    "Why did you choose that name?"

    "Haven't we already been through that, Seeker? I chose the name 'Truth' because..."

    "No, no...not your real name. The other one. 'Cyrus.'"

    Speeding along a unidentifiable country road in a nondescript black sedan, we find the duo of Cyrus Truth and Seeker...the Exile and Observer who have been on the front lines in the fight against the spreading influence of the Church of 9, with FWA being the battleground.

    And Desert Storm is shaping up to be yet another battle in this ongoing shadow war, as Cyrus Truth will defend his North American Title against the Church of 9's most prominent member, Eli Black.

    However, that seems to be the furthest thing from Cyrus's mind as Seeker is driving him...somewhere. The looming threat of judgment from the Observers has been a dark cloud from which Cyrus has had to live with ever since he made the choice to show one of the Observers' vaults to Eli Black as a gesture of trust and faith during their run as a tag team.

    And it seems that, today? Judgment has come calling.

    Cyrus sighs at Seeker's question, looking out absently as barns and farmhouses whir past, as fields that would be teeming with corn and wheat lay barren and covered in snow and mud. Eventually, he answers:

    "You'll laugh."

    "Why would I laugh?"


    "Because it's really stupid."

    "I sincerely doubt that."

    Cyrus leans back into the passenger seat and exhales. The Exile's clearly already exhausted, as the pressure of his upcoming title match and this meeting with the Observers to decide his punishment for his transgressions is already a heavy-enough burden.

    "You remember studying the Greek myths?"

    "Of course."

    "There was one myth that always stuck with me. The story of Cassandra, the seer."

    "Cassandra...wasn't she the one who received the gift of sight from Apollo?"

    "Right. But it came with a cost after she spurned his advances. She could see the world for what it was and where it was going, but nobody would ever believe her words. She was cursed to know what was to come and be completely unable to change it, because her words would always be dismissed as madness."

    "And what does this have to do with you?"

    Cyrus chuckles, a sad smile crossing his lips.

    "When you've been an Observer, you learn so much that the world has forgotten. You gain a perspective that few in the world can share, and fewer still can understand. I knew that when I went into Exile and became a professional wrestler that my peers wouldn't be able to see things the same way that I could. In an ego-driven business like wrestling? The Truth could be clear as day and wrestlers would deny it, because to accept it would mean deflating that ego. So, in a sense...I was basically Cassandra. But since I'm not a woman..."

    "You'd be known as 'Cyrus.'"

    "Yep. Told you it was stupid."

    Seeker, eyes focused on the road ahead, nevertheless smiles a bit.

    "Maybe a little. But...it's a good name, regardless."

    "Thanks."

    The pair are silent for a bit as they reach an intersection with a single blinking light. There's nothing out here aside from snowy fields and the occasional rustic reminder of this area's agrarian roots. It's the middle of the day, but there's not been a single other vehicle on the road with this pair.

    Nevertheless, despite it being free and clear, Seeker stops at this intersection. He then sighs sadly as he says:


    "Listen, Truth. I..."

    "Do you know who's going to be judging me?"

    Seeker's taken aback by Cyrus's interjection...but softens, realizing that The Exile isn't seeking an apology or comfort in this. More importantly? Seeker realizes that Truth isn't blaming him for what's to come.

    "...Yes. Reason is the one conducting the trial. And as is tradition, he is joined by two other judges."

    "Reason, eh? I suppose I could've asked for worse. And the other two?"

    "Peace...and Justice."

    Cyrus scowls a bit hearing the last two names.

    "The wet noodle and the harridan. Great. Well, one out of three is better than I could've hoped for."

    "I'm sorry."

    "For what? You didn't pick the judges. And you're not the one who got me into this mess."

    "I am the one delivering you to that mess, though."

    "Someone had to. And better you than Justice and her shrouds. At least you turn the heat on in the car."

    The joke garners no laughs from either man as they sit there at the intersection for what seems like an eternity. Eventually, the silence is broken.

    "Seeker? I think it's safe to move on."

    Seeker, coming out of his own headspace, takes a look at his passenger whose eyes are looking outward. Never at him, never behind him...only forward.

    "Yes...I suppose you're right."

    Seeker flips his turn signal on and makes a left turn, down the lonely road and towards the site of the his friend's judgment...

    *****

    Eventually, the black sedan arrives at its destination.

    It's a ghost town, populated only by long-abandoned wooden buildings dusted with a recent snowfall. As the sedan drives slowly down the thoroughfare, we can almost hear the many years these buildings have seen in the creaking and warbling of their walls in the breeze. It's hard to say exactly why this village was built in the first place, or why it was abandoned, but it's absolutely haunting how eerie everything feels, looks...even smells.

    The sedan finally pulls up to what looks to be this village's chapel. It looks as bad, if not worse, than the buildings surrounding it. Half the roof has been blown off by some past wind storm, and there's charred parts along the front of the chapel.

    Cyrus and Seeker exit the car; Cyrus dressed in a simple black overcoat, and Seeker having donned the traditional white and gold robes of an Observer. The pair share a nod as they walk side-by-side into the chapel.

    Inside, we see our first signs of life in this village, as two figures in white wearing porcelain masks stand guard near the altar. The inside of this chapel's rougher than the outside, as moisture and rot have claimed much of the church's furniture, leaving behind ruined and wrecked pews and other idolatry.

    Except, for some reason, the altar. Which appears to be remarkably well-preserved. It LOOKS as weathered as everything else does at first glance, but closer inspection shows that looks are deceiving. As Cyrus and Seeker approach the altar, the two Observers stop them before reaching it.


    "Seeker. You've brought The Exile."

    "I have. As instructed."

    "...you bring him unbound."

    "I was unaware that was a requirement."

    The two Observer guards look at Cyrus warily, but eventually ease up as they turn back to the altar and recite some incantations in an unknown tongue. Upon completion, the altar starts to shift and slide backwards, revealing a staircase leading down below the chapel.

    The guards say nothing more as Seeker nods and motions for Cyrus to descend, walking behind him. The Exile does so, walking down with Seeker following.

    After several minutes with only low-light to guide them, the duo find themselves at a door etched in strange, archaic runes. Cyrus moves as if to do or say something to open it, but is stopped as Seeker puts his hand on The Exile's shoulder, as if to say "Maybe not." Cyrus nods knowingly as Seeker recites more strange invocations, as the sigils light up and unlock the door, allowing the two to enter.

    The chamber itself is incredibly stark and barren. Little in the ways of comfort or decoration and lit only by a dozen or so lanterns burning with red fire, this particular sanctum seems to be just an empty hole in the ground for the Observers to conduct business in outside of their hideaways. Or perhaps, it was a vault at one time...but had been emptied and abandoned for one reason or another.

