How we think the fight will go
Tenar stirred, and it took her a minute to realize that she wasn’t still on the farm, that they were in Ogden’s house, and that a frowning Therru stood over where she and Ged laid. “You promised we’d go planting peach trees today,” she said as she gestured outside, to the plot where her beloved plant had once lived. “Yes, young one,” Tenar gurgled, sleep still in her eyes, “but did it have to be this early?” The look on the little girl’s face said it all: now. So she rose, dressed and prepared a small breakfast for her and the child, the child who could speak to dragons. The weather had been fair on Gont for the past few days, though a minor squall had hustled and bustled over them a week past. A perfect time for planting peach pits, she thought, with the fresh, moist soil and the bright summer sun.
The two of them hustled out the door, scouting as they went for a place far enough from the other trees and from the other plants, perfect enough for each pit. Therru cradled the bunch of them in her arms, her claw providing an ample base. The scars looked better with each passing day, Tenar thought, but she quickly ran away from that line of thought and the sadness it would bring her. Lost in thought, she didn’t hear the girl’s shouts at first, but they gradually made themselves known. She had found something odd in the soil. The older woman moved towards the younger, claw extended, pointed to the odd button on the ground. Tenar tried her best to explain that it was just an artifact from an era before theirs — perhaps from the time of the first men!– but before she could finish, she vanished without much commotion.
Alice sat near the foot of the great hobby horse, picking and playing with a few blades of grass. It had only been a little while ago that she and Quentin passed over into this realm that they created, and he had gone off in the distance to wander the land for a while. “I’ll just wait by the Hobby Horse,” she had said. “It’s not really like you can miss it.” Perhaps he had gone back into Fillory. Perhaps not. Regardless of where Quentin was, she was exhausted. It takes a lot out of a person to prevent an apocalypse, and she simply wished to enjoy the breeze and the sunlight. She felt small tingles running through her hands, a nervous energy that she knew was from the past. Her years and years as a Niffin, an incredibly powerful demon-creature, had spoiled her in a variety of ways, and she wondered if she just needed to get moving again, to do something, in order to fight it.
How young she had been when she embarked on this journey. If only Jane Chatwin’s time travel watch hadn’t been destroyed, she thought. Maybe I could go back and avoid some of this. But where would that land her? Without love, without knowledge, without power. After all, it was better to know what happened to her brother, and to know of the worlds that lay beyond in the multiverse than to be stuck at home with magical parents and later become a spinster copywriter after they had moved on. This, she thought, was worth it. This was just fucking great. The hobby horse rocked in the breeze, its velveteen skin worn and weathered beautifully by time, and she was content.
Or at least she was, until the woman appeared. She seemed to pop into existence, wearing a ratty old cloak and holding a small basket in her arms, and staggered about, confused and slightly disoriented by the journey she had gone on. Simply out of shock, Alice cast a stunning spell, and knocked the visitor off of her feet, ten feet back. At that point, the older woman began to babble in some odd foreign tongue. Perhaps she was from the Other Side, perhaps she was some vestigial element of the evil that they had just banished from the land, here to take the fresh ground that she and Quentin had created. But the woman didn’t seem evil– or threatening, really– just lost and slightly scared. She put her hands up as if to say “Don’t worry, I’m not going to do that again,” and chanted a spell to translate what she was saying.
“–please do not harm me, I do not know where I am,” the woman pleaded. “I had just been planting peach trees with my daughter and wasn’t prepared for this journey.”
“Are you trying to hurt us? Can you understand me?”
“Yes, I can understand you. And no, I have no quarrel with you or this land. I simply appeared here. I do believe it is obvious which of us would win in a scuffle, and it is you, dark-haired one. I once knew a magic that strong. An old friend used to wield it.”
Alice smirked, and figured she should play along with her style of speech. Flattery will get you everywhere. “No harm shall come to you, ma’am. My apologies for the blow, I did not realize who you were. We have been engaged against evil forces in this land (oh, this is rich, she thought) and I thought you were of the dark.”
The woman adjusted her posture, trying and failing to hide the surprise on her face. “You speak Kargish? I find it hard to believe that someone in a land like this could know my mother tongue.”
