How we think the fight will go
With my deepest respect to Steven Erikson, Brandon Sanderson and the late Robert Jordan… game on…
Lan Mandragoran pushed hard. Kissing the Adder was met with a fast parry and countersweep from the Darkfriend’s heavy two handed sword. Crane Aloft was shoved aside by the heavy pommel, an answering lunge barely sidestepped. None of the Darkfriend’s forms were the least bit familiar. The style was wholly alien, not anything Lan had encountered before, not even the snakelike style of Myrrdraal. Strange as it was, the man’s skill was impressive. Lan had fought blademasters with less talent, and none of those wielded a massive two handed blade as if it were as light as a dagger. Lan kept close, trying to move in where the longer weapon would be ineffective, its wielder vulnerable, but the man stayed a step back and away, barely blocking Lan’s strikes – Leaf on the Breeze battered by a fast sweeping cut – keeping the distance between them to maintain his weapon’s advantage. Lotus Closes forced the Darkfriend to back quickly and Lan saw his opening. He leapt inside the Darkfriend’s reach, Cat on Hot Sand aimed for the center of his foe’s chest. He barely saw the man gesture and then everything went black.
Hard impact with the ground forced Lan back to consciousness. He rolled to his feet, ears ringing, vision hazy but ready to fight. He was well down the road from where the Darkfriend had challenged them, drawing Lan into the swordfight, Moiraine at his back, expecting an ambush any moment. Through their bond he felt Moiraine confronting the stranger, he felt her anger, her concern for him, her cool determination, her will as she channeled Saidar. Lan started to run… the fight replayed in his head in seconds… the man wasn’t just good, the man was a master, drawing Lan in, striking with some power at just the right moment to separate them… Ahead the Darkfriend staggered, almost fell, stood upright and stepped directly into a large tree by the side of the road… no further attackers had appeared… if the man was acting alone, and was as good as that… his aim the whole time had been to separate them. Lan saw Moiraine glance back his way and move after the Darkfriend without hesitation. A shout died on his lips… all his breath, all his recovering strength pushing him to run faster, to get through the Way and join her, all the while knowing what he would find.
The Way was closed. The bond to Moiraine almost too faint to feel at all.
The Darkfriend gestured and the Waygate seemed to be crushed under an immense pressure behind her. Moiraine felt nothing. If the stranger was using Saidin, or even Saidar, it was hidden from her. She scanned the broken staircases and stone platforms and pathways that angled out in every direction around them. No other enemies appeared.
The man straightened and appeared ready to speak. Moiraine didn’t give him the chance. She drew weaves of Air and Fire together, spread them wide like a wave and sent them flowing across the stone platform at her attacker. The man didn’t gesture this time, but a wave of what looked like darkness flowed up from around him and met her wave between them, the two constructs merging, flowing, vanishing together.
“A moment, Moiraine Sedai.” He spoke, his deep voice weirdly echoing in the stale air of the Ways.
“I have no need to converse with you, Darkfriend.”
She sent weaves of Air to bind him, more weaves of Spirit to cut him off from his power, whatever it was. He appeared ready for the Air, but her true attack, a ripple of Earth through the rotting stone below him, delayed his response just enough and the Air and Spirit connected, wrapped tight, raising the man off the ground and holding him in place, arms spread wide, sword held in one hand.
“And now?” he asked, apparently not concerned with his immobilization.
Satisfied the Spirit was tied off and doubled for good measure, she nodded tersely. This was a delay she could ill afford, and she could feel Lan’s concern even in the Ways. Still, she had the man, and if his power was a new element the Dark One had brought into play, she needed to know about it.
“Speak your piece.”
“My thanks. I will dispense with pretense then.”
A ripple passed across the man’s face and a moment later he was taller, much taller, with skin so dark it almost faded into the depths of the Ways, long white hair, features that were sharp and not quite human, and eyes that were nothing but shifting panes of colour. His light leather amour was no style she had even seen before. It took but a moment and Moiraine made the connection.
“Ah. The contest. You are Anomander Rake. Not a Darkfriend then.”
“Not in the way you mean, certainly. I would apologize for the deception, but your… protector… would have interfered in a matter that is between us only. No others need be harmed.”
Moiraine only nodded. They stared at each other, her ageless face showing nothing, his dark features almost as still but for his eyes cycling through colors. Finally Rake spoke.
“I would offer you the chance to concede. This need not end in conflict.”
Moiraine almost, almost smiled. “You do not appear to be in a position to offer me anything. As I see it, you have already lost and this contest between us is over. I can leave you here and depart the Ways.”
“Sadly, no. Still, we are not true enemies and you only defended yourself. This contest is meaningless…”
“I understood otherwise. I understood that the consequences for loss could be dire. And thus far, I have not lost.”
Rake sighed. “Nor I. Nor will I start now.”
Moiraine expected his to attempt to unleash the darkness he had used to crush the Waygate. Instead she had the sense of him… removing something… like a noise she had not been aware of suddenly gone from a room. And then… CHAINS.
