For the next few moments Tucker answered some personal questions like his name, address, date of birth amongst a few other things. He was more than happy to ask these questions and as soon as he was done the bald headed man gave him a piece of paper which was proof that he had registered. He also found out that there were only around one hundred spots in the tournament and he turned out to be number ninety seven. That meant that there were only three more spots before the tournament was completely filled. He felt lucky since he thought that if he had been any longer he would have missed his opportunity to take part in the tournament.
"Meet outside of the castle's main gate at dawn," said the bald headed man who barely looked at Tucker. "If you're tardy then you will lose your place in the tournament and your entry fee with be forfeited."
"Sure thing," replied Tucker with much confidence in his voice. He didn't think that he would be late. "I guess I'll be seeing you later."
"Wouldn't count on it."
Tucker moved away and he saw someone else walk up to the wooden shack. Tucker knew that this fighter would be number ninety eight but at this point he didn't care. He was just glad that he was signed up and he thought that he was on his way to glory. He thought that he would take down every opponent that he came across and that by the end of it he would be crowned the greatest swordsman in the land.
As he expected it didn't take long for Tucker to find Jessica since she was so much taller than everyone else in Indigon. He quickly ran to her but by the time he had reached her he was out of breath. She had also seen a few people while she was waiting for him and a few of them had looked and whispered when they saw her. This was something that she was used to by now.
"Ah you're back," said Jessica. She could see that his sword and shield were gone and this was a little disappointing for her because she thought that he would never regain those items. "And since you don't have your sword or shield I take it that you were successful in entering."
"Y-yeah I did it," replied Tucker who was still catching his breath. He felt a little stupid being like this and he was beginning to regret running to and from. "Got there just in time, you could say that's just incredible."
"You're right it is incredible." She didn't mean it in the same way that Tucker did. She was disappointed that the registration had been a success and despite the fact that only blunted swords were used she still feared for his safety. "I guess all I can do now is cheer you on from the side lines."
"Yeah you'll be my biggest fan." He laughed at his own little pun although Jessica didn't particularly find the funny side of it. She just found it to be a little annoying but she tried not to show her frustration.
"I guess I will be, now we have some food left so do you want anything to eat?" It was true that they didn't have much. If Tucker did somehow win the tournament then they could buy as much food as they wanted. Until then they had to be careful with what they ate and even try to cut down a little.
"Do you still have any apples left? I could do with one of those right about now." He only had to wait a moment for Jessica to pass him an apple which he ate relatively quickly. He didn't realise just how hungry he was until he began eating it. He would have liked to have eaten more but he knew that they had to ration the food. It didn't help that Jessica ate double what he ate but this was something that couldn't be helped. Even at her smallest size she was known to be a bottomless pit. It was one of the numerous disadvantages of her size that she had to live with every day.
"No more for now. This food has to last us." They did have more food which they had but they needed to ration it out. Jessica wanted to believe more than anything that Tucker could win the tournament but she had to be a realist as well so she knew to ration the food in case they needed it later.
"Don't worry Jessica." Once again there was confidence in his voice and she could tell what he was going to say next. "When I win the tournament we can buy as much food as we want and gorge ourselves."
"I hope you're right I really do." She more than anyone wanted a nice warm meal in her belly but for now she had to go hungry. "I also think that you should get as much rest as you can, tomorrow you have a big day and if you're tired you won't be at your peak." She wanted to give him every advantage that she could so that chances of him winning the tournament were that much better no matter how remote it might be.
"You're right there. Running there and back as really knackered me out." It was a little late in the day and he knew that he had to be back at the castle by dawn to begin to tournament. "Besides you want to be up bright and early as well so that you can watch me defeat every adversary in my way."
"Yeah sure thing Tucker." There was not much confidence in her voice but she would still support him as best as she could. He had already paid the entry fee so they would have to see it out nonetheless.
That night because the pair didn't have enough money to stop at an inn so they had to sleep behind a building that wasn't far from the castle. It was not very warm that night so for the first time since their break up Jessica actually hugged Tucker while they slept. This wasn't to show him affection but for the simple fact that it kept them warm. Tucker did like being in her arms again since it felt like what had happened between them never took place. He could pretend this but it didn't make it true. He hoped that one day he would be able to lie in her arms because they were back together as a true couple.
