“..are you ready yet?!”
The gleeful voice of Herald Sub-Marquis Bentley Tennyson Farthington-Primrose cut through the air like a Tiny Tim song set to full blast. The soft pitter patter of his footsteps running across concrete as the Herald, today dressed in what was an even louder version of his normal garb, more feathers, more bright fabric, tassels, bells and extra belt buckles in places where one might wonder why a belt buckle might be necessary. His face was plastered with a wide, goofy grin while his eyes were glazed over with might be a sugar high.
“Ready.. For what?” Max’s sharp voice barked out from behind two computer screens that appeared to be hastily taped together. Also resting on the desk was the #97red High Octane World Title, one of Max’s hands resting on top of the faceplate like a greedy dragon’s talon.
“For what? For WHAT?!” The Herald replied in his carried with a hint of frustration and disappointment. He scampered up to the desk, his hands slamming down hard as it jolted Max out of his relaxed posture, his blue eye being ripped from the makeshift “Best Computer” the Prime Minister of Maxopotamia had cobbled together out of jealousy of his brother and adopted fathers set up. “For the Renaissance Festival you promised to take me too three weeks ago! You know, the one I’ve been ranting on Twitter about!?”
Incensed eyes and decidedly pouted lips pressed into Max’s field of vision which was admittedly narrow. The Herald thrust an accusing finger toward the HOW World Champion’s pale eye while his other hand aggressively swirled short green, gold and red cape bedazzled with tiny bells that jingled with a delightful jangle. Max’s bewildered expression slowly melted into a sour pool cape envy, one he could never admit too but would silently hold against the Herald for the remainder of their lives.
“First, you’re the one using my twitter so no, I haven’t seen anything about some stupid Ren Faire. Second.. This is the War Games week, I’ve got all this preparation work left to do by studying up on all these outsider elements that Lee brought into save his company.. I’ve got to make sure I keep up with my own training and-AND.. I need you here with me, because it’s your job to be by my side, carrying MY title and dribble whatever it is you do on twitter to keep people from bothering.. Me.”
Max gestures toward himself as he hisses the last word out, the corners of his lips twisting upward slightly as the drinks in the disheartened face of the Herald and his stupid fancy cape. Lowering his head the Herald kicks at the ground slowly as his pouty lip quivers. Max rolls his remaining eye, his attention returning to his two screens which appeared to have MJF articles and her known associates on google search pages. It was rudimentary data but Max had to start somewhere, his long term seclusion meant he had very little understanding or experience with most of the current BA.
“..but you saaaaaid you’d take meeee…” the Herald said in a mewling manner, tears welling up in his eyes as he drapes himself over the side of the desk.
“Enough! Here!” Max snarls in an annoyed voice as he rises from his chair snatching up the HOW World Championship. He slaps the title over the Heralds shoulder and ushers him toward the door. “Take my HOW World Title and stand in the broom closet. You’ll have your phone you, I’ll text you if I need you for anything. Stay in the closet and remain out of sight like a good little Herald while I finish my work and if I get done soon then we can, I guess, go out to your little medieval cosplay group or whatever..”
“Really!?” the Herald beamed brightly, his wild sugar fueled eyes turning up adoringly toward Maximillian.
“Yeah, sure, of course.” the words tumbled over Max’s lips, each assuring promise as frivolous and utterly devoid of value as the last. It didn’t matter to Bentley, only his goal of any value, any words, actions or illicit endeavours that got him closer to the Renaissance Fair was treated with the same level of skepticism of a two year old invested in the Tooth Fairy.
He bounced out of the small back office that Max had claimed at Five Time Academy and jingled down the hall with the #97red title hugged tightly against his chest. Slamming the door Max swirled around back toward the desk; his toothy scowl drying up into a tightlipped frown that was as bitter as burnt garlic. Reaching the chair he plopped down and stared at the two screens once again as he tried to take in all the different names and faces he was having to study up on. To a degree he saw the appeal they must have seen in what they were doing.
For Max it was hard to keep up with all these new faces, Michael and Cecilworth seemed to have more experience, more of a standing rapport than Max had. MJF, Dan Ryan and Eric Dane being the three names that seemed to be spoken at War Council meetings as they represented the central threat. Of those three names Eric Dane was the individual Max was most familiar with but even then that experience was fleeting, in short passing or in exchanges over Twitter. Part of it was his own self centered nature, part of it was that Max just often forgot there was a worth outside of High Octane TV.
“Valerian’s Garden.. Hmph..” Max grunted as he scratched his chin as he stared down at the faces smattered across the screens. Of all his opponents MJF appeared to have the most numerous connections followed closely by Eric Dane. Some names had merit, connections to figures that could have been dangerous to Max however none of them outside of Flair herself seemed to be a threat to him.
