Cage Match 2017: Sci-Fi vs Fantasy

Round 4

Tom Bombadil vs Devi

 

Tom Bombadil

The Fellowship of the Ring

Devi

The Name of the Wind

Tom Bombadil

The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Age: Oldest and fatherless
  • Species: Great question, actually
  • Weapons: Immense, mysterious magic power, deeply unsettling songs
  • Special Attack: The element of surprise

Advantages

  • Is unaffected by the One Ring
  • Is ageless, possibly immortal
  • Exercises great power with little effort
  • His voice defeats enchantments

Disadvantages

  • Seems to be bound to the Old Forest
  • Is a bit unreliable
  • Oblivious to concerns of mortals
Cover art for the book The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Fellowship of the Ring

By J.R.R. Tolkien

Devi

The Name of the Wind
  • Age: Mid-20s
  • Species: Human
  • Weapons: A strong alar, the courage of her convictions
  • Special Attack: Sympathy: the ability to hold a belief so strongly that it affects reality

Advantages

  • Has a strong aptitude for both Alchemy and Sympathy
  • Has a vast reservoir of arcane magical knowledge
  • Is clever, business-like, and talented

Disadvantages

  • Her fondness for Kvothe
  • Physical combat is not her strong suit
Cover art for the book The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind

By Patrick Rothfuss
See Less
 
 

Match Prediction

By Patrick Rothfuss

Devi came over the top of the hill and admired the view.

She would have preferred home court advantage for this match, but even so, she had to admit that it was beautiful here. Warm summer sunlight poured over hills so vibrant and green that they looked painted. The air was sweet with a cool breeze. Butterflies danced among the flowers.

“Hello?” She called out.

When no response came, she walked aimlessly until she came to a small, chattering river. She took a drink, called out several more times, then shrugged and removed her boots. She walked across the roots of the ancient willow tree until she found a sunny spot she could sit while dangling her feet in the cool water.

“Worse places to be ignored, I suppose,” she said, just before the trunk of the tree opened up behind her. She tipped back, falling inside the huge hollow trunk, and the tree closed tight around her. Snick.

*     *     *

It was the dark inside of the tree. Devi felt the wood firmly trapping her legs. It wasn’t painful, yet. But the pressure was hard and unyielding. Her hands were free though, and she felt around quickly in the dark. Nothing but wood on all sides: in places smooth, other parts were rough and crumbling to the touch.

Reaching inside one of her pockets, she brought out a hard leather case the size of a small book. Opening it, she felt along the tops of bottles, counting twice before she pulled a small glass vial free.

“All living things fear fire,” she said into the darkness, keeping her voice firm. “And I imagine a tree with its heart half-rotted out has more to fear than most.”

She paused, and when there was no response, she continued. “I’m holding an alchemical concoction that contains burning. Please note. It does not burn. What I’m holding is the very essence of burning. It is burning distilled. If I poured this on a icy rock, it would be cinders in minutes.”

Devi paused again, then bulled ahead, speaking a little louder. “The way I see it, fire is a relatively quick, clean death, compared to being slowly crushed by some goddamn…” her mouth worked silently in the dark for a moment before she continued. “…whatever you are. Evil demon tree… thing.”

She worked the stopper of the bottle loose. It made the gentlest of noises, as if she’d just uncorked the smallest bottle of wine ever. Suddenly the inside of the tree was filled with an odd smell of autumn sunshine, pine pitch, and matchheads.

Can trees even smell? She wondered to herself. Then, just in case they couldn’t, she said. “You can live another day if you want,” she waved her hand over the top of the vial, wafting the smell out, just in case. “Or you can burn from the inside out. Me? I’ve got nothing to—”

Devi was interrupted by a sharp crackling noise, and sunlight blinded her as the tree’s trunk sprang open. She climbed out in what she hoped was a casual and dignified manner, though she suspected it looked more like a mad scramble to get away.

