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How we think the fight will go
How Harry Connolly, creator of Ray Lilly, thinks the match will go:
It was forest this time. That’s okay. Ray was okay with forest. Sure, that stand of trees over there could hide a lot of heavily-armed dudes, but they could provide cover for him, too, right?
“Ray, what the hell am I doing here?”
Ray turned to see Annalise beside him. She was dressed in her fighting clothes—a firefighter’s jacket and pants that hung on her like a tent even though it was probably the smallest size anyone could get. Even her buzz cut was fresh.
She stared up at him with her beady little eyes, and pale face. She didn’t look older than 25, but she was. Oh how she was. “Er, Boss, when I found out that I was allowed to bring help, I—”
“Help? I don’t help you, Ray.” Her voice was high, more suited to a cartoon squirrel than a grown woman, but her expression made it clear she was pissed. Annalise broke bones when she was pissed. “You help me. You’re my wooden man—”
“Boss, I know, but—”
“You belong to me. When help is given, it flows from you to me.”
“Boss, you don’t have to tell me. Who knows that better than me? But I had to. Last night, this huge black bird dropped a message in front of me that said I should make sure you were here.”
“Oh, in that case, never mind. We wouldn’t want to disappoint a fucking bird.”
“So. Boss. This guy hasn’t contacted you, has he? He hasn’t worked out a deal with you to kill me, right?”
Ray had heard how his opponent’s previous fight had gone. He knew this guy was not a fighter or sorcerer, just a smart, ruthless guy.
And rich. If there was one thing Ray had learned, it was that you couldn’t be careful enough with rich, ruthless bastards.
Annalise glared at him. “Nobody can contact me when I don’t want them to. Except, apparently, you.”
Rather than meet her gaze, Ray picked up his duffel bag and walked to the top of the hill. The other side was a long, grassy slope down to a pretty little stream. Beyond that was another gentle, grassy slope. Stands of oaks stood along either side. The whole thing was as pretty as a golf course.
Except for the Viking army across the water. They flew banners with a broken sword stitched on them, which seemed too much like a jinx to Ray.
“Boss, are those Vikings?”
“Don’t be stupid. They’re medieval warriors…of some kind. And I don’t think Vikings used catapults.”
Oh right. There were two catapults at the top of the hill far to one side. The warriors all stood well away from them, which made Ray a little uneasy.
At the very bottom of the slope a large oak table had been set so it straddled the stream. Food and wine had been laid out, and a very short man bundled up in a full suit of armor sat atop a horse nearby. He held a crossbow in his lap. Tyrion Lannister.
A few feet away from the table stood two men, One wore the same armor as the others and held a wicked-looking curved sword. The other was a fat guy in sweat pants and his t-shirt showed three wolves howling at a moon. His head was covered with a stained white hood.
Beside him, Ray heard Annalise let out a little hiss. Had she recognized Sweat Pants? Or was she as unhappy as Ray was to see hundreds of trained killers standing opposite them.
She started down the hill, her shoulders hunched forward like she was about to charge. “Ray, you got anything useful in that bag?”
“I brought tools for doing harm, Boss.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear.”
The warriors on the far bank began to chant like soccer thugs, waving bows, swords, and weird axes with really, really long handles. Ray turned to ask Annalise what those were called, but her body language made him think better of it. She was slowly unzipping the front of her jacket, revealing the multicolored ribbons clipped to her vest. She did recognize Sweat Pants after all, and she was ready to do some killing.
“That’s close enough!” Tyrion shouted from horseback when Ray and Annalise were about ten yards from the table. The stupid soccer chants stopped. “You understand the situation, don’t you? Or must I explain it?”
The metal bucket over his head hid Tyrion’s expression, but Ray could hear his smirk in the way he spoke. Ray immediately hated his guts. “Situation? What do you mean?”
The guy laughed. “You’re a hard man to get leverage on, Mr. Lilly. I tried to find one of your friends to use against you, but it was impossible.”
Hundreds of warriors were waiting for his answer. “My friends are dead.”
“Because you killed them! You’re a man after my own heart.” The big metal bucket shifted position slightly so Tyrion could look through the metal mesh at Annalise. “But you, my dear, are another matter. I’m sure you recognize him.” He gestured toward Sweat Pants. Ray was close enough to see gray hair on the guy’s forearms.
Annalise stared straight at the horseman. “This was a mistake.”
At the sound of Annalise’s voice, the guy in the hood turned toward her. “Maw maw?”
A chill ran down Ray’s back. “Boss, is that your grandson?” Annalise had family? It didn’t seem possible.
“I would have preferred to make this bargain in private,” Tyrion said, “but that was impossible. Still, it’s a simple enough arrangement. I am not sure how to kill your hireling there—I hear he’s quite sturdy—but I’m betting that you do. You made him, did you not? So! Kill my enemy for me and your kin will be returned unharmed. You have my word as a Lannister.”
