A true joust is one of respect between opponents. The points are given fairly by the Knight Marshal. Both knights ride at the same time and if one should ask for Mercy’s Pass, it should be granted to them. The hits should be clean and directly to the other rider’s shield. Failing to present a good target could result in penalties. No fear should be displayed. Only the skill a knight would use to defend his kingdom. I know all of this, but I yearn to try my hand at a joust someday, so I remembered every word the Knight Marshal gave as instruction. He looked to Sir Duncan and Sir Gavin.
“Do you understand the rules?”
“I understand!” Sir Duncan replied immediately. He raised his fist toward the crowd and cheering resulted from it. I silently huffed. As honorable as a man everyone knew he was, he was being a bit of a show-off.
“Sir Gavin, do you understand the rules?” The Knight Marshal looked to the knight in black and purple. Yet, Sir Gavin was lingering at the edge of the lists, swapping flirtatious eyes with someone in the crowd. This guy is seriously a knight? I rolled my eyes. Aledon had more focus than he did.
“What do you want?!” Sir Gavin tossed his head back in a way that reminded me of a child throwing a tantrum. He turned his horse back to the center of the lists and shot a look of irritation at the Knight Marshal. “Can’t you see that I’m bonding with my people?!” He motioned back toward the crowd and the people cheered.
“All well and good.” Annoyance entered the Knight Marshal’s patient tone. “But do you understand the rules of this joust?”
“Yes. Yes. I understand them!” Sir Gavin suddenly smirked and he shot a look toward Sir Duncan. “I understand them so I know how to break them!”
I’m really regretting giving him that favor.
“Sir Gavin do you need be reminded that this is the King’s field?” Sir Duncan rode forward. By the fire in his breath, he was eager for this joust to be underway. “Any act outside the King’s Law will result in your punishment!”
“The only punishment will be to you, Sir Duncan, when I lay you in the dirt!”
“Your Majesty!” The Knight Marshal raised his voice with impatience riding his tone. He turned toward the Noble Court in a way of cutting off the jibes of the two knights. “Shall we proceed?”
The King gave a nod with the wave of his hand and the two knights were presented with their helms and arms. I, personally, think Sir Gavin looks better with his helmet on–not that he looked at all handsome in the first place.
The knights rode forward, saluted each other, and then the Noble Court before heading back to their ends of the list. My heart beat like a pounding drum. While the people around me–save for Dionna and Aledon–were cheering for Sir Gavin, I found myself silently hoping Sir Duncan would win. I may not care for either knight, but I’d cheer for honor over arrogance every time.
Before they rode against each other, the two knights had to pass tests of skills. The first was for each knight to lance a ring held by their squire. Each knight did so flawlessly which was to no surprise. The next was to lance two rings in a row, and Sir Duncan missed one of them. The last, was a thrown ring and each knight easily succeeded. Sir Gavin was in the lead by points, but it came down to the joust itself. They’d pass a series of a times and the one to accumulate the most points by the end would win. But points weren’t all that mattered. If a knight was unhorsed at all during the joust. They immediately lost.
Sir Gavin and Sir Duncan reached their separate ends of the list and when their eyes met, they charged. The horses rode at a thundering gallop and the crowd cheered with excitement. Lances smacked shields. Solid hits for both knights, but neither fell from the saddle, nor lost their lance. They passed again. I grit my teeth when their lances struck shields once more. Sir Duncan and Sir Gavin seemed evenly matched, but the crowd roared for a victor. The knights made a third pass. Something in the way their lances struck had me wincing. Sir Duncan’s arm lurched and he dropped his lance.
No…I watched Sir Duncan canter over to his squire. In the way he held his arm, I feared that Sir Duncan’s age was yielding to Sir Gavin’s youthfulness. Sir Duncan shook out his arm and immediately gripped the lance his squire offered. The moment he looked back at Sir Gavin, the knight in black and purple advanced. Sir Duncan had to spur his steed quickly just to meet Sir Gavin’s charge.
The impact of their lances echoed the field. Sir Duncan’s lance shattered against Sir Gavin’s shield and the force of it knocked Sir Gavin back. His own lance was lost from hand. The way he twisted even had me wincing. That had to hurt and by Sir Gavin’s reaction, it clearly did. The momentum of his lost weapon tore him from the saddle and he hit the ground hard.
I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
“Sir Gavin is unhorsed!” The Knight Marshal hollered over the cheering crowd. “Your victor is Sir Duncan!”
Roars from the crowd deafened the field. From the looks of the lords and ladies in the Noble Court, they were as relieved as I was that Sir Duncan had won. I mildly clapped along. The more honorable man deserved the win, I still believed that. Aledon nudged me. “Guess your favor wasn’t enough.”
