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Scry vs. Scry

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Pop Girl: Stupid child. I already saw how you die.
Cassie: Then you know it's not here and it's not today.

There are a lot of characters who can foresee The Future, and sometimes the future is obliging enough to be malleable to change. So, what happens when two characters capable of seeing the future and changing it have different ideas about where it ought to go? You get a case of Scry Vs. Scry.

These psychics pit not just their oracular ability against each other to see who can predict most accurately and farther in time, but also their ability to plan and manipulate: guiding allies, manipulating and outwitting enemies, mess with each other's foresight, and trying to "out foretell" each other's changes in a case of Xanatos Speed Chess where the prize is control of Fate itself. This can potentially be the ultimate Gambit Roulette, not the least because both sides are continually re-spinning the wheel on an unfavorable result.

There are a pair of related scenarios that parallel this. One is when two time travelers attempt to beat each other by progressively changing time and reverting the other's changes, their goal being to change time such that the other ceases to exist or is unable to Time Travel. The other is when two crazy-good martial artists prepare for a duel: they lock eyes, work out all the moves they will go through, determine that it will be a draw or mutual kill, and ultimately decide not to fight at all.

The name of this trope is a pun on MAD's Spy vs. Spy.

Contrast Prescience Is Predictable. Astrologers may also get in on this feuding.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Much of X/1999 is conflict led by Yumemi or dreamseers on opposite sides.
  • Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-: Both Yuuko and Fei Wong Reed are nigh-omniscient clairvoyants, and are often aware of each other's plans before the other side even plans them. And on top of that, Clow Reed, who'd been dead for hundreds of years prior, could see the future better than the aforementioned two and set it all up before he died.
  • The basis of Future Diary, where twelve diary holders are chosen to partake in a Deadly Game. During the game, their diaries will contain entries from the future, albeit limited to what they usually record (for example, Yuno is a Stalker with a Crush whose diary records everything Yukiteru does; however, this means it can't tell her about things that don't affect him). It's also possible for diary holders to act to alter the future predicted by a diary, which will result in entries retroactively changing to read different things.
  • The manga Ann Cassandra consists of the protagonists trying to Screw Destiny when they learn of upcoming disasters (including one protagonist's death) while another tries to assert You Can't Fight Fate by subverting their attempts at every turn.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya has two rival factions of time travelers, with Mikuru and "Sneering Bastard" as representatives. The latter frequently expresses annoyance at the Stable Time Loops he has to follow, but he's here for something.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne is concerned with a battle of Scry Vs Scry between Big Bad Emperor Dornkirk, who foretells and manipulates fate through technological means, and protagonist Hitomi, who due to her ancestry has the talent naturally (including the manipulation part, though she doesn't realize this until late).
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing features a Scry Vs Scry battle between Quatre and Dorothy, albeit with both using the ZERO system, which directly interfaces with the user's brain with advance calculations predicting the most probable movements for victory or defeat. However, if the user's brain is unable to process the sheer quantity of raw data being interfaced, the user vividly hallucinates from all the possibilities and becomes overloaded by too many statistics and estimated values. The result is temporary insanity that causes the user to treat everything as a threat in need of immediate elimination. Quatre's battle with Dorothy was his effort to push through the insanity, and interestingly each eventually manages to identify their adversary without seeing them first. Then Quatre stops using the ZERO system for their next battle, yet is able to keep up with Dorothy anyway, hinting that he's the Wing equivalent of a Newtype.
    • Heero and Zechs battle using the Wing Zero and Epyon Gundam's both of which originated the ZERO system to begin with. In their first battle it quickly devolved to both Gundam's simply standing staring at each other while their systems ran prediction after prediction, both countering each other until the Gundam's overheated and shut down. Later on though they'd manage to control it enough to actually make use of the predictions to battle each other though they still only managed draws until their last fight.
  • AIKI has a case of the martial artist version, in which Joukyuu, who is supposed to be a master of analysis, surrenders a fight against a similar stylist because he knows that he would lose.
  • In Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Hitogami has foresight while Orsted can predict the future based on the experience from his curse. The former is limited because once a change is initiated by either of them he cannot accurately see the future; the latter is limited by incomplete knowledge and his other curses. Rudeus ends up a pawn for both of them because he lies outside Orsted's knowledge.
  • The first season of Cardfight!! Vanguard revolves around "Psyqualia", a mysterious power that allows one to perfectly predict the future and assure victory in the main card game. The final battle comes down to two Psyqualia users, and the villain's arrogance is dented when the hero points out that their powers essentially neutralise each other.
  • Bungo Stray Dogs has a direct version. Two characters with the same Ability end up clashing as one of them is the leader of an organization wishing to overthrow the mafia, of which the other is a member of. In-universe, there is speculated to be something called 'The Oddity of Abilities' that happens when two Ability-users with the same gift meet each other. In this case, it is multiple overlapping futures playing out in front of both of them. This forces them to rely on old brutal violence.

