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How we think the fight will go
How Paul S. Kemp, creator of Erevis Cale, thinks the match will go:
Jean’s weight caused the stool to groan in protest. He stared at the blade-scarred surface of the bar, only half-seeing it, his thoughts spinning. He didn’t remember how he’d gotten here, wasn’t even sure where here was. He’d just stumbled into the first alehouse he’d seen, planning a drunk that even Locke would admire.
Yet his drink sat before him untouched.
Pain from the gashes on his arms and face dredged memories from the sludge of recent events: a winged angel that stank like something ten days dead, all claws, teeth, and dead eyes. He’d buried one of his axes in its head, watched pink curd ooze from its misshapen skull.
He had no idea how such a creature could exist, had no idea what was happening of late. The sense of events eluded him. He felt outside himself, apart, mixed up somehow. Something had occurred; something was occurring; but the something was bigger than him.
Given that, ale—and lots of it—seemed the only sensible answer.
A woman’s laughter rose out of the background hum of conversation, a shouted ‘huzzah’ from one of the tables, a whistle, the thud of tankards and tin plates on wooden tabletops.
Human sounds. Normal sounds. Sounds he welcomed.
He licked his lips, took a long draw on his ale. It was watery swill, but he savored it nevertheless. He put down one draught, another, and soon felt more like himself. He tried to recall better times.
Behind him the tavern quieted, sounds fading, though it took a moment for the change to register with him. The already faint candlelight dimmed further and the darkness in the tavern took on weight, grew oppressive. He straightened on his stool, turned to look about, and the hair on the back of his neck rose.
Everyone was gone. The place was empty but for the rickety tables and chairs. Flickering candles cast a diffident light, put odd shadows on the walls.
His hands fell to his twin axes, the wicked sisters.
“What is this?” he whispered, and eyed the dark corners of the tavern.
Darkness swirled in one corner, a maelstrom of reified night. Twin pinpoints of light formed in the ink, a pair of glowing eyes that narrowed, flared, fixed on Jean.
Jean blinked, realized he was looking at a man. He spoke to fill the silence, to populate the room with something other than darkness.
“We know each other?”
“No,” the man said. He glided out of the corner and the darkness around him parted, a curtain out of which the man emerged. Jean saw him as clearly as the man’s form allowed.
He stood half a hand taller than Jean, but much thinner. He was bald, his expression stern, his eyes deep-set and inhuman. He wore fitted leathers, with daggers and a black sword at his belt. His body leaked shadow, mingled with it as if he and it were the same, the edges of him constantly shifting, merging with the darkness.
Jean shifted on his stool and the strained wood screamed in response. “We going to know each other?”
Shadows swirled around the man. “For a short time.”
Jean took his meaning right away. He had expected something like this. After the angel….
“I’d finish my drink first. You mind?”
The man took a single step forward, blurred into the darkness, and then stood a mere two paces from Jean. Adrenaline spiked Jean’s heart rate.
“I don’t mind,” the man said.
Jean toasted him halfheartedly, took a draw on the ale, and considered his options. He felt the man’s eyes on him throughout.
“What are you?” the man asked Jean. “A godling? An archwizard? A demon?”
Jean smiled, swirled his ale. “I’m just a man. An unlucky one, it seems.”
The man’s eyes softened. He looked almost sad. “Why are you in this then, I wonder?”
“You’re asking me that?” Jean said. “I don’t even know what this is. First an angel that stank like a corpse and now…whatever you are.”
“Whatever I am,” the man echoed absently.
Jean nodded at the tapped hogshead behind the bar. “Pour you one?”
“No,” the man said.
“Trying to stay mean, huh? Easier that way?”
“I know how it is.” Jean smiled, shook his head, took another drink. He had three, four swallows left. It amused him to think that he could measure the life remaining to him not in years but in gulps of ale. Seemed fitting somehow.
“So, do you know what’s going on then?” Jean made a vague gesture. “With all this?”
The man looked off to the side, past Jean, into some private, dark place. “I think so.”
The man studied him for a moment, the shadows churning around him, dark clouds blotting the moon of his face. He hooked a stool with his foot, pulled it back.
“You mind if I sit?”
“Gods, I wish you would.”
The man slid into a stool. As he spoke, he pulled shadows from the air, absently spiraled them around his fingers, dispersed them in the air.
“There’s a rift. A tear in the multiverse. And—”
Jean guffawed. “I’m not much for metaphysics. Try speaking my language.”
“Well enough,” the man said slowly. “Here then: worlds are crossing, dimensions, realities. It’s…destabilizing things.”
“You could say that,” Jean said. “So you and me, we’re crossing? Our worlds are crossing?”
“I don’t much look like I’m from your world, do I?”
Jean chuckled, took another swallow. He had two left, three if he nursed it. “You most certainly do not.”
“The rift grows stronger the longer we coexist together in the same place. So…”
“So, one of us has to leave?” Jean looked over at him. “Tell you what, how about you stay here and I’ll move on? Place reeks of piss anyway.”
Shadows spun in slow spirals around the man, dark, languid streams. His eyes flashed yellow in the void of his face. “I wish it worked that way. But whatever’s causing this won’t just let us leave. It’ll keep bringing us together, again and again, until….”
“Until…,” Jean said, and didn’t bother finishing the sentence.
One swallow of ale left. He swirled it in the bottom of his cup.
The dark man might have smiled at that. Jean couldn’t be sure.
“So where are we now?” Jean asked, looking around the tavern. “Right now, I mean. This moment. It looks the tavern I walked into but…it’s not.”
