Last week’s match up was against Susan Sto-Helit from Discworld. The voting was pretty insane, and for the vast majority of the time it was closer than a percentage point.
(A lot of times the gap was was less than two-tenths of a percent.)
In my first blog, I mentioned that I wanted to write the scene where Felurian went up against Death. But honestly, the more I thought of it, the more I appreciated the thought of Felurian going up against Susan, Death’s granddaughter.
I knew I could probably win the match by posting about it on social media, but I wanted to see who would win the vote without my interference. If I won, I wanted to it to be an honest victory.
Days passed, the voting went back and forth. Then I had an idea. Several ideas. Several ideas that fit together in an interesting way.
The technical term for this series of interlocking ideas is called “Story.”
But to write that story, I had to be in control of things, so I made a Facebook post letting people know we only had a few hours, and that I knew what I wanted to write. Suddenly, things changed. And by the next morning…
So I won by brute force. But I got to have my way. I now had the right to write the final match.
But to do that, I needed to write the Felurian Vs. Susan match so that it turned out the way I wanted it. It’s a prolouge to the final match.
And here it is:
* * *
Imagine, if you will, nothing. An endless expanse of void. A swath of blackness that cannot help but boggle the mind with how huge and cold and empty it is.
Now, in this vasty nothing, imagine a turtle. It moves through the emptiness with slow grace. A lonely swimmer in an endless star-flecked sea.
Atop that turtle’s ancient, comet-pocked shell stand four elephants. They are huge as moons. On their broad and patient backs they carry an entire world.
These things exist. They are as real as you and I. In many ways, they are more real.
Atop the elephants’ backs rests a world that is flat and round as a disc. All round its edge oceans pour endlessly out into the empty dark of space.
It is magic that renews the endlessly falling oceans. But it is science that catches the tumbling water, fans it out. It forms droplets. It evaporates. Sublimates.
It’s here, where science and magic rub shoulders with each other that something ordinary and wonderful happens. The slow, heavy sunlight of this unlikely world touches the falling water. And this world, these elephants, this turtle, (whose name is A’Tuin) are all gilded with a crown of rainbows.
This is just as it should be. It has always been this way. It will always be this way.
* * *
It was night on the surface of the Discworld. Under the stars there was a hill, on the hill, a clearing, and in the clearing, a single standing stone.
The hill wasn’t particularly remarkable, neither was the clearing. The standing stone was remarkable, but only so long as the remark was something along the lines of, “Why can’t I count that stone when it’s obviously the only stone there?”
Aside from this, there was nothing particularly noteworthy about this time or place. The crescent moon provided a thin, silvery light. It hung slender in the sky, just above the horizon. That, at least, lent a bit of drama to the scene. It was a nice effect, if you went in for that sort of thing.
Susan Sto Helit stood at the edge of the clearing. She did not go in for this sort of thing. She had been standing there for the better part of an hour, half-hidden in the shadows. Her feet hurt, and the moon was increasingly irritating to her.
It was, she had decided, a little too slender, a little too foreboding. It hung the perfect distance off the horizon. Nice enough at first glance, but when you spent some time looking at it, you couldn’t help but feel like it was trying a little too hard.
It was a portentous moon. It was perilously close to being mythic. You couldn’t trust a moon like that….
* * *
Felurian stepped out from behind the standing stone and walked into the clearing. She was pale and slender. Her hair was long and dark, and it fell as sharply as a shadow or a knife.
You could say she was skyclad. That is the sort of thing that people tend to say. But perhaps it would be better to say that she was as naked as the moon, and just as bashful, which is to say she seemed perfectly comfortable where she was, as she was. She stood in the clearing as if she owned it, as if it were her home.
Susan stepped out of the shadows at the edge of the trees and walked to meet her. She wore a long dress and sensible boots. Her hair was pulled back tight against her head. The white of it shone silver in the moonlight, save for a single stripe of black. She carried a fireplace poker loosely in one hand, the dark iron of it almost invisible against the dark of the night.
Felurian nodded to Susan politely. “you received My message,” she said. Her voice oddly muted, oddly soft, but clear, as if spoken close to Susan’s ear. “and you have come. My thanks.”
“I have,” Susan said. “Though why you would pick this place is beyond me. It’s the end of nowhere.”
Felurian gave an odd smile, her head tilting to one side, “what are time and space to creatures such as you and I?”