    Comic Books 
  • Teen Titans: The Clock King and Rose Wilson both have the power to see about 4 seconds into the future. Their fights tend to be evenly matched.
  • Batman and Captain America's battle during JLA/Avengers: they exchanged a few blows to test each other, then decided that neither would win, at least for a very long time, and chose to talk things out instead.
  • A major part of Immortal X-Men is Destiny (a precog) and Mister Sinister (who has knowledge of future events thanks to his time-resetting Moira Engine) both trying to work around each other's plans to get the future they want.

    Fan Works 
  • Ultraman Lugeno and Mater Mundaram eventually get into a scry vs scry situation towards the second half of Ultraman Moedari. Both can see the future and time travel, and try to manipulate it to their goals. Neither gets what they want.
  • A variation of this in Child of the Storm, between the time-traveller and Seer Dr. Strange and Sinister, who is actually not a precognitive or a time traveller, but is somehow immune to the former's foresight (it's implied that he had outside assistance). Strange, who's usually The Chessmaster and the Magnificent Bastard of the series who manipulates everyone, has to scramble to keep on top of things, nearly killing himself and driving himself halfway mad to set it right, and actually messes things up for the first time in the story. However, he does still come out on top. And finds a way around Sinister's immunity. This does not end well for Sinister. At all.
    • It's implied that a straighter version takes place offscreen, as Strange mentions that some of the enemies he fights are from the fourth dimension (and then makes a wry joke about being a doctor who fights in a Time War).
  • In Heroes Rachel and Octavian swap details about Leo and Piper, each fighting to be the one to give the most accurate information about their situation in the near-future. Things get so intense that Rachel, speaking as the Oracle, issues a quest to retrieve them.

  • The two Watchers in Push. While they both have the power to see the future, it manifests in different ways: Cassie's visions come in the form of snatches of imagery, while Pop-girl is said to be able to divine intentions, not just sights. This leads to a complicated Gambit Roulette where the protagonist hands out sealed instructions to his allies, reasoning that Pop-girl won't be able to predict their actions if they have no idea what it is they're going to do until they do it - and then he has his own memories of creating the envelopes erased to seal the deal. It works without a hitch, but then it's implied that the entire events of the movie have been planned out in advance by an even more powerful Watcher.
  • In Star Wars, the Force grants its users limited precognitive abilities, so when Jedi/Sith go head to head, this ends up being the result. This same ability is also how they are able to block/reflect blaster bolts and such.
    • In the original EU, Luke Skywalker eventually gets good enough that some of his attacks land a split-second before the opponent sees him use it.
  • Subverted by Fighter in the Wind, a movie about Mas Oyama, a real life karate master. Before having a duel with his rival they have a vision of the katana wielding rival being stopped before he can unsheath his sword and then losing. When they do fight, however, the rival is able to draw his katana and lay it flat on his opponent's head, showing that he could have easily won. Then they fight for real.
  • There are some suggestions that the movie Next may be one of these, given that half the movie turns out to be the main character's precognitive vision and the bad guys have been specifically ordered to stop him before he hooks up with his Power-Up/Love Interest.
  • The final confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows becomes this since both are capable of fully predicting fights. The first vision is narrated by Holmes and shows how he'd win. Moriarty then interrupts and narrates counters that he will be using. Holmes comes to realize through their mental debate that Moriarty will win because of the shoulder wound Moriarty inflicted upon him earlier, which is too great a handicap for Holmes when his opponent is nearly as skilled a fighter as himself. When the fight takes place for real, Holmes Takes a Third Option and drags them both off the balcony edge to plummet down a ravine, a move Moriarty couldn't see coming.
  • At the climax of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey Bill & Ted are facing de Nomolos in a Battle of the Bands. Each has a time machine, and each keeps changing the present by going back into the past in the future to fix things. Bill & Ted have the epiphany that only the one who wins will be able to go back to change things, including changing things their rival is going to change in order to lull him into a False Sense of Security.
  • In Solace, there are two people who are hyper-aware, able to see things in the past, present, and future with a touch, and they attempt to outwit each other throughout the film. One is significantly better at this than the other, but still occasionally gets blindsided.