I chuckled. “I’m glad.”
Sir Duncan rode to the center of the lists. He removed his helmet so the crowd could see their victor’s face. I tried not to roll my eyes. The knight still had a whole tournament to go through and yet he acted as if he already won it. I did feel a little bad for Sir Gavin, though. Hopefully, he learned his lesson about what it meant to uphold honor and keep to the law. I looked over at the fallen knight and my brow furrowed. He ripped his helmet off as he got back to his feet and horror steadily rose within me when he ripped a lance out of his own squire’s hands. He charged, on foot, at his victor from behind.
“Sir Duncan, look out!” I stood up, but my warning came too late. Sir Gavin smacked the lance against the back of Sir Duncan’s head. The Knight Marshal realized the dastardly deed after it was done and he jumped to Sir Duncan’s defense.
“Naviro, stop!” Both Aledon and Dionna suddenly grabbed my arms when I tried running down toward the lists.
I tried ripping free. “Let me go!”
Aledon hissed through gritted teeth, “The knights will handle it!”
“You go down there and you’ll find yourself in prison!” Dionna added. “Common folk can’t enter the lists! Especially not a woman! Let the Knight Marshal handle Sir Gavin’s temper tantrum!”
I stared sourly at both of them. I hated it when they were right. If I jumped down there, I could be viewed as a threat like Sir Gavin and I’d find myself in worse trouble. I bitterly looked back at the field. Curse this kingdom and its view on woman.
Rage burned from Sir Gavin like a catapult’s fireball as he fought against the Knight Marshal. He threw his lance to the side and jumped back to avoid the marshal’s own sword. When the marshal raised his blade to strike again, Sir Gavin slipped in and grabbed his hand. They fought over the weapon, the crowd roaring with excitement at the tourney’s turn of events. A quick twist of his arms and Sir Gavin had the Knight Marshal pinned against his chest. He ripped the marshal’s sword out of hand and cut the blade across the man’s inner elbow.
When the marshal buckled in pain, Sir Gavin kicked him to the dirt. He raised his hands high and I soured at the look on his face. Sir Gavin was smirking like he had just won the tournament. Like he was better than everyone in the crowd. Anger seeded in my gut and I didn’t realize my hand was ready to draw my own sword until Dionna placed her hand on my arm again to keep me in place.
Sir Gavin hollered out some words, but I couldn’t hear them over the excitement of the crowd. Sir Duncan was staggering back to his feet. He had fallen from his horse at Sir Gavin’s initial hit, but when he realized what Sir Gavin did to the Knight Marshal, he grabbed a sword from a nearby rack and engaged.
Clashing steel sang through the air when the two knights met down on the field. I ground my teeth. I was aching to get down there to aid Sir Duncan in disciplining Sir Gavin, but Dionna and Aledon held me in place. Didn’t they see how dishonorable Sir Gavin was?!
Sir Duncan had a renewed fire when he combated Sir Gavin. He hacked away at Sir Gavin’s defenses and soon had the younger knight knocked down to his knees, sword lost from hand. “Sir Gavin!” Anger blazed in Sir Duncan’s shout. The crowd quieted. “You disgrace yourself on this field! This is not how a man of honor acts! You will–“
“I never said I was a man of honor!” Sir Gavin spat at Sir Duncan’s feet. He leaned away from Sir Duncan’s sword, then threw dirt up at the older knight. Sir Duncan stepped away to shield his eyes and when he did, Sir Gavin snatched up his sword once again. He beat it across Sir Duncan’s chest plate before kicking the knight into the dirt again.
“That dirty trick!”
“Naviro, stop!” Both Dionna and Aledon pinned me to their chests to keep me from sprinting down to the lists.
“What kind of knight fights like that?!” I struggled against my companions. “He’s a rotten scoundrel! I could teach him what honor really is!”
“I bet you could,” Aledon huffed in my ear. “But how about some other time? I’d hate to turn you into a toad to keep you out of prison, but I suppose then, we’d be squared.” I shot him a hardened look.
With his arm bandaged, the Knight Marshal jumped back into the fray to tame Sir Gavin’s arrogant anger. Sir Gavin’s strength was waning, yet, he still matched the Knight Marshal sword for sword. It was when Sir Duncan returned to his feet that Sir Gavin found himself outmatched. The two older knights had Sir Gavin down on his knees in three quick strikes, their swords pointed at his throat.
“Sir Gavin, you have broken the King’s Law this day.” The Knight Marshal rose his voice over the crowd. “Your acts of dishonor are unbefitting of a man of your stature!”
“I have proven myself the better warrior.” Sir Gavin slowly rose to his feet with his hands in the air. “For it took you both to bring me to my knees!”