Once she had her feet back underneath her, she eyed the huge spreading tree darkly, rolling the small vial thoughtfully between her fingers. Then she let out a long breath and brought out the rigid leather carrying case, tucking the vial inside.

“Where is he then?” she asked, clicking it shut and tucking it back into her pocket.

The willow’s branches swayed in a way that could, conceivably, have been a result of a gentle breeze.

“You know who. Old Tom. Eldest and fatherless.”

The branches swayed again, almost like a shrug. But even that seemed slightly sullen.

“Did I stutter, perhaps?” Devi said sharply. “Do you need me to sing it for you? Poor evil thing, you’re all alone, and by the water kneeling. Oh Merry-la oh Deri-da…” She pulled out the rigid leather case, opening it with a click. “…nobody cares, my treeling.”

The old willow’s branches snapped around, pointing clearly to the east.

“That’s right,” Devi said, then turned and started to walk along the river.

*     *     *

Old Tom Bombadil was a merry fellow;
Bright blue his jacket was and his boots were yellow.
Green were his girdle and his britches all of leather;
You really wouldn’t think it, but the whole look hung together.

Old Tom in summertime walked about the meadows
gathering the buttercups, running after shadows,
tickling the bumblebees that buzzed among the flowers,
walking by the riverside for hours upon hours.

There Tom Bombadil spied a pretty maiden,
Hair all berry bright, but too short for braiding,
Up came Devi then, walking by the river.
Sweet-faced pixie, her expression made him shiver.

Wise Old Tom was, knew this no chance meeting,
Stopped short, raised his hand, called he out a greeting.
“Ho there Devi, I’ve no desire to fight you,”
Said Tom Bombadil, “No willow tree or wight, you.”

Devi’s face softened then, as she saw him smiling.
He removed his hat to her, his laughter was beguiling.
“Well Tom,” Devi said, “I’m not one for feuding.
“But you’ll find me fiercer foe, than those—

Devi paused then, her eyes narrowing. Her mouth made a thin line and she spoke her next several words as if dropping lead weights. “You. Are. Aluding.” She swayed a bit, struggling. “To.

A tension bled out of the air at the last word, and Devi seemed to relax slightly. “Yes. I thought that might do it. Ending a sentence with a preposition.”

Wise Devi looked at him, as he stood there grinning.
In betwixt the two of them, a friendship was

“Starting,” Devi said jarringly, staring him straight in the eye

She squared her shoulders and nodded formally at the bearded man, “I’ve come to meet you as a courtesy, Tom. And as a sign of respect. But I’m not going to fight on your home turf and in your idiom. No chance.”

Old Tom laughed at this, loud it was and merry,
Devi’s wit was quicker wit, and her mind was wary,
Though slender as a reed was she, and her hair strawberry.

Devi merely stood there for a long moment, as something in the air stretched like a spring being slowly bent out of shape.

“Does that actually work?” Devi said. “Poetry and flattery?”

Tom gave a sheepish grin as he put his hat back on his head, smoothing out the peacock feather. “Not poetry,” he said, eyes twinkling. “Songs.” His voice was warm and sweet and gentle. “Songs and truth. And yes, you’d be surprised how often it works.”

Devi held our her hand. Tom took it with a small, genteel bow and started to kiss it.

“No,” Devi said sharply, pulling her hand away.

Tom looked taken aback at first. Then bowed lower, his expression serious. “I am sorry.” He said earnestly. “Different ages. Different customs.”

“This is not a date. It’s a duel. We shake.” She extended her hand again.

Tom took her hand formally. “I am pleased to meet you, Devi.” His hand was rough and warm and gentle, and solid as old wood. He shook it, then smiled.

*     *     *

Tom led the way to a small cottage surrounded by flowers and fruit. Roses climbed around the windows, while on the shady side was a clear spring-fed well that spilled brightly down the side of the hill.

As soon as they were in earshot, Tom sang out joyfully, “Hey! Fair Goldberry!” he sang like a starling. “Ho. Come derry-dol, merry-dol, my darling!”

