Just as we suspected, city guardsmen were stationed around the knight’s tents. A whole area of the King’s Field was set up for knights and other challengers to make their camp for the tournament. Most of them had large setups with flashy banners marked with sigils. It wasn’t hard to find Sir Duncan’s tent. Every other tent was made of plain, white cloth, but Sir Duncan’s was green and gold like his colors. There were a couple guardsman walking around.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Dionna asked me once again. We were crouched behind some crates next to some nameless knight’s tent. “We don’t even know if he’s in there.”
“Of course he is!” Aledon pointed with his cane. “You can see the shadow of his feet under the tent.” He suddenly stood up straighter. “Just stand by, ladies. It’s time for the doctor to work some magic!”
It was very difficult to not roll my eyes at Aledon’s smirk. He tipped his feathered hat downward and headed toward Sir Duncan’s tent. He leaned heavily on his cane as if he had a limp. I recognized his favorite trick immediately. Out in the woods, Aledon loved to act crippled to get close to whoever he planned on blasting a spell at. Most of the time he just used the trick on bandits. I don’t know what spell he plans on using now, though. I just hope he doesn’t get us into further trouble.
Aledon hobbled slowly toward the guards and the two men eyed him with suspicion and wariness. I think Aledon was muttering something, but it was hard to tell since he had his skull mask on. He didn’t look at the guards. Didn’t address them at all. All he did was walk passed them.
He walked passed them! The guards were staring at him the entire time and even stared after him once he was out of view and that was it! I was expecting a confrontation. A challenge at least! And then Aledon would turn them into toads or make them forget who they were, but he didn’t even do anything! I glanced back at Dionna. “Is that it?”
“He didn’t do anything, did he?” Dionna huffed. “Maybe our dear doctor is losing his touch?”
“I beg your pardon!” Dionna and I jumped when Aledon was suddenly behind us. My hand went for my sword, but I forced myself to relax. Aledon leaned forward on his cane and snickered at me. “A bit jumpy are we?” I just glared at him. He smirked and nodded toward Sir Duncan’s tent. “Your way is all clear, m’lady.”
“But the guards are still there.”
“Aye, they are.” Aledon bobbed his head. “If they left, that would be a bit suspicious don’t you think?” Aledon straightened rather proudly. “So, I just petrified them. Just a simple spell that draws their attention to my cane. Once its out of their sight, they can’t move. I can put them back right once you’re done with Sir-easily-offended.”
Petrified? I raised my eyebrow. That was certainly a new one. Though, I suppose Aledon never used it in the woods since his cane was always in sight. “You better hope your spell holds.”
“Oh, it will, m’lady.” Aledon’s lips spread to a thin smile. “It will.”
“We’ll wait here for you and keep lookout.”
I nodded my thanks to Dionna and headed for Sir Duncan’s tent. Heaven above please give me the words to say that he’d call off the challenge. I prayed that the entire walk, but I’m not sure all the prayers in the world would work to convince this stubborn knight. Maybe I’ll get thrown a miracle?
The guards didn’t move as I got closer. They didn’t even turn their heads to look at me. They just stayed staring in the direction they last saw Aledon. I even waved my hand in front of their faces and they didn’t even blink. I don’t give Aledon enough credit for his skills sometimes.
“Sir Duncan!” I called inside the tent. I didn’t want to barge in if he wasn’t decent. “We need to talk!”
“And you are?” He called back. “Why have my guards not turned you away?”
“They allow me to pass.” I glanced briefly at the frozen men. Technically, I’m not lying. “This is urgent.”
Relief caught my breath. I wasn’t positive he’d even have audience with me. I pushed through the curtain and righted my posture. Sir Duncan’s tent was elegant and everything you’d expect from the King’s greatest knight. I even think his water pitcher was made of gold.
Sir Duncan, himself, did not appear pleased to see me. He eyed my leather armor and his lip twisted to a frown. “Who are you?”
I held my head high. I didn’t expect him to remember me as the child he told they couldn’t be a knight. “My name is Naviro.”
“Naviro?” He repeated with intrigue in his voice. “The woman from the woods?”
I paused in surprise. “You know of me?”
I did not like the way his lip soured. “I do. What do you want?”
Hesitation hindered my reply. Sir Duncan knew of me? Yet, he didn’t seem like he approved. I shook the thoughts away. I couldn’t dwell on that. I needed to remember why I was here. “I’ve come to ask that you withdraw your challenge from Sir Gavin.”
