The time has come for the Great Tournament of Praven. Tharon Delinard and their companions arrived there and already managed to make some powerful people upset. But now, a problem arises that Tharon has to deal with in the arena. And the name of the problem is Despin.
January 24, 1267 CE, Praven, Morning
I woke up with my head pounding. I had to stop drink like this, especially when I am going to compete at the jousting, which was today. We were at the play-offs phase. Thirty-two contestants. Each fight was best-of-three. Everyone had to beat his opponent two times to win. Good odds. There were two knock out phases and then the remaining eight enter the final stages of the competition. The sport was simple. It was a best-of-three. If the champion just hit the other without breaking his lance, the player takes one point. If the lance breaks, two, and if the opponent fall off the horse, three. I ate breakfast and arrived at the arena. At the first hours of the day, the “minor” competitions would take place. Me at swordfight and the others at their competitions. We managed to win from the first games.
At the afternoon of every day, the jousting competition would take place as I said at the afternoon. For three days, we were going to fight for the absolute competition of Swadians. And fight we did. I had a personal reason to fight and this was Mirchaud. In order to get me on my nerves, he challenged me. But to get him angry, I maybe risked everything. If I won him at the competition, he would back off from his “claim” on Elina. Nevertheless, these days were unforgettable. The fights were epic, but the best moments were at night. Me, Fendrel, Rafard and Elina having fun at the tavern. Sometimes, even Sonadel came – Fendrel was enlightened. We got together as a company of friends, although it was quite obvious that Fendrel wanted Sonadel, or that I was flirting with Elina. But the sky was getting darker and darker above Praven.
January 27, 1267 CE, Praven, Night
I was walking down the main road of Praven, late at night, with Fendrel, Rafard and Oliver at each side. So far, their contribution and help were the best. They had helped me in many ways during this tournament that I couldn’t even imagine. We had reached far. Quarter finals. We were talking loudly about our next moves, how we could win the unbeatable Count Despin and the evil Mirchaud. Without even realizing it, we already made two powerful enemies, Fendrel and I. Fortunately, Rafard and Delinard, stood by us, although the first doubts of Delinard.
The truth is that the age of the women being just a possession, was fading. Mirchaud although chose to live in this world, until he met me, someone both useful and a good match for Delinard’s daughter. I can’t say that the story goes the same with Fendrel. Rafard hated the fact that Fendrel – a commoner non the less – dared, not to talk, but flirt with his sister, a woman of higher hierarchy. Suddenly, Mirchaud with a mob of around ten men approached us.
“You dared to cross my path, Tharon, you peasant dog, and now you are going to pay!” he shouted at me.
“Oh, that’s not good” said Fendrel, seeing that they are many more than we were.
They charged us with bare fists. We managed to knock out some of them, but they were to many. Soon, we were lying down, spiting blood from our mouths.
“Man, this feels great!” shouted Mirchaud, kicking me again in the stomach. “Take this as a lesson. Never cross me again. I’ll see you again, tomorrow, to honor your promise to Elina. Let’s see how you will fight at this condition”. He laughed.
“Either way” I said, spiting blood to the ground, “I am still better than you”.
With fury, Mirchaud, kicked me in the face and I almost lost consciousness. The mob left, leaving us at a terrible state.
“You had to talk” said Rafard to me, after he managed to get up at his feet.
I did not answer. Vengeance clouded my mind. But my body was uncontrollable at the moment. Soon I lost my senses and passed out.
January 28, 1267 CE, Praven, Afternoon
Today was the end of the tournament. The last sports were the winners of this competition would emerge. We woke up, with bruises and wounds all over our bodies. After some time, we managed to get ready, by helping each other put our armors on. We were silent, with determination and vengeance in our heads. We arrived at the arena, with our heads covered with helmets, so no one could see our faces at this condition. First, archery and javelin throw would take place. But Fendrel was too beaten up to keep focus. His eye was red from internal eye bleeding.
He needed good care, but there was no time. At archery, you have fifteen shots, and you must hit the target, taking as much points you can. There were three finalists. Fendrel, lost completely the first two shots. He kept rubbing his eye, which was worsening his condition and vision.
“Come on man…” I was saying under my breath. “You can do this… Come on!”.
