How we think the fight will go
Atreyu had expected the trail to be easier to follow once he got to the foothills, where there were only so many pathways a purple buffalo could navigate. Behind him the vast snow-covered plains were like an ocean where tracks could linger or vanish in an instant, at the whim of the wind. But now as he stood atop the first rocky outcropping that ringed the mountain range like like a row of enormous grey teeth, the way forward was no clearer. His mission locate his clan’s ancestral herds — and if possible, determine what had lured them away — had ended in failure.The sunlight was fading. Searching for a grove to camp in that would properly diffuse the iciest blasts of wind, Atreyu arrived upon a small clearing. A frozen pond gleamed at the center like the face of a diamond set into a silver band; a congregation of young firs hovered around it like guardians. He thrilled at the natural beauty of the site, until he glimpsed the sleigh nestled between two trees, hitched to pairs reindeer standing silently in the snow. His green skin prickled. He was not alone.
“Ah, a fellow traveler!” The voice came not from the sleigh, but from a snowdrift on the edge of the pond. Or so he thought, until the drift uncoiled and rose to a grand height. A woman now stood before him, nearly as tall as firs themselves and wound from head to toe in luxurious white furs which he’d mistaken at a distance for snow.
“I am Atreyu, I come from the Grassy Ocean in the West,” he said in greeting. Instinctively, he bowed deeply; he couldn’t help imagining that her to be a figure of immense importance. “I seek the purple buffalo herds, which have sustained my people for many centuries. Perhaps you have encountered them in your own travels?”
“Well met, Atreyu. I am Jadis, I rarely set foot beyond my own realm… except for these hunting trips which amuse me so.” Her face creased in a smile and her eyes glittered, but her voice betrayed no amusement whatsoever. “Tell me, Atreyu. Does your clan own the purple buffalo?”
“Why… no. We occupy the Grassy Ocean together, but own it neither it or each other. We depend on the buffalo for survival, and our hunting keeps their herds at a healthy size. Have you seen them?”
Just as the question left his mouth, he saw that the snow around her feet was sprinkled with fresh blood. The droplets seemed to have scattered from under the pelts wrapped tightly around her arms and throat.
“I’m happy to hear you say that, young man,” said Jadis. “For if they truly belonged to someone else, why, one could hardly call that hunting!” As Atreyu blinked in confusion, his eyes cleared of the White Witch’s magic. He saw that she was clothed in neither snow nor white fur, but in woolly, amethyst-colored strips of fresh, steaming buffalo hide. Behind her, also no longer concealed, one of the poor beasts lay half-submerged in the snow, already skinned and half-butchered.
He hadn’t seen her draw a blade, but now there was one in her hand all the same, with a cruel edge nearly as long as his arm. Before she could so much as raise it, Atreyu nimbly ducked out of range, reaching over his own shoulder for the bow slung across his back. With his free hand, he fished an arrow from the quiver. Jadis calmly stood her ground. When she spoke this time, there was actual humor in her voice, the pitying kind.
“You poor boy, why don’t you ride on with me to my kingdom? That’s where all your beloved buffalo have gone to; I’ve imported them for my own sporting pleasure; you are welcome to hunt them there to your heart’s content.”
Warily, he nocked his arrow and drew back the string. Despite the size and toughness of their prey, the Grass People carried no other weapons on their hunting trips, taking pride in being able to find just the right shot for a clean kill. And if a stampeding buffalo’s hide couldn’t protect it from his slim arrows, Atreyu thought, then surely the throat of an evil enchantress would fare no better. “Drop your weapon” he hissed at her through gritted teeth, “and release the herds!”
“As you wish, young master.” Smiling mirthlessly, Jadis plunged the tip of her blade into the frozen earth. She reached into the bloody swaths of hide that adorned her body like a cloak, and which was already beginning to stiffen in the cold, conforming to the shape of her body like a gruesome coat of armor. Atreyu knew he must be in the presence of a being of tremendous power, for even as she produced the wand, he could sense a shaking and shuddering coming from the mountain pass. The herds! As she raised the wand, the rumbling grew louder. They must be very close by, Atreyu thought with relief.
The brief distraction was all the Witch needed. With the speed of a striking snake, she leveled her wand at the young warrior and expelled a dazzling blast. In that fatal instant, Atreyu realized his misjudgment and let fly his arrow — except it did not fly at all, for the string which ought to have propelled it and the hand which had unleashed it had both hardened to pale, gray-green granite. Atreyu’s petrifying eyes watched as the stone arrow tumbled dully from his fingertips, and his stiffening ears heard a rasping noise as it buried itself in the snow; after that, the boy saw and heard no more.
Without a second glance, Jadis marched over to her sleigh and took the reins. She’d identified the nearby quaking and grinding noises as an approaching band of Rock Chewers; she had nothing to fear from them, but they’d probably feel self-conscious about eating the boy if she was around.
With a flick of her whip across the backsides of her buffalo team — no longer magically disguised as reindeer — Jadis set off into the darkness.
Predicted Winner: The White Witch
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON WEDNESDAY, March 6th, 2013, AT 5 PM, EST
Atreyu is a character from The Neverending Story by Michael Ende; The White Witch is a character from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.
Atreyu image courtesy of xGotikox. The White Witch image courtesy of Disney Enterprises.
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!”