How we think the fight will go
How Lynn Flewelling, creator of Seregil, thinks the match will go:
Bast was every bit as attractive as Seregil had been led to believe. Apart from those feet, anyway. One advantage to Seregil’s own strange resistance to magic was that simple things like glamours generally didn’t work on him if he was forewarned. When he squinted just right, he could see that the black-haired demon’s deep blue eyes had no pupils, and that he was moving nimbly around the Waystone’s tavern room among the paltry number of customers, playing the smiling serving boy—on a pair of hooves.
And he certainly was a good server, keeping Seregil’s dainty stemmed glass topped up with soft cider. It also seemed to be true that the boy was not immune to a pretty face, and Seregil’s was never prettier than when he was playing Lady Gwethelyn. Smoothing one gloved hand over the green wool skirt of his plain traveling gown, he gave Bast a sidelong look under lowered lashes, and Seregil could tell from the hopeful smile that tugged at the corner of the boy’s mouth that he’d hooked his fish. Seregil touched a finger briefly to the corner of his mouth, then slid it across his powdered cheek to tease a tendril of blond hair that had escaped his simply coifed hair. Bast answered with a wink.
Getting laid wasn’t the boys’ only concern tonight, though. Bast’s gaze was on the inn door as often as it was on the swell of Seregil’s carefully crafted bosom.
The tall red haired innkeeper behind the bar—Kote or Quothe or whateverthehell his name was—had spared Seregil a few looks, too, of a less friendly sort, but the rules of this night’s foolishness kept him mum. He was a sharp one, and if he was really just an innkeeper, then Seregil would eat his gloves. Alec was fuming outside, likewise unable to interfere.
The hour grew late and the fire began to die down. The locals drifted off in pairs and trios, arguing over the price of sugar loaves and some legend about whether cold iron or hot fire was better for disposing of demons. Seregil knew the answer to that one: both.
The innkeeper gave Seregil a brief nod and Bast a last, worried look, and took himself upstairs.
Alone at last.
Bast leaned over Seregil with a dazzling smile that must have disarmed a good many of the fairer sex. “It’s closing time, lovely lady, but I’d be happy to pour you a nightcap, on the house.”
“Only if you join me,” Seregil replied in his most coquettish voice.
“My pleasure!” Bast went to the bar and fetched two clay cups of peach summer wine.
Really now, thought Seregil, inwardly shaking his head.
Seregil saluted Bast with his cup. As Bast touched his cup to Seregil’s, Seregil managed to fumble and slop some of his wine over into the demon’s drink.
“Oh, how silly of me! In some countries that means we’re betrothed.”
“Should I hold you to that?” Bast parried with a smile bordering on a leer.
Seregil simpered, leaning forward and raising his cup again. “To your continued good health, you naughty thing.” He put the cup to his lips, but didn’t drink.
Neither did the demon.
Seregil set his cup aside with a crooked grin, then pulled off the wig and dropped it on the table beside him. His long brown hair was bound in a club at the nape of his neck and wrapped with fine chain attached to a circlet sitting a bit askew on his head. Both chains and circlet had the dull sheen of worked iron. Bast squinted in pain and pushed back from the table.
“That’s better,” Seregil said in his normal voice, scratching the back of his sweaty neck.
“So, when did you twig?”
“I didn’t,” Bast hissed. “I’d heard Lord Seregil of Rhíminee was a clever rogue with a long sword and a permanently-attached-at-the-hip boyfriend. When he didn’t show up, I figured you were some assassin he’d hired to come in his place.”
“That would certainly have been against the Rules.”
“Since when does the ‘Rhíminee Cat’ care about Rules?” Bast shook his head. “Charred hands, but you make a pretty woman. I was a bit conflicted as to whether to chance a tumble before I killed you. When I thought you really were a woman,” he added hastily.
Seregil gave him a gracious nod. “You’re pleasing to look at yourself, Master Bast, though I can’t help wondering what you really look like, under the mask of this— manifestation.”
“You don’t want to know.” Bast stood slowly, and Seregil could tell by the set of his shoulders that the demon was ready to strike. “You don’t really think that little bit of iron is going to keep me from ripping your throat out, do you?”
Seregil pretended alarm and sprang to his feet, knocking his chair over in the process.
Bast was deadly quick, but so was Seregil. Even so, he barely managed to yank off his right glove before Bast’s hand was around his neck. Gasping for air, Seregil grabbed Bast by his long black hair with his left hand and pressed his right to the boy’s face. Every finger sported a ring and every ring was made of iron. Bast screamed and thrashed, clawing now at Seregil’s throat and chest to escape. His fingers snagged in the fragile lacings at the front of the bodice, ripping it open to expose the shirt of iron chainmail Seregil wore underneath—complete with iron breast-shaped domes and a hinged flange between them to protect Seregil’s heart. The force of the combined metal knocked Bast across the room and over the polished mahogany bar. Bottles flew in all directions, smashing and clattering. Alcohol of every sort splashed across the floor. A lamp behind the bar took a bottle hit and toppled off its shelf to set the pool of alcohol ablaze.