With the next couple of shots, he managed to collect some points. But the other archers – one of them being the goon of Mirchaud – kept scoring, having a head start over Fendrel. He had to do perfect scores. He tried but it was no use and ended up second. Just behind Mirchaud’s pal. He was far too weak to compete to the javelin throw, so he forfeited the tournament. Oliver was next, with his wrestling tournament. Oliver was a great fighter with excellent endurance. Let alone his hate for Mirchaud, let alone Despin, was clouding his mind. At the wrestling, he fought against Despin’s father, Grainwad. They met at the middle of the arena. Oliver, as it was costumed for wrestlers, he had only a cloth around his waist. He had no problem showing his wounds. The people around them, was shouting and cheering, each for their champion.
“See, what your dog of a son did to me?” asked Oliver, showing his wounds. “I’m going to do them to you, you sack of wine”.
“You cross me, and you expect to live? You clearly don’t know me”.
Oliver looked at him with hatred in his eyes. Harlaus gave the order and Oliver, like lightning, lunged at him. Grainwad did not expect that. Oliver dropped him at his back and started punching him at the face. At one point a punch dislocated the jaw of Grainwad, making him lose senses. Oliver’s mind was so clouded for vengeance and he was craving for revenge, so much, that he kept punching.
Realizing that there was a great possibility to kill him, we stormed in, and pulled him back. Seeing us he relaxed a little, becoming aware of where he was. He spat on Grainwad and exited the arena. Everyone witnessing the match, was speechless and were looking Oliver at one hand and senseless Grainwad at the other. Harlaus did not say anything. He probably learned from Delinard what happened to us last night. By now, the people of Grainwad were taking out of there the body. Despin looked at me, with a profound hate in his eyes. But I raised my shoulders at him and turned my back, which I knew it pissed him of more.
Next was the swordplay. As I many times have said, I am very good with the sword and I will not enter to details, but I dominated my opponent easily. Now the main event, the jousting was starting soon. Three matches, to declare the winner. There were left four of us me and Rafard, Mirchaud and Despin, who was unbeatable for years now. Harlaus announced the beginning of the finals, and he said how we should split. I was fighting against Despin and Rafard against Mirchaud. First match, me and Despin. We prepared our horses and our lances.
Despin looked at me and then looked Fendrel. He smiled seeing us in that condition. I tried my best to keep it all together. The horn was sounded and charged forward. I tried to aim his chest and at the same time, keep my balance. I managed to hit him and break my lance at two but he smashed his lance at my head, sending me flying to the ground. It was a good hit from him and I was in a bad situation, both physically and mentally. My friends managed to make me get it together, My vision was kind of blurry. I climbed on my horse. My helmet was making my situation worse so I took it off. Despin and his team started laughing at my decision.
“Little cocky for someone who got his ass wiped, aren’t you?” he shouted from the other side of the arena. I looked at the seats of the people who were watching.
I saw Delinard, worried for me and his son. Lady Bella with cross hands, praying. The beautiful Elina, with agony in her eyes. I gritted my teeth. The horn sounded. I charged. Determined. Ready to lose everything. As I was expecting, he tried to hit my head. I easily dodged the hit and aim his neck. My lance broke and Despin lost the air from his lungs. He tried to maintain balance on his horse, but he fell unconscious, without being able to breath. Grainwad rushed at his side.
“What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO?” he shouted at my direction. I was senseless. They removed his armor, trying to make him find air. Nothing. Despin started to turn blue. Two minutes had pasted, and then suddenly Despin breathed. Grainwad was full of relief. Of course, Despin, was unable to contest anymore. He forfeited. Everyone was awaiting for the next semi – final. Then Rafard approached me.
“I will forfeit” he said to me.
“Wait, what? Why?”
“Because I want you to triumph against this sucker. If I win, I will be against you, and I don’t want that. If I lose, you will too, because you will not have a clear mind. You shall want vengeance, and he is counting on this. Also, I want the best for my sister, and I want you to honor your promises to her. The only way to get rid of the asshole, is for you to fight him, with a clear state of mind”.
He put his hand on my arm. He was a good friend, and a good brother. A good man overall. He went and stood before Harlaus to announce his withdraw from the tournament. Meanwhile, I was preparing myself, putting on my armor for the grand final. Time to time, I was looking at Elina, who looked worried about how the things took off. Fendrel was helping me, but I could see his nervousness.
“We will prevail, Fendrel. And one way or another, you will get the girl” I said, trying to calm him.
“How will you do that?” asked with bitterness. “You may be the smartest person I’ve ever met, but this…” said looking at Sonadel, “…this is beyond us, beyond you”.
I could not find an appropriate answer to give him.
