How we think the fight will go
They sized each other up, these two men. Sitting in the arena’s waiting area, wondering when the call to fight would come.
Richard was tall, young, and muscular, like a man that spent time outdoors. Greg, two decades older than his opponent, looked like a soldier who’d been to hell and back twice. Both Greg and Richard could sense the other was not of their world. Each could sense a kinship with the other… they were both seekers of truth.
Greg, for one, couldn’t help but notice the kid had a sword, but no guns. The sword had the word “truth” written on its grip. This man wore the equivalent of Greg’s truth gland in his scabbard. He had to chuckle. If his Walther 8-shot had anything written on it, it would be, Lie to me… make my day.
Richard, on the other hand, wondered if his opponent’s lack of a sword—or any blade at all—was something he should be concerned about. Was the man a wizard? If so, he knew how to deflect wizard’s fire with the Sword of Truth.
Greg had enough violence to last a lifetime. He wanted to be home with Eleanor, swimming with the dolphins, not in another war. And what good would his ability to tell the truth be out in the arena? There’s little call for his hybrid mix of empathy and intuition on a battlefield—bullets rarely lie.
Richard wondered if Kahlan was caught up in this mess somehow as well. They were together when…well—what? What exactly brought them here? He needed to get through this fight if he was to ever see her again.
“Do you want to kill me?” Greg asked the young man point blank. Greg activated his espersence: an endocrine node implant in his cortex was raiding his bloodstream for chemicals, spewing a tsunami of neurohormones that made him the greatest lie detector on Earth…or wherever “here” was.
“No,” Richard said. “I don’t.”
The boy spoke true. But there was more to it than that. There was a price if Richard succeeded in killing him… a consequence of using the sword. Greg wouldn’t have such trouble—the army taught him how to handle kills. Maybe he should kill Richard now while they waited to get it over with. Maybe this was part of the test? This whole scenario reminded him too much of the People’s Socialist Party PSP—or the German kombinates. They excelled at sick head games.
“Do you want to kill me?” It was Richard’s turn to ask.
“Only if you work for the PSP,” said Greg. “Which, I highly doubt.”
Richard’s instincts told him this PSP was probably the equivalent of Darken Rahl from wherever Greg hailed. His instincts also told him that this was a good man sitting before him, not likely to kill unless he needed to. If Richard killed Greg with the Sword of Truth, the backlash could fry him. He needed anger to protect him from the sword’s magic. But he had no anger toward Greg. The man was as much a pawn as he.
The “hangover” from Greg’s neurohormone rush had begun. Great way to start a duel to the death, he thought.
A trumpet heralded the next match; they vanished from the waiting area.
The arena was a little bigger than the Roman Colosseum, a place Greg had only been to once, on a kill. Where he stood now, the land was flat and the grass short. A plain with no cover. The far end was a thick jumble of trees and bush. Richard was nowhere in site.
Richard found himself in a wooded area. Through the trees he spied Greg standing on a flat plain. If he had a bow and arrow, this could all be over. There was no rule he knew of that said he had to use the sword. And yet — what if he let Greg make the first move. Richard realized he could survive the sword’s punishment if killing Greg was an act of self-defense. He would let Greg act first.
Greg’s intuition said that the woods were Richard’s primary terrain. The type of man who could navigate a forest blindfolded. So his strategy was simple… stay out of the trees. Greg picked up a lot of information from Richard’s response in the waiting area. For instance, he does not come from a scientifically advanced world. When Richard cased him he looked at the hunting knife, but glossed over the gun. He’s unfamiliar with tech, whereas Greg was very familiar with knives. Greg ran through several scenarios. One involved his Walther 8-shot maser gun and a burning forest. But the simplest idea always came back to the top of his list. It was so obvious, how could it possibly work? Greg sat down in the lotus position thirty yards from the tree line with his back to the woods.
Richard realized soon enough that Greg had no intention of walking into the forest. Was the man just waiting to die? Richard didn’t feel the gamesters would allow them to circumvent the rules. Fine with him. He would search for his own solution to their dilemma, or wait for Greg to tire.
The entire day had passed with no results, and it finally grew dark. Greg continued to sit in the middle of the plain with his back to the trees. He missed Eleanor. The sky rumbled. Greg took out his army issue poncho and unfurled it. Soon, the rain began to fall.
Richard huddled under a makeshift shelter, waiting for Greg to come into the forest and do the same. The man just continued to sit in the rain with his back to the trees, refusing to play the game. Richard grew impatient. The longer this went on, the more worried he was for whatever Kahlan was being subjected to. He wished she was there with him. With a single touch, she could make Greg love her enough to kill himself just by asking. Then an idea occurred to Richard. Love was the key. Love for this man who did not wish to kill him or cause him pain. If he killed him out of mercy, as a release from the pain of this duel, then he could tap into the other part of the Sword, the one that turned it white—the one without the consequence of stuffing his brain with waves of pain.
Greg heard a rustle in the brush. A pure white light behind him illuminated the darkness, except for the shadow his body threw on the grass before him. He remained sitting and reached out with his espersense to pinpoint the boy now walking on the plain. Greg took a moment to think of Eleanor.
Richard had found a solution to his dilemma. He was there to show Greg love. As Richard approached the man, he allowed himself only noble thoughts regarding his target. This soldier could have made a better fight of it, but instead he chose a pacifist’s path, robbing Richard of his choice. He did not deserve to suffer this game any longer. When he was ten feet from Greg, Richard caught a small whir from under the man’s olive green covering. He heard a pop and a small section by the man’s waist melted open. Richard took another step forward and then he felt it. He touched his chest and it was hot and wet with blood. Several more pops, and he felt his blood boil where the beams hit. Richard dropped his sword and fell to his knees, stunned.
Greg held his Walther nestled under his left armpit, pointing behind him. He hadn’t needed to turn around to pinpoint his target; if the light hadn’t given the lad away, Greg’s espersence sealed the deal. He had shot through his poncho, putting aside the innate goodness he sensed from this man. He neither hated nor loved the boy. Mindstar training had taught him not to make kills personal. What little sympathy he had would soon be buried under several whiskeys…and hopefully Eleanor’s legs.
Greg went over to the body to confirm the kill. “Sorry kid,” he said. “Soldier’s first rule: never bring a knife to a gun fight.”
Predicted Winner: Greg Mandel
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, MARCH 8th, 2012, AT 5 PM, EST
Richard Rahl image courtesy of Tor Books. Greg Mandel image courtesy of Del Rey Books
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!”