When Tucker woke up it was just before dawn and he could see that Jessica was still asleep. Rather than waking her up so he slipped out from her arms and made his way to the castle. He didn't have to feel guilty about leaving her because he had told her the night before that he would go if she wasn't awake yet. She didn't need to be there at the same time as him because she would only be a spectator and wouldn't be allowed to attend until near midday. She just remained asleep although with Tucker gone she felt that there was something missing.
As Tucker walked the streets he could see that there was hardly anyone around. He expected this since he knew that most decent people were still fast asleep at this point in time. As he made his way to the castle though he could see that there were a fair few people there. It seemed that all one hundred of the participants had arrived along with some officials. There was even a small stage in front of them where one of the main officials was standing. He looked to be a man in his fifties with a lean build. He had black hair that had begun to recede and he wore clothing that showed that he was loyal to Lord Howlet. There was a lot of talking between the competitors and a couple of the officials had to blow horns so that the talking would subside.
"Welcome brave warriors and I thank you for coming at such an hour," said the Official as he looked upon the competitors. "We have counted and all one hundred of you have decided to turn up so that makes things a little easier for all of us. Many of you know how this tournament works but those of you that don't I will remind you. We will start off with four battle royals which will each host twenty five competitors. The last four standing at the end of the battle royal will go onto the finals which will take place in front of a crowd and those of House Howlet including Lord Howlet himself. These final sixteen will take each other on in a four round tournament with single elimination rules. He who wins all four of those matches will be crowned the champion."
Tucker was getting more excited but he knew that things might get difficult and indeed dangerous in the first round. He was aware that a battle royal meant that twenty-five competitors would be on the field at once fighting one another until only four of them stood. Despite the fact that it was supposed to be every man for himself it was not uncommon for temporary alliances to be formed so that a certain individual would be eliminated. Sometimes it was not the most skilled swordsman that advanced but the most cunning and in some instances the most ruthless.
"Tournament swords and shields will be provided to you by tournament officials," said the Official as he carried on his speech. "No actual swords or shields are allowed to be used, if any individual is found to be using a real sword or shield will be instantly disqualified from the rest of the competition and their entry fee will be forfeited." He cleared his throat for the moment. "For the battle royal bouts we will be entering competitors into each pool in alphabetical order. Pool one will be those between Sir Brian Adams to Robert Innings, pool two will be from Adam James to Sir Christopher Numb, the third will be Patrick O'Brien to Gregory Thames, the fourth and final pool will Sir Dick Thompson to Luke Zackery. If you are unsure of where you're supposed to be an official will help guide you. The first battle royal will take place in half an hour with each subsequent battle royal taking place after the previous."
Tucker knew where he was supposed to be. Because his last name was Martel it placed him in Pool Two. Right now he didn't know whether it was a blessing or a curse since he didn't know the names of any of the competitors that he was going to be battling against. It made his task that bit more difficult.
"For the sixteen competitors that make it past the battle royals for the single elimination rounds we will not be placing competitors alphabetically. Instead there will be numbers in a box and each competitor will draw out a single number to determine where each competitor will be on the grid. For the single elimination round a winner will be determined if they make their opponent yield or if the judges decide that they have struck what would be a killing blow to their opponent. For the battle royal it is simply to take your opponent off of their feet for their entire body to strike the ground. A roll does not count as an elimination but a competitor can eliminate themselves."
For Tucker this was a little bit of bad news. He knew that he wasn't the biggest person here, some of them might be powerful enough to take him off his feet and make him fall to the ground. If that were to happen he would be eliminated before he really got going in the tournament. He just had to watch every front since he would have enemies on every side which he would have to look out for. This time he didn't have Jessica watching his back and in his own mind it was a good thing. It was a way to show everyone including himself that he could fend for himself without the help of his gigantic best friend.
"For those of you that do make it passed the battle royals before the rest of the tournament begins you will be personally met by Lord Howlet himself and his daughter Nancy." The official didn't have to announce about Lord Howlet's two sons. The younger son was currently in Royal City while his eldest and heir was taking part in the tournament. Since his last name was Howlet he would be in Pool One of the battle royal but he was more than confident of his skills. "Those of you who are in Pool One of the battle royal please acquire your tournament swords and shields from a designated area which will be shown to you by an official. The others will receive their equipment in order of their battle royal pools. I wish you look gentlemen in the coming hours."