    Inside, we see more Observers. A dozen or so standing on either side of the chamber, ostensibly serving as a jury or witnesses of sorts to the trial that's about to commence. All of them have their faces hidden by various porcelain masks depicting animals, mythic figures, various human expressions, and the like...all save for one.

    In the crowd, but with no mask to hide their face, is Mentor. They watch as Cyrus passes by, a look of sorrow on their face at the fate of their former pupil, the one they entrusted their mask to. Cyrus, for his part, spares only a glance at Mentor before walking by, focused instead on the judges awaiting him.

    Sitting behind a very simple wooden table are three more Observers. The one on the left is a thin, gaunt figure wearing a dove mask. To the right is a familiar-looking, daunting figure of a woman wearing an owl mask. And in the middle sits an altogether average looking figure, his porcelain mask being that of a humanoid face with a third eye in its forehead.

    As Cyrus approaches the table and stands there with Seeker behind him, the three judges remove their masks to reveal their faces. The one in the middle speaks up first:


    "Welcome home, Seeker. You have completed the task of bringing the accused to us."

    "I have, Reason."

    Reason, an older man with a very angular chin and somber, calculating grey eyes, nods as Justice speaks up. Unlike the svelte and unassuming Reason, Justice is a brick shithouse of a woman, with a hooked nose and piercing green eyes.

    "And you managed to convince him to come of his own volition, it seems. I thought for certain my Shrouds would've had to drag him here to answer for his transgressions."

    "It seems that our wayward son has realized that the quickest path to resolution is through acceptance and peace. This is good. This trial shouldn't take long."

    Speaking up is another man, Peace. Peace has the look of a weasel, with beady gray eyes and a tiny pencil mustache. He looks, out of the three judges, like the one who least wants to be here. However, he smiles as both he and Justice nod to Reason, who looks directly at Cyrus.


    "Truth, I trust you understand why we called you here."

    "Nice to see you too, Reason."

    "Answer the question, please..."

    Cyrus sighs, rolling his eyes in irritation.

    "Yes. I know exactly why I'm here."

    "Good. And are you prepared to answer for these transgressions?"

    "That depends."

    "Depends on what?"

    "Depends on what exactly you mean by 'answering.' You do realize that I have other obligations besides this that require my attention, don't you?"

    Justice chimes in at that and retorts.

    "Nothing that's more important than addressing your crimes and deciding your punishment."

    "Oh, really? Not even the Church of 9?"

    Justice sneers at that, but that counter is enough to get her to stop her from replying. Cyrus, with just the faintest treble of anxiety in his voice, continues.

    "I know why I've been called here. It's because I broke a rule and showed a vault to an outsider. A decision made doubly damaging because that outsider was Eli Black, the Church of 9's new golden boy. Because of that, the position of the Observers in the world of shadow is being threatened as the Church has grown more bold and aggressive in its efforts to consolidate power, knowledge, and influence. That about cover it?"

    Reason looks a bit annoyed by Cyrus's rather blunt summation, but nods in agreement. Cyrus, however, isn't finished.

    "Tell me, if I had shown that vault to anybody other than Eli...anybody other than someone affiliated with a group like the Church of 9, would I even be here? I know you'd say 'yes,' Justice..."

    Cyrus looks Justice dead in her eye as he says that, the Observer staring daggers back at The Exile. Truth eventually turns his gaze back to Reason.

    "But what about the rest of you? You all know that vault contained nothing special. Not compared to many other vaults. Nothing in there was particularly critical to protect and shield away from potentially unworthy seekers, and you all know that. So please...explain to me why this trial was so gods-damned important that I had to take time out of my match preparations before Desert Storm and my North American Title bout against Eli Black. Tell me why you decided now was a good time to distract me while I'm in the middle of fighting this war against the Church of 9 for you."

    Cyrus's defiance causes a stir among the rest of the Observers watching the proceedings, many seemingly shocked at an Exile's impertinence during his own trial while others seem to agree with the point Cyrus is trying to make. Reason raps his knuckles on the table to quiet the chamber as he replies.

    "We recognize that you have taken it upon yourself to fight the influence of the Church of 9 in that wrestling company you perform in. We also admit that your efforts, while not wholly effective at rooting out the Church's corruption and driving them back into the shadows, have been key in keeping the current conflict at at stalemate, allowing us a chance to discuss our options for how to deal with this. However..."

    "However! We wouldn't be in this mess had you not shown that boy the vault, Truth. Are you expecting us to thank you for cleaning up a mess YOU created in the first place? Your arrogance is unrivaled, boy. Have you no shame, no remorse over what you did?!"

    Justice is clearly livid, feeling insulted by Cyrus's tone and aggressive combativeness. Her outburst is enough to stun the chamber into silence, as Seeker looks at his friend standing there, taking all of Justice's vitriol without even flinching.

    Eventually, however, the stony expression of The Exile cracks a bit, as he chokes out in a pained, sorrowful tone.

    "You don't think I have any remorse? Is that it, Justice? You think I don't care at all about what I let happen? You always were able to read people better than most Observers, so tell me...when you look at me, do you see some callous young brat refusing to own up to his responsibilities? Look at me. LOOK!"


    Cyrus stares directly at Justice yet again. However, that look of defiance is gone...replaced by something else entirely. Sorrow, guilt, and ruefulness are etched into the face of The Exile...and for the first time, Justice's hard-ass veneer cracks. Just a bit, but it's there.

    "You think for one moment I want to be here? That I don't wish I could be anywhere else, anyone else in the world right now? That I could be like other Exiles in the past and just disappear, leaving all of this behind? I wish I could be as heartless and arrogant as you seem to think I am, Justice. It'd be so much easier. But if I was...why would I be here? Why would I come here, willingly, and accept you passing judgment on me?

    "I know what I did was wrong. I know that it was forbidden for an Exile to show an outsider a vault...but I thought I was doing it for the right reasons. I wanted to help Eli. I wanted him to be better than he was when I first met him, and I thought that vault could help him become stronger for the Road ahead. And I know, I know! I know that might've been the spark that led him down this dark path and caused so much pain and fear for you all. But that's why I chose to fight this battle. Not for revenge for Eli's betrayal or for the chance to be a champion again. I'm fighting this war because all of this? The Observers still matter to me. My friends and confidants in the world of shadow STILL matter. The people that have been hurt and terrorized by the Church of 9 and Eli deserve justice. And I have to believe that I can right the wrongs I made...and not just the one that had you call this trial. All of the wrongs that led to Eli choosing to abandon his humanity for power and glory...they have to be answered by somebody, don't they?"


    Justice, hearing Cyrus's impassioned response, sits stoically and cross-armed. She still glares at Cyrus angrily...but the intensity of that stare isn't as strong as it was when this trial first started. There's more murmuring from the other Observers in attendance, although it's hard to make out as they're being very careful about keeping it quiet and private.