Susan pursed her lips at this, as if she wanted to take issue with the word creature, then let it pass. She sighed instead. “Very well. If we’re going to fight, let’s get it over with. It’s chilly out, and I have a class to teach tomorrow morning.”
Felurian gently shook her head, her long hair spilling over one shoulder as she did so. “that is not what I came for,” she said. “that is not what I desire.”
Susan gave an indelicate sniff at that. “I am not here for your desire,” she said with a bit of an edge to her voice.
It was quiet for a moment in the clearing. Felurian’s dark eyes narrowed briefly before she spoke again. “I have heard tell of you,” she said, her tone slow and measured. “it is said you have a knack for seeing truth beneath the surface of a thing.”
Susan’s head lifted a little at that. Her expression wasn’t proud, exactly. But there was something close to pride there. A self-certainty as hard and practical as… well, as a fireplace poker. “I do,” she said.
“and thus I come to you.” Felurian said, “I leave the safety of my forest glade. I come before you all unarmed and unafraid.”
Felurian looked down at herself, then up again, her expression blithe. “even so,” she said politely, as if Susan had made a particularly dull observation about the weather. “is that all that you can see? is what I heard so wrong?”
Susan felt her face go hot at the reproach.
“if you have skill at seeing, look at Me,” Felurian said, spreading her arms wide to her sides. “am I some tawdry thing? am I a beast consumed with nothing more than lust? am I mere brightness with no spark beneath?”
Susan’s expression grew serious, and she went still. No… it wasn’t that she was motionless. It’s more that she seemed to be more present than before. As if she were more there. As if, compared to her, nothing else was quite real.
She turned to look at Felurian, her eyes like distant stars. “NO,” she said thoughtfully. “YOU ARE MUCH MORE THAN THAT.””indeed,” Felurian said. If she were at all discomfited by the change that had come over Susan she did not show it. “if it were mere advantage that I sought, there are many things I could have brought. I could pull the very sky around me like a mantle and grasp the crescent moon as if it were a sickle blade.”
Susan watched as Felurian spoke in her gentle, edgeless voice. She said the words without any particular emphasis. Without any threat or menace. Honestly, Susan would have preferred if the faerie woman had put a little thunder in her voice. She knew what to do when mythic creatures started grandstanding. Nine times out of ten a ding round the ear with a poker set everything to rights, and most of the rest you could safely ignore.
“so.” Felurian’s tone was infuriating, and it took Susan a moment to realize why. It was the same tone Susan herself used with her students when they were being particularly slow. “what do you see? why would I come thus to your lands? all unadorned with nothing in my hands?”
Susan drew a breath and let it out again. Pushing her irritation aside, the answer was blindingly clear. “Because you are not here to fight,” she said. She did not say the rest of what she thought: Because you are not afraid of me.
“just so,” Felurian said, smiling.
Susan looked down at the iron poker in her hand, feeling oddly embarrassed for bringing it along. She almost tossed it aside, then stopped herself. There was a big difference between feeling foolish and being a fool. “What are you here for then, if not to fight?” she asked.
“discourse,” Felurian said with a playful smile. “if we two fight, there will be a victor, and the victor will move on to fight the lady Death.”
“I know a few things about death,” Susan said dryly.
“Then you know it will not be an easy fight for either of us to win,” Felurian said.
Susan looked for a moment as if she might protest, then she seemed to think better of it and nodded instead.
“there is a different way,” Felurian said. “it is my area of expertise.”
Susan bit back her first response to this. “And what expertise is that?” she asked, doing her best to keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
Felurian smiled then for the first time. A wide, delighted smile. It was white and sharp and slender as the moon.
“partnership,” Felurian said.
* * *
First off, can I just mention how absolutely terrifying it was to write something like this?
I’ve been sweating blood over these two scenes for almost a week now. When I first thought of the idea for this story, I thought it would be fun. And honestly, it was fun. But it was also amazingly nerve-wracking. Writing something that even lightly touches Pratchett and Gaiman’s work and worlds… I feel like a little kid putting on his daddy’s shoes and clomping around the house.
But it was fun. It’s something I probably never would have dared if the timing had turned out differently and Terry Pratchett hadn’t passed away recently. I hope people realize I don’t write this lightly, or with anything resembling mockery. Writing these was an act of love, and therefore terrifying and embarassing in various degrees.
To see the second, somewhat longer piece, you can head over to the Suvudu website. And after you read it, you can vote on who you think should be the final winner.