The man shrugged. “Not certain. Things are changing, moving around, borders are getting blurry. Unless you’re used to planar—”
“You’re used to it, then?”
Shadows jumped from the man’s flesh. “You interrupt a lot.”
“Have to. I partner with a man who never shuts up.”
“I see. And yes, I’m used to it.”
“So, then, what are you?”
The man lost whatever trace of smile had been haunting his face. He looked into Jean’s face. “I’m…not just a man. Maybe we leave it at that.”
“That strikes me as ominous.”
To that, the man said nothing.
“Getting mean again, are you?”
“What’s your name?” the man asked.
“At the moment, my name is Justaman Notdrunkenough. But everyone else calls me Jean Tannen.”
“I’m Erevis Cale. And I’m sorry about this, Jean Tannen. You shouldn’t be caught up in this.”
The pity in Cale’s tone pricked Jean’s pride. “Gettin’ a bit ahead of yourself, aren’t you? I’m not just going to let you cut my throat.”
“I guess you’re not.”
Jean took his axes in hand, studied their lines, the hafts as smooth under his palms as a woman’s thigh. “I call them the wicked sisters.”
The man said nothing.
“I’m fast with them,” Jean said, tapping one against his palm. “Very fast. Faster than any other man I’ve met.”
He turned on his stool and looked at the Cale, at the glowing yellow eyes, the blurred edges of his form.
“You think I’ll be fast enough tonight?”
Shadows spun around the man. “Not tonight, no.”
Jean nodded. He considered having a go at Cale right then, and maybe catch him off-guard. But he suspected there was not catching Cale off guard. Besides, Jean didn’t want to go out a scoundrel, despite having lived well as one.
“All right, then,” Jean said.
He slammed back the final gulp of ale, slid back his stool and stood.
Cale did the same.
Jean backed off a few steps to open some throwing room.
They regarded one another again.
“We salute each other or something?” Jean asked. “How do we this?”
He was coiled, tense, ready, his hands sweaty around the hafts of the sisters.
Cale stood with his hands at his sides, cocooned in roiling shadow, his yellow eyes fixed on Jean, seeing everything. “We just do it.”
Cale hadn’t finished the sentence before Jean had hurled both of the sisters. They flew true for Cale’s chest, but when they hit the shadows that shrouded him, they lost their momentum and fell inert to the floor, naught but dead metal and wood.
Jean cursed, lowered his head and charged, thinking that if he could put his hands on Cale and use his greater size and strength, he’d at least have a chance.
He shouldered into Cale and the impact sent them careening across the room, spinning, stumbling, each grabbing for a hold on the other. Shadows swirled all around Jean, cold black things that pawed at his flesh.
Cale was strong, far stronger than he should have been for his size, but at last Jean got him by the elbows and pinned his arms to his sides. He did not hesitate. He reared back his head and slammed his brow into the bridge of Cale’s nose.
A satisfying crunch; a warm spray of snot and blood; a grunt of pain.
Jean didn’t stop. He slammed his head into Cale’s face again, again, each time feeling bone and cartilage collapse, each time rewarded with a spatter of blood and a grunt of pain. The repeated impacts left Jean dazed, wobbly, his vision blurry, but he kept his feet, kept his grip on Cale. When he felt like he must have turned Cale’s face to mush, he shoved him away, expecting to see him crumple to the ground. He’d finish him with a dagger and…
Instead of falling, Cale simply stumbled back a few steps and shook his head as if to clear it. The darkness around him roiled, an angry black thunderhead, thickening, darkening. The blood pouring from Cale’s nose slowed to a trickle then stopped altogether. The misshapen mass of his nose rebuilt itself, healing before Jean’s eyes.
“Shit, man,” Jean said, unsteady on his feet. He reached for his dagger. “That hardly seems fair.”
Cale looked out over the bridge of his healed nose and his eyes flared. “Nothing about this is fair. But I’ll make it fast.”
He bounded at Jean, yellow eyes glowing in the midst of the cloud of shadow. Jean backpedaled, bumped into a chair, a table. The darkness around the man deepened as he closed until it was a hole, a void out of which stared two yellow eyes that promised dark things.
And then the darkness turned to pitch, the eyes disappeared, and the man was…gone.
Jean stopped his retreat, breathing hard, peering into the ink, looking around, his fist white around his dagger.
He felt a presence behind him, heard the soft exhalation of breath. He would’ve turned but he knew it was already too late.
Cale materialized in the shadows behind Jean and drove his dagger into the base of the big man’s skull, up into the brainpain. Jean gave an abortive groan and went limp, a marionette with sheared strings. Cale lowered him gently to the floor and pulled his blade free. Blood and brain-matter pooled on the floor slats.
Cursing, Cale rolled Jean over and kneeled beside him. The big man stared up at the ceiling beams, eyes wide and glassy, vacant. He was already gone. Cale closed Jean’s eyes with a light brush of his hand.
“You were fast, Jean Tannen. Second fastest I’ve ever seen.”
He stood, sheathed his blade, and allowed himself only a moment for regret. He had more killing before him, he knew. To close the rift, to save countless worlds and people whose names he’d never know, he’d have to murder his way across the multiverse.
As he’d said to Jean, he wasn’t just a man, though there were times when he wished he still was.
He pulled the darkness about him, felt the correspondence between the shadows where he stood and those in his native Shadowfell, took a step, and moved between worlds.
Predicted Winner: Erevis Cale
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, MARCH 15th, 2012, AT 5 PM, EST
Don’t forget–we’re always looking for fans’ depictions of these characters. Check out the details here
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