“Bilairy’s Balls, not again!” Seregil gasped, hampered by his skirts and heavy iron undergarments. As he struggled to his feet a blood curdling yowl erupted from behind the bar. Vaulting awkwardly over it, he managed to haul the half-stunned, booze-soaked demon away from the flames just as Bast’s clothing caught fire. Dragging him by one hoof, Seregil rolled him in a carpet to douse the flames, then slung him over his shoulder and tossed him out the nearest window, leaping after him. Only then did he notice that the hem of his gown was smoldering. Grabbing the skirts just below the waist, he yanked at the loosely sewn seams and tore them off, leaving himself in a torn bodice, his knee length, double breasted iron hauberk and a pair of lady’s riding boots. From somewhere inside he could hear Kote/Quothe/Quiver/Quadrangle bellowing what Seregil sincerely hoped was a fire-quenching spell.
The demon was already struggling to get free of the carpet, so Seregil sat down on top of him to keep him still.
Bast let out a nasty laugh, glaring up at him with unnatural eyes the color of lightning.
“At least I get to die amused, you crazy bastard. You look like Xena the Warrior Princess in that get up.”
Seregil chuckled. “Illior’s Fingers, you didn’t just break frame, you smashed it to flinders. But really, this isn’t quite how I saw the evening developing.”
“Why didn’t you let me burn?” Bast spat. “Or are you going to sit there and let all your ironware choke me to death now that I’m helpless.”
“That would be an ignominious way to kill such a worthy opponent and I’m really not into torture. All this ‘ironware,’ aside from being damnably uncomfortable, was just so I could stay alive long enough to talk to you.”
Bast struggled again but the carpet held him fast. “What could we possibly have to talk about? This is a fight to death. Those are the Rules.”
“Don’t mistake me.” Seregil reached into his breast piece and drew out a short, wickedly sharp iron poniard. “I will use this, but only if you force my hand. But I’d much rather strike a bargain.”
Bast squirmed and turned his face away from the knife, “What sort of bargain?”
“Nowhere in the Rules does it say that anyone has to die; just that someone has to win. So, my life for yours. You swear to let me live and admit that you forfeit the match, and I let you go. That’s all I came here for, really.” Seregil shifted and crossed his legs. “I’d actually planned on a rigged card game to force the bargain—strip poker, maybe, for a little fan service, but this . . .” He tapped the knife against one iron breast. “Well, it worked a bit better than I’d anticipated. The way you flew across the room? I could hardly believe my luck.”
Bast gave him a narrow-eyed look of distrust. “And you claim you don’t want to kill me.”
“Why would I? You’re far too interesting.” He paused and spared a sour look up at the alien stars. “Besides, I don’t like being forced into false fights, and I never kill unless I absolutely have to. What do you say?”
Bast glared up at him. “Fine. Your life for mine.”
“And you forfeit the match.”
The demon let out a heavy sigh. “I was hoping you’d forget to add that. Yes, and I forfeit the match.”
“Swear by your gods.”
“Trusting fellow, aren’t you?”
Seregil gave him a crooked grin. “Oh, very. Swear, demon.”
“By my gods, I swear it.”
“Done.” Seregil stood and gave the rolled carpet a shove with his foot. Bast tumbled out of it and sneezed as the dust billowed around him.
Seregil offered his hand.
“Iron!” Bast growled.
“Oh, sorry!” Seregil quickly stripped off the iron hauberk and finger rings, which left him in a short barding jacket, his linen, and boots.
“Fan service?” Bast sneered as he let Seregil pull him to his feet.
Seregil looked down a bit ruefully. “No, just the logical outcome of this unique series of events, I’m afraid. Alec, are you there?”
His blond-haired compatriot stepped from the shadows with Kote/Quothe/ Quotidian/Quark. Tossing Seregil a bundle of clothing, he shook his head and said to the innkeeper mage, “I swear, he strips down at the drop of a hat these days.”
“Lucky for you no one’s wearing a hat.” Seregil quickly pulled on breeches, a loose tunic, and a proper pair of tall boots. “There, that’s much better. Master Innkeeper of the Impossible Name, I’m dreadfully sorry about the fire and all the damage. I’ll pay for repairs.”
“Indeed you will,” the red-haired man replied. “Though I managed to contain most of the flames.”
“I’m glad to hear it. I seem to have the worst luck with fire lately.”
“He set a friend’s house ablaze not to long ago, during a burglary,” Alec confided.
Kote/Quothe/Quinoa/Quill raised an eyebrow. “You burgle your friends?”
Alec shrugged. “It’s a long story. You can read all about it in a few months time.”
“So, is there enough alcohol left in your establishment for me to stand you a drink?” asked Seregil, throwing a companionable arm around the demon’s slim shoulders and starting for the side door of the inn. “And hold the poison this time. Really, Bast, fine wine in a clay cup after cider in crystal? What were you thinking? What was it, by the way? Acotair? Wyvern’s Blood? Something that would foul the appearance of the wine, surely. Hence the clay cup.”
Bast pulled away and folded his arms, though he kept walking beside Seregil as the others followed. “It was arsenic, actually, and I used the aromatic wine to cover the scent and flavor of it, since your keen senses are so highly touted.”
“Peach beer would have done as well for the taste and smell, is cloudy to begin with, and would have explained the cup . . .” The pair continued on as Seregil prattled on at length on various clever ways to successfully poison a man.
“Is he always like this?” Kote/Quothe/Query/Quandary asked Alec.
Alec’s smile was one of fond resignation. “Yes.”
Predicted Winner: Seregil
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, MARCH 8th, 2012, AT 5 PM, EST
Bast image courtesy of Gollancz Books. Seregil image courtesy of Michael Komarck
Cage Match fans: We are looking forward to hearing your responses! If possible, please abstain from including potential spoilers about the books in your comments (and if you need spoilers to make your case, start your comments with: “SPOILER ALERT!”