    Cyrus rubs his eyes as Peace speaks up for the first time.


    "Please, please! Let us calm down. There's no need to let emotions cloud our rational thought. The Exile does bring up a valid point. While this trial was called to judge Truth based on his transgressions, it is vital that we come to some decision as to how we resolve this conflict with the Church of 9."

    That statement gets the attention of Cyrus, Seeker, Reason, and Justice as the four of them turn their attention towards Peace as the Observer looks fairly pleased about something.

    "What is the meaning of this, Peace? What are you getting at?"

    "Truth hasn't been the only one attempting to bring about an end to this aggression. Agents of the Church have been reaching out with feeler and go-betweens within the world of shadow. Haven't they, Truth?"

    The judges turn their attention back to Cyrus, who seems both surprised and irritated with Peace's knowledge and insinuation.

    "You're well-informed. I thought I'd kept that under wraps."

    Peace simply smiles in response as Cyrus sighs and explains.

    "Apparently, Eli is interested in something called the Book of Osiris. I haven't the faintest clue why outside of the fact that this Osiris character was one of the original founders of the Church and shares a bloodline with Eli and his father, Frederick."

    "How do you know this?"

    "Because Eli kidnapped and threatened the Book Keeper and was stupid enough to tell her all of this."


    "The Book Keeper? Is she...?"

    "She's fine. She's currently gone underground for the moment. But Eli made it clear that he wanted her to contact the Observers for something related to this Book of Osiris."

    "But why? Unless..."

    Cyrus shrugs.

    "Whatever this is, Eli or the Church need an Observer to figure it out. They at least were smart enough to realize that the Book Keeper wasn't one, but could open up communication with you. However...she was pretty damn adamant about not giving those bastards anything. Which begs the question..."

    Justice cuts off Cyrus as she glares at Peace.

    "How is it that YOU came to know this?"

    "A good Observer listens, Justice. A great Observer learns. And this Eli Black isn't the only Church member who's been trying to reach out to us. Based on what my sources have been telling me, it seems the Church is open to negotiations. They seek knowledge on certain things, and in exchange? They seem amenable to ceasing their current hostilities towards us."

    Seeker, who had been listening quietly throughout all of this, finally speaks up surprisingly combative.

    "You can't be serious! How on earth could you possibly consider this? We absolutely cannot acquiesce to these psychopaths."

    Peace looks shocked by Seeker's outburst...and in turn, his expression sours as he addresses the younger Observer.

    "Mind your tongue, young man. And you know full well that we must consider this. Peace is the only way for our order to ensure its survival. We are not warriors. We don't fight battles or implement violence. But the Church of 9? They are willing to go to those depths to get what they want anyway. We are safe only because of our longevity in the world of shadows, but even that has its limits. If the Church continues to grow in strength and influence, our own position is left unsecure. And besides...is it not the nature of our order to share knowledge with those who come to seek it? The Observers have been the keepers of knowledge and the Truth for millennia. If the Church of 9 seeks knowledge as payment to ensure our continued existence...well then, I say it may well be worth the price."

    The room is dead silent. Not even the murmuring of Observers. For what seems like eternity, this underground sanctum is as quiet as a tomb, until...

    "You fucking idiot."

    All three judges turn their attention back to Cyrus, who stands there tense and incredibly angry. The Exile focuses his glare on Peace, who definitely looks intimidated by the furor of Cyrus.

    "I always knew you had no guts, Peace...but I never thought for a second that they removed your brain when they took your spine. This is the absolute most moronic thing you've ever said!"

    "H-h-how dare you speak to me like that?"

    "Because clearly you need somebody to shout at you in the vain hopes that some sense gets through that thick skull of yours. Give up to the Church of 9? Give them what they want and HOPE that's enough to keep the Observers safe? Why stop there? Why not polish their shoes with your tongue and fondle their balls with your hands while you're at it?"

    "Truth, please..."

    "No! I refuse to let this slide, Reason! I don't care how dire the situation is. Appeasement is NOT a solution. It's not even an option. Giving in to the Church of 9 would kill the heart of the Observers, and destroy everything that this order has stood for! The strength of our order is due to us owing no allegiance to any power."

    "We wouldn't be bowing to anyone, Truth..."

    "Yes, you would! As stupid as you are, even YOU can recognize that the Church of 9 isn't going to be satisfied with just a nibble. Everything in the Church's history suggests total and absolute consumption. And if you open the door to the pantry, the Church WILL devour everything and leave you starving and destitute.

    "Even if that wasn't the case, and it clearly is...the Observers share knowledge with the worthy. Knowledge is powerful, but dangerous in the hands of those who'd abuse it. If the order abandons its principles just to survive, then the order of Observers DESERVE to die...because it wouldn't be the same order that I remember. To even suggest doing that is a betrayal of everything we stand for, and even you aren't so blind as to not see that, Peace."


    Cyrus is clearly incensed as he glares down Peace, who tries his best to meet his gaze...but clearly can't. Another uncomfortable silence settles in the sanctum, broken only by Justice speaking up.

    "As loathe as I'm to agree with the Exile, I'm of the same mind as he on this. Peace is not an option on this."

    "Peace is ALWAYS an option, Justice. What other choice do we have? We are not warriors. And there's only so much that words and shadow tactics can do to keep us safe from those well-versed in such tactics. How do we fight a war without fighters, Justice? Who will fight this war for us?"

    "You really have to ask?"


    The three judges turn their attention back to Cyrus, stony-eyed and resolute.

    "What the hell do you think I've been doing ever since Eli showed his true colors? What exactly do you think this match I have at Desert Storm is if not just another battle in this war?"

    Reason, who had spent much of this trial silently listening to every voice that has spoken up, now takes the opportunity to speak his own mind.

    "This trial has veered off from its original purpose. Truth, we did not summon you here because we wished to hear your opinions on this conflict with the Church of 9. You are here to answer for your sins against the order that led us to this point."

    "So...what? Do you expect me to deny my part in this? Or did you want me on my hands and knees begging for forgiveness?"

    "Truth..."

    "No, Reason. Tell me. What is it you want from me? Contrition? Or do you want me to fix what I helped break? You...all three of you, and everybody here in this hole know what I did. And I haven't denied it. Despite everything that led to my Exile in the first place, despite my belief that this order has forgotten its purpose over the last century or so, I still believe in the Observers' mission. To learn, to understand, and to guide. If I didn't believe, why would I be here willing to accept whatever punishment you see fit to enact?

    "But the Truth is...punishing me here and now is a waste. This war goes on regardless of what you decide to do with me. But out there? In an FWA ring? I can continue to fight. I can strike back against the Church of 9 and beat Eli Black, denying them the North American Championship. That's where my value to you lies, and you know it."


    "You talk as if your victory is assured."

    Cyrus immediately turns his gaze towards Justice, who looks at The Exile with a mix of astonishment and disdain.