Annalise turned. That look on her face—Oh, shit. “Boss—”
“Be quick about it, though!” Tyrion shouted. “The last person to wear that hood rode out of this world on the pale mare.”
Annalise grabbed Ray’s jacket and lifted him into the air as though he weighed as much as a pencil. He struggled, knowing it was useless. She had the strength to tear his limbs off and there was nothing he could do about it.
But he slipped out of her grip. She’d let him go while still pretending to fight. Ray tumbled over her head, landing hard on the grass and rolling toward Sweat Pants. Annalise spun, plucked a green ribbon from her vest, and threw it.
The weighted end landed between Ray and the two men, then blossomed into a ball of green fire. The iron gate spell on Ray’s shoulder stung painfully as it resisted the flames, but he was still unharmed.
The fire burned out. The warrior with the curved sword at Sweat Pants’s throat had collapsed into a pile of smoking bones, but Sweat Pants himself was unharmed. Guess he had an iron gate of his own.
Ray rolled to his feet and grabbed hold of the old guy’s arm. Tyrion yelled that they were loose or something, and Ray heard the twang of bow strings. He knocked the table on its side and pushed Sweat Pants down behind it.
Arrows struck the wood and dirt all around. When the volley ended, Ray raised his head above the shelter. Tyrion was riding for the treeline, hard. Ray threw his ghost knife. The spell zipped after the fleeing man and…
It missed. The ghost knife missed.
What the hell? He called it back to his hand as Tyrion vanished into the greenery. Annalise snapped the heavy cord around Sweat Pants’s wrist as though it was cooked spaghetti.
“There you go, Keith.”
Keith pushed the hood off of his face. He looked like any sad fifty-year-old barfly. “Maw-maw, what—”
He was interrupted by two heavy thunks of wood against wood. Both catapults had gone off and heavy clay pots now soared through the air toward them.
Annalise drew two brown ribbons from her vest. “Not now, honey.” She threw them. They flew unerringly toward the pots, striking them with a pathetically tiny sound.
Immediately, the momentum of their flights reversed. The pots flew backward toward the lines of warriors—not far enough to hit the catapults themselves, but hitting high enough on the far slope that they shattered within a few feet of those long-handled axes, splattering the warriors with some kind of napalm.
The screams were horrible, but better them than Ray. The fire flowed like liquid down the hill toward the stream and the smoke was thick and black.
“Let’s go!” Annalise barked. She dragged Keith up the hill, snatching up the duffel on the way.
The flames weren’t extinguished by the water, but they did flow along the stream bed. When they were a safe distance away, Ray grabbed the duffel; Annalise let him take it.
“I have something for you, Boss.” He took out a twenty-pound sledge hammer. She held it by the end like it was a wiffle bat.
“No,” he said, then gave her a second one. He took a .45 Colt out of the bag and offered it to Keith. “You should probably make a run for it, man.”
Annalise saw that there were two pump shotguns still in the bag. She snatched the duffel out of Ray’s hand and gave it to Keith instead. “Get out of here, honey. I’ll come find you.” Keith didn’t run well, but he ran.
Ray looked at the gun in his hand. Guess it would have to do.
“Boss, I have to take on the head guy. That’s how this works.”
She waved the sledge under his nose. “If you ever tell anyone I acted as your wooden man—”
“I won’t! I swear!” On the far side of the wall of flames, the soccer chants had begun again. Annalise turned toward the sound, hammers in hand. Ray cleared his throat. “Hey, Boss.”
“What is it, Ray?”
“This time, just this once, maybe you could enjoy yourself?”
She didn’t smile. A smile would have been too much to expect. But her mouth moved in the general direction of a smile, which was as good as Ray could expect. “Good idea.” She ran down the hill.
Ray put the gun in his pocket and ran into the treeline. The fire was flowing downstream the other way, and his enemy had ridden into the trees somewhere on the other side of the stream. He’d fled. Ray hoped. He didn’t know much about the woods and he assumed Tyrion knew everything about every leaf and branch, if only because he’d spent his life wiping his ass with them.
He didn’t encounter any warriors and he didn’t see the horse. Above him to the left, he could hear the shouts and screams of battle. Annalise could take care of herself. At least, he hoped so. Please, Boss, take care of yourself.
Shortly after he waded through the stream he came upon a set of hoofprints in the mud. They led off along a muddy track between two trees and Ray started to follow it. Damn. It was just like in the movies.
After fifty yards, the hoofprints clustered together as though the horse had stamped a few times, then moved deeper into the woods. Ray started to follow but something felt wrong. He stopped and turned around.