Devi turned to Tom, mouth quirking into a sardonic smile, but before she could say anything, she saw his expression. She looked back to the house, and saw tall woman opening the door. She had flowing yellow hair, and was dressed all in silver-green. She was barefoot with flowers woven around her waist and through her hair.

Tom danced up to her, singing nonsense all the while. And it was only then that Devi realized the yellow-haired woman was taller than him. He wrapped his arms around her with open enthusiasm, and she gazed down on him with such warm affection that Devi swallowed whatever sarcastic thing she had been about to say.

She was bustled inside, Tom flit about as he played the host. He brought out plates and bowls. Yellow cream and honeycomb. White bread and butter. Milk, cheese, green herbs and blueberries.

Though Devi would have never admitted it aloud, it could only be described as a merry feast. Tom kept their plates and glasses full, rarely standing still. Always singing and humming to himself. Once he even brought out his fiddle, before Goldberry gently reminded him of the task at hand. Smiling and laughing, he left to gather flowers for the table. Then left again only to return with a small dish of strawberries, though they were out of season, and he placed them at Devi’s elbow with a grin and a wink.

While Tom bustled about, Goldberry and Devi did most of the talking. Devi was surprised to discover the tall, elegant woman was startlingly clever in addition to being warm and welcoming. She laughed easily, looked Devi boldly in the eye, and made cutting and insightful remarks about current policy coming out of Minas Tirith. The bottoms of her feet were stained bright green from running in the grass.

At some point Devi realized that she had been talking with Goldberry for some time, and hadn’t even realized that Tom had left on an errand and not come back inside.

Devi looked out the window then, spying the brightly dressed man running around the green lawn outside, his beard flying behind him like a flag.

“Is…” Devi asked slowly as she leaned forward a bit, narrowing her eyes. “Is he actually…?”

“Tickling the bumblebees that buzz among the flowers?” Goldberry said. “Yes.”

“Literally?” Devi asked.

Goldberry smiled. “Literally.”

Devi looked back at her. She said nothing, but she said it fairly loudly.

“I prefer sudoku.” Goldberry said with an easy smile and a shrug. “But if it makes him happy….”

There was a moment of silence before Devi drew a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry. But I just have to ask…” she trailed off but looked Goldberry up and down frankly, gesturing to her wide eyes, flowing hair, and the sort of body that could make a dish towel look elegant, let alone the silver-green dress that lay on her more like a sheet of water than any sort of cloth Devi had ever…

Devi pulled her eyes away, to look pointedly out the window at the brightly dressed, bearded man whistling and frolicking on the front lawn.

Goldberry smiled warmly at Devi. “I like the way he sings to me,” she said simply, with a small, almost bashful smile. “He cares for me, and I feel safe around him.” She looked out the window again, and when she looked at Tom, her face practically glowed. “And he has a wonderful laugh.”

“I can’t argue with that,” Devi lifted her teacup and the two women clinked glasses.

There was another moment of silence. Before Devi added, “He must be really hung though, right?”

Goldberry smiled again, looking at Devi over the edge of her teacup. But this time her eyes were more wanton than warm. “I have no complaints.”

Despite herself, Devi blushed, and Goldberry gave a low, throaty chuckle as she pursed her lips and blew on her tea before sipping it.

After that their talk was easier. Fifteen minutes later, when Tom still hadn’t returned, Goldberry brought out a slim silver hip flask from a holster on her garter, exposing a scandalous amount of leg in the process. Devi was worried it would be some sort of syrupy-sweet flower liquor, but it turned out to be quite a nice single-malt scotch.

They disagreed about which Star Wars movie was the best, but it turned out they both hated The Secret to an almost religious degree. Devi ranted about the double standards at the University, and Goldberry brought up Paglia and how ridiculous it was to expect any sort of gender equality in a place like this, but it was still better than in the Iron Hills. Then they had a nice argument about intersectionality where they were both pretty much on the same side, but neither one of them wanted to admit it as they were both having a good time bickering.

