How we think the fight will go
John Carter, warlord of Mars and prince consort to the beautiful Dejah Thoris, thundered across the Martian plain, pushing his eight-legged thoat ever faster. He exulted in these moments of pure freedom. They reminded him of the old frontier, the Wild West. After the war, Carter had pushed west in search of gold, and more importantly, away from the civilian life that never suited him. He felt truly alive now, whooping an old Apache war cry as he raced toward battle.
His enemy was a single man, a stranger named Severian. The Red Martians had told Carter that they thought this Severian was an Earthling, but no one was certain. The man never removed his mask. He had simply showed up one day outside the gates and demanded to face Carter in combat.
Carter, bored since his people had forged a peace with the Green Martians, had agreed to meet the man just south of the large canal outside of the city. The idea of a duel appealed to Carter. He had fought a few in the old days. At least he thought he had. His memory was unreliable. For one thing, he couldn’t remember ever being any younger than he was now. Sometimes he suspected that the memories he did have were borrowed from someone else. Then there were the great, black stretches of missing time—but never mind all of that.
He could see the man before him, his pale skin contrasting with the red of the Martian soil. A bundle lay at his feet. The fool had not even drawn his sword.
Carter dismounted in a graceful motion, bounding to the ground with his sword in hand. He called out to the man, eager to begin the duel.
“Stranger, if you mean to do me violence, I suggest you pull that sword.”
The masked stranger neither moved nor spoke.
“I won’t fight an unarmed man, even a fool like yourself. Now make up your mind before I tire of this game and head back home.”
“There will be no battle, Carter, because you are already dead.” The man stepped behind the bundle at his feet.
Carter felt a cold chill creep down his spine. He wasn’t quite sure why.
“I’ve killed the only thing you cared about. As even a mighty fortress must fall without a foundation, you too will succumb to despair. You will not be long for this world.”
The man nudged the bundle forward, the blanket around it unraveling as it the object rolled toward Carter.
“Your Dejah Thoris died bravely, if it is of any comfort to you.”
Carter tried to force himself to look down, afraid of what he would see.
“It was a simple matter to arrange for her abduction, and simpler matter yet to deliver her to the void. I worked upon her for hours, but as you’ll see, there’s hardly a mark upon her. Such is the skill of a master torturer.”
It was true. Dejah Thoris, the love of his life, was dead. Her lifeless body lay at his feet. The man was right: he had no reason to live anymore. He thought about begging the stranger for death, but he doubted he would deliver such a mercy. There was only one thing to do.
Carter threw himself on his blade, seeking in oblivion the only respite he could find.
Little could he have known that Dejah Thoris yet lived. She had been slipped a poisonous—yet not lethal—draught by a treacherous servant, supplied by Severian. She woke hours later, cold and alone in the Martian night, with only the body of the man she loved for company.
Somewhere, Severian laughed.
Predicted Winner: Severian
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, MARCH 10TH, 2011, AT 5 PM, ET
John Carter of Mars image courtesy of Frank Frazetta. Severian image courtesy of Don Maitz.