It didn’t take long for Dionna to point out Sir Gavin’s tent. It wasn’t the best looking, but it wasn’t terrible either. He only had one banner strung up on a pole. It was black and violet with silver lion on it. No one ever boasted of the lion part, so I was second guessing it when Dionna motioned to it.
“Oh, it’s his alright,” Dionna reassured me. “I saw two ladies enter as we passed by last time. Figured it must be your wayward soul.”
“Two ladies?” I repeated with a groan. “What exactly am I going to walk into?”
“Ah, relax,” Dionna chuckled. She nodded towards her Gavin’s tent. “Doesn’t look like any of the city guardsmen were recruited to protect his effects. So, I’ll get those ladies out for you.”
I raise my eyebrow and followed her gaze. I hadn’t realized it, but she was right. There weren’t any guards posted around Sir Gavin’s tent. I guess Sir Gavin’s dishonor was insulting enough that the captain of the guard pulled his men away. Did no one else care if Sir Gavin died today?
“What are you going to do?” I asked Dionna
She winked at me. “Why spoil the fun?” She suddenly looped her arm in mine. “Just walk with me and play along.”
Uh oh. I swallowed tightly. She was up to some ploy and I was never good at playing along. It meant having to act or be fake, and I wasn’t good at that! However, I wasn’t going to argue with her.
“Now. There are some things you need to remember if you’re going to make it in this town.” Dionna spoke very clearly as we strolled towards Sir Gavin’s tent. “As I’ve been telling you: you need to know your crowd and your clients. We wouldn’t want you to put yourself out for coin and end up getting stabbed in the middle of the night.”
My cheeks flushed bright red at what Dionna was implying. I couldn’t get myself to say anything.
“As for the knights, most will not desire your attention. Some will be disclosed about it, but a rare few won’t care if they’re seen with you. Those are the ones you want to watch out for! Ah, look here.” Diana stopped right next to the cloth of Sir Gavin’s tent. I could hear movements on the inside.
“This tent belongs to the Gavin chap who calls himself a knight.” I had to stifle a laugh as Dionna continued. “He has no regard for the women he wields his sword on–if you know what I mean. I’ve lost countless girls because of the diseases he spreads. I don’t ever want you taking any coin from him!”
There was more movements on the inside. I was pretty sure I heard Sir Gavin’s voice, but I couldn’t dwell on it. Dionna nudged me with a knowing look. “Oh, right,” I whispered. It was time for my line. “Diseases?” I asked nice and loud. “What do you mean?”
“Oh, I mean the kind that just get right up in you!” Dionna motioned with her arms. “You could say goodbye to any dreams of motherhood and any coin you could make under my services. Once you get a disease like that, you’re nothing more than a filthy beggar on the streets. No good for anyone. Just trust me, dear, stay away from Sir Gavin!”
“Ladies, none of that is true! I demand you stay!”
Dionna and I quickly backed away from the tent. The two women inside were suddenly scurrying out, sheets wrapped around their persons and their clothes bundled in their arms. Sir Gavin was cursing after them when he followed them out and I immediately noticed his missing shirt. Dionna and I quickly disappeared from view. When the knight couldn’t us after we chased off his ladies, he cursed again and disappeared into the tent.
“Dionna, you’re brilliant!” I smiled at my companion. Honestly, I didn’t think that would work.
She winked back at me. “Best hurry up, now. Try to save your knight in dented armor, dear.”
“He’s not my knight,” I muttered, but otherwise didn’t argue. Now that the women were gone, maybe Sir Gavin and I could have a decent conversation? Maybe…
I paused at the entrance to Sir Gavin’s tent just to take a deep breath and send a silent prayer to God to give me the words to convince this foolish man not to kill Sir Duncan…or be killed himself. “Sir Gavin!”
My lip tilted an amusement. Someone was in a foul mood. “We need to talk!”
“Sir Gavin, it’s urgent! It’s about your joust later.”
There was a pause. “Very well. Come in!”
“Oh!” Sir Gavin’s lips spread to a smile when he saw me. What soured mood he had vanished when he looked me up and down. “It’s you.”
For the love of God, he still wasn’t wearing a shirt. I nodded. “Yes.”
He turned toward me and leaned against a table so I had a full view of his chest. “Come to give me another favor for my next joust?”
The arrogance and bravado he had in his smirk seared under my skin like a hot blade through butter. I had to grit my teeth to hold back a rude remark. “I’ve come to convince you not to joust.”
Sir Gavin raised his eyebrow. “Oh? Are you worried about me, my lady?”
“I worry about any man who so foolishly throws his life away.”
