How we think the fight will go
How Harry Connolly, creator of Ray Lilly, thinks the fight will go
The arena appeared to be some sort of gladiatorial ring. The stone benches all around were empty of people, and the sand under his feet was unbloodied. Perhaps his battle was to be first?
Anasûrimbor Kellhus looked across at the man he was supposed to battle. His clothes were modest but of very fine cloth, as though he was a manual laborer in an impossibly wealthy society. There was magic about him, too, but it was difficult to determine its exact nature. But his posture betrayed a remarkable lack of discipline as well as a certain… reluctance?
“My name is Anasûrimbor Kellhus.” If the fellow really was reluctant to take on the task before him, knowing the name of his enemy would only increase that reluctance. As might a touch of kindness. “Welcome.”
The man nodded. “Callous, huh? Okay. Nice outfit. I’m Ray.” He looked around. “So, do you know what we’re doing here? Because this shit does not look good.”
That was interesting. “Has no one told you why we are here?”
His expression soured. “Nobody tells me a damn thing.”
“I am Aspect-Emperor of the Three Seas, vanquisher of the No-God, master of the Gnosis, summoner of–” The man’s head snapped around. The word summoner had changed his body language entirely. “–demons from Outside. And I am your foe.”
The man no longer looked like a laborer. He leaned forward now, his gaze focussed and intent. His body language made it clear: “Ray” had revealed himself to be a back alley thug. “Summoning, huh? Guess what, Callous? I just figured out why they put you in here with me.”
Ray turned his hand over to reveal a piece of paper covered in some sort of transparent lacquer. Kellhus could sense the magic in it, although again it seemed different from any he’d previously encountered. As the thug started his forward charge, he flicked his wrist, flinging the paper away to the side.
The poor fool. Kellhus spoke a Cant, summoning the power of the Gnosis through his utteral and inutteral, and a wave of flame flowed away from him. It rose high, melting the sand between them and crested over his opponent.
But it didn’t touch him. Somehow the magic surrounding him had protected him in a way Kellhus had never seen. It was almost as though the universe itself bent away from him so the killing fire could not touch him.
Kellhus spoke again, then again, sending wave after wave of fire at him, and each time he could feel the man’s impenetrable defense crumble, only to be replaced by another. It was like kicking down doors in a long hallway–he knew he would reach the end at some point, but could he do it soon enough?
The lacquered paper suddenly appeared beside him, flying toward his left flank with the speed of a diving sparrow. His Dûnyain training prevented any delay in his response; he spoke another Cant to summon a shearing force that struck the flying paper on the side, deflecting it away.
He turned back, sending another wave of fire outward, but it was too late. Ray had closed the distance between them, and the flames curling over his body, futile in its attempt to touch him, was burning hot on Kellhus’s own flesh.
Kellhus side-stepped the man’s charge, but Ray swung outward, striking Kellhus hard just below his right eye. Kellhus’s own hand fell to the hilt of Enshoya.
As stars flickered in Kellhus’s vision, he could not suppress his surprised reaction, not this time. The moment this back alley thug had touched him, Kellhus knew he was not really a man at all. Not only did the universe itself bend around him, but his flesh wasn’t actually flesh at all. What, exactly, was he facing? In all his years of training and careful observation, he had never misread anyone as badly as this man.
Kellhus’s sword was already in his hand, already swinging downward in a killing stroke that would sever a normal man’s head and arm. Ray raised his left arm and met the blade with back of his wrist.
And blocked it. The sword could no more slice through this man’s not-flesh than a stalk of wheat could split a blacksmith’s anvil.
Ray held up his hand and, to Kellhus’s shock, the lacquered piece of paper flew through Kellhus’s own chest to him. The thug caught it like a master taking hold of an obedient pet.
Kellhus began to fall backward, suddenly struck weak. Ray slashed his sheet of paper at Enshoya and, with the paper’s edge, cut the blade in two.