With that the long speech was finished and those who were in the first pool made their way to one of the designated areas that had been mentioned. Tucker could only wait until the first pool of competitors had received their equipment before getting his own. He did find it odd that he wouldn't have Juggernaut but he felt that he could win nonetheless.
For the next several minutes all Tucker could do was wait around until it was his turn to pick up the supplied sword and shield. He did have to line up but he was surprised with how quickly the line was moving. Although there were around fifteen others in front of him at the beginning he only had to wait a few minutes before he received his sword and shield. No sooner had he received it he made his way to where the first battle royal was taking place. He was not the only one as many of his competitors also made the trip there. They all wanted to see who would make it to the knockout stage of the tournament.
As Tucker arrived he could see that the battle royal had yet to take place. The competitors for the battle royal were already on the field and were simply waiting for the signal to begin. There were no townsfolk or travellers watching at this point since they were not allowed in until the battle royals had finished. The only people who were there who weren't competitors were the officials.
There was some chatter but then everyone heard a whistling sound. This was the indication that the battle royal had begun and almost instantly those involved began to battle one another. There was loud sounds of struggle and grunting between the competitors as the battle royal began and with the way that it was unfolding Tucker was glad that they were only using blunted swords. If they had been using the real thing they would be seriously harming one another or worse.
As the minutes rolled by one by one each competitor was eliminated and left the field of combat. They were all disappointed since some had come from hundreds if not thousands of miles to compete and they had fallen at the first hurdle. The scene of the battle royal could only be described as utter carnage as swords came into impact with shield repeatedly. There were loud groans of pain as some of them were struck by the swords. Rather than being cut the swords would only bruise but it didn't mean that it didn't hurt when they came into contact with a person. The shields were almost as strong as the real thing so when a person got struck in the face with one it would be as if they had felt the real thing.
The entire carnage of the battle royal lasted for around ten minutes before four men stood tall amongst the rest. All four of these men were knighted by the realm and this included Sir Ty Howlet who had been very impressive during the battle royal. He had eliminated no less than ten men and yet it looked like he had barely done anything. Not a single hair was out of place and his armour was still clean. If anything he was angry that it had finished so quickly but at least he had gotten through the knockout stages.
No sooner was the first battle royal completed the combatants for pool two were commanded to enter the field. Tucker couldn't help but feel a little nervous as he stepped onto the green. He could see many of his rivals around him but there was one thing that he did which he thought would make victory more likely for him. He made sure that he was on the outside of the battle so that he didn't have to face so many different people at once. It didn't take a mathematician to know that the less opponents that one took on at once the more likely of victory.
He could see many of his rivals were larger than he was and most likely more experienced with a sword. He just tried to remember everything that he was taught by Sir Thomas Parker before the old knight had passed away. His skills had increased since he left Morgan and he only hoped that they had improved enough to see him through to the knockout stages. His confidence was not truly gone but it had definitely taken a nose dive within the last couple of moments.
A short time earlier Jessica had woken up to find that Tucker was not by her side. She wasn't all that surprised that he was gone and she simply sat up and began to stretch herself. She had not had the most comfortable sleep and her back was starting to hurt her a little but she did seem to be well rested.
It took her a moment brush the dirt off of her dress before stepping out onto the street. She could see that there were plenty of people walking all around the street going about their normal lives. A part of Jessica was a little jealous of them but she just walked down the street and she thought of a way that she could get some food. She didn't want to beg for it and she didn't want to steal it either.
As Jessica walked she could see a lot of people looking at her as she walked passed. Although it was something that she was used to it didn't mean that she particularly liked it. It always made her feel uneasy inside when she saw people staring at her, it was a further reminder that she was a giant living in a world which was simply too small for her. She wondered if she would truly be accepted as a normal person or if she will be forever an outcast as a monster.
"Err Miss," said a voice. By then Jessica had just walked passed a statue of Lord Tyrone's late father but she didn't see where the voice was coming from. She looked down and saw a relatively scrawny man standing not too far from her. "Do you have a moment to spare at all?"
"Y-yeah sure," replied Jessica. She didn't know this man at all but she felt that she was in no immediate danger. She felt that she could simply grow her way out of any danger that she came across.
"You wouldn't happen to be Jessica Snape would you?" There was an inquisitive look on his face. From the clothing that he was wearing she could tell that he wasn't a mere peasant but had some money to his name.
