How we think the fight will go
NOTE: We’re very luck, in that both Elizabeth Moon and Matthew Stover provided write-ups for this Cage Match. Without much further ado, we give you Caine versus Paksennarion.
How Elizabeth Moon, creator of Paksenarrion, thinks the match will go:
Paksenarrion, no longer the naive farm-girl but an experienced veteran soldier (and now paladin) has met her share of tough, strong, skilled, badasses over the past ten years. She is expert in all forms of combat on her world, including analogs to several Earth-bound martial arts, just as Caine is. However, Paks has several important psychological advantages. First, she will not be distracted by thoughts of an alternate reality, nor by relationship issues, as Caine is from time to time. Second, she learned long ago not to let her anger overwhelm her judgment, whereas Caine still gives way to mindless rage. Last, Paks is strengthened by her faith: she will believe that she’s there, facing Caine, because Gird wishes it to be so. More importantly, she will readily believe that Caine needs killing.
That being said, it’s no easy fight. It’s in her nature to want to help those blinded and imprisoned by rage and cruelty. She is not vindictive and will not react to Caine’s attack, which will most likely be driven by a desire for vengeance. Caine will of course see this (if he can see through his own rage) as weakness and try to exploit it. If Caine were able to use his standard tactics (such as false contrition as a means of gaining the trust of his target) she’d be easy meat. But her evil-detection skills mean that she won’t be fooled by any deception he tries on her. Moreover, Caine’s past experience—in both Hollywood and Overworld—has given him no basis for correctly judging Paks’s strength, speed, or enhanced abilities. She is most likely not like any female he’s ever encountered, whereas Caine’s physique and psychology are familiar to her.
Given their match of strength, skills, and equal weaponry (including the hidden knives which both surely have) it will come down to which fighter can make the best use of their skills and can sustain concentration on the fight longer. A bloody fight in which Paks’s single-mindedness and ability to control her emotions will win out over Caine’s dark stew of bitterness, rage, resentment, and his conflicted dual-world psychology. It will be shortest if Caine knows he’s facing a “real” (quote marks his) female paladin—his cynicism about goodness and faith in gods will cause him to err, assume she’s an easy mark. He will consider her ignorant of, or unable to use, deception in a fight. Paks certainly won’t escape without harm (it’s not, after all, a paladin’s duty to escape harm) but she will see killing him as giving peace to a deeply troubled and dangerous man.
She’ll be back in her universe (not having realized she’d left it) in time to do what she needs to do in the last volume of Paladin’s Legacy, currently in progress.
How Matthew Stover, creator of Caine, thinks the match will go:
She strode out of the fog along the footpath at the bottom of the defile: a big girl, six feet or taller in her boots, wide at the shoulder, her stride swinging long and easy with the natural cadence of a career soldier.
He sighed. Should have known it’d be a girl. The rock he sat on felt harder. Or maybe his ass was heavier. This was gonna suck.
Her plate mail was simple and practical, gleaming with the satin sheen of careful sand-polishing. The basket-hilted sword at her hip also looked simple, practical and well-used. The fanciest thing she carried was a beautiful blackwood longbow, and she carried it strung in her left hand, with an arrow nocked and held in place by the slightest amount of tension on the string.
At least she wasn’t riding. He’d have hated to hurt a horse. He got up and stepped out onto the path. “Hi there.”
She stopped. “Hello. Are you a man?”
He spread his empty hands and slowly turned, so she could see he wore black leather clothing and a few knives, all sheathed. “My wife used to think so.”
Her smile seemed to light up the defile. Fog melted away from her as though from morning sun. “Well met, then. I have been troubled by creatures whose glamour can make them seem human—and by humans whose dark natures give them powers beyond imagination. I’m gladdened to sense no evil in you.”
“I don’t really do the whole good and evil thing. You know what this place is?”
“I am called by Gird to walk this road. That’s all I know. It’s all I need to know.”
“Wait—did you say Gird?” His eyes drifted shut. Only for a second. Of course—the hair, the smile, the blackwood longbow. He’d been right: this sucked. “You’re Paksenarrion.”
“You speak as though you know me.”
He hated being right. “I’m a fan.”
“You’re awesome. I mean it. A real hero. Where I come from, there are whole books about you. I used to b . . . uh, keep company with . . . a girl whose dream was to grow up to be you.”
“Whatever I am, it is by Gird’s grace.”
“Sure, right. Paladin. I remember.”
“And you are?”
“Please allow me to introduce myself,” he said through his teeth. “I’m a man of wealth, and taste.”