His expression soured. “I’m not throwing anything away. I have every intention of besting Sir Duncan! That knight will not think himself better any longer!”
“Look who’s talking,” I said dully. “You could have bested him in a normal challenge. Why up the stakes to death?”
“What good would be done if I didn’t?” Sir Gavin easily shrugged and turned to pour himself some wine. “To hear of besting Sir Duncan–finest knight in the land. That’s all well and good, but well and good fades away. To hear of a knight slaying Sir Duncan. That lives on forever!” He raised his wine as if making a toast. “I’ll slay him and take his title.” He suddenly winked at me. “Wouldn’t you like a night with that?”
“You are, by far, the furthest thing ever of being a knight!” I crossed my arms. “Slaying Sir Duncan doesn’t make you the finest knight in the land. Following the Code of Chivalry does!”
“What? That whole: follow God, speak truthful, being honorable and whatnot?” Sir Gavin huffed. “None of that wins battles.”
“You think being a knight is all about winning battles?!”
“Look, my lady,” Sir Gavin cut me off before I could go off on him. “My kingdom expects results. They don’t care how I obtain those results as long as I get them. If I don’t get them, I don’t go home. So, spare your pretty, little tongue. I’m jousting Sir Duncan and I’m going to kill him!”
“Don’t go home?” Out of his ‘little’ speech, that’s what stuck to me. Was he saying if he didn’t kill Sir Duncan, he wouldn’t be able to return to his kingdom? “What do you mean?”
“None of your business.” Sir Gavin’s open and charasmatic behavior disappeared. He downed his wine from his drinking horn. Drinking horn? That was unbefitting of a knight.
I finally looked away from him to look around the tent. Unlike Sir Duncan, Sir Gavin didn’t have much. I would even go so far to believe this was a humble hunter’s blind with how little was placed about. There was a cot with animal furs draped on it. A wooden table with only a wine keg and the only decent scrap of metal in this place was his sword and armor. “Your kingdom doesn’t care for its knights too well, do they?”
“My kingdom cares for its knights just fine…” Sir Gavin poured himself more wine. “It’s me it they don’t care for. Now, if you’re not going to take off your shirt, will you leave me be?”
“Why doesn’t your kingdom care for you?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Sir Gavin sighed in exasperation. “I’ve killed this for them. Killed that for them. Fought armies, bandits, monsters, and everything of the like! I’ve kept them safe!” He turned to face me with a look of foul annoyance. “But you know what? It didn’t mean the mud on a pig’s rear end! Your little code is a trap to swindle men into weakness! So, when things go wary, those weak men are the ones who get blamed! There is no God! There is no honor! The truth doesn’t matter! It’s all a big charade and in killing Sir Duncan–finest and most faithful of all the land–I’ll prove it!”
I couldn’t find the words to reply. Like I figured, there was history behind Sir Gavin’s actions, but this wasn’t what I was expecting. I figured he had been a pompous, spoiled brat all his life who earned knighthood just because of his bloodline and because of his bloodline, he didn’t reap any repercussions. Yet, from the sounds of it… Had he been a noble knight before only to have been used and forced to get results no matter the compromises? Had life been so cruel that he lost faith?
“You can change things.” I finally found my voice. “Make your own path. You don’t have to serve that kingdom anymore. Not if this is what you’ve become.”
“What I’ve become?” Sir Gavin scoffed. “My lady, I am perfectly content with who I am. I do whatever I want. Sleep with whoever I want. I am free to kill whoever I want. I’m not the one fooling myself here!”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Look at you!” Sir Gavin rudely motioned his drink at me. “You think you’re a warrior? I know what my squire said to you. You think you’re a knight!” He laughed. “You’ve got too much bodice for that, my lady. You can carry a sword and dress in armor all you like, but you’re no knight! Don’t think you stand as my equal.”
I grit my teeth. His words stung like a viper’s bite. All the good I’ve done saving people in the woods and still I’m regarded as nothing more than what’s between my legs in these arrogant cities. Yet, I wasn’t going to let him see the pain of his words. I stood like stone. “Are you going to withdraw from this joust?”
Sir Gavin snorted. “Are you going to give me another favor?”
The mockery in his tone sharpened my tongue. “I regret giving you the first one!” My boldness surprised him. “I don’t wish you death, Sir Gavin, but I don’t wish you victory either! If anything, I pray you realize what path you’re on before it’s too late! You’re making a mistake and I hope I’m there when you realize it. Knight or not. Woman or not. I’ve done a whole lot more good than you and you have no right to assume anything of me!” I whipped around to exit the tent. “May God have mercy on your soul, Sir Gavin!”