“They’re ready, Gandalf,” she whispered.
“Thank you, Tinkerbell,” he murmured.
Gandalf struck the staff against the ring. The reverberation silenced the assembled crowd.
“Ladies, gentlemen and talking animals of literature! Welcome to the inaugural Literary Deathmatch!” boomed the wizard. The crowd gave a united cheer. Gandalf waved his hand and the jubilation died away. The air buzzed with anticipation.
“I promise you we have some delights in store tonight, none more so than the very first bout, which will decide exactly who is the best vampire in fiction!”
The crowd erupted again. Banners fluttered in the breeze and someone blew a horn.
“Ah, what are ye fightin' for? We all know that’s me!” shouted a bawdy Irishman in the front row. He glared at the crowd from behind his sunglasses.
“Cassidy, you know you don’t qualify. You were in a graphic novel - we’re talking about real literature here,” said Gandalf. A handful of superheroes and a hulking red man with a giant right hand booed. Nearby, a tall man in a leather jacket swished his long black hair over his shoulder. He glared at the wizard. Gandalf wagged a finger at him.
"Xan, don't even start. When your writer releases your book, then you can compete - but not before. Anyway! As I was saying! Would the first contender make his way to the ring please?” boomed Gandalf.
The spotlight raced across the arena to the eastern entrance. A tall figure stood silhouetted against the bright light. Flames roared into life behind him, and he stalked to the ring. Dry ice pumped into the arena at ground level, and his black cape swirled through the mist. A chorus of howling wolves accompanied his approach. The thin figure climbed through the ropes into the ring.
“Now welcome our second contender!” roared Gandalf.
Various encouraging slogans burst into life on the electronic screen above the western entrance. A young man walked out into the arena, a sullen slouch slumping his shoulders. Fireworks exploded above the assembled crowd and hundreds of the female characters took it in turns to swoon or scream. Hermione Grainger and Desdemona shoved each other as they fought to catch his attention. The young man ignored everyone as he climbed up into the ring.
“Assembled characters of fiction, I give you...Count Dracula versus Edward Cullen!”
Gandalf climbed out of the ring. Dracula dipped in a deep bow to the crowd. Edward struck a poster boy pose, thumbs hooked into his belt loops. Dracula straightened, and took several steps towards Edward. Dracula drew back his lips to reveal his fangs; Edward settled for a moody pout.
“Listen! Listen to the children of the night!” cried Dracula. He flung his arm wide, gesturing to the howling wolves at the back of the crowd.
“Yeah, so what? Listen to my children of the night!” shouted Edward. A gaggle of girls screamed in response to the wolves. Hermione jumped up and down waving an ‘Edward Rules’ placard.
“Oh, so not cool,” whispered Tyler Durden. He leaned across to Holden Caulfield and they both shook their heads.
Dracula unhooked his cape and handed it over the ropes to Dorian Gray. He put up his fists in a boxing pose, even dancing from one foot to the other. Edward fumbled with the buttons of his shirt.
“What is your intention? Do you wish to sparkle me to death?” snarled Dracula. “Fight me!”
“Don’t listen to him, Edward!” screamed Bella. She hauled on the ring ropes to emphasise her point.
“You don’t want to antagonise me, I might...hurt you,” said Edward. He ran a hand through his quiff.
“That is the point! This is a death match!” screamed Dracula.
A flurry of movement distracted the prowling vampires. Light bounced off steel and something heavy bounced onto the floor. Another thud followed a wet slap. The crowd screamed as a pale man in a blue frockcoat came to a halt between a headless young man and a rapidly disintegrating corpse. He wiped the blood from the blade of his sword, and threw the bloodied stake into the crowd.
“That was no death match, that was boring,” announced the newcomer.
Gandalf climbed back into the ring. He glared at the blond man and held up his hands for quiet. A hush fell across the crowd, except for Bella, sobbing in the arms of Romeo Montagu.
“Well, ladies and gentlemen! It seems we have a wildcard entry in this category!" cried Gandalf. "I'm afraid I have no option but to crown Lestat the Best Vampire in Fiction!”
* * *
Just me being silly. But if you're wondering who the mysterious Xan is, wonder no more! Toddle over to Crooked Fang and find out for yourself!