  • David Eddings:
  • In The Twilight Saga, Alice can see the future and Edward can read minds. When they play chess, this results in a repeating cycle that ends with Alice knocking over her own king without either ever moving a piece.
  • Discussed in The Cursed by Dave Duncan, in which those who see the future essentially go insane if they change said future. One oracle who's a supporting character had a friend who went insane this way, and the heroine is told that to truly understand him she should ask him whether he saw the future where the friend did nothing or the future where the friend went insane. (Incidentally, she never asks, allowing the author to avoid that bit of Fridge Logic.)
  • A few times in Dune, such as Emperor Paul vs. Guild Steersman Edric in Dune Messiah (Paul wins) and Paul vs. his son Leto II in Children of Dune (Leto II wins).
    • Leto II eventually decides that the existence of competing prescients is nothing but a burden on humanity, and so enacts a millenial plan to breed humans who are invisible to prescience, as well as facilitating the creation of a device which conceals anything or anyone contained within, all for the sake of putting a bit of chaos back into human development. His conversation with Siona in the desert could indicate that he did this, along with encouraging the diaspora of humanity after his death, to ensure that no matter what horrible catastrophe happened, not even a prescient person could find and eradicate all of humanity. The memory he showed her may have been from the Butlerian Jihad against the killer robots.
  • In His Dark Materials, all the factions have people who can read alethiometers, though Lyra has the ability to read it with greater speed and accuracy than the others, and she's working on neither side.
  • In Mistborn, the metal atium gives the titular Mistborn the power to see the future-shadows of everyone and everything around them, moving ahead of them and showing what they'll do in the next few seconds. This makes them all but unstoppable in combat. However, when two atium-users encounter each other, their future actions constantly change in response to each other, causing them both to see a cloud of future-shadows instead of just one, neutralizing each other. In the third book, it is discovered that electrum can be used to see your own future-shadow, though because seeing your future always changes it, using electrum always shows a cloud of shadows. Nonetheless it can be used to counter atium, and is much cheaper.
    • The same principles apply to all forms of future-sight in Sanderson’s greater Cosmere continuity. In the Stormlight Archive book Oathbringer, it is revealed that the Shard Odium, while able to predict the future to frightening exactness, cannot track the fate of Renarin Kholin, because Renarin has also been granted a measure of future sight. This blind spot is exploited to overturn Odium’s plans at a critical moment.
  • In Good Omens Crowley (a demon) points out that while, yes, prophesies say that God will win in their final conflict, there are also those that say the devil wins. Naturally, all of the prophets that say the former are already on God's side and all that say the latter are on Lucifer's side, suggesting that both should be taken with a grain of salt.
    • Aziriphale (an angel) claims that all these predictions are just propaganda, and if there were no uncertainty, there wouldn't be any point to the war between Heaven and Hell in the first place.
    • He also points out that all prophets, except for Agnes Nutter, had some sort of "static" preventing them from predicting the future with total accuracy.
    • By the end Crowley adjusts his view describing the war as a game of solitaire that God couldn't ever really lose.
      • But that's because God isn't really on Heaven's side, but his own, and perhaps of humanity, that both Heaven and Hell consider mere pawns.
  • In Stephen Baxter's Xeelee Sequence book Exultant, Humanity fights a War against the Xeelee over the Milky Way Galaxy where both sides can send information backwards in time using FTL. In practice, neither side can ever get an advantage. This goes on for tens of thousands of years.
  • The martial-arts version is discussed in Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan, with one character speculating that the system would be prejudiced against those with itchy eyelids.
  • Pretty much the entire plot of Robin Hobb's Farseer/Liveship Traders series eventually turns out to be a case of this.
  • The short story "How Much Shall We Bet?" from Calvino's Cosmicomics is about two cosmic beings taking bets on what will happen over the course of human history. It starts out with predicting the most significant historical events (e.g. the first civilizations, great historical leaders), but after all the major events have already been bet on, the predictions get more and more trivial (e.g. Which way will that particular person turn on a particular day? What will be that newspaper's headline on a specific day?) with the narrator losing an increasing number of bets as his seemingly foolproof system begins failing along the way.
  • In The Cycle of Fire, during Jaric and the Morrigierj's climatic duel, both can see all the likely futures for months ahead, possibly centuries, but the Morrigierj prevents Jaric from seeing the positive outcomes.
  • In Greg Keyes' Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, between the Born Queen and the Hellrune
  • In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain, the Boss engages in this trope with various cranks and quacks (including Merlin). He is, strictly speaking, also a fraud - though having been thrown back in time 13 centuries does tend to give him a bit of an advantage.
  • This appears to be the case in Night Watch (Series) between Gesar and Zabulon, two Great Othersnote . Any Other can visualize fate lines and predict outcomes, sometimes decades in advance, both sides employ seers and prophets, but Great Ones take into account and cover many more paths. Supposedly this is what distinguishes Great Ones from merely "above categories". Some characters attempt to do the unexpected, only to realize this was all part of the plan.
  • Sword of Truth has Zedd describing the use of magic in battles like this. Wizard forces are on the back lines simultaneously attacking and dispelling each other across the battlefield, so the end result is a bunch of guys waving their hands with nothing going on a majority of the time. When fireballs aren't destroying your army is a good sign your wizards are doing their job.
  • In Courtship Rite, the Kaiel clan play this game on a regular basis; the leader, or chief priest, is actually called the Prime Predictor. Cheating—that is to say, manipulating events to help your prophecies come true—is not only allowed, but encouraged, and it's never entirely clear whether there's any actual psychic component to the predictions, although it's strongly suggested. All that really matters is that your predictions prove to be more accurate than the next fellow's.
