Posted by Christopher America
Long Beach, CA
“I learned my lesson from War Games.”
An ominous statement brings us smack dab inside the Eternal Circle’s complex, where we see a group of followers gathered around their head disciple, who stands upon a makeshift stage speaking at a podium. Behind him is a setup that involves a large television screen, playing footage from the War Games event on loop as a reminder of Xander’s struggle and ultimate failure as he continues to speak in a scornful tone.
“I took a chance trying to believe in the cause of the Local Grappers, even went so far as to make a gamble that they would aid in bringing my vision to reality…and I got burned in the process by false hopes and promises. But, at least I know she’s here again.”
On the screen, the footage is replaced with that of the deity that Xander and his group worships, showing a classical painting of the goddess Eris. It brings a smile to Xander’s face as he continues.
“I felt a strange sense of calm after leaving that cage last month, a sense of relief. Why? Because I could see her smiling. She was pleased…and pleasing my goddess is everything.”
The worshipers in attendance respond in agreement, and the footage from War Games returns to the screen as Xander resumes.
“Now I can move on from silly alliances of convenience, I can pivot from the embarrassment of being eliminated early in War Games and focus my attention on myself, and my cause.”
This last phrase forces Xander to pause and reflect, letting out a slight chuckle.
“Let me repeat that…my cause. Not someone else’s. I will no longer worry about the opinion of people who don’t matter, least of all the 214. Hell, there is no 214 anymore. The sooner everyone gets that through their heads, the sooner we can move on with our lives.”
With this, the screen cuts to a still image of Xander’s main focus, the man of the hour himself…Darin Zion.
“I’m looking at you, Darin Zion. You beat three men from Best Alliance all on your own, and by all accounts you should’ve been a shoe-in for the Local Grapplers…but Lindsay clearly didn’t see things that way. No, she came to me looking for the last man on Team 214, and that somehow upset the balance because suddenly we found ourselves going nine-on-nine. That gave Troy no choice but to pick you as a Wild Card. Doesn’t that bother you, just a little?”
The smirk that has been on Xander’s face fades away, replaced with a snarl.
“Because it sure as hell bothers me, the more I think about it. I had my big moment in front of the whole world, sure, but for all intents and purposes I did not have to be in that match. If Troy had just picked you from the outset, I could’ve been left alone to do as I well please…instead, I was given false hope of seeing my mission accomplished through the efforts of a team that could barely stay together during this match…and now look at them.”
The screen shows some more footage of War Games before cutting to images and video of the Local Grapplers, including what went down at Refueled LXV.
“Lindsey was so ashamed of what happened that she asked for her release. Dan Ryan was beaten down to the point of being injured…and then he got fired. Ray McAvay rode off into the sunset, presumably to enjoy retirement and avoid this embarrassment. That is, by my count, three of the pillars of the 214 demolished in one fell swoop…and judging by the state of Teddy, Zeb, and Conor by the end of Refueled last week, I’d say that the whole structure finally came crumbling down.”
The thought of what has become of this group slowly but surely brings a smile back to the face of the head disciple as he continues.
“So where does this leave you, Mr. Rally Zion? The man who tried his best to boost morale in spite of everything, the man who thought that a fluke win over the Best Alliance meant you could help pull off a miracle at War Games. I won’t give you grief for that, Zion, because I thought my wins over Harrison and Solex gave me an edge too. The difference between us, Darin, is that I recognize my biggest weakness going into that match…I put too much faith in people that are untrustworthy.”
With that, the head disciple motions for a couple of his followers to step forward, each holding a side of a large trash bin. They set the bin down, and we notice its contents: a large pile of Local Grapplers 214 t-shirts, much like the one Xander wore when he declared his allegiance to the team before War Games.
“Like I said, I learned my lesson. These people burned me, and I can only think of one punishment befitting of this sin. I will take my frustrations out upon those who remain, one by one, until I have had my revenge…and it all starts with you, Darin Zion.”
Xander motions again, and one of his disciples hands him a can of lighter fluid and a large utility lighter. Xander opens the can, pouring the lighter fluid into the bin with a smirk on his face once again as the screen now shows flames engulfing the image of Darin Zion.
“My goddess demands a burnt sacrifice as punishment for my sins, so I present to her the legacy of the Local Grapplers. Everything they stood for will be burned to a crisp, leaving only ashes behind…and my goddess will smile upon me. You are the first match to set this sacrifice ablaze, Darin Zion, and you will burn.”
With that sentence, Xander flickers on the lighter, drawing it toward the pile of shirts in the bin. After a brief moment, the pile catches fire, burning slowly but surely as Xander’s smirk turns into a full-on grin as the screen behind him shuts off.
“Hail Eris, hail Discordia.”
His fellow disciples repeat this refrain, leaving us to watch the fire burn bigger and brighter before we fade to black.