Arkham, Massachusetts was a shitty little hamlet tucked in the Miskatonic Valley named for the river that split the town in two. It was both easily forgettable and exceedingly passable with most people avoiding the singular exit off the highway.
Once upon a time Arkham had been a booming, wealthy college town with Miskatonic University as it’s crown jewel. Unfortunately as the dark corners of the World were illuminated and the shadowy wonders exposed by the light of Science and Christianity people lost interest in the University’s unique classes. As the school declined so did the town, a slow, festering death.
The old boutiques that lined main street and sold curios of questionable providence had closed their doors leaving behind empty windows like empty skulls. A single grocery market served the entire town and was staffed with a collection of teenagers and grumpy senior citizens that went throughout their lives in a hazy dream. There were two gas stations on either side of the town each ran by one of two identical twins that held a deep hatred for each other.
This had been the home of Maximillian Wilhelm Kael, a fitting place for such a man to hail from. The Kael Family had been a fixture in the history of Arkham since before the founding of America, when Arkham was little more than a couple of farmhouses. Sir Augustus von Kael was the first of the Family to settle these lands; he was fleeing some scandal in Europe. Von Kael claimed a several acre plot of land where he would set the foundations of the Kael Family Estate.
This cursed plot of land proved difficult to keep as the Family Estate had been burnt down and rebuilt no less than six times over the last 350. Three of those had been in the last ten years thanks to the poor custodial efforts of Sutler’s father, Maximilian Wilhelm Kael.
Now it was being rebuilt once again and once again the Kael Family were putting down the roots.. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, well it was the Kael Family and.. Well.. ya know.
This is where Sutler had been the last several weeks, though rumors of a drug bender and a trip to Europe for all the sex had circulated, by Sutler. The boy didn’t have as much in common with his Uncle Mike as you’d expect but he didn’t mind people thinking otherwise. Mina Starr-Kael and the rest of the Family had joined Sutler at the homestead where hands were eager to tear down the modern monstrosity that Elenore Kael had envisioned. Instead it would be replaced with the dark towering spires of a Victorian style mansion.
Like all things in Arkham no matter how new the lumber was or how fresh the paint everything seemed drab. It was like the Earth itself drank in the color and vibrancy leaving behind a creeping dullness.
It felt like home.
“We’re going to do what Max never could, Sutler.” Mina’s cigarette stained voice hissed into Sutler’s ear as he stared out over Arkham from the hill the Kael Estate sat on.
“I know we are.” Sutler replied, his eyes looking down at the World Title he had secured around his waist. “..ever notice how the other houses look like a graveyard just stretching toward the horizon?”
His eyes left the World Title to look at the green eyed monster who he was surprised to find was not smoking. Still the lingering stench of menthols hung around her like a death cloud causing the Son of Scions to wrinkle his nose in disgust.
“You know I never took the time to really pay attention,” the reborn Minister chortled, her left eye flickering red for a moment. “It’s true, in a way, all these homes have seen so much death in them.. Heh-heh..”
“I understand why you want to rebuild all of this and Arkham is a pleasant town in.. in the right light I guess but shouldn’t we be focused in Chicago? We have the Best Arena there, Six Time Academy now that Mike is quasi-retired offers all the training I need, this seems.. I don’t know, like your John Sektor idea, you know, living in the past?”
A growling laugh burst out of Mina’s throat, it was deeper and louder than Sutler though her slender frame could produce. He hated when people laughed at him like he was an idiot and he felt that flash of anger
“Shut up.” The World Champion snarled back at Mina, his fights tightening as his knuckles turned white.
Mina didn’t heed Sutler as the laughing got louder, her eye flickering red once again as she pointed a thin finger out toward him. The condescension was palpable as Sutler’s jaw tightened as he stared at the smaller woman as though he couldn’t believe her behavior.
He didn’t even realize it until his hands had wrapped around her throat, the fingers tightening around the pale, cold flesh. Mina’s eyes widened but not with fear, they were alive with excitement as she choked and sputtered beneath his grasp. She didn’t fight back, her arms going limp at her side as her lips parted into a toothy smile. The pale flesh turned red then began to go purple.
“SHUT. UP. SHUT UP!” he roared into her face, spittle flying from his mouth and landing on her face. Her legs buckled and the two fell to the grass as the Son of Scions felt the life slowly drain from her. Even still, through it all she managed to choke out a disgusting, wet laugh. A torrent of phlegm and blood splattered across her lips and dribbled down her chin.