  • Isaac Asimov's The Foundation Trilogy: Using psychohistory, the actions of a population and large-scale events that will happen in their future can be predicted with near-perfect precision, barring never-before-seen events that throw the entire game out of whack. However, the mathematics underpinning psychohistory depend on the population being unaware of the predictions, which means conflicts between factions capable of psychohistory need to be resolved with what amounts to old-fashioned plotting and scheming.
  • Toward the end of The Sack, politics and business have devolved into leaders taking turns asking the titular alien. Nothing good comes out of it.
  • Wencit does this with the various dark wizards in The War Gods. Wencit tends to create several layered glamours so that he can trick the dark wizards into thinking they've seen through his glamour when they've only seen through the outer layer.
  • Braid, the Big Bad of The Infected is a particularly potent precog intent on starting a war- because, she says, the alternative will be even worse. The hero has a similarly strong, but almost entirely subconscious, precog talent. Various counters to Braid's power are raised and discussed, such as invisibility or telepathy or other precogs to counter her, but ultimately the heroes spend most of the series uncertain as to whether they're actually thwarting her plans or advancing them.
  • In Worm, precognitive powers interfere with each other, creating "blind spots" of future events that the precog cannot perceive. This fact is the only reason that humanity stands a chance against the Simurgh, which is one of the most powerful precognitives in the setting. However, Contessa does not have this limitation, which makes her incredibly overpowered.
    • In the sequel Ward, when Contessa turns into Titan Fortuna and her already broken power is increased, the Simurgh immediately flies up to her and the two of them just sit there staring at each other for hours and hours. Eventually we see what's happening from Fortuna's point of view: she's trying to calculate millions of different paths to various different "victories", but the Simurgh is blocking her at every turn, sabotaging her future sight and causing all of her paths to lead to the Simurgh winning.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Charmed (1998): In the season seven episode "Styx Feet Under", the charmed ones can predict who is going to die next (due to having Death's list), but their opponent has access to a fortuneteller.
  • The Doctor Who parody show The Curse of Fatal Death has the Doctor and the Master in a standoff of sorts where they compete to change the past so that the present would work to their current advantage. Obviously, the person who was able to go back the furthest into the past and anticipate the changes that the other would make would come out on top of the situation. (The standoff ends with the Master accidentally falling into a sewer that takes him 300 years to climb out of. He somehow manages to do this three times.)
  • In Heroes, Hiro (a time traveler) faced Usuntu (a precognitive) who "painted" visions of the future. Usuntu won. Every time Hiro teleported back in time, he would find a fresh painting of Usuntu knocking him out by hitting him over the head with a shovel. The image would then come true.
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O is a competition between three groups of time travelers, all of whom can read the future, though some are more hesitant about it than others. Later in the show, both the hero and his rival gain Combat Clairvoyance and begin using it against each other, while a third character gains such a fast reaction time that he can change his actions in the split-second between the clairvoyant characters reading the future and responding to it.
  • Leverage has the martial artist variant, though eventually they do start fighting for real. Who the eventual winner would have been isn't clear, as they didn't finish the fight.
  • The Psychic vs. Psychic episode of Psych is even titled "Psy vs. Psy". However, it's subverted in that both the main character and his new competition are Phony Psychics simply trying to out Sherlock Scan each other and that in said competition gets a leg up because she was involved with the counterfeiter they were trying to track down.
  • The central conflict of Tru Calling ended up being between Tru, who sees a murder victim's face and sometimes gets information on their identity and cause of death, and Jack, who has a vision of their last moments and thus sees how they actually died. The two then race to prevent or ensure the victim's death.
  • Lost: The whole show ultimately boils down to one of these. Two powerful brothers, Jacob and the Man in Black, have spent 2,000 years using their precognition to "guide" people on a twisty-turney, time-looping odyssey to kill each other.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, Eldar Farseers, Chaos worshipers of Tzeentch, and some human psykers are all capable of foresight. With the setting what it is, any competition between them results in catastrophic body counts. What makes the whole thing even more confusing is that Tzeentch is such a obsessive chessmaster that sometimes the person he's going up against is himself. As the god of change the only thing that matters is playing the game, since winning would lead to a form of stagnation.
  • Time Combat in Continuum works like this. Rival spanners try to undo each other's changes in the timestream and, in so doing, frag their opponent into quasi-sentient time goo.
  • Rather common in both Mage: The Ascension and Mage: The Awakening, and actually within the reach of a starting player character. As a result, you get a non-negligible number of Mages who walk around warded in things which prevent others from scrying them, while they're looking ahead in the future constantly.
  • GURPS Supers has an example in its "Mixed Doubles" supplement: Hunchback was a British precog whose powers allowed the Allies to counter the advantage of the Nazi's own precog during world war two.
  • The martial arts version crops up in Legend of the Five Rings during iaijutsu duels. Each swordsman gets a limited ability to "see" some or all of his opponents stats, and some battles end before the first stroke if one combatant decides he's completely outmatched. It is not considered dishonorable to forfeit a duel this way.
  • In Kitsune: Of Foxes and Fools the Scrying Pool allows its user to look at another player's hand once a turn, but they can look at your own hand as well by spending one foxfire.