She just looked blank. He said, “You don’t need to know my name. Names. Saying any of them out loud isn’t always a great idea. Look, what’s going on here—this isn’t like the stuff in your books.”
Her brow furrowed. “Books. My books, you say?”
“Six or eight of them, maybe. Could be more; I disremember. Everybody I know thinks you’re a fictional character.”
“I assure you I am fully as real as yourself.”
“I am fictional. At least some of the time. Fictional doesn’t mean what people think it means.” He shrugged an apology. “Like, this defile—the rocks, the path, the fog—this is fictional too. Or at least metaphoric. But don’t worry about that too much. Just remember that if you get past me, your next time probably won’t be a footpath through the mountains. It might be a forest road, a wayside inn’s common room, or just a straight up arena. Wherever, whatever, sooner or later you have to fight.”
“You seem to know a great deal about our situation. Whatever it may be.”
“Advantages of a classical education.”
“Is that why you are here? To fight me?”
“I’d rather not.”
“It is well, then. Upon my honor as Gird’s paladin: offer no threat to me or any innocent, and I will not harm you.”
“Until Gird tells you to.” He took a deep breath and put one hand to the small of his back, stretching out a kink. This also put his fingers an inch from the butt of the Automag holstered just below his kidney. “That’s the problem with paladins. If Gird, y’know, calls you to destroy me, you will.”
“Why should Gird wish you harm?”
“To know me is to want me dead.” He opened his other hand toward her. “Look, only one of us gets to leave this place, and I’ve got sh—er, stuff to do.”
“Such as find the fu—uh, bastards who set this up. Gods, thaumaturges, mages, whatever they are. I don’t approve of people dying for somebody’s entertainment. Especially people like you.”
“And should you find these beings of power?”
His grin showed his teeth like a wolf’s. “We’ll see how they like dying for my entertainment.”
“You say that as though it’s not a figure of speech.”
“Let’s make a deal, huh? I don’t mind getting killed, much—I’m kind of used to it—but I do mind letting these bastards get away with this, er, stuff. So if I’m the one who ends up left behind here, you go take care of them, all right?”
“Take care of them?”
“Kill them. Spank them. Scold them harshly. Whatever you’re allowed to do as a Girdish paladin?”
Her brows drew together, and her clear grey eyes darkened gravely. “If it lies within my power, and the will of Gird, I will do it.”
“Thanks. I was pretty sure I could count on you, but it’s nice to hear you say it,” he said, then drew the Automag and blew a fist-size hole through her left thigh.
She jerked at the impact, and collapsed to that side, gasping as she fell. She broke the fall with her left upper arm and shoulder without even dropping the longbow. Good news: the tristack shatterslugs had probably broken her femur. More good news: her free hand went to her inner thigh, instinctively seeking the pressure point where she could slow the hemorrhaging from her femoral artery. He remembered from her books that Gird could heal her, but it might take a minute or two. If he needed more than that, he didn’t deserve to get away.
But she didn’t even look at her wound. Those clear grey eyes met his, level, unafraid, and cold as glass. Now she took her hand away from the pressure point and took instead the nock of her arrow, still in place on her longbow’s string. “You are without honor.”
“I’m trying to save your life.” He turned away and walked into the fog. “Could have shot you in the head.”
As the tendrils of mist thickened around him, she said, “Stop and face me.”
He kept walking. “Why should I?”
“Because I would rather not shoot a man in the back.”
“Good,” he said. But because he was who he was and because he had done the things he’d done, the leather-clad figure was already shifting his weight and slipping to his right as her bowstring thrummed and somebody punched him in the back of his left shoulder. Hard. He staggered, and scowled down at the steel arrowhead and the foot or so of blackwood shaft sticking out through his left pectoral.
Another sucking chest wound. Swell. At least she missed his spine.
He turned in profile to her and lifted the Automag as she unhurriedly withdrew another arrow and fitted it to her bowstring. “Sorry,” he said, and shot her through the right eye.
Her head exploded like a meat grenade.
He went back and stood over her corpse for a moment. He hated killing good guys, even when he had to. He just didn’t hate it enough to let a good guy kill him.
This had been a shitty day, and he didn’t expect it to get better.
Eventually he lifted his head and spoke to the air. “Did you enjoy that? Was it worth what I’m gonna do when I find you?”
He holstered the Automag and headed for the fog. “You fuckers better pray I lose the next one.”
Predicted Winner: Paksenarrion…or Caine
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, MARCH 8th, 2012, AT 5 PM, EST
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!”