YA Fantasy Showdown

Ai Ling
Photo courtesy Greenwillow Books


Can throw her soul into other's bodies
Can sometimes hear thoughts
Has powerful protective spirit in jade pendant
Chosen by the gods
Has a blessed dagger that can destroy demons


Never fought before
Not very aggressive
Easily embarrassed about her feelings
Nobody Owens
Photo courtesy RionaWolfheart


Has Freedom of the Graveyard
Can fade through solid objects (in a graveyard)
Can turn invisible if very still
Can haunt people's dreams
Has very powerful friends


Very young - a kid
Never really left the graveyard

How we think the fight might go...

A chill hung in the air, suspended, penetrating deep through her skin. But these streets of gray stone were familiar to her, she had seen them before in her dream last night. The great Goddess of Records had spoken with her, told her there was another task to be done. She had to get back to Xia, but first she must travel through this strange place to get there. And a more sinister and unusual place she could not have imagined in all the worlds she had been, both god and mortal alike. The world was gray. The dark sky, the streets, even the houses that were so near to another that they closed in around her like high walls seemed to bleed away any remnant of color they once had. It was like walking in a land of shadows… or the dead.

At last, up a hill, she came to a place she recognized, the place she knew from her dream. Inside there was a guardian to a gateway that she must defeat. It would allow her to pass through this world and one step closer to Xia. This place had a real wall of gray stone surrounding it on all sides. It seemed to hold the mist even more closely around the dips and depressions in the vast expanse. Dotted slabs of stone stick up at odd angles from the ground. It was a place for their dead, and the guardian was somewhere in there. Gathering what little courage she could find, she thought of food, her father and Chen Yong, took a breath, and stepped inside.

The gate creaked closed and echoed with a strange intensity in the silence. Shapes and voices seemed to move in the mist, but if she blinked, they were gone. She moved further in, feeling for her jade pendant. It held a protective spirit given to her father by the gods, and was a great comfort to her. She also felt for her knife, which had been blessed to kill demons. A shape moved to her right, stirring the mist. She spun. But nothing was there. She stared. Her ability to sense and even throw herself into another’s body told her something was there, but she saw nothing. And even the sense was faint, as if it were not really there.


Ai Ling spun again, disturbing her own patch of the mist. It was not said in a threatening way, but there was a question in it. It was the voice of a child.

“I cannot see you,” she said.

“I know,” the voice said again. “I have the gift of the graveyard.” After a moment, he asked, “who are you?”

There was real sincerity in his voice, as if he did not trust her, and he didn’t. Bod watched this strange living soul with a mixture of apprehension and curiosity. He had met living people before. Some were nice, and others… were not. She kept looking around even though he was right in front of her. He kept very still.

“Who are you? What do you want here?” he asked again, crossing his arms over his knees.

“I’m looking for a guardian,” she said.

Bod faded back so he was visible and stood. He stepped forward.

“Silas is my guardian. Do you mean him? He should be here soon.” He looked around. It was after dark. He actually should have been here by now.

Ai Ling stared at him. He was just a little boy. How could he possibly be dangerous? But the pendant glowed warm and she knew he was the right one.

“Do you know the entrance to other worlds?” she asked once more, to be sure. He cocked his head.

“You mean the gates like Ghulheim? Yes, I know many entrances.”

She didn't want to hurt him, but it had to be done.She needed to get home. She felt for his spirit, preparing to throw herself toward him. If she could grab hold of his spirit, she could tear it to shreds if she needed to. The boy’s eyes widened as she almost touched it. He blinked out of existence.

Ai Ling’s eyes widened. She concentrated, but could feel nothing. He had simply – vanished. The mist stirred at where his feet had been and she felt a flicker of his presence. She grabbed for him again, but there was nothing.

Bod panted. His heart hurt from beating against his ribs. She was trying to hurt him. Being like the dead was the only thing keeping him safe. It was true, the dead couldn’t hurt you and they weren’t scary, but the living could. A ghost appeared, invisible,  next to him.

“What’s going on, young Bod?” Nehemiah Trot whispered.

His mouth was dry. “I think she’s trying to hurt me. She can grab me without touching me.” The girl turned at his voice, feeling her way closer through the mist.

“Go find Silas,” Bod said. The poet looked worried, and nodded. He faded out. She was coming closer. He steeled himself and tried to think. There were many places to hide in the graveyard. It was big and he knew every part of it. The ghosts could distract her while he hid. Then it came to him, the safest place – the barrow. Even she couldn’t take on the sleer.

Her fingers were a hand’s breadth away. He bolted.

Ai Ling jerked back in surprise as he fully materialized and took off down one of the many paths between the raised stones. She threw herself at him, but only got halfway as he flickered every few steps, and rebuffed her power. She stared for a moment. No one had been able to stop her power. Not even the dragon. That had been easy compared to this. She took off after him, her bright silk robes gliding through the dark and the cold.

Apparitions appeared in front of her, strange and sometimes frightening images that she could not feel with her spirit because they had no substance. They distracted her, but after a moment, realized they could not touch her. So she ran past them, and sometimes through them, without fear. She had to find the boy. She had to get back to Xia.

She saw him on a path, running up toward an old building that looked like it might be a large shrine for worshiping. She ran faster. At the entrance to the door he turned and in a last desperate effort, she hurled her spirit towards him. It connected.

She could see everything from his view, could feel the wild fear inside him echoed by the pounding of his heart. Names went through his mind: Owens, Silas, Miss Lupescu, a few others she couldn’t catch in time. He was wondering where they were.

I’m sorry, she thought, hoping he could hear. Then she tightened her spirit around his.

It was so fragile, a puff of smoke really, and it was gone. His body lay quiet next to the wall of the building as she snapped back into herself. She walked over to him, brushing the hair out of his face. She hadn’t needed her pendant or her dagger. She arranged him so he was in an honored position. But then she heard a man’s voice calling.

“Nobody? Nobody Owens? Where are you?” He sounded slightly desperate, a little angry, and very real. He was not one of the ghosts. Ai Ling backed away quickly and ran where the goddess directed her to go.

Predicted winner: Ai Ling

Ai Ling is from Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix and Nobody Owens is from Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book
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