How we think the fight will go
How Chris Wooding, creator of Darian Frey, thinks the match will go:
« Je vais vous enfoncer mon épée dans le cul, sale pouilleux! » Napoleon shrieked as he flew out of the sky on the back of a dragon.
Frey’s own shriek was no less loud but a lot less coherent. When they’d shown him the ferrotype of the runty, fat little man with greasy black hair smeared across his brow and his hand stuck in his jacket, nobody, but nobody had mentioned a twenty-metre-long winged lizard. Frey was sure of it. That wasn’t the kind of thing that slipped a man’s mind.
“Jez!” he cried, as he took to his heels. “Jez! There’s a dwarf yelling nonsense and he’s riding a flying crocodile, or something!”
“Told you not to eat those mushrooms, Cap’n,” came his navigator’s voice through the silver ear-cuff he wore.
“I mean it!”
“So did I.”
He looked over his shoulder and saw the monster bearing down on him, the dwarf on its back cackling ferociously and waving a sabre in the air. His coward’s intuition warned him of danger, and he threw himself aside an instant before the creature spewed a searing lance of flame from its mouth. The spot where he’d been standing a moment ago turned into a raging inferno. As Frey scrabbled away, the dragon thundered overhead. The wind of its wings flattened him to the ground.
“Look, I need the Ketty Jay here right now!” Frey yelled. “I thought this was going to be a fair fight! Man to man and all that shit.”
“When have you even been in a fair fight?” Jez asked. “Cap’n, I’d love to help but I can’t. They’ve locked down our craft in the port.”
“What? Who has?”
“These officious-looking guys with funny accents. They say they’re from the, er, the Eoropeen Union or something. They need to check we’re not carrying any fruit that’s not regulation size.”
Frey looked over his shoulder. The dragon was soaring in a lazy arc, coming back for another pass. He scanned around frantically for cover. The patch of scrub ground that the dwarf had suggested for their battle didn’t provide much. An old wrecked steam-tractor seemed the likeliest candidate; it looked reassuringly fireproof, at least. He headed towards it.
“Did you tell them we’re not carrying any fruit?” he demanded of Jez. “Did you tell them that most of my crew wouldn’t even recognise it as food?”
“Crake eats fruit,” Jez pointed out.
“I don’t care what Crake eats!” Frey screamed.
“What can I say, Cap’n? They’re bureaucrats with guns.”
Frey tried to think of an adequate response to that and gave up. He looked back at the dragon, which was diving again. “Bollocks to you then, I’ll deal with it myself.” He pulled off the ear-cuff, silencing her, then drew his revolver and sighted on the rider on the beast’s back.
Damn, that’s a small target.
He fired. Once, twice, three times, as the dragon gulped in another great breath. Two shots hit air; the last spanged off the dragon’s forehead, throwing up sparks. It didn’t do much against that kind of armour.
The beast belched fire. Frey ran towards cover, but at the last moment he realized that was too obvious, and dived the other way. The flames hit the old steam-tractor, melting it to slag and incinerating the scrub grass behind. The dragon flew overhead with a deafening screech. Frey stared at the ruined vehicle, and was suddenly rather glad he hadn’t tried to hide behind it.
“Alright, think,” he muttered to himself. “You’re not gonna hit a bloody thing with a revolver at that range.”
He searched for solid cover for the third attack, but this time there was really nothing. The sneaky foreigner had chosen his ground well. Frey was getting the distinct suspicion that he was going to die, and yet for all that he wracked his brain, he couldn’t stop thinking about what Jez had said.
Does Crake eat fruit? I’ve never seen him eat any.
He shook his head to clear it, and something dislodged.
Crake, shabby aristocrat and the Ketty Jay’s resident daemonist. When Frey had met him, he’d been on the run from somebody, and he’d traded Frey a cutlass for the price of his passage. A daemon-thralled cutlass, bound with an entity plucked from the aether.
Frey drew it from his belt. It had saved his life more than once now. Time to see if it could do it again.
“Don’t let me down, eh?” he told it, and he thought he heard it ring in response, a shimmering pure note on the edge of his consciousness. Or it might have just been tinnitus from all that gunfire over the years.