There, hidden deep among the bushes, was a little gleam of metal.
“Hey man, you had better not—”
The crossbow went off. The missile struck him just below the belly button, uncomfortably close to his crotch.
“Damn!” Ray charged into the bushes and dragged the little armored man out of it. He took away the knife Tyrion wore at his belt and threw it into the bushes.
“I yield!” Tyrion shouted. “I yield! yield!” His voice echoed inside his metal bucket, but Ray could hear his terror. He was glad the smirk was gone, but he didn’t like terrifying people, even the rich. “You win the match!”
“I have to kill you to win, and you better hope it’s me that does it.” There were still the sounds of clashing steel and screams coming from beyond the trees. “You won’t be pleased if my boss finds you.”
“The rules say I can surrender, and look what I can offer you as compensation.” He pulled out a velvet bag that jingled with coins.
Ray became absolutely still at the sound. They didn’t sound like nickels. “Well, financial independence has always been my kryptonite.”
“Take it! I can recommend some of the best brothels in King’s Landing. Or if you like, I could put in a few words for you here and there so you could set up your own place. A man like you could practically mint your own coin.”
“Damn it feels good to be a Lannister,” Ray said under his breath, but he’d felt a twinge of pity at the word “brothel.” What the hell. No way he’d ever become a pimp, but his wallet was pretty much always empty. This would help. Besides, Keith was okay, and if Annalise wanted to kill this pathetic little guy, she could do it herself.
His iron gate became cold as he reached for the bag of coins. It had hurt him many times over the years when he came under attack, but growing cold? That had never happened before.
As his hand closed on the top of the bag, Tyrion suddenly slid a knife into his armpit.
The bag of coins fell into the grass. The pain was sharp, but not as bad as it could have been.
With his other hand, Ray slapped the side of Tyrion’s metal bucket, making it ring like a gong. “What are you, stupid?” Rich people.
Ray pulled the knife out of his ribs and stuck it into the ground. While Tyrion fumbled to take off his bucket, Ray drew a slender baggie from his inside jacket pocket. It was full of tiny cubes of steak. He popped them like pills, glad for the chance to plan ahead for once.
It took no time at all for the steak to heal his stab wound. Ray did a quick but thorough study of Tyrion’s armor; he didn’t have any more hidden knives. Then the metal head covering came off.
Tyrion turned out to be a really ugly guy. His blonde beard had streaks of black in it, his eyes didn’t match, and someone had snipped off the end of his nose. “Would that I had caught you on the privvy,” he said. “Pretty, aren’t I? I can perform tricks, too.”
“I just saw you do some sleight-of-hand. No thanks.”
“Then let us have a contest where we would be more evenly matched. What say we tip back fine Dornish wines until one of us expires of it. I’ll pour.”
“What say we make this quick.” Ray picked up the knife and stepped toward him. The armpit was a good idea. He held Tyrion down with one knee and lifted his arm. The little man spit into Ray’s face. “A Lannister always pays his debts.”
Those last words were as good as any. But as he lifted the blade, Ray’s iron gate suddenly became icy cold again, almost burning him. He stabbed the knife into the cotton and chain mail.
The blade snapped off at the handle. The cold eased as Ray stared at it, disbelieving. Then he stood, took out the gun and fired three shots into Tyrion’s breastplate.
The armor sparked as the shots ricocheted off. Those were supposed to be steel-jacketed slugs. And the iron gate was so cold. Whatever was happening, Ray was sure Tyrion’s death would end it. He fired two more shots directly at the dwarf’s face, but both of them struck the dirt beside his blonde head.
What the hell was going on? How could he have missed at this range?
Tyrion looked as confused as Ray felt. Ray stepped forward, placing the barrel of the gun directly against Tyrion’s forehead. As Ray squeezed the trigger, his iron gate became so cold it felt as though it burned, his vision clouded over with darkness and swirling lights, and some force he couldn’t identify made the Colt buck so hard that he missed again.
Ray staggered back, clutching at his shoulder. “Damn. I thought you didn’t have any magic.”
Tyrion struggled to his knees under the weight of all his armor. “You are not wrong.”
“Then what? You hired someone?”
“Yes, exactly,” Tyrion said. “He’s a fellow in red robes. Waves his arms a lot.” He waved in the direction Ray had come. “If you start off in that direction you can probably catch him.”
This little guy didn’t know what was going on, either, but one thing was certain—someone or something was affecting the outcome of his fight, and not in Ray’s favor. His iron gate spell kept pulsing.
Tyrion suddenly turned, another loaded crossbow in his hands. Ray dropped both hands to cover his crotch just in time to protect his junk from sudden impalement.
Ray snatched the strange little arrow off the ground. “What, do you have a thing for shooting guys in the crotch?”