    Video Games 
  • The plot of Time Hollow revolves around main character Ethan Kairos manipulating time to stop an antagonist using the same abilities as himself.
  • Achron brings us the time-travel version of this. In multiplayer. The players are entities that can shift their perception up and down the timeline freely, while still remembering versions of events that became undone.
  • Kingdom Hearts χ and later Back Cover tells the story of five Foretellers who are given 5 prophecy books by their master. These books foretell about a traitor among them and they are suppose to work together. Each foretellers eventually use the information from the prophecies to direct their Union against each other.
  • Legacy of Kain has this in spades. Especially interesting considering the series' (awesome) unholy marriage of You Can't Fight Fate and Screw Destiny: Anti-Hero Kain knows that he has a world-shattering Sadistic Choice coming, and so goes back through slightly altered versions of the same events over and over again, hoping that, eventually, the right Butterfly of Doom will come along and allow him to Take a Third Option. Naturally, it gets more complicated from there.
  • In Sam & Max, the tutorial on how to use Max's psychic powers in season 3 is actually a psychic flash-forward to the climax of the episode, showing how Sam and Max defeat Skun-Ka'Pe. Near the end of the actual first episode, Skun-Ka'Pe takes the Toy of Power that let Max see the tutorial and is able to take the items Sam and Max needed to win before they even begin their plan.
  • In Radiant Historia, two Chronicles, Black and White, allow their holders to hop backwards and forwards in time, as well as to jump between alternate timelines. Stocke tries to save the world by using the White Chronicle to guide it through its "True History", while the wielder of the Black Chronicle tries to do the exact opposite.
  • At the apparent end of Astro Boy: Omega Factor, Astro Boy is given time-travel powers so that he can go back and change the Bad End he got. However, the Big Bad has also acquired time-travel powers, and as a result events play out differently the second time around. Astro Boy has to jump from time to time and place to place in order to figure out where and when he'll be able to confront the Big Bad directly.
  • Rachel and Hazama in BlazBlue: Calamity Trigger are the two characters who retain all of their memories in previous cycles of the Stable Time Loop the universe is caught in. As thousands of loops have already occurred, both have a good idea of what will happen with any particular action they do. Naturally, the two of them have opposite goals, and throughout the game, they subtly manipulate every other major character without letting them notice a thing.
  • Katana ZERO centers around NULLs, Super Soldiers with the ability to effectively rewind time if they die. The Final Boss of the game is a NULL with powers comparable to your own — while mechanically the fight is similar to a normal video game boss, narratively both you and she are living through an infinity of deaths, each one attempting to degrade the will of the other until they just give up.
  • In World of Warcraft Battle for Azeroth Prophet Zul tasks the player with defeating his student who has gone rogue after he foresaw the destruction of Dazar'alor. Zul arranges the battleground in advance so that all of the students preparations go awry.
    Zul: A pity I was not able to teach him the most important lesson of all. You must plan even for de futures you have not seen.
  • Final Fantasy XIV: In the third chapter of the Save the Queen storyline, Mikoto foresees that the Bozjan Resistance will ambush a traitor in the depths of a ruin, and that the traitor will not be able to defend herself because the crystal she uses to summon Queen Gunnhildr has run out of power. Mikoto shares her vision with the Resistance, and their subsequent ambush plays out exactly as she foresaw. Unfortunately, the traitor saw the same vision thanks to her Resonant powers and prepared a counter-ambush.