The cellphone on his desk let out a gentle buzz as it vibrated next to his keyboard, the face of it lighting up with the names of Fartharder and Shitemoore, his threat assessment lawyers. He had been expecting to hear from them with the War Games around the corner and was not looking forward to what was going to be a long, unappealing three hour meeting. His fingers entangled with phone like a spider wrapping up a fly before he let out a sigh, answering his phone.
“..alright, let’s talk about Ms. Flair.”
“It’s been.. Two days, six hours and… like fifteen.. No wait, sixteen minutes since I was locked down here in this dungeon. Conditions are amiable enough, reminds me of Uncle Lester Mullust Farthington’s basement of Consensual Fun Times, at least from the crime scene photos I got to pose in. No windows, a single chair and a small table. A single light hangs above my head offering a tinted illumination of the otherwise bare empty space I have been so unceremoniously dumped in. This is the most authentic Renaissance Faire I have ever been too!”
Sub-Marquis Bentley stared up at the flickering light high above his head with a thoughtful expression on his face.
“The Slow and Late Maximillian Kael, First of his Name, Long May He Maim, has yet to arrive to rescue me or pay my ransom..” he says as he looks over at the HOW World Title resting on the small cot that he was expected to sleep on. “..otherwise I’d be free. He must have gotten busy.. Or something.”
The Herald lets out a disgruntled huff and turns toward the title swirling his jingling half cape in dramatic fashion. Scooping up the slightly dirty HOW World Title up over his shoulder he scans the room with a skeptical set of eyes.
“I don’t know about you, High Octane Bestie, but this is starting to look bad. I’ve tried to ring someone for a clue or a time limit on this escape room but the staff has been incredibly rude! Luckily they have been providing two square meals and a package of pop tarts every day.” Bentley says casually to the title slung over his shoulder. His brow furrows as Bentley appears stares down at the #97red strap before shaking his head from side to side with great vigor. “No! No, Bestie, there is no way in heck the Menemonistic and Magnanimous Maximillian Kael, FohN, LMHM, would forget about his Herald AND several thousand dollars worth of precious metal, dyed leather and diamonds!”
He padded the title with a reassuring slap and looked back up at the walls, a lot of gritty determination rippling over his pale face.
“I hope they let me take a shower today, my face feels alive France after the proletariats took over.” He spoke the last line as Cousin Cecilworth might have diddled out while shaking his cap to add additional annoyance. He looked back down toward the title shrugging his shoulders. “It’s called Farthington Humor, because we’re rich and detached from the common, vulgar parts of society. A social commentary on the weight that our family is put under in order to keep those kinds of jokes alive and relevant. Could you imagine a world where a joke like that wouldn’t be funny? You can’t, because you’re just an inanimate object I’ve started an unhealthy relationship with but I mean, try to imagine you’re me having to imagine that. I just can’t. I don’t even want too and honestly, at this point neither should you.”
The matter seemed settled as Bentley pushed his chin defiantly forward.
The sound of the lock turning over at the door to his dungeon cell as well as the sounds of chains clattering. Muffled male voices seemed to argue behind the door before the sounds of singular set of angry footsteps trailed into the distance. The Heralds eyes were trained on the door and braced himself. He only had food delivered and it was still at least three hours before his evening feeding. His slight form curled up behind the HOW World Title as best he could manage as he heard the bolt click and the door creek open.
In the shadowy threshold a slender frame appeared, his face familiar to Sutler causing the young Herald to slowly slip from behind the HOW World Title, as a snail might ooze from their shell.
“..Oh Hi! I wondered what hap-”
A hard boot kisses the Sub-Marquis’s chin sending bright stars followed by a deep darkness through the young boys eyes. The Herald’s body slumps to the ground landing in a heap on the floor, the HOW World Title sliding across the hard concrete floor. The shadowy figure steps over Heralds body and saunters toward the HOW World Championship, kneeling on the ground next to it.
“..you know I have.. I frankly have too many connections to you. You have ruined my life.. So many times? Not just you though.. You.. the ICON Title.. The LSD Championship.. This whole fucking company.. This WHOLE fucking family. I’ve tried to stay out of it, I’ve tried to do whatever it took just to survive being a part of.. All of this. But now.. Now I’m taking control.”
The figure spits on the title before standing up into the light. A young, pale faced young man in this 18th year of life. His face is already hardened by life, his features sharp and set. His eyes are defiant, a kind of swirling grey storm inherited from his real father. Black hair hangs down half obscuring his face. He’s handsome in a dark and brooding sort of way, the dark lines under his eyes could be real or more likely they are a young mans first foray into self applied makeup.