Tyrion threw the crossbow aside. “I like to challenge myself by aiming at the smallest possible target.”
While Ray laughed at this, Tyrion drew a knife from his boot and leapt forward. Ray caught his wrist and knocked him onto his stomach, throwing the blade away. He was sure that knife hadn’t been there a few moments before, just as he knew there hadn’t been a loaded crossbow lying in the grass. What was happening?
As he held the smaller man’s body to the ground, the metal plates of Tyrion’s armor suddenly softened like jelly. Ray lost his grip and the smaller man managed to roll over with yet another knife in his hand.
Ray slapped it into the mud, then struck Tyrion hard on the side of the head. That, apparently, he was allowed to do. It was lethal blows that were being blocked. Sticking his ghost knife between his teeth, Ray laid a punch on the side of Tyrion’s jaw to put him out for a few moments, then pressed the arrow point just below his ear.
As expected, the wave of burning cold that struck his iron gate was brutal. Again he saw lights flashing through a deep darkness, but this time he did not try to blink them away.
This was where the interference was coming from. Whatever force was trying to influence this fight in his enemy’s favor, it was coming from here, and his iron gate could show it to him.
Darkness was everywhere, even deeper than the darkness of the Empty Spaces. Floating within that darkness was an array of glowing, paper-thin rectangles. There were hundreds of them—no, thousands. Some were as large as a cookie sheet. Some were as small as the palm of his hand. Most were somewhere in between, but all of them, all, were glowed with a fuzzy white light.
And beside those rectangles were faces. Christ, they appeared to be human faces, all staring intently into the rectangles, all pouring energy into Tyrion.
Struck with a sudden, horrifying idea, Ray spun around. There were more rectangles behind him, but just a few, no more than a couple of dozen. They were his; he could feel the truth of it the way he might recognize his own face in a mirror. There were forces pushing for him to succeed, too, but there were so few compared to Tyrion’s.
Ray grabbed the ghost knife from his teeth and threw it. It flashed through the darkness, cutting through rectangle after rectangle, face after face. He saw the lights wink out, saw faces twist in surprise and dismay. He could feel dozens of connections to Tyrion snapping like bridge cables.
Then Tyrion was beside him. Before he could move, Tyrion shoved yet another knife into his back.
Ray cried out. The void faded, and his ghost knife seemed to vanish with it. He fell onto his face in the grass, and a knife went through the back of his neck, pinning him to the ground.
“By the Seven!” Tyrion exclaimed. “What a wondrous thing you have shown me! I had no idea I had an audience watching my every move! Oh and bless me, they have provided me with another crossbow.”
Tyrion shot Ray through the armpit, securing his right arm against the forest floor. Ray reached for the knife in his neck, but the Tyrion shoved another blade into his left armpit. Ray could no longer move his arms.
This was very, very bad. He could heal these wounds, but how the hell was he supposed to fight if he couldn’t use his arms?
“Wasn’t that kind of them? Thank you, watching spirits! To demonstrate my gratitude, when I am done here I will head straight to the nearest brothel so you may admire my prowess there. And you, poor Mister Lilly. What strange magic you possess, and how delightful to discover that I have such a large following. Well, larger than yours, at least. Perhaps if you had been more…personable, you would have the means to compete with me.”
Tyrion kicked the side of Ray’s face with an iron boot. “Something more witty might have brought fans flocking to you, but too late. Let me see. I know my supporters do not think me a great warrior—because I am not—nor can I cast a spell. Neither would work on you anyway, I suspect. You’re not even bleeding. Leading an army didn’t work out. Hmm. What would please them enough to earn me the victory I need? I’m a champion drinker of course, but wasting good wine on you would disappoint us all. And you’re a pretty fellow, but the wrong sort of whore for my tastes.”
Ray tried to blink away the spots from his eyes. “Why don’t you talk me to death?”
“A jape! What an idea! I have always believed there was but one person in love with my wit, and you have been listening to him. But perhaps…”
Ray struggled to get his knees under him, but the mud was slippery and whatever spirits were protecting Tyrion made it impossible. If only he’d had time in the void with his ghost knife.
“I have it,” Tyrion said. “Let us see if this works, shall we?”
Armor clanking, Tyrion crouched low enough to put his lips to Ray’s ear. Then he whispered something.
Despite himself, Ray began to laugh. His voice echoed in the forest as the laugh grew and grew within him. He could feel the cold of his iron gate, feel the sharpened metal cutting through him, but nothing was as powerful as that laugh. It became more powerful with every second, straining his lungs, his face, his back.
Ray laughed until his heart burst.
Predicted Winner: Tyrion Lannister
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON THURSDAY, MARCH 15th, 2012, AT 5 PM, EST
Don’t forget–we’re always looking for fans’ depictions of these characters. Check out the details here
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