He could feel her hot blood on his fingers as it trickled over his hands. The beating of her heart began to slow and something wild and angry fed on it, howled for him to finish the job, to break her windpipe, crush her larynx, choke the last drops of life out of her!
Sutler blinked, the realization of what he was doing flooding into his mind. He was about to murder someone who apparently had no concerns about dying, in fact she almost looked like she was enjoying it.
That’s kind of fucked up.
He immediately removed his hands and recoiled as Mina gasped, choked and gagged on the lawn of the Kael Estate in the view of all those tombstone-like homes. Scrambling back up to his feet, Sutler looked down at his hands, shaking, the rage burnt away and replaced with fear.
“..Koff..KAFF.. heh-h-KOFF.. No..” she wheezed out, a slender hand holding her throat as that horrible smile stretched even wider across her lips. More blood was coughed up and hacked onto the grass of the Kael Estate which, to Sutler, seemed to vanish into the dark soil much faster than should have been possible. “..you’re growing up..heh-heh..”
Turning away from her, Sutler’s hands instinctively reached for his World Title..HIS World Championship, the one he had earned on his own.. The one Sutler Reynolds-Kael had won, not some ghost, not Mina Starr-Kael or MAXKAELJR.
Sutler Reynolds-Kael… right?
Mina managed to claw herself up to her feet, a slender hand reaching into her pocket as she retrieved a cigarette from the Minister’s silver cigarette case. With a spark of her lighter Mina sucked the cancer stick down, the smoke opening up her throat and lungs ironically allowing her to breathe more freely. The coughing stopped though her voice was still thin and fragile.
“Come on, Sutler..” She choked out. “I think it’s time to take your place in the Kael Family proper..”
“How much longer?”
The frustration and impatience was evidence in the World Champion’s voice as he readjusted the #97Red Strap that glittered with gold and jewels over his shoulder. From the shadows of the darkened room the low red glow was visible before it flickered and vanished. A plume of smoke belched from the darkness and swirled around Sutler Reynolds-Kael causing him to cough.
Through the shadows swam the shark that was Mina Starr-Kael, her vibrant red hair a stark contrast to her pale face while wild green eyes peered at Sutler with a feral quality he had only known in one other person.
“To be immortalized in oil paint upon a canvas, Darling?” Mina chortled as she drew the cigarette back up to her lips pulling a long drag. “Your portrait will allow you to finally take your place in the great Hall of Kaels, how can one put a timetable on that?”
As she spoke two jets of smoke were fired from her nose where it coiled at her waist and lingered in the air like a sickly cloud. She tilted her head toward the far side of the room where it’s only source of light glared at the World Champion, completely obscuring the painter and their workstation. Sutler wasn’t even sure there was someone behind that hateful spotlight that had been pointed at him for what seemed like an eternity.
“Can’t they just take a reference picture!?” the World Champion snapped, his picture perfect smile fracturing.
“Come now, Darling, there is a certain charm to the traditional ways. Besides, he’s nearly done and I have to say it is a masterpiece.” the red headed woman hissed through clenched teeth before offering the chef’s kiss. A bruise had started to form around her neck and Sutler could make out his finger along her neck.
The Son of Scions let out an audible sigh before he turned his head again flashing his pearly white smile. Mina’s phone buzzed in her pocket distracting her for a moment as she fished it out. A text message flashes across the screen as her green eyes lit up with the kind of excitement he had seen when he was choking her.
“Mmm.. Lee is still putting in offers for you to join the Best Alliance. He wants an answer now.”
The young Champion’s face turned into a grimace once again at the mentioning of his Grandfather, Lee Best. Sutler knew what happened when you joined the Best Alliance, he understood the game. It always seemed like fun and games at the start, a huge pay raise, access to areas of the Best Arena off limits to most people and, of course, Lee Best stacking the deck against his would-be opponents.
It was great.. So long as you could stay a winner.
Failure meant at some point you were likely going to lose your eye.
“I.. haven’t decided yet.” Sutler muttered as he forced a smile back on his face for the painter.
“No, Darling, you’ve decided you’re too much of a coward to say it out loud.” Mina quickly retorted taking another drag from her cigarette. “I know you’ve decided because it’s the same decision I would have made. The same one all of us would have.”
She turned away from him, tossing the cigarette on the ground and crushing the remaining embers beneath her stilettos. The Son of Scions eyes darted in her direction though he was careful not to break his pose.