The end of his sword fell to the sand just as Kellhus dropped to one knee. The sheet of paper had been sharp enough to cut metal, and it had passed through his chest. Through his heart!
“I’m sorry,” Kellhus blurted out. It took him a moment to understand, but the paper had not killed him. It had diminished him somehow. His resolve, determination, his very will to survive had been deflated, leaving him full of nothing but remorse toward this man he hated. The compulsion to offer reparation was unbearable.
No. No, he could not allow it. He was Anasûrimbor Kellhus, Aspect-Emperor. He had mastered the Gnosis. He was the epitome of self-control. He could not allow his end to come this way.
“Yeah yeah,” the thug said. “Every asshole is sorry once payback comes around.” From the pocket of his jacket, he removed a stack of papers bound together by a spiral of cheap steel wire. “Damn, Callous. Look how many you wasted. Do you realize what a pain it is to–”
Calling on his training and intellect to guide his actions, not his traitorous emotions, Kellhus swung the broken hilt of his sword at the spiral-bound paper. The hands-width of Enshoya’s blade still remaining struck the pages on the flat and knocked them to the sand.
Kellhus spoke the Cant for fire once again. The flames were so hot he felt his own skin blister immediately, but the thug was no longer protected by his bend in the universe. The flames bit deep into his not-flesh, burning down into him.
He dropped–collapsed?–onto the ground. His hand landed on the spiral pages and suddenly the flames were snuffed out in an instant.
But the man himself was destroyed. He had been burned almost down to the bone, His eyes were charred sockets, his bared teeth were blackened, and many had exploded like kernels of corn. His scorched back was split in several places as his blood blasted through him as steam. Kellhus had destroyed him.
Then Ray turned around and punched Kellhus in the throat.
His windpipe crushed, Kellhus fell back onto the ground. Part of his mind knew that he’d received a killing blow, but could he last longer than his opponent? If Ray succumbed to his injuries first, Kellhus would be permitted to survive one more day, wouldn’t he?
The nightmarish thing the street thug had become scrambled onto him, snatching the remains of Enshoya from his hand. Kellhus battered frantically at him, but his lack of air and the influence of the enchanted paper stole his vitality. Still, he pushed against the greasy, gritty living corpse even as it slashed open his abdomen and lowered its mouth to feed.
It was devouring him. As his blood flowed into its mouth, he could see its not-flesh rebuilding. He could feel it growing heavier as it lay across him. This was no man. He had no idea what this thing was, but it was killing him and he could not do anything about it.
It raised its head suddenly and looked into Kellhus’s face. Its eyes had regenerated, and its lipless mouth was full of healthy teeth and a tongue. “Nobody every made me do this before,” it said, its harsh voice sounding like a death rattle. It lifted the broken hilt of Enshoya and, with its enchanted paper, cut the blade along the guard almost all the way through, then shaved it just behind the edge, creating a stiletto-like blade.
Ray punched Kellhus hard on the chin and, in that dazed moment, slid the long slender blade up under Kellhus’s chin on the left side.
“There,” the thing said as it lifted something raw and red to its mouth. “That should have been the speech centers of your brain. According to the dude on TV, anyway. Too bad you had to be around for this, Callous, but the fresher the meat, the better. And you hurt me worse than anyone ever has, and that’s saying something.”
The edges of Kellhus’s vision went cloudy. He could feel himself draining away, dying. His thoughts–so disciplined, so clear–refused to resolve into cogent analysis. He’d already lost his ability to express himself. A wave of sorrow ran through him. There was so much he still had left to do, and now all of that potential had been lost. It was such a senseless waste.
“I know,” the thing’s voice came to him again. He could no longer see, but he could hear, and its voice sounded almost human, and so close to his ear. “I’ll bet you were capable of wonders.”
Predicted Winner: Ray Lilly
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, MARCH 8th, 2012, AT 5 PM, EST
Kellhus image courtesy of Overlook Press. Ray Lilly image courtesy of Chris McGrath and Del Rey books
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