Cage Match 2012: Round 1: Iorek Byrnison versus Susannah Dean


The Contestants


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Iorek Byrnison
King of Svalbard
Age: Unknown
Race: Panserbjorne (armored polar bear)
Weapons / Artifacts: Teeth and claws
He’s armored polar bear—use your imagination

Susannah Dean
Age: 30
Race: Human
Weapons / Artifacts: Gun
Multiple personalities distract you…then she shoots you

The Breakdown


  • Larger, faster, and vastly more intelligent than an ordinary polar bear
  • completely clad in impenetrable “sky-iron armor”
  • has almost supernatural blacksmithing skills

  • A gunslinger: has perfect marksmanship, deadly accuracy, and near-superhuman drawing speed
  • Schizophrenic, but can call on the skills and temperaments of her other personalities, Detta Walker and Odetta Holmes
  • Has the extraordinary will and courage to face down the powers of darkness, including demons

  • A little too fond of alcohol (has yet to discover the joy and camaraderie of Coke)

  • Wheelchair-bound

  • N/A

  • N/A

How we think the fight will go

Before the battle, those who loved the two contestants and did not wish them to die consulted their augurs.

Roland Deschain was awake all the night peering into the Wizard’s Glass; but when he tried to tell Susannah Dean of his visions, she simply raised her hand and said,
“We must leave it to ka.” And then she went back to polishing her guns, and saying to herself, over and over again, the gunslinger’s oath: “I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart.

And Lyra Belacqua asked questions of the alethiometer all night, but Iorek refused to even look at the device, which he had never much liked or trusted anyway. When Lyra tearfully insisted, he said gruffly “It is not honorable.” And he went back to his workshop, where he had been “improving” his armor for the past several weeks.

Neither Lyra nor Roland looked especially hopeful the morning of the battle. But as Roland wheeled Susannah into the arena, he was able to say one word to her: “Shardik.” And Lyra, just as she gave Iorek one last hug, whispering in his great furry ear, “There are other worlds than these.”

If Iorek or Susannah shared their fears, however, it would have required the prescience of the gods to see it. Susannah’s face was a blank mask of determination, even though she saw at once that the plan she had relied on—“aim for the heart”—would not work. The bear had re-forged his armor, leaving not a single open gap—save for the two holes from which his black, pitiless eyes gazed murderously.

And Iorek, who had never been the slightest bit intimidated by any human, had to concede that this tiny, wheelchair-bound woman, nevertheless had the formidable air of a true panserbjorne about her.

When Iorek leapt at the gunslinger, it was with no thought but of the sound of Lyra’s voice, and those last words: “There are other worlds than these.” His mind was usually so clear when he was fighting; Iorek loved how the blinding blood and thunderous roar of battle cleared his mind. But this time he had the peculiar sensation of perfect silence and perfect calm, as if he were not in battle at all—or even in Unbound Worlds Stadium—but in a blank and beautiful void.

The bear charged, far more quickly than a creature of his formidable size, and weighted down with colossal armored plates, should have—and still Susannah was able to draw before he left the ground. No sooner had she pulled her gun than she found herself in that distinctive mental space Eddie Dean used to call “gunslinger time”: The bear seemed to be coming towards her in slow motion; the crowd in the stadium seemed to have fallen silent; she suspected that even the multiverse, wheeling endlessly around the Dark Tower, had come to a stop.

“Shardik,” she said to herself as she aimed, looking for just the right spot. She would have to choose well; once the bear was upon her, she was finished. At first, all she could remember of the bear was the rhyme from Eddie’s dream-vision—“See the BEAR of fearsome size/All the WORLD’s within his eyes/TIME grows thin, the past’s a riddle/The TOWER awaits you in the middle.”

Once she had repeated the words to herself, what she saw before her was not an armored polar bear, but another bear, seemingly as tall as the Tower, with a gleam of madness in his eyes—and a tiny metal plate upon his head. Shardik. She remembered—not with her hands, not with her eyes, but with her heart—the shot to the dead center of that metal plate that brought the colossal beast low. And it was with her heart that she shot the bear twice…once in each eye.

But darkness never fell for Iorek. He never even felt any pain as the bullets found his eyes. It was only in one world that Susannah wheeled over to his motionless body, that blood drained from his sightless eyes. In another—just beyond the blank void he saw as he leapt, the void whose shape Lyra had discerned in the alethiometer—he opened his eyes to see Susannah’s broken body, her blood staining the ground of the arena, and Lyra running towards him to say to him again, “There are other worlds than these.”

Predicted Winner: Susannah Dean


Check out the previous match!

Check out the next match!

Check out the Bracket

Iorek Brynison is a character from the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman; Susannah Dean is a character from the Dark Tower series by Stephen King

Iorek image courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers. Susannah image courtesy of Signet

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!”