Cage Match 2016 Round 1: Alina Starkov and Mal Oretsev vs Bean Delphiki and Petra Arkanian


The Contestants

Alina & Mal.jpg

Bean & Petra.jpg

Alina Starkov & Mal Oretsev
Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow & Bone
Age: Both 17.
Race: Both human.
Weapons: Alina: Elemental powers. Mal: Rifle.
Alina: Literally the sun. Mal: Disarming handsomeness.

Bean Delphiki & Petra Arkanian
Orson Scott Card’s Shadow Puppets
Age: Both 22.
Race: Both human.
Weapons: Anton’s Key.
Bean: Intricate military strategy. Petra: Instant seduction.

The Breakdown


  • Alina is the most powerful Grisha in living memory
  • Mal has tracking skills and unflappable charisma

  • Both were brilliant strategists by the age of five
  • Bean grows bigger and smarter with each passing minute
  • Petra enjoys unlimited reproductive potential

  • Alina: Shockingly naïve about others’ true feelings and motivations
  • Mal: Ego writes checks that his body can’t cash

  • Bean: Extreme paranoia and fated to die, like, really soon
  • Petra: Insistent on picking the wrong guy at the wrong time and having all of his children

  • None yet.

  • None yet.

How we think the fight will go


Bean and Petra begin laying the groundwork months in advance with a mass e-mail campaign designed to drive a wedge between Alina and Mal. Anonymous e-mails to Mal plant the idea of a lovely Grisha “who cannot be seduced” by any man. Other messages, spoofed so that they appear to come from Mal, are scandalous proposals to various female Grisha and CC Alina “in case she wants to join.”

The e-mail campaigns eventually fail because Petra’s constant pregnancies make her fingers too swollen to type, and Bean’s hands become so strong that he breaks every keyboard in half.

On the day of the match, Bean stashes Petra in a remote log cabin and assigns her the codename Big Mama. She starts popping out babies like nobody’s business. Thanks to Anton’s key, these rapidly grow into mature warriors who are trained in hand-to-hand combat. Bean commands them in ever-more-complex attacks on Alina and Mal.

However, none of the embryo warriors ever thinks to bring a gun. As soon as they lumber into view, Alina summons the sun and burns them to ash. Meanwhile, Mal slips away and uses his tracking skills to find Petra’s remote cabin. He kicks down the door, rifle in hand, and draws a bead on her.

Petra convinces him that the embryos are not hers, but are part of a secret plot put in motion years ago by her enemy, Achilles. She’s so adamant about not wanting to have babies that Mal mistakes her for the rumored unseducible Grisha. He decides that his handsomeness could be the cure for her affliction, and lowers the rifle. Petra considers killing him, but once again, didn’t think to bring a gun. She kisses Mal, hoping to distract him long enough to take his rifle.

Meanwhile, Bean has grown to over eight feet tall. Fearing that he’ll be seen by Alina, he flees to a cave in the mountains and begins calling himself Haricot Vert. He continues to orchestrate his embryo-soldiers’ maneuvers through a chain of trusted intermediaries.

The longer Mal is away on his tracking mission, the more Alina’s resentment boils to the surface. She can’t help but notice that the embryo-soldiers have become more handsome and charming with each generation. They flout Bean’s precise orders, opting to instead try to charm her with such lines as “Hey, Sticks!” and “Is it me, or is there a golden nimbus around you?” Unfortunately for them, Alina is incapable of seeing herself as attractive or useful. She continues to incinerate the soldiers with a little help from her big golden friend.

When Mal doesn’t return, Alina goes looking for him. She finds the cabin, with Mal and Petra both inside. A jealous rage takes over. She destroys both of them in a blinding ray of sunlight, but the effort drains the last of her powers. This is the opening that Bean’s been waiting for, his one opportunity to strike. But it looks too easy. He suspects that it’s a trap set long ago by his old rival, Achilles. An he’ll be damned if he does what Achilles clearly wanted him to do. By the time Bean changes his mind, he’s grown too large to come out of his cave and give the order.

Predicted Winner: Alina and Mal

NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON Thursday, March 10, 2016, AT 11:59 AM, EST

Check out all the Cage Match 2016 posts!

Editor’s Note: Dan Koboldt is a genetics researcher and fantasy/science fiction author. He has co-authored more than 60 publications in Nature,Human Mutation, Genome Research, The New England Journal of Medicine, Cell, and other scientific journals. Dan is also an avid hunter and outdoorsman. He lives with his wife and children in St. Louis, where the deer take their revenge by eating the flowers in his backyard.


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