By the time I got on my horse, Harlaus was announcing the finals. The winner was invited to the main palace (which I could not enter, because I am just a mercenary) and 2000 denars. But for me and my friends, and Delinard’s family also, it was personal. I was going to set free Elina from the twisted man called Mirchaud.
I putted on my helmet and took my lance. Mirchaud took his lance and stood on his horse opposite of me. Although his face was not visible due to his helmet, I could feel the hatred. The first joust started. We charged and we both broke our lances on each other torso. At the second joust I missed miserably, but Mirchaud only hit me, without breaking his lance. He was one point ahead of me. I had to knock him over to secure victory. The horn sounded. We galloped at each other.
Determined. I saw him trying to aim my head, a good spot, but a spot needing extreme focus to hit. The time was slowed around me. I managed to dodge his hit and hit him at his chest. My lance broke and Mirchaud laid back on his horse. He did not fell but still I had the two points. I exceeded his score. Everyone started cheering. Rafard, Fendrel and the men came to me and lifted me on their shoulders. Even Harlaus was satisfied with my win. As it seems, Mirchaud and Despin were just a pain at everyone’s ass. Merchaud approached me after a bit. He looked at me directly in the eye.
“This isn’t over” he said and left.
January 28, 1267 CE, Praven, Night
“And I present to you Praven’s new champion, Tharon, from the company of Sir Delinard, the Lord of Uxkhal!” said Harlaus to everyone, as I entered Harlaus’ palace, with Fendrel and Rafard at my side. Everyone seemed happy and were congratulating us for our victory. Even though the wounds of our last adventures were still visible on us, it didn’t matter, for the day had provided us victory. Only one party didn’t share our happiness. Despin’s and Mirchaud’s party. They went to a corner, with their faces darkened. I was sure that they were plotting against me, but at that point, it didn’t matter to me.
Everything was going well. I was having a good time with Fendrel, but most importantly, I was with Elina at my side. Although Fendrel didn’t say anything, I knew that inside him, he was dying to be with Sonadel. I would find a way to make this happen. But, at the moment I did not knew how. At some point, Delinard, stood and asked from everyone to stay silent to make an announcement.
“I know that this was a great day for me and my house. I would like to make it also an important one. Under the blessings of our great king Harlaus” he said with a loud voice, looking at Harlaus, who nodded in agreement, “I have decided the marriage of my daughter Elina, to my first commander and now vassal, Tharon of Uxkhal”.
Elina wept tears of joy in my embrace, with her mother also full of emotions. This was great for me also. I loved Elina from the first time, and also I was going to be family with the man that made me be what I was, up until this very moment. I took a glimpse of Mirchaud’s face. His hand was bleeding, because he just broke his mug into his own hands. He and his followers went outside. Surprised, I watched Sonadel staying put at her position. Grainwad turned against her.
“Get up! You go where I and your brother go!” he shouted making everyone in the room stay quiet. Sonadel, just brought her mug to her lips, saying nothing.
“Are you not hearing me, child? Come! Now!”.
“No” replied Sonadel. She stood up and walked and stood beside Fendrel. She took his hand. “I think I will stay”.
“What is that nonsense, sister? Come now, or you will regret this!” said her brother Despin.
“You know what? I am tired of you. I am tired of pretending that you are my family. You may be my kin by blood, but, for real, you differ only a little from the animals. I mean, we are here for only a small amount of days. And yet I feel more connected to Fendrel and his company than my own family. I prefer to stick here” said and looked at Delinard. “If you have me”
Delinard looked towards Harlaus.
“Don’t look at me, Delinard. This decision it’s yours and only. I will have no part in it” said the king, but you could tell that he was way more pleased with Delinard getting more political prestige and power, than Despin, or his father.
“I cannot see why not!” said Delinard, full of joy.
“This isn’t over!” shouted Despin, with his voice full of anger, pointing at me.
“Mirchaud said the same thing” I replied. “I will be waiting”.
They left the room, finally, and we started celebrating our good luck. It seemed that everything had worked well so far. I looked at Fendrel. Although I did nothing to get his girl to him, he knew that my contribution, the whole battle I gave for Elina, it was the very thing that inspired her to chase, what he truly wanted. Because in life, it is worth and gain to pursue things that you love.
Suddenly, an emissary stormed into the room and run to the feet of King Harlaus. Everybody stood still, the music and the dance stopped at once. All eyes were on Harlaus. The messenger whispered something in his ear. Harlaus’ eyes widened. He stood from his chair and looked at us, at everyone standing at his hall. He hit the table with his hand, and he shouted with an aggressive voice.
“Gentlemen, we are at WAR!”.