The dragon was turning again, swooping down for another attack. The dwarf on its back was howling incoherent gibberish, swinging his sabre about. Frey danced back and forth, staying loose and light on his feet like a bare-knuckle boxer.
The cutlass hung from his hand. A cutlass that fought of its own accord. A cutlass that had turned aside bullets in mid-flight, and flown through the air to find his hand. A cutlass that always seemed to know his mind.
The dragon plunged with a deafening screech. Frey waited, fighting down nerves. Closer and closer it came.
Not yet… not yet…
The beast slowed up, drew in its breath.
Frey grabbed the hilt of his cutlass with both hands, drew his arms back over his head, and pitched it as hard as he could at the dragon. The weapon launched out of his hand with far more power than he could have managed on his own. It spun end over end as it raced upwards and away, flashing in the sun. The daemon in the blade flew, singing eagerly as it went.
The dragon made no move to avoid Frey’s throw. Perhaps it was too committed to its dive, perhaps it was too small for the dragon to see, or perhaps the creature just considered it insignificant.
It didn’t think the cutlass so insignificant when it was buried up to the hilt in its eye.
The dragon squealed, belching a great cloud of flame as its dive turned into a tumble and it went plummeting towards the earth, wrapped up in its own wings. Frey belatedly realized how unwise it was to be standing in the path of an out-of-control dragon, and he ran off to the side as fast as his legs could carry him.
« Sacrebleuuuuuuu! » Napoleon howled as he flew overhead astride a ten-tonne missile of scales and leathery flesh. Frey flung himself to the ground as the beast crashed into the earth, plowing a trench through the stony soil for several dozen meters until it finally came to a halt.
When all the bits of dirt and debris had stopped falling to the ground, Frey picked himself up, shook his head and spat to clear his mouth. The dragon rested against a bank of piled earth, surrounded by a thick haze of dust. Its body was crumpled and broken, and its head lolled over the side of the furrow. Standing proudly erect, jutting from its eye, was the cutlass.
“Crake, I owe you a whole bottle of rum for this one,” he muttered. He walked over to the creature, gave it an experimental kick in the face in case it still had any life in it, then stood on its muzzle and pulled the sword out. The blade was coated with dark blood and brain matter. Frey sniffed it and his nose wrinkled. It stank like the six-day-old piss of some terminally diseased herd animal.
“Why would you even ride something that smells like that?” he wondered aloud as he strolled round to the edge of the trench and looked down.
Napoleon was there, still strapped into his saddle. He looked a bit worse for wear. His legs had stayed where they were meant to, but his body was off at an angle that frankly had to be painful.
“Alright, mate?” Frey called cheerfully.
Napoleon’s fevered, roving eyes fixed on him. His face was sallow, the greasy lick of hair across his forehead damp with sweat. It took him a moment to recognize his opponent; when he did, he began struggling with the flintlock pistol jammed in his belt.
Frey dropped down onto the back of the dead dragon. “Ah, ah!” he said, putting the tip of his cutlass under Napoleon’s chin. Napoleon sniffed the blood on the end of the sword and retched. Frey reached down, plucked the pistol from Napoleon’s hand, and tossed it aside.
« Vous pouvez me tuer, » he gasped, « mais vous ne pouvez pas tuer la Révolution! »
“Fascinating,” said Frey, not fascinated at all. He patted Napoleon on the back of the head with the flat of his blade. “Stretch your neck, eh? Let’s do this with a bit of dignity, even if you are a massive cheat and all, bringing a bloody flying crocodile to a man’s fight.”
It took the dwarf a few moments to understand what Frey intended. When he did, calm came over him, and he took on an expression of weary acceptance. He bent forward in his saddle, bowing his head and exposing the back of his neck.
« La guillotine. Triste ironie. »
“Sure, whatever,” said Frey, and brought the blade down.
Predicted Winner: Darian Frey
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, MARCH 8th, 2012, AT 5 PM, EST
Napoleon image courtesy of Del Rey Books. Darian image courtesy of =BloodRoseAngel
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!”