    "Have you forgotten? You've faced this Eli Black once before. Surely, you recall how that fight went."


    Cyrus scowls a bit, but there's definitely a slight look of shame on his face.

    "I remember."

    "Then you know full well that you claiming to be able to beat this boy leads to...questioning. You may be this North American Champion, but you did not pin either the champion or Eli Black to win it. The one and only time you have faced him one-on-one? He was the one who emerged victorious...not you."

    "That's not fair, Justice. Eli only won that match due to his father interfering."

    "Quiet, Seeker! Don't you see? That's all the more reason to be concerned! Truth is putting his prize on the line against a boy willing to lie, cheat, and steal his way to victory. The Church of 9 doesn't care about how victory is attained, so long as it's attained."

    "For once, Justice? I agree. Despite Truth being the champion and all the advantages that confers, it's clear that the odds are quite stacked against him. And yet, the Exile is asking us to put our faith in him? Hehehe...no, no no. It's too much of a risk. And any continued hostilities threatens any hope for a peaceful resolution."

    Justice glares at Peace and begins to argue with him again about his desire to seek a non-combative solution to this issue with the Church of 9. As the two Observers bicker for a bit, Cyrus stands with hands to his side, clenched in knuckle-white tight fists. Eventually, Cyrus speaks up, silencing Justice and Peace.

    "So...you think I can't get the job done? Is that it?"

    The three judges turn back towards Cyrus. In fact, the entirety of the Observers present turn their gaze towards The Exile, who asks again in a venom-drenched tone.

    "If you think that I can't win, then say it. But only if you believe it to be the Truth."

    Peace, Reason, and Justice pause. None of them say anything for what seems like an eternity. Cyrus is just as silent, almost as if he's daring them to say "yes."

    But none of them do.

    Eventually, it's Reason who speaks up on behalf of the judges.


    "We cannot say that you're incapable of victory, Truth. But it is...unlikely. Even you can't deny that."

    "Your history over the last year suggests that you're not as invincible as you were when you first stepped foot into this wrestling company."

    "And it's hard to ignore your loss to Eli Black. Putting our faith in you is risky. Surely, you understand that."

    "Oh...I understand."

    Cyrus moves towards the table where the three judges are sitting. There's a certain tension as The Exile approaches, but Cyrus stops just shy as he looks at the men and woman who sit in judgment of him, a look of ferocity and defiance in his eyes.

    "I don't deny anything you've just said. When I chose my name, I dedicated myself to it. That includes personal Truth. I know full well that you have no reason to fully believe in me given everything that's led us to this point. And I recognize that, regardless of whether I'm the better wrestler or not? Eli can, has, and will stoop to any level if it means advancing his own agenda and that of the Church. I'm walking into Desert Storm an underdog because I refuse to conduct myself in any manner beneath a proper champion and my challenger has no such reservations.

    "But the fact that he has no reservations makes his position weak. A man without principles and honor pursuing glory is a man building a house on quicksand. No matter how strong the house is, it's doomed to collapse because it lacks a solid enough foundation for it to stand on. You're the one who taught me that, Justice. Do you remember?"

    Justice looks surprised. Clearly, she does remember...but she's shocked that Cyrus seems to remember it just as well.

    "And even you, Peace...you claim that peace is the only solution. But weren't you the one who taught me that a peace that results in you losing everything that made you who you are and everything you hold dear is no true peace?"

    Peace, sheepishly, bows his head and averts his gaze, clearly humbled and embarrassed by his own words turned against him. Cyrus then turns to face Reason.

    "I'm not saying that victory is assured. Even an Observer can't see the future, unless you all developed that talent in the time since I left. But I CAN beat Eli Black. As talented and duplicitous as he is, he's still just a boy who thinks himself a conqueror. I won't be as blind in this match as I was in our first match. And I know the stakes continue to get steeper and steeper with each passing day. One crushing victory puts a stop to the Church's ambitions. Putting Eli down forces them into retreat, allowing the Observers to solidify their position once again. It's a tremendous weight...but my shoulders are still strong and my feet are still planted. I can carry this burden. And I won't let it crush me; no, instead? I'll let this weight make me stronger.

    "I want this win. I NEED this win more than any of you can possibly understand. I need this to protect the brothers and sisters of the order that raised me, taught me, guided me and helped me become the man I am today...and to make up for the mistake I made that led to them being put in harm's way. I need this to beat back a bunch of slimy, power-hungry monsters back into the darkness where they belong. But more than any of that? I have to prove something to myself. I need to know if I'm still the same wrestler that took FWA by storm, who ruled atop the mountain as the untouchable World Champion. I need to show the world that I am still as good a champion as I've ever been...and prove to Eli that for all his talent, all his confidence, and all of his underhandedness? He's still NOTHING compared to an Exile focused, driven, and centered on ensuring the path he's chosen gets him nothing but the righteous beating he so very much deserves. I'm going into Desert Storm knowing what victory and retaining the North American Title means...not just for me, but for all of you and everybody who's been hurt and targeted by the Church of 9's machinations. I refuse to let the Church and Eli Black swallow up everything that matters or ever has mattered to me without a fight. If this is a war? This is a war I intend to fight until the bitter end...until I win.

    "I'm not going to ask you to have faith in me. That's something you're going to have to decide for yourselves if I deserve it. But I will promise you this? At Desert Storm? I'm going to give you a reason to believe in me."


    Cyrus lets that last statement hang in silence for a second, as the three judges and the rest of the gallery are quietly contemplating what was said. However, Cyrus doesn't wait for a response.

    Turning around, he gives one last look at Seeker as the two share a nod...and Cyrus walks past him and towards the door leading to the outside. Reason, seeing this, shouts at Cyrus:


    "Truth! We haven't dismissed you! You're still on trial!"

    Without breaking stride, without looking back, Cyrus retorts.

    "Of course I am. I've been on trial ever since I went into Exile. So make whatever decision you're going to make. I have nothing more to say on the subject. And whatever choice you make about my punishment? I'll not be hard to find..."

    Reason looks like he's about to shout something back, but he stops himself as Cyrus exits the chamber. Nothing more is said as the judges sit in stunned silence for a few seconds.

    "Such a willful young man..."

    "That's one way to see it. The arrogance of walking out of your own trial. I doubt he fully appreciates the magnitude of his crime."

    "I disagree."

    The judges turn to Seeker, who's calmly standing in front of them with his arms crossed, a look of disappointment and pensive contemplation on his face.

    "I've spent a lot of time with Truth over the last few weeks. He's not as blindly arrogant as you think he is. Yes, his actions were wrong...but his heart was in the right place. And besides...he did bring up a valid point when I first confronted him back before Christmas. He might have been wrong to show Eli Black the vault, but we share part of the blame for not telling him who and what he was."