I suppose the bluntness of my request surprised him. He raised his eyebrows. “Withdraw? Girl, I will not withdraw. On my honor, I will see this through. Sir Gavin has had this coming for some time now.”
“Sir Duncan, I know of your wisdom.” I took a step forward. “You are a knight of great skill and experience. Sir Gavin is just a younger man with much more to learn. What good would a joust to the death against him do?”
Sir Duncan raised his eyebrow and looked me up and down once again. I thought I was getting to him, but then he spoke. “Do you fancy Sir Gavin, Naviro?”
I started. “I-I beg your pardon?”
“Do you fancy Sir Gavin? You must if you’re here begging me to call off the joust and spare his life.”
“N-no!” The change in topic made me falter. “I don’t fancy Sir Gavin! I’m here because pride is nothing either of you should die for! You can’t kill a man just because he so dishonorably knocked you off your horse and embarrassed you!”
“Is that all you think he did, girl?” Sir Duncan’s tone hardened. He strictly continued before I could get a word in. “I know of men like Sir Gavin. They are men of dishonor in every area of life! Great in battle he may be, but he slays his foes in their sleep. He prefers the company of the undesirable crowd. He takes a woman’s precious virtue and gives nothing in return. You should not be defending him! He would not do the same for you and the world is simply better off without Sir Gavin. He is a disgrace to the Code of Chivalry and a knight’s very name!”
I furrowed my brow. “Harsh words from a knight.”
“The truth can be harsh, girl.”
I couldn’t quite believe my ears. I’m not sure what surprised me more: the fact that Sir Duncan so openly degraded Sir Gavin or the fact that he actually believed this. I agree that Sir Gavin is likely the most disgraceful knight I ever met, but I didn’t think he deserved death because of it. He should be given a chance to right his wrongs whether he wanted to or not. Sir Duncan was throwing away that chance and using this tourney to get away with it.
“You know what is also true?” I spoke slowly, thinking over my words carefully. “Sir Gavin is a younger man from a foreign kingdom. Who knows the culture they have there? Their knights could be trained differently. You claim you know of men like Sir Gavin, but do you know Sir Gavin?”
“I know enough, girl. You’re wasting my time–”
“But you don’t know Sir Gavin,” I cut him off firmly. “You don’t know his childhood, his raising, or his reasons for this disgrace. You are condemning him without trying to understand. Sir Duncan, you are a great knight known for your nobility and respect throughout the kingdom! You could mentor–”
“Mentor Sir Gavin?!” Sir Duncan let out a loud and rude laugh. “Your beloved would never be open to such a thing and I certainly would never accept a young man so rash, arrogant, and dishonorable as a pupil! No. I will show the people that honor prevails on the field today. I will make sure Sir Gavin is slain!”
I felt nothing but shame as I walked back to my companions. Sir Duncan would not hear another word from my lips and when he threatened to call the guards and have me imprisoned, I knew I had to leave. I couldn’t risk him realizing that Aledon petrified his guards. We couldn’t afford that type of trouble. Thankfully, Dionna and Aledon had looks of sympathy on their faces when they witnessed my walk of shame.
“Not gonna withdraw, is he?” Dionna sighed.
I shook my head. “I’m going to try and speak to Sir Gavin.”
My companions exchanged doubtful looks. “If Sir Duncan didn’t listen…” Aledon took a deep breath. “What makes you think Sir Gavin will listen?”
I shrugged. “If anything, I might learn his reasons for upping the stakes to a joust to the death. Maybe I can sway him.”
“I can think of a way that might sway him, but…” Dionna shook her head. “Like I said: men think with the organ between their legs.”
“At this point, I believe you, but I’m sticking to my way.” I took a deep breath and Dionna nodded in agreement with me. “Do you know where his tent is?”
Dionna motioned back with her thumb. “O’ course! We passed it on the way here.” She gave Aledon a pointed look. “I get to distract the guards this time. I deserve a little fun too, ya know!”
Aledon chuckled. “Alright. Let’s get going then.”
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” I frowned at the witch doctor and when he just gave me an innocent look, I motioned back to the two petrified guards. “Undo your spell.”
Aledon huffed. “I suppose I have too. You best get going to Sir Gavin. The guards will know someone spelled them after I undo it and I’d rather you ladies not be around to be suspect. Hopefully, the guards will be too embarrassed to do anything about it, but just in case.” Aledon tipped his hat to me. “Good luck with your knight. You’re going to need it.”
I let out a slow sigh. “I know.”