I just got an e-mail from someone who works with Brandon Sanderson letting me know that Brandon has written up an essay called “Unbound Worlds Cage Match: How It REALLY Went Down” on his blog. I was told I could repost, so, well–here it is.
I think it speaks for itself, but I just want to say how great a piece this is, and once again thank Brandon for being such a great sport.
Without further ado:
So, from what I’ve heard, Rand won the Unbound Worlds cage match.
This leaves me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I am pleased and proud. On the other hand, George R. R. Martin’s write-up of how he thought things would go was simply epic. In his version, the fight went as it should have in many ways, particularly near the end. Rand and Jamie, sword to sword, man to man. A win without a kill, respect given on both sides.
Robert Jordan is smiling somewhere, Mr. Martin.
If we take an infinite multiverse view of things (as is suggested in the Wheel of Time world) then what Mr. Martin wrote did indeed happen. And it didn’t. And everything in between happened as well.
However, in the version imagined by Brandon Sanderson, here’s how the fight goes down.
Mr. Martin’s narrative is more or less dead on until the end. Rand and Jamie struggle and fight, and it comes down to man against man. However, neither man can gain advantage over the other.
Then something flickers in Rand’s vision. Perhaps it’s a trick of the light. Perhaps it’s an assassin’s bolt, dipped in the poison of an asp and fired toward Rand in a moment of weakness. Perhaps it’s Rand’s madness asserting itself. Regardless of the cause, he thinks he’s being attacked by someone other than Jamie and his allies. Treachery, a violation of the trial of seven.
It may be real. It may not be.
Rand, in desperation, somehow forms weaves of power. Reckless weaves, fueled by anger, perhaps delusion (or perhaps when the One Power pool surrounding King’s Landing was used up, some started trickling in from surrounding areas through One Power drainage ditches and has just come close enough for Rand to tap). He creates a gateway through which to escape, but also lets loose a brilliant bolt of balefire, firing it at shadows moving on the other side of that gateway.
A column of liquid light springs forth, passes through the gateway, and hits Unbound Worlds itself.
Now, it’s hard to say what effect this should have. Balefire, for those unaware, has the power to burn threads from the pattern and rework time itself. Kill someone with balefire, and things they did prior to being killed will be reversed.
Perhaps this should mean that the battle never happened. Perhaps it should wipe the entire experience from our minds. But balefire is an odd thing, as is a contest such as this one. And so, Rand’s actions remove the previous fights from existence, but don’t change what is happening between him and Jamie.
Through accident, Rand’s balefire brings back each and every fighter who participated in this tournament. Everyone appears on the battlefield at once.
Rand and Jamie stare in wonder at the chaos that follows.
Aragorn, Garet, and Hiro have a conversation about who is really the greatest swordsman in the world.
It involves much stabbing, some pizza, and very little coding.
Kahlan exclaims that she was never part of a “fantasy” novel in the first place, and so disappears in a puff of hypocrisy.
Arthur Dent says, “Oh no, not again.”
Dumbledore tries to send Lyra on a quest to find some random magical object that is going to save the world, really, and is terribly important. So important that he can’t go himself. Honestly.
Roland ponders for twenty-two years before telling you what he does.
Harry Dresden decides this is really all too much work, and wanders off to get himself something to drink. He gets beaten up seventeen times on his way, but saves two orphanages.
Ender writes a poem about the Shrike, entitled “It Might Be a Demonic, Sadistic, Terrible Monster Made of Blades, Thorns, and Terror–but It’s Really Just Misunderstood.”
Kvothe flies in, riding Temeraire, Hermione at his side, and– (I’ve written the second two thirds of this sentence, but I’m not giving them to you yet.)
The Wee Free Men start chatting about this interesting fellow they met WHO SPEAKS IN ALL CAPS and wonders if this is all going to create a great big paradoxical mess he will have to fix.
Ged, Vlad, and Conan give Eragon a wedgie.
Polgara throws something breakable at somebody, then goes to find Belgarath, who is most likely drinking with Mat, Tyrion, and Harry at this point.
Haplo and Raistlin get into an argument about how to pronounce Drizzt’s name.
Elric tries to decide just who among these people he likes the most, so that he can be forced to feed them to Stormbringer at a terribly dramatic moment, causing much personal angst.
Anita takes out Edward for good measure.
Gandalf and Aslan eye everyone mysteriously, then have a discussion over tea about whose resurrection was more meaningful.
Locke steals Gandalf’s staff and sells it on eBay as an authentic prop from the film trilogy. He then does the same thing with Hermione’s wand.
And at that point, the great Cthulhu himself awakens, and his terrible, alien nature drives everyone irrevocably insane.
Rand wins by default, since he was already insane, and Cthulhu showing up doesn’t really change him at all.
Ladies and gentlemen, we just got Cthulhu’d.