“Oh is that so? Why not tell me what I’ve decided then?” Sutler managed to say through a clenched grin, the tone of his voice clearly annoyed by Mina’s aloft attitude.
“The answer is no, the Best Alliance is a tool, a weapon of Lee’s and Lee’s alone. You know this Best of all, pun intended. So, Darling, you do what your Father did when he was his smartest, you keep your distance from the Best Alliance but you don’t go throwing away a working relationship with them. I’ll speak to Lee on your behalf at the next Refueled and we’ll..” She turned, a green eye peering over her shoulder at Sutler while her pale face wrinkled with a smirk. “..let him know where we stand.”
The World Champion wasn’t overly convinced by the woman’s words but better than him. Lee was an overbearing, overly emotional, likely very psychotic man who liked getting his way. Maybe he’d deal with Mina Starr-Kael for Sutler and brush the decidedly disturbed woman from his life with the Fourth Wahl.
“Fine, do what you want.” the youngest Champion in HOW’s history muttered with a hint of smugness.
There was another buzz from Mina’s phone as she drew a second cigarette from a silver case.. There was a long silence as she read the message before a cackle burst unexpectedly from Mina jolting Sutler.
“What’s so funny?” the Boy asked the reborn Minister.
“I know who you’re defending against next show, Darling.” Mina said with a hint of sadistic glee.
It should be of no surprise that Clay Byrd would be the man who found himself facing me for the World Title, after all failing to peel the LSD Championship of Teddy Palmer twice in HOW certainly qualifies you for the World Title.
I mean usually this is Darin Zion or Scott Stevens’ job but I guess Clay Byrd is the next best thing. With Dan Ryan there was the understated intimidation of an animated pudding man poured into a Texas sized pair of black depends topped with some Terminator sunglasses you could really fear but with Clay Byrd? It kinda sucks cause I really like Clay Byrd.
It’s a shame Lee is making me murder this beautiful boy.
So this goes out to you, Clay Bryd, you big, wonderful wrecking monster of a Texan, I don’t want to fight you!
Don’t get excited, it’s not about fear; No, my large friend, I want to save you from that humiliation and career ending injury. I know what happens to people who stay in the Best Alliance, Clay, and it never ends well. No one has ever stayed in the Best Alliance without having something horrific happen to them when Lee grew tired of them. I don’t want that for you, Byrdie, I just plain want YOU.
Let’s be very honest with each other right now you’re on pretty thin ice with the BA, Big Shoots. Your trouble isn’t your physicality, it’s your mindset, the people you surround yourself with. The Kael Family is built upon a unique set of values I think you could greatly benefit from. What are you getting from my Grandfather’s Best Alliance that you couldn’t get more from the Kael Family? If you’re going to be an evil goon, why not be one with the Kael Family? Gosh, just imagine how much more you could at my side than Lee’s? You’re living in a God damn R.V., Big Bad Broskidoodle, we CAN do better.
Now..I’ve seen that hunger in your eyes so I suspect you’ve got it in your head you can win this, bless. Clay let’s get real for a second, like, super cereal. Not that long ago there was a match called War Games and in that match I survived against the very best Team *EditNoLongerEmployed/Edit*, including defeating the undefeated Teddy Palmer. I did it on my first try becoming the youngest High Octane Wrestling World Champion in history. We both know where you ended your night.
Your time isn’t now, Big Shooter, but it could be some time in the future at my side.
I made Conor Fuse this offer, if you might recall since you’re mister Due Diligence when it comes to researching your opponents. He turned me down and then I knocked his ass out of War Games, I was the Baby Faced Assassin who kept his word. Again, I keep saying this but we both know where this ends for you if you decide to not lay down for me.
You can be such a better class of henchman, Clay, hell we can even call you Kael Byrd, it’s a fit as pure as Prom Night Pregnancy. Damn it Clay, you could make it as far as management! We could be so beautiful together, Byrdie, and with us watching your back we can ensure that Lee Best and the rest of the Best Alliance just.. Keep their cool, you know? My Grand dad isn’t an idiot, he won’t be happy but he also wants ratings. He wants the World Title in the Best Alliance, sure, but he’d rather it be me than the likes of Fuse or Palmer.
So I’m in a giving mood so you’ve got twenty four hours to think about it, I’ll consider a non-answer to be a No.
I hope that’s not the case because after that we’ll be all out of options and you know what that means?
RIP Clay Byrd, miss ya big guy, gone but not forgotten.