After Devi got the inside story on what had really happened to the entwives, Goldberry leaned forward and shook the flask again.

Devi sighed and shook her head regretfully, “I shouldn’t I’m here for…” She stopped and looked out the window, but Tom was nowhere to be seen. She cocked her head and couldn’t hear him either.

Goldberry chuckled again and tipped another splash into Devi’s teacup. “Don’t ask when he’ll be home, because I don’t know.” Leaning back, she sipped directly from the neck of the flask. She licked her lips. “What’s the nature of this fight you two are supposed to have, anyway?”

“Hell if I know,” Devi said. “We’re paired off against each other. That’s all I know.”

“What’s the nature of the competition?” Goldberry asked. “Do the two of you need to fight? What are the rules?”

Devi laughed bitterly, “Ill-defined doesn’t begin to cover it. It’s just… a competition.” She shrugged. “I’m a good negotiator. I’d hoped to sweet-talk Tom into forfeiting.”

Goldberry snorted indelicately. “Not likely. Tom’s songs are the strongest songs, remember?”

Devi nodded. “I didn’t have high hopes. It’s really hard to get a handle on a man who actually doesn’t seem to crave… well… anything. Like power or money.”

“I got a handle on him,” Goldberry said lewdly, arching an eyebrow. “Wasn’t too hard.”

“Phrasing,” Devi said. “And besides, how hard did you really have to work? There’s only, like, eight women in this whole world…”

“Tell me about it,” Goldberry said, staring pointedly at Devi.

Devi opened her mouth to say something. She realized then she wasn’t sure what to say. She closed her mouth.

Goldberry sipped demurely from the flask. Her expression as clear and sweet as springwater. Her eyes were very wide and bright.

Devi cleared her throat. “Ah. *Ahem*. So. Tom. Sometimes he is gone for long while?”

“He is,” Goldberry said. “How would you feel about staying the night?”

Devi sipped from her cup again to give herself a moment to collect her thoughts. “I think I would like that.”

“I would like that too,” Goldberry said. “If you’d like, I could make up a bed for you here.” She gestured to the room where they’d been eating. “Or you could join me in my room.” She stood and gestured to what Devi could only assume wass the bedroom door. And when no response was forthcoming, added: “The bed is nicer there.”

Devi nodded. “And… Tom?”

Goldberry laughed and held up her hands. “Do you see any rings on these fingers?”

Devi laughed at that, shaking her head. “And if he comes home?”

“Wise Tom Bombadil,” Goldberry sang gently to a familiar tune. “He is a worldly fellow. He’ll hang his boots elsewhere tonight, and his jacket yellow.”

Devi took a deep breath and came to her feet, too. “And tomorrow?” she asked, though at this point, the cage match wasn’t much of a concern.

“Well,” Goldberry said as she took Devi gently by the hand. “I imagine tomorrow we will talk. And perhaps you can negotiate. And if you’re as clever as I’ve heard, I’m sure you might be able to imagine some type of competition more pleasant than fighting.” Goldberry drew Devi close, she smelled of sunlight and sweat, and the flowers in her hair. “There are many types of prowess, after all.”

Predicted Winner: All of Us, Really

Tally of Votes Cast:

Tom Bombadil:

51.43%
Voted

Devi:

48.57%
Voted
 
A photo of Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss’ first novel, The Name of the Wind, won the Quill Award and was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year. Its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, debuted at #1 on The New York Times bestseller chart and won the David Gemmell Legend Award. His novels have appeared on NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction/Fantasy Books list and Locus’ Best 21st Century Fantasy Novels list. Pat lives in Wisconsin, where he brews mead, builds box forts with his children, and runs Worldbuilders, a book-centered charity that has raised more than six million dollars for Heifer International. He can be found at patrickrothfuss.com and on Twitter at @patrickrothfuss.

Cover art for the book The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind

By Patrick Rothfuss