    "He's an Exile, Seeker! It's forbidden!"

    "Is it? I'm not so sure. And I wonder...if we had not been so bound by dogma...what would've happened?"

    Reason sighs, a mixture of exhaustion and disappointment evident on his weathered face. The Observer turns to Seeker and says very bluntly:

    "Perhaps you've been spending too much time with Truth."

    "Perhaps. Or perhaps the Observers have allowed themselves to be blind to certain aspects of the Truth for longer than any of us would care to admit..."

    We cut to Cyrus ascending the stairs, alone and in silence save for the voice of Seeker speaking over the scene.

    "He left us, but has never forgotten us. We call him 'Exile,' think of him as nothing more than a disappointment and disgrace to our order. And yet..."

    Cyrus reaches the top of the stairs, re-entering the ruined chapel. The two Observers standing guard look surprised and move as if they mean to stop him...but one glare from The Exile is enough to give them pause as Cyrus walks past them.

    "He knows he made a mistake, and he still cares enough to be willing to make up for that mistake. He's fighting for our sake. Fighting to ensure that we don't lose everything that makes us who we are. And I feel as if he's willing to fight even thought he knows it may end up destroying him."

    Cyrus finally reaches the entrance of the chapel and steps outside, noticing that a light late winter snow has started to fall. He exhales, as his breath looks like smoke from a dragon's maw.

    "Truth is willing to put himself into the fire to defeat this Eli Black and the Church of 9 for us...the ones who abandoned and ignored him when he began to question us. Don't we at least owe him the chance to see this path through to the end? To see where this journey down the Long and Winding Road eventually leads?"

    Cyrus, after a short pause, starts to walk off past the parked sedan to wherever his feet will take him. However...

    "Truth!"

    Cyrus stops about a hundred feet away from chapel. Emerging from the ruined building is Mentor, a bit of a frantic look on their face that seems to relax realizing that they were able to catch up to Truth before he vanished. Cyrus doesn't move, but he also doesn't turn to face Mentor as he says.

    "I'm not going back, Mentor. There's nothing more that needs to be said, and I've already wasted too much time on this that could've been used preparing for this battle."

    "I know. That's not why I'm here."

    "Then what are you here for? You have something else to say to me?"

    Mentor pauses, collecting themselves as they rub something from their eyes. Mentor then looks at their former pupil and says with a smile and sad eyes:

    "I simply wanted to wish you good fortune in the battles to come. May the blessings and lessons of the Long and Winding Road give you strength and lead you to victory."

    Cyrus, still with his back to Mentor, lowers his head as drops of water fall from his cheeks. Mentor sees this, their eyes sharp and perceptive. The smile vanishes as they ask in a cold, direct tone.

    "Truth...can you win? Can you stop this boy's machinations and lust for power? Can you keep that title belt you were so proud of winning from the grasp of those who would use it to push their own wicked agenda? Look into your heart and answer me...can you win?"

    The tears stop as Cyrus looks up towards the horizon. The sun has started to set as the sky becomes a hue of reds, yellows, and oranges. Without any trembling, without any hint of doubt, Cyrus replies back.

    "Not only can I win...I WILL win."

    "How do you know?"

    For the first time, Cyrus turns his head to look behind him, his eyes meeting Mentor's. With a smile, The Exile answers.

    "I don't. But I have faith."

    Mentor closes their eyes and smiles, satisfied with the answer their pupil gave them.

    "Then I, too, will have faith in you. And not just me, either..."

    As Mentor opens their eyes and stands up straight, out from the chapel emerges Seeker...and behind him stands other Observers, the members of the gallery laying witness to The Exile's trial. The masked, robed figures stand behind Seeker and Mentor...and in unison, they bow their heads, acknowledging Cyrus and seemingly giving him their thanks for the battle he intends to fight to protect them...and perhaps, a sign of their faith in his ability to see this through.

    Seeker speaks up, one final time.


    "Go forth, Exile. Stand tall and fight well. Walk the path that must be taken. And take strength in the Road that brought you this far...and strike down the wicked that would take it all away."

    Cyrus lowers his gaze, seemingly overwhelmed by this show of solidarity...but he smiles, meeting the eyes of the Observers and nodding in understanding. He turns back towards the sunset, giving one last thumbs up to the family that was once his...the family he still fights for.

    We hear music play in the background as a montage plays...



    We see Cyrus's early FWA days, his first Back in Business and eventual defeat of Ryan Rondo...

    We see the conflict with Shannon O'Neal, the battles that tested him and reignited the fire fueling his drive to win...

    The feud with Bell Connelly and Chris Kennedy that drove him to reach a level above where he started...

    The struggles that led to his losing streak, which led to the partnership with Eli Black...

    ...and the fallout that led to Eli's betrayal.

    Cyrus internalizes all of these memories, everything that's led to this moment in time, every step of the journey that's led to this confrontation with Eli Black for the North American Championship. The joys, the pains, the sorrows, and the triumphs. Everything that's defined his FWA career, defined who he was and who he's become as a wrestler and a man.

    The lessons of the past guide him.

    But they don't hold him back.

    And at Desert Storm, Cyrus Truth will remind Eli Black, the Church of 9, and everybody in FWA just who he is...


    "I woke up one day with the world outside
    telling me I should walk away
    But I can't, I won't break,
    I gotta make the world know my name"

    As Cyrus exits the town, we zoom out to see a sign as the song's refrain plays:

    "I've got my head in the clouds, my feet on the ground
    Yeah, I'm standing now and I am not afraid
    With my head in the clouds, never looking down
    Yeah, I'll never stop until the world knows my name."

    The sign is attached to a post, hanging loosely by a single nail. As it flutters, weathered and battered due to time, we finally get a chance to read it.

    "Welcome to Redemption."
    Something Witty!

    Cyrus Truth
    4x FWA World Heavyweight Champion
    1x FWA North American Champion
    2x CWA World Heavyweight Champion
    1x PnH International Champion

    Konchu Hao
    Ground Zero Winner (Season 2)

  7. #7
    Squash Fodder

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    Re: Desert Storm PPV PROMO THREAD

    KORAKUEN HALL
    TOKYO, JAPAN
    FRIDAY, JUNE 12, 2020

    There have been many times in the long and storied career of a professional wrestler where someone has moved in a manner that could be defined as gingerly. A strenuous workout at the gym, a muscle tear…any number of factors too many to name. Tonight, as he swipes through the infamous sweat stained curtain that has hung for many years at Korakuen Hall, Mike Parr is moving gingerly. He hasn’t just pushed himself a bit too hard on the treadmill, hasn’t tried to lift a few kilos more with the weights or indeed he hasn’t torn any muscles that he knows of. Mike Parr is moving gingerly because he’s got somewhere in between barbed wire puncture wounds open anywhere you can see to piranha bites close to his ass hole. There haven’t been any times in the long and storied career of a professional wrestler where someone has moved gingerly for those reasons.