Kargish? Where had she heard that name before? “Of course,” she lied, “it is well known in these parts. How did you come here?”
“Therru found this on the ground, and when I touched it, I stopped seeing her and started seeing
you.” The woman obviously had no knowledge of their magic, and simply had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. She’d found a Fillory button, somewhere in the worlds beyond. Perhaps one or two had found their way out after all. Alice decided the woman was being honest, and relaxed her offensive stance. She was right: there would be no contest in a fight. But it seemed that the woman still needed to plead for her life.
“Once, I was like you,” the woman said. “I had a great deal of power and no idea what to do with it. I was the bridge between life and death for many, and if they crossed me, they would be beheaded or die of thirst. But I was not truly powerful.” She runs her fingers through her hair. “Imagine that. I was a priestess of the Tombs of Atuan, and yet I knew nothing of the world around me.”
“Really?” Alice said. Atuan? Jesus Christ. Where had she heard that terminology before? It wasn’t from any of the Fillory books. “What’s your name?”
“Goha,” she said without hesitation.
Arha would have ordered the young woman killed on the spot for such an act of violence. In the past, she’d personally seen to it that people had been beheaded for lesser transgressions, but time stayed her hand. The girl, obviously, meant no harm, and had just been shocked when she arrived. She did just appear, as if she’d dreamt Gont and woke in a panic in this world. Goha and Tenar took a good liking to her, and she hoped she’d follow through with her promises.
“I believe I have heard your name from somewhere, but I cannot place it,” the young girl said. She was dressed so oddly, so formally, with odd patterns and strange cuts. Her dark hair was quite pretty as well, and her skin led Tenar to believe she was a Karg. But why was she here? And why was there such an odd horse standing above ground?
“Many have heard of me,” she said. “I have tried to live a humble life, but many have found me no matter where I go.”
“It is an odd quirk, to have lived well and to be special,” the girl said. She seemed like she was getting closer and closer to recognizing her.
“Oh, I have been so rude,” Tenar said. “What is your name?”
“My name is Alice,” the girl replied, in an oddly mousy way. “I believe I have the knowledge to get you home.”
“Yes? You do?” Tenar was horribly worried about her young girl, alone in the forest, feared and hated by so many of the people around her.
“Yes,” Alice said. “Just touch the button again, and it will take you right back.” This posed a problem for Tenar. The button had gone missing when she’d been thrown back, so she scoured the ground. Alice seemed eager to help.
On the outside, Alice thought she was doing a really good job of holding it together. She was searching for the missing button, with TENAR FROM EARTHSEA. Oh god, Ursula K. Le Guin was going to be so pissed! She was literally writing fan fiction with her life right now. It took everything for her not to start yelping and begin shoving canonical questions down her throat.
Just then, Tenar found the button, pointing at it on the ground, and Alice stopped her before she could touch it. “Goha, please do me a kindness when you return to your land,” she said. “Please take that trinket and bury it as far beneath the ground as you can, perhaps with your peaches. It is a button of great power, and we don’t want any dragons storming our peaceful land.” Ah! She just made a dragon reference! Ahhh!
Tenar nodded and thanked her. A thank you from Tenar! Holy crap!
“Also, if you could give your child my regards. I hope she is well, little Tehanu.”
Tenar thanked her again, and right before she touched the button for the final time, the former
High Priestess shot Alice a look that said I didn’t tell you that. But the button worked its magic, and she was gone.
Stumbling across the plain came Quentin, no doubt having seen her with the visitor. “Hey, who was that?”
“You wouldn’t believe if I told you.”
To Tenar’s pleasure and surprise, it seemed that little time had passed since she had gone. Maybe a few seconds or so, but the little girl stared at her, frightened. “Goha, where did you go? You disappeared!”
“Young one, you are seeing things,” Tenar smirked. “Now, please. Let us find a proper home for these peaches.” And they walked on through the forest.
Predicted Winner: Alice Quinn
NOTE: THIS MATCH ENDS ON Thursday, March 5, 2015, AT 11:59 PM, EST
Cage Match fans: We’re 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!”)