How we think the fight will go
A star fell.
In ages past, this would not have been an altogether unusual occurrence on the borders of Greenwood. Yet it had been several hundred years since the last star had fallen on Middle-Earth, and in the interim the air of Greenwood had grown dank and still and the trees had gone silent, and the men and elves and other creatures who dwelt nearby had begun to whisper the forest’s new name: Mirkwood.
In Dol Guldur, something stirred.
In a clearing, a young woman in a blue dress rubbed her injured leg and swore. The concept of having legs was new to her, let alone having a broken one. Her skin shimmered in the dim light of the forest.
“Looks different from this angle,” she murmured, and winced as she shifted her weight.
As time passed and she began to adjust to the pain, she started to take note of the silence and stillness around her. Not that I’m the expert, she thought, but aren’t there supposed to be birds singing and little animals running around?
A twig snapped and the woman jumped. From the gloom of the trees, a tall man appeared, garbed in grey, with a monumental beard. He carried a staff but did not seem to rely on it when he walked. She considered asking him if he’d lend it to her but decided the question could wait.
He approached her slowly, as if he were trying very hard not to startle her. The woman felt a confusing mix of feelings, fear and excitement and hope and dread, for which she did not yet have names.
She dragged herself backward, away from the grey man. Her hand found a rock, and closed around it.
The man stopped several paces from her. He looked very old.
“I am sorry,” he said, and his eyes were kind but sad, “but you cannot stay.”
“Can you help me get home, then?”
“I’m afraid there is no hope of returning you from whence you came, no.”
“Then where am I to go?”
The man knelt and looked into her eyes. “There is nowhere safe for you in this realm. The moment you fell here your heart became a prize to be won. A dark power grows, and if he finds you he will use you to take form, and we will be powerless to stop him. This cannot come to pass. I know you cannot possibly understand this, but we are doing what we must.”
He looked over her shoulder then, into the woods, and as she turned to follow his gaze she saw an enormous man walk into the clearing. She could not read the expression on his face but there was something feral about him, something that frightened her.
She looked back at the grey man, but he had risen and was turning to leave.
“Wait!” she called, panic creeping into her voice, though she did not know why she was panicking. “I am an evening star. My name is Yvaine.”
The grey man sighed, pained. “I wish you had not told me that. It would have been easier not to know,” he murmured, and disappeared once more into the darkness of the forest.
The bear raised its paw, and struck.
Predicted Winner: Beorn
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON Friday, March 14, 2014, AT 12:00 PM, EST
Editor’s Note: Emily Hughes talks about books on the internet, both professionally for Penguin Random House and for fun everywhere else. She’s the founding editor of Proof Reading Books, a blog of book and booze pairings. You can find her doing research most weekends in Brooklyn. For more book talk, pop culture musings, and bad puns, find her @emilyhughes.
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!”