    Unwelcoming and unpleasant are certainly words that could describe The Prodigy on his best day, and this…this was far from that. He drags his left leg, almost dead weight, as he slouches past the medical team and straight into his rented locker room, where he collapses on the nearest physio bench and tries to catch his breath. The only sound in the room aside from his breathing is that of the feed from the Mercedez-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Whilst doing their best to bridge the gap in time difference, the Death Match was filmed to be fitted into later in the live broadcast. Disturbing him shortly thereafter, medical personnel come flooding in after him and begin to crowd around and tend to any number of the aforementioned wounds that he is currently nursing…although judging by the looks of them, secretly hoping that they leave the piranha issue. He flails his arm weakly in a token gesture to tell them to leave him alone to his own misery, just as the exhaustion, blood loss and trauma start to take effect. Trauma, not only in the physical sense but mentally he is at such a low. He pushed himself far beyond his regular limits and out of his comfort zone to come to a match like this, in this country, all to end up on a medical bed with no silverware to keep him company. His head gets light and he has to lean back on the bench and stare into the lights in the locker room as they become ever more blurry. His head starts to spin as just as he’s about to lose conscious in spite of himself, he has the dulcet tones of Rod Sterling and company on the delayed feed as his last words before he fades away….


    Rod Sterling: “And now, we are going to take a break from in-ring action to bring you an… ’exclusive interview’ hosted by Michelle von Horrowitz.”




    Christian Quinn: “We’ve been told very little about this part of the show, and I for one don’t like the tone of her description of this interview: an unflinching look into the unbalanced mind of FWA’s exploding star.”




    Daniella Kennedy: “Whenever this woman is on the screen, viewer discretion is advised…”
    //*\\*//*\\

    THE RICHMOND COLISEUM
    RICHMOND, VIRGINIA
    FRIDAY, JUNE 26, 2020


    The dulled sound of the crowd reacting to the Valanders and the Undisputed Alliance in the first round of the Elite Tag Team Classic continues in the background of the Richmond Coliseum. The locker room door is shut at the moment, with the only known occupant inside being one Michelle von Horrowitz, X Division Champion.


    ???
    “Son of a bi-“


    The unrecognizable, curt tone of Mike Parr mutters to himself, as he has to move from his current seated position with a good vantage point of the locker room door to more of a crouch. This action, of course, made much more jarring given the context that he has not long landed back from Tokyo where he and Krash nearly killed each other in the name of the North American Championship. With the door over his left hand shoulder, Parr turns to his right and lurking in the distance are his two running mates, Prototype and Protégé.


    Mike Parr
    “So…you both understand your roles here?”


    Parr’s tone is hushed, not least because they are less than hour from releasing footage to the wider FWA audience that indicates that Parr and the New Breed are no more. Far be it from that, they have never been more entwined.


    Sean Hughes
    “We got this motherfu-“


    Prototype
    “SEAN. No need. No need at all. I think he means that we’ve got this, Mike.”


    Mike Parr
    “Talk me through it then, one last time.”


    Sean Hughes
    “You take out Michelle and make sure that nobody has any idea who it is. We play those idiots out there some footage about us not being together and then at the end of your match, we come out and attack you.”


    Mike Parr
    “You know you have to just make it look good, you don’t have to hit hard?”


    Prototype
    “Long time coming…”


    Mike looks quizzically up at Prototype, who in a rare moment for the big man has the hint of a smirk on his face. 2020 really will be the year that nobody expected should Prototype start cracking out one liners. Nonetheless, an awkward pause later and hopefully for Mike’s sake an understanding that they aren’t going to knock his beat up body into next week later, he nods his approval to Sean.


    Mike Parr
    “We get the world to talk boys. We get the world to talk and wonder exactly who attacked Michelle von Horrowitz. Who took out the Queen of the X Division? Who took out the company’s next big thing? The world will be whispering and wondering and there will be a massive gap for someone to step into, to put their hand up and say that I did it. And that….that boys is the moment where you step up and all those eyes are on you both. FWA management want to leave you two out of this tag team tournament, we will get everyone talking about you some other way? FWA want to sing Michelle’s praises while I’m out in Japan killing myself in the name of this company then they can watch as their golden girl gets carted out to irrelevancy on a stretcher. Win win.”


    Protégé and Prototype both nod in agreement whilst Protégé’s eyes tell you exactly how eager he is to get started.


    Mike Parr
    “And then…after the whole world has stopped and is speaking about you two..when the New Breed are the first names on everyone’s lips and the FWA has egg on its face for not only overlooking you but overplaying HER….that’s when I strike. Don’t know when…don’t know why…don’t know how. But I strike. I stand atop everyone’s little pet project after putting the brakes on this ridiculous hype train. I piss on the carcass of everyone’s future main event. When people look at me that night, they aren’t going to see me as the guy that got his flesh torn apart my barbed wire. They aren’t going to see me as the guy who lost one of the biggest matches of his career. They are going to look at me and see the guy who decided to take matters into his own hands and smear Michelle von Horrowitz all over this arena as a reminder to not doubt me or question me. As a reminder to not overlook me. All those whispers about how Michelle is the next big thing in this company, about how I’ve gone from fighting Krash to about to become his teammate like a submissive bit- …. Let’s just say they’ll know what we are all about.”


    The door to the locker room creaks open, as places his fingers over his lips in a shush motion to the New Breed. He adjusts his position once more and peeks around his left hand shoulder as he grasps a lead pipe with his right. Nobody exits.


    Mike Parr
    “It’s go time.”


    Mike waves dismissively at the two to disperse, as he pushes himself to his feet and creeps along the wall until he is at the edge of the locker room door. Slowly…ever so cautiously….he shifts millimeter by millimeter until he catches sight of her. She is facing away from the open door with her back to The Prodigy. Perfect. With speed that is remarkable given his compromised physical condition, he swoops into the locker room with the lead pipe…..


    We cut away from the arena and into a corridor somewhere in the backstage area. There’s a huge amount of commotion and numerous bodies swarming the scene. There’s three officials around a doorway, and behind them we see the general manager of Fight Night, Lord Vincent. There’s a somewhat concerned look on the faces of the referees, but Vincent looks as if he is calm and collected, mulling over possibilities and permutations in his mind. The camera moves closer to the nucleus of the scene, and we see beyond the officials a team of paramedics placing somebody onto a stretcher...


    Christian Quinn: It’s difficult to see exactly what’s going on amongst all of those, people, Rod…



    The camera moves past the officials and into the locker room, first finding a discarded lead pipe that appears to be smeared with blood on the floor. The shot continues to track across the concrete, picking up blood spatters that seem to grow larger as we get closer to their source. Finally, a moment of realization dawns when the camera tracks across the face of the FWA X Division Championship


    Rod Sterling: Oh my… Is that?!