“Better warrior, ha!” Sir Duncan scoffed. “You’ve only proved yourself the lesser man! No knight would act so dishonorably within the King’s field! You, sir, spit on the Code of Chivalry and disgrace a knight’s very name!” He slowly removed his riding glove. “I would see to it that you learn respect and honor! For the offense of the Code, I hereby throw down the gauntlet!” Sir Duncan threw his glove at Sir Gavin’s feet. “Let us duel and end this offense once and for all!”
The crowd roared with excitement. It wasn’t every day a knight threw down the gauntlet at his fellow in standard. I wasn’t surprised by Sir Duncan’s actions. I would throw down the gauntlet too. Sir Gavin’s dishonor was so offensive to Sir Duncan that the only way anyone would expect him to respond was by combat. Perhaps being beaten in a proper duel in front of the entire kingdom would teach Sir Gavin some humility and respect.
Sir Gavin merely glanced at the glove at his feet. From the light toss of his eyes, he was bored with the whole situation. “I would accept your challenge,” he stated promptly. “But only if this duel be a joust to the death! You’ll see how much worth your precious Code has when your inners are poured out by my sword!”
Not a good idea. My stomach tightened at the boldness of Sir Gavin’s challenge. A joust to the death? Not only did it insult the sport, but were either of their lives worth this insult to honor? I looked back at Sir Duncan and I inwardly groaned. He was contemplating the request with a stern expression. Sir Gavin already proved himself an experienced fighter and a challenge to Sir Duncan. If they jousted to the death, the Knight Marshal wouldn’t be able to intervene. “I accept,” Sir Duncan replied.
Leave it to a man to throw his life on the line for pride.
“Brave sirs,” the Knight Marshal stepped forward. I could tell he shared my misgivings. “Only a member of the court may authorize such a joust.” He looked back toward the King. “Your Majesty?”
“May it be so,” the King’s reply surprised me. “And may Sir Duncan prevail!”
“Very well.” The Knight Marshal took in a deep breath. He looked back at the two knights. “We shall met upon this field after the tournament. With the gauntlet thrown, both of you will be removed from the standings. Prepare yourselves brave sirs. One of you will not see the morrow.”
“A joust to the death?!” I plopped back down on my seat when both knights departed from the field. “Is Sir Gavin really so foolish–?! A-And Sir Duncan–?! UGH!”
“And here I thought you’d be all for it.” Aledon sat down next to me, leaning back now that he didn’t have to hold me in place. He smiled with a cool air of uncaring. “Being it a matter of honor and all, wouldn’t you want to see Sir Gavin put down?.”
“To uphold honor is important.” I looked back at my friend with a hardened look. “But this is a just a farce of pride! It isn’t worth a life!”
“She’s right.” Dionna shrugged in agreement with me. “Sir Duncan is just embarrassed that Sir Gavin got the jump on him. That’s why he accepted. And Sir Gavin clearly can’t take a loss.”
“Pride is nothing to die for,” I repeated strictly. “Knight or not.”
“I get it. I get it!” Aledon raised his hands. “But lecturing me about it won’t change anything. If you feel so strongly about this, why don’t you lecture the knights instead?”
I looked at Aledon with intrigue. That was an interesting idea. What if I could talk some sense into the two knights? I could probably get Sir Duncan to see reason and take back the gauntlet. If I play to Sir Gavin’s foolish youthfulness, maybe Sir Duncan’s wisdom would hear me? Then, there would be no risk of the King’s best knight losing his life and Sir Gavin would get more days to grow some sense. “I just might,” I said thoughtfully.
Aledon rolled his eyes. “Naviro, I was kidding!”
“They’re not going to just let you walk into Sir Gavin’s and Sir Duncan’s tents to lecture them.” Dionna shook her head. “You’ve got too much on your chest for that. And men’s brains are typically in-between their legs.” When Aledon gave her a stern look, she chuckled. “With you as the exception, witch doctor.”
“It wouldn’t be hard for the either of you to get me an audience with them.” I looked at each of my companions. “You could distract guards, squires, or whoever to get me alone with them.”
“It’ll be as easy as casting a spell.” Aledon gave me a knowing look and I allowed it. I didn’t care what methods he used to clear the path for me. He could turn all the squires into toads if it meant I got a chance to change a stubborn knight’s mind.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Dionna fumbled a frown. “You don’t know what will happen if you get caught.”
“I’m sure.” I looked her right in the eye. I wasn’t going to anything sway my conviction. “A man’s life is on the line. We have to do our part.”
“Alright.” Dionna nodded once. “I’ll help where I can. Beats watching this tournament anyway.”
“Then we should hurry.” I stood up to lead the way. “This tournament isn’t going to last long and who knows how long it’ll take to sway Sir Duncan.”