Chains. The sensation hammered her, rang in her head, shook her limbs, a sense of something massive far away over a thousand horizons and yet moments from crushing her… vision blurring… almost falling to her knees, keeping herself up by sheer force of will only… blood in her ears, from her nose…
Gasping, she opened to Saidar, drank deep its power and wove pure Spirit all around her, cutting her off from the force of whatever Rake had unleashed. Even then the echoes rang in her ears. She drew more, and Air and Water to heal herself as well, stilling her shaking limbs, clearing her eyes, in time to see Rake fall free of her bindings. A veil like the one he had used to change his appearance lifted from the sword he carried one handed. The weapon was even bigger than she had realized, and in the faint light of the ways, it was an ink-dark stain of deeper blackness, not reflecting anything at all. A ter’angreal then… and an abomination.
She saw Rake’s lips move, drew more on the One Power to heal her ears.
She shook her head, tied off the Spirit weave that kept those hideous chains away, and then straightened and gave answer.
* * *
Rake wasn’t surprised by the attack, but even so it almost staggered him. Waves of fire fell at him from every angle, streams of air tried to bind him, the pitted stone rippled below him. In turn he drew deep on Kurald Galain, shielding from the flame, pushing away the air, steadying him. He let the attacks continue, feeling them, almost tasting them against his Warren. The power was different… more… primal then the warrens, but also refined, the flame not as savage as Tellan, the air so as wild as Serc… another time and perhaps he would study it. For now, the contest had gone on long enough. He gathered more Darkness and drew it down like a falling storm on his opponent.
Moiraine felt the attack and drew shields of Air and Spirit in. The assault fell from all directions. The force was punishing, a pure darkness that seemed to writhe around her. Straining, she drew on her angreal, feeling Saidar flow double, and redouble, pushing back the cold energy with pure life itself.
The two forces stood in balance for a moment, and then the contesting powers took their toll on the Ways and the corrupted stone platform crumbled out from under them.
Moiraine saw Rake fall away and looked round wildly… there! Another platform. She pulled air around her and pushed herself to it, setting cushions of more air in place to catch her fall. Even as she wove that, she searched, looking for Rake… and there… floating slowly down towards a staircase adjoining two smaller platforms. Even as her weave of Air caught her, she was weaving again.. Fire, Air… Balefire. She cast it, wide as she could, directly where Rake was. Then again. And again. There was no other threads of the Pattern here to burn out. Only this opponent. Moiraine allowed herself a rare indulgence, threw herself wide to Saidar, drawing on her angreal like never before, barely a breath short of too far… and attacked again.
* * *
The sensation of burning was not one Rake was familiar with. The Aes Sedai’s attack was unlike anything he had ever experienced. There was a sense of tearing, of something trying to remove him from existence itself, something that would shred him down to nothing.
He fought back. Before Light, before the Warrens, before existence itself, there was Darkness, and he was the Son of Darkness. The primal womb of the universe had birthed him and he… would not… be … defeated…
It wasn’t enough. The brief moments in the Aes Sedai’s world had given him some small part of that world’s substance, and that anchor now threatened to tear him apart…
So he called upon his other nature… Starvald Demelain… Chaos itself… the space outside of all existence… the birthplace of dragons. And then gave himself over to it.
* * *
Balefire practically sung as Moiraine lashed out with it one last time, scorching from existence this dangerous opponent. This opponent from another world…
Realization hit her and she changed weaves. Casting Fire and Air into the darkness. He wasn’t from her world. He was NOT part of the Pattern. Her bolts of fire lit up the empty spaces around the Ways as a great black beast rose up into the air above her.
Moiraine Demandred had spent her entire adult life looking for the Dragon Reborn. She had found him, was working to keep him alive in a world gone mad… but to her, the Dragon Reborn was a man… a symbol… a mythological beast on a waving flag… not… this…
It was huge… the neck and head alone the size of a castle tower, the body pure shining black scales over muscle and bone… the forelimbs and legs ending in dark claws like swords, the wings a massive spread behind it, blocking out the Ways from view. The face had long jaws, wide brows covered in white horn that grew into a mane of spikes that ran down its back. It was like nothing Moiraine had even seen or thought to see. It looked down on her, its eyes shifting colour…
The color shift broke the spell… this was Rake! She wove fire and cast it… the flame played across the monster to no effect. She drew together a battering ram of air, too late as the dragon… Rake… opened its mouth and breathed pure darkness and chaos down on her.
* * *
Rake maintained the attack for an additional moment, then released his warrens and glided down to the platform where the woman’s body lay, sembling back to his Tiste Andii form.
He delved with Kurald Galain and found to his surprise that she was not dead. Burned, battered, near death, but not gone.
Kurald Galain was ill suited to healing, and Starvald Demelian not at all, but he repaired what damage he could, then gathered the woman up and veered again. There was another Waygate nearbye. He would return her to her world, and then return to his own.
The sooner he was done with this contest, the better.
Abyss contributed to this Cage Match
Predicted Winner: Anomander Rake
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, April 5th, 2012, AT 5 PM, EST
Don’t forget–we’re always looking for fans’ depictions of these characters. Check out the details here
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!”