  • Celesto Morgan versus Dominic Deegan... sort of. Their conflict escalates beyond this fairly quickly, but when they first butt heads, it's as competing oracles.
    • Also Dominic vs. Vilrath in the Visions of Doom arc. Or so it appears at first. In fact, Vilrath is Dominic's Aloof (and evil) Older Brother Jacob, and he knows all about Dominic and his family not from scrying, but simply because he is (or was) part of that family.
  • In Casey and Andy strip 209 two highly intelligent good and evil counterparts try to outwit each other while predicting their opponent's countermeasures.
  • Lady Toyama from The Dreadful appears to be a seer with an addiction to amnesia dust, which results in her doing this against herself.

    Web Original 
  • The Chessmaster and Mrs. Potter in the Whateley Universe. The methods by which they use their precognitive abilities are very different - during the Halloween Invasion, the Chessmaster shows himself to be a consummate micro-manager, sending instructions to his minions every few minutes in response to every little change in the situation on the ground. Mrs Potter, on the other hand, does nothing but make a single phone call to the Chessmaster himself, which distracts him at a critical moment and leads to a turn in the tide of the battle. Well, Mrs. Potter also made absolutely sure all her pieces were in the right place to do things. Still, Guess who wins?

    Real Life 
  • High frequency trading in the stock market can resemble this. Various algorithms attempt to predict market moves and outpredict other traders' algorithms to make money off market conditions that last fractions of a second.
  • Armageddon The Final Battle prophecied in the Bible is also in Islamic prophecies - the difference being who will win. Preparing for this battle was why ISIS was so obsessed with capturing the Syrian town of Dabiq, which is where they think the battle will occur.

Alternative Title(s): Scry Versus Scry, Dueling Oracles