    The camera moves again to the face of Michelle von Horrowitz, passive and unconscious, as she'd rolled over onto the stretcher.


    Christian Quinn: It is, Rod! It's MvH! She has a championship defense later on tonight against Gerald Grayson and Eli Black!


    She is unresponsive on the stretcher, and the camera notes matted blood in her hair. As she's lifted up on the stretcher by the paramedics we begin to hear the sirens of an ambulance in the background.


    //*\\*//*\\

    SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
    FEBRUARY 2021


    You would say the heat is a killer here, although that is probably significantly insensitive given them circumstances in which we all are gathered today. St Anthony Claret Church on the outskirts of the city wasn’t exactly full of the decorum and grandeur one might expect, but if you ask the Pastor he will tell you it was pretty fitting given the celebration of what could have been that we are gathered he today for. One by one, literally as there aren’t a ton of people that are attending, the congregation gather and are brought to silence as a bell tolls. In a manner not dissimilar to ring announcer at an event, the ceremony is about to begin.


    Announcer
    “Ladies and Gentlemen, please be uprising for your host of today’s ceremony. Pastor Michael Parr!”


    The tens of people, none of whom we can really distinguish at the moment although that is probably the point, rise to their feet as out of his chambers emerges Michael Parr, the resident Pastor of this church. The organ starts to play its opening bars, no Adelitas Way I’ll give you that, before the ten person choir rise to their feet and prepare to serenade the gathering.


    Choir
    “Your love, lifting me higher..”


    Pastor Parr has made his way to the pulpit at the front and has raised his arms out and gestured to the gathered crowd to take their seats once more.


    Choir
    “Than I’ve ever been lifted before..”


    Pastor Parr closes his eyes so that the natives, a common trick that he undertakes to outwardly convey emotional. It is an occupational hazard to outwardly convey his true thoughts of not giving one single iota about the majority of which he speaks. They say that the eyes are the window to the soul…nobody wants to be looking down into that dark black hole.


    Choir
    “So keep it it up
    Quench my desire
    And I'll be at your side, forever more
    You know your love (your love keeps lifting me)”


    Pastor Parr’s head turns on a swivel, and locks in on the lead of the choir, not before giving a cheesy buffoonish laugh to the masses whilst he asks them to show a little patience. He shuffles towards the lead hand of the choir with significant urgency.


    Pastor Parr
    “Really? This song?? Shut it down.”


    He speaks in a whisper that is as firm as you could imagine. By the time the Pastor is back at the pulpit, the organ has stopped and the choir have taken their seats. Parr’s forced but relatively convincing grin returns as he finally is able to verbally address the congregation.


    Pastor Parr
    “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me here today as we bid farewell to someone whom we met, but we barely knew. Someone who we can all agree has left her mark despite overstaying her welcome. I’m so pleased that you can join me today to say auf wiedersehen to our adorable little schnitzel, Michelle.”


    A round of applause from the congregation that Pastor Parr encourages soon follows. The fact that they’ve not objected to the blatant German references to someone from Rotterdam should tell you all you need to know about this gathering.


    Pastor Parr
    “Before we get deep into the festivities, and believe me, despite seeing all the downtrodden and somber faces around me, this is a celebration…I would like to take a few moments to speak about the Michelle that I knew…the Michelle that I know when I speak about, you will recognize and laugh or maybe cry as you remember the good times that we shared with her and laughed..at her.”


    Reflecting on the time he lost his North American Championship in Japan, and the weeks to follow where he hatched his plan to attack Michelle, the ‘pastor’ continues.


    Pastor Parr
    “I first met Michelle von Horrowitz at a time in my life where I wasn’t proud of who I was or what I had become. I just wasn’t me, I just wasn’t happy. I was doing things that I’m ashamed to say I started to enjoy in spite of knowing that I was being untrue to myself. Michelle pulled me out of that hole. Michelle reached in and whether she truly knew what she was doing at the time or not, she took the inward looking self-loathing version of me and she got me to learn to love myself again. I’m not afraid to say I was lost, but when I met Michelle….I was found. I remembered who I was, what I was capable of and it’s funny how life works because she…she had forgotten all of that too. Despite pulling me out, she underestimated me. Rest assured, even now, when I sit and about the time that Michelle and I spent together and the interactions that we have had, it brings a smile to my face. Your time with us, Michelle, may be over, but I promise to carry on through my own actions and words and never let there be a moment ahead where people do not remember you. When they look at me…they will think of you…and for that, I thank you.”


    Pastor Parr again bows his head in remembrance, pleased that there was a refrain from explaining that when they look at him they would be thinking of Michelle’s head caved in with a lead pipe. Might’ve been a bit of a downer to the ‘festivities’


    Pastor Parr
    “And so, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to someone who was very close to Michelle. Please welcome Gerald to the front everyone.”


    Faux-applause once again follows as a member of the congregation, presumably Gerald, rises to his feet. The guy in question is definitely around 6 feet tall and 220 pounds, but aside from that and the fact that he is male he bears very little resemblance to one Gerald Grayson. Although, in saying that, it’s probably not all that important right now. Gerald pauses at the floral arrangement below the pulpit, with the arrangement spelling out the word ‘MICHELLE’ in individual letters, and wipes away some tears from his eye.


    Pastor Parr
    “Come on now Gerald, we don’t have all day to sit around and think of the good times.”


    The delivery is again so over the top and positive but it seems that poor old Gerald isn’t in the mood for any form of celebration. He dabs away at his eyes once more, as he climbs the stairs and makes his way to the microphone. Hs eyes are stained red as he stares out at the congregation and he clears his throat with an exaggeration intended to distract your glare from slipping chopped onion back into his pocket.


    Gerald
    “I – err – I – I was a better man with her!”


    His head drops.


    Gerald
    “I loved her. I did everything for her. We had our fights, sure, like any two people that love each other two but in the end…what we accomplished together was the happiest time of my life. We nearly were the best duo in the entire federation. I was the king of the X Division…and she…she was my queen….”


    Pastor Parr navigates his way to within earshot of Gerald but keeps his voice low enough so as not to alert the remaining congregation.


    Pastor Parr
    “Alright, we aren’t paying you by the hour, get on with it.”


    Gerald
    “SHE RUINED MY LIFE“


    The change in velocity and explosion in emotion brought a small genuine shriek for a member of the choir who was not expecting that.


    Gerald
    “Tulip this. Tulip that. I cannot even look at a tulip anymore. She just abandoned me and you know why? Because she’s selfish. We had a good thing going where we were. We were comfortable. Some weeks I would win the argument, some weeks she would win but that’s where we were happy. But she had to go and try and be the hero. She had to go and try to get above her station, she got a taste of what life could be life in the main event with our tag team tournament and she just left me to fend for my own. And now? All I’ve got is this stupid tulip flower arrangement and no tag division or X Division. That stupid selfish bitch has used me and tossed me aside because she only cared about herself and you know what? I’m glad she’s gone. I’m glad she’s no more. I hope SHE ROTS.”