“You just got here but me? I’ve been stuck with Max.. with the Kael’s.. With High Octane Wrestling for nearly a decade. I’m done with it.. I’m going to end HOW and Max.. because I’m Sutler Kael. Because I’m Sutler Reynolds-Kael.. I’m the progeny of Shane Reynolds, the adopted son of Maximillian Kael, trained by Michael Lee Best. I’m a Reynolds with the cruelty of the Kael’s and the cunning of the Bests.. Herald.. And I’m going to make sure they all fucking burn.”
Sutler Reynolds-Kael sent another stiff kick into the ribs of the Herald who only managed to muster a wheezy gasp followed by a few wet sobs.
He looked down at the broken twit, his hand touching his nose that Max had broken a few months earlier. Taking in what he had down he did something he hadn’t done since Max Kael had returned to HOW.
The call ended between Max and his two lawyers, Fartharder and Shitemoore, had finally ended after going on for nearly four hours, a full hour longer than anticipated. Max wasn’t really sure if he knew any more that could benefit him against her but she had talent and an enormous base of friends who were all very capable on their own. A running theme he had discovered between all of the current BA members, success, both in and outside the ring, came very easily. Or at least very quickly.
In their own insulated environments they were unstoppable, legends and emblems of the greatness of other entities, their pantheon unknown to Max, their myths and legends more or less lost to him. That was why these meetings had become so important, without them he was lost upon the depth and range of their threat. And they were threatening. Thankfully they were in HOW and even the BA under Lee’s careful eye can become caught up in the Federations cruel fates. It was different here… or at least it used to be. Max could remember wh-
Max’s train of thought was sent spiraling off track where it crashed and burned killing all onboard. From the door that had been violently kicked open the gold and red flash of GREAT GOOGLEY MOOGLY appeared, face red as a tomato from behind his golden sunglasses and great golden turban. Clenched between his teeth was a large cigar with a bright red cherry smoking away.
“Maxy, baby, I’ve been trying to contact you for hours, baby, HOURS!”
The shock slowly started to wear off as Max stared at the loud mouthed manager Michael Best had selected for him during his time in OCW. He had thought one of the jobs he had retained his Herald and had thought that GGO had forgotten about him. He had clearly been wrong about both.
“Hours? Cool. Listen, I have a guy now who talks to everyone, you might know him he’s the Sub-Maquis Bentley Tenderson Farthington Fermgarder or something-something, he does it way better than I do, I’ve really got ALOT of stuff to do, here I think he’s in the broom closet, let me…”
Before Max can rise from his chair Googley Moogly pulls the cigar from between his lips and puffs a massive cloud of smoke into Max’s chest.
“Dat’s why I’m here, Baby, dats why I’m heeeeere! You so tied up in dis War Game beezinuss I bet you didn’t even realize Bentley was missing, didja?”
Great Googley Moogly grunted at Max while shaking his head. The Prime Minister of Maxopotamia sneers slightly before looking around the room with a dejected expression.
“He’s over in the broom closet, that’s where I sent him a few hours ago! Come on, I’ll show you!” Max snarls as he slips from behind his desk, shoving past Great Googley Moogly and into the hall. With solid, confident steps Max moves to the door of the broom closet and hurls it open. To reveal the definition of No Herald. His lips twitch as his metal teeth become visible, his eye widening in horror. Shoving his head into the closet Max frantically looks in all directions as panic started to rise in his chest.
“He been kidnapped almost three hours ago, Maxy-baby!” Great Googley Moogly bellowed from behind Max, shuffling forward as he struggled to keep his turban on straight.”They done took the Herald and, from what I’m told, you’re big golden HOW World Champion-shun-Ship!.. And what with you having ta march out at War Games wit out.. Probably will keel the bizznuss, so baby, now that I say dat outloud.. Maybe if you want to kill HOW all you gotta do is.. Nothing..”
Max’s expression doesn’t brighten, in fact it grows darker, his lower lip drooping down as his frown appeared heavier and heavier by the second.
“No.. That’s not Lee. Lee isn’t that dumb.. He’ll turn it to his advantage. He’d just announce a new title to be given to the winner of the War Games match, a new Title for a final Era. He makes sure I don’t make it out of that match and more then that he’ll stack even deeper odds against Mike. No.. no this isn’t something that benefits me. This? This only strengthens Lee’s cause..”
Pushing himself away from the doorway as the panic starts to fill his chest again, like a campfire that you know will end up destroying a nearby town once the wind picks up. His eye stares off into the distance wandering out into the gym desperately searching for the Herald. A large part of him in denial that both the Herald and the World Title had disappeared from Five Time Academy.
As he stumbled forward his blue eye caught the appearance of someone familiar..
– To be Continued.