In round two of Suvudu.com’s SFF Character Cagematch, Erevis Cale (of my Erevis Cale novels) squares off against Jean Tannen, from The Lies of Locke Lamora. You can read my take on it here and then vote (forgive any typos; I’m very bad at spotting them).
I had a lot of fun writing this match up, so I hope you’ll click on over, have a read, and then vote. Here’s the opening:
Jean’s weight caused the stool to groan in protest. He stared at the blade-scarred surface of the bar, only half-seeing it, his thoughts spinning. He’d didn’t remember how he’d gotten here, wasn’t even sure where he was. He’d just stumbled into the first alehouse he’d seen, planning a drunk that even Locke would admire.
Yet his drink sat before him untouched.
Pain from the gashes on his arms and face dredged memories from the sludge of recent events: a winged angel that stank like something ten days dead, all claws, teeth, and dead eyes. He’d buried one of his axes in its head, watched pink curd ooze from its misshapen skull.
He had no idea how such a creature could exist, had no idea what was happening of late. The sense of events eluded him. He felt outside himself, apart, mixed up somehow. Something had occurred; something was occurring; but the something was bigger than him.
Given that, ale and lots of it seemed the only sensible answer.
A woman’s laughter rose out of the background hum of conversation, a shouted ‘huzzah’ from one of the tables, a whistle, the thud of tankards and tin plates on wooden tabletops.
Human sounds. Normal sounds. Sounds he welcomed.
He licked his lips, took a long draw on his ale. It was watery swill, but he savored it nevertheless. He put down one draught, another, and soon felt more like himself. He tried to recall better times.
Behind him the tavern quieted, sounds fading, though it took a moment for the change to register with him. The already faint candlelight dimmed further and the darkness in the tavern took on weight, grew oppressive. He straightened on his stool, turned to look about, and the hair on the back of his neck rose.
Everyone was gone. The place was empty but for the rickety tables and chairs. Flickering candles cast a diffident light, put odd shadows on the walls.
His hands fell to his twin axes, the wicked sisters.
“What is this?” he whispered, and eyed the dark corners of the tavern.
Darkness swirled in one corner, a maelstrom of reified night. Twin pinpoints of light formed in the ink, a pair of glowing eyes that narrowed, flared, fixed on Jean.
Jean blinked, realized he was looking at a man. He spoke to fill the silence, to populate the room with something other than darkness.
“We know each other?”
“No,” the man said. He glided out of the corner and the darkness around him parted, a curtain out of which the man emerged. Jean saw him as clearly as the man’s form allowed.
He stood half a hand taller than Jean, but much thinner. He was bald, his expression stern, his eyes deep-set and inhuman. He wore fitted leathers, with daggers and a black sword at his belt. His body leaked shadow, mingled with it as if he and it were the same, the edges of him constantly shifting, merging with the darkness.
Jean shifted on his stool and the strained wood screamed in response. “We going to know each other?”
Shadows swirled around the man. “For a short time.”
Jean took his meaning right away. He had expected something like this. After the angel….
“I’d finish my drink first. You mind?”
Head on over to Suvudu to read the rest and vote.