    You could definitely hear a pin drop because you hear his in memoriam pamphlet glide to the floor as he leaves the pulpit. Pastor Parr sheepishly approaches the lectern once more.


    Pastor Parr
    “Brothers. Sisters. Don’t judge Gerald it’s a tough time for those that just don’t get to say to Michelle what they really wanted to say. Each of us….each of us grieves in their own individual way. I suppose it would be remiss of us to sit here and look back at Michelle’s existence through rose tinted glasses…after all…she wasn’t perfect. She may have been portrayed as some sort of anti-hero or person that you root for but she broke young Gerald’s heart without even leaving him a fart in a cup to sniff on when he gets lonely. She is not a good person, sorry, was not a good person. No matter what she may say or what the narrative tells you. Yet, brothers and sisters, a wider point to consider is that no matter how well intentioned that you may be, it doesn’t necessarily make us all good people….alas, time for our eulogy and I believe we have a treat in store. Please, join me at the front brother Sean.”


    Indeed, from the front row of mourners indeed emerges a mellow Sean Hughes.


    Sean Hughes
    “What can I tell you about Michelle that hasn’t already been said? There is no exclamation mark that I can add that will be more impactful that the blood stained across the mat left behind at Desert Storm when Mike beats the tar out of her.”


    Pastor Parr
    “Easy brother Sean, easy now. Don’t you have this eulogy to deliver?”


    The ‘pastor’ has quite the stern look on his face, one which tells Sean all he needs to know in relation to his conduct. If that didn’t do it, the firm grip around the shoulder certainly didn’t.


    Sean Hughes
    “Indeed. This is my tribute to you Michelle.


    M is for the Mouth that I wanted to punch so hard.
    I is for the Ignorance you showed in thinking you were better than lower card.
    C is for the Championship belt that we stole from you
    H is for the Hollow sound when the lead pipe gave you the receipt you were due.
    E is for your Ego which got you into this trouble.
    L is for the second Loss to Mike Parr,that makes it a double.
    L is for the Last time that we’ll ever have to endure your segments and other bits
    E is for the End of Michelle von Horrowitz."




    A quick nod to Pastor Parr, and Sean removes himself from the pulpit, leaving the pastor to deliver his closing sermon.


    Pastor Parr
    “And now, the end is near, and so I’ll face, the final curtain. Classic. But yes, friends, now is the time to gather your partners by the hand and leave this all behind. So go and take whatever lessons you’ve learned from today and be on your way. Take the memory of Michelle and all that she did and use it to guide you as you navigate life’s challenges. Be kind to those that you are kind to you. Be true to who you are. Know…”


    The door to the church slams shut behind the last of the mourners, leaving Pastor Parr alone with his thoughts and Michelle’s floral tributes and picture. As the congregation outside leaves, the bell tolls one more time.


    Pastor Parr
    “Fitting isn’t it Michelle? Even now Bell won’t leave you to me, still clinging on to relevancy.”


    Pastor Parr mock ruefully shakes his head, as he removes his top button and ‘collar’ from his shirt, still staring straight into the in memoriam picture as if he was talking to Michelle herself.


    Pastor Parr
    “I looked up tulips, you know. They say it’s a perennial flower. Might come to you as a surprise that I don’t have any particular penchant for flowers but..someone says something long enough and eventually you just kind of…need to know. So by perennial it would bloom year after year provided they have the right environment to blossom. Well..my tulip, I’m sorry to say that this just isn’t the right environment for you to blossom…it’s mine. The landscape here just isn’t compatible with you so…..as much as it pains me…better to just get it over with, yeah?”


    The Pastor pauses for a second as if expecting a response.


    Pastor Parr
    “Rest well Michelle…rest well knowing that it wasn’t all for nothing. Rest well knowing that your name will forever be etched in history, never to be forgotten. And…try to rest well my tulip, despite the fact that it’s not the ending you wanted but it’s the ending that you’ve got.”


    With that, the Pastor grabs one of the candles on the pulpit and holds it to the bottom of the letter M of the floral design. Parr walks down the aisle as in the background behind him, engulfed in flames, the tulip floral design spelling the word 'MICHELLE' burns.

  8. #8
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    Re: Desert Storm PPV PROMO THREAD

    "Loss"
    As Told By Gerald Grayson


    It was a regular Friday morning. The sun is out. The birds are chirping. Various noises of cars fill the air. For me, it was time to get up from my sleep. I made my way to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. What I saw was a Gerald Grayson I was not familiar with – one that I’ve only seen once or twice before. Dark circles were apparent on my once young face. The creases on various parts of my face were also prevalent more than ever. My hair – unkept. My beard, or well, stubble, doing it’s best to form on my face.

    To say that things haven’t been going my way recently would be an understatement.

    I feel… loss. Like I’m going through the motions of everyday life. While that isn’t the worst thing in life, it still poses a problem.

    Loss. The noun and verb meaning of it is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. However, both ways have affected me but in different ways.

    Nina. Things were going swimmingly well but as time went on, distance played a factor in causing separation between us. The door isn’t closed there yet but for now, I’ll hold that L.

    Family. This one is tough to talk about. But all you need to know is that this hit me like a freight train out of nowhere. It really put things into perspective for me about various things. Hug your loved ones, folks.

    FWA. Whether it be Michelle von Horrowitz, my place on the card, or my X-Division Championship, it’s been an overall loss for me. I have done nothing to regain any of the aforementioned subjects. Sometimes, there are days where I question if I even want to.

    Uncle J.J. JAY! and Konchu Hao. My beloved opponents. You guys have been great. Great in all things that you look to accomplish and more. There aren’t enough good things I can say about the two of you. However... at Desert Storm, you face the most different Gerald Grayson that FWA has ever seen. You face a man that has garnered loss after loss in his personal life and his work life. You face a man with nothing to lose and all to gain at the pay-per-view. Everyone thought Madman’s Mayhem Rules would benefit Konchu and Jay the most. But little does everyone know, I am able to cause my own type of chaos.

    Desert Storm. What a fitting name for a pay-per-view. A storm has come over all aspects of my life. It feels like I am in a desert with no solutions in sight. Nevertheless, I’ll be there at the pay-per-view. Will I be there mentally? Probably not. But I’ll be there physically. But maybe that’s what I need to do. Keep the mental out of it and let my physical take over.

    Folks, it has been a pleasure. Hopefully the next time you see me, I’ll be your new X-Division Champion. If not, just know that I’ll go down swinging – as I always do.

    Tough times don't last, tough people do.

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