"Yeah." She didn't know whether she should be openly admitting who she was. In her mind she didn't have much of a choice since she was a very recognisable person so lying about her name wasn't going make that much of a difference.
"I knew you were, I've heard all about you." He began to smile and he became a little excited. She thought that he was a little odd but not in the way that creeped her out. "Is it true that you put Lord Nostory in your mouth and almost eat him?"
"Gods no." She was quite shocked that he had asked her such a thing. She knew that she would never try to eat anyone. It was most likely the story had been twisted in some way. It wouldn't be the first time that something like that happened since there were legends and songs about heroes who achieved great things which was simply impossible. "I would never do something like that."
"I didn't think you would do that. I told the guys at the taverns that you don't eat people but some do and some don't." He got a small piece of paper out from his pocket and he even had a small quill with him. "You wouldn't mind just signing this so that I can show that I actually met you?"
"I don't really have the time." She was reluctant to do this since she didn't like to have the attention.
"Oh come on." He put his hand in his pocket and took out a few gold coins. "I can give you a few gold coins for your troubles."
This gave Jessica an idea, she could cash in a little on her newfound fame to get enough money to put some food on the table. Although she was trying to ignore it her stomach was growling and it indicated that it needed food. She imagined that Tucker would feel the same and any money she could get would help with the quest.
Over the next several minutes Jessica began to sign autographs for people who wanted it. The man who she had signed for first paid her the gold and shouted to some of the others passing by. He stated who Jessica was and that she was signing autographs for a small fee. Around a dozen or more people stopped to receive her autograph and each of them paid a few gold coins each for troubles.
By the time it was all finished Jessica had a decent amount of gold coins to her name. It was not enough to buy a place or even consider herself to be truly well off but she had enough to buy herself some food. There was enough to even get Tucker some food and allow them to spend the following night in an inn.
Not too far from where she was standing Jessica could hear a herald shouting. This herald was different to the one that she had met yesterday and he didn't seem to notice her. Instead he was just stating some of the news, she heard him mention about the tournament that Tucker was taking part in. She learned that the knockout stages started at noon and that was when spectators were allowed to watch. From this information she knew that she had a couple of hours to kill before she had to go.
Jessica made her way to a small store that was on the street. It was selling warm pies that had caught her attention when she smelled it. It almost smelled heavenly and she couldn't help but take a few steps towards the store. It was being run by a small woman who looked even smaller compared to Jessica. When she first approached the store the woman thought that she was there to cause her problems.
"Can I help you?" asked the woman. There was a hint of nervousness in her voice, she looked up at Jessica who was looking at the pies on display. The tall girl was browsing for the moment.
"Yeah I couldn't help but notice these fine pies that you have on sale." She took a good sniff and she could truly smell the pies that were on offer.
"Y-yes they're fresh out of the oven." Her nervousness was beginning to subside a little as she began to think that Jessica wasn't a threat.
"You don't happen to have any steak and kidney pies do you?" It was one of Jessica's favourites and from where she was standing she couldn't tell which pie was which. They all looked the same.
"They're these ones over here." The woman pointed to a row of pies that were just on Jessica's right.
"Great I'll take three of those." The pies were only relatively small so she thought that three of them would make a decent breakfast.
"Sure thing." She then looked at Jessica again and began to realise that she was the same woman from the stories that she had been hearing. There was one way that she could know practically for certain. "If you don't mind my asking but how tall are you?" From the tales she knew that Jessica was eight feet tall but she wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth just to be sure.
"Right now I'm eight feet tall give or take an inch or two." She knew that she was a little over eight feet tall by now but she liked to make it sound like she was a little shorter. She didn't think that the woman would be in any hurry to measure her.
"Then you must be Jessica Snape. I've heard minstrels telling stories about you, like how you're said to be strong enough to move a mountain."
"Well I admit that I'm strong but I can't move a mountain." It seemed again that tales of her have been twisted to make her seem stronger than she really was. She didn't know if this was a good thing or something that she should be worried about.
"I can't possibly charge you the full amount for these pies." She was still a little intimidated by Jessica's presence and when she realised who she actually was just wanted to keep her happy. She feared that Jessica might harm her if she wasn't nice but she didn't know that Jessica wasn't like that. "Since you're buying three pies let's say that I only charge you for two and the last is on the house."
"Are you sure you want to do that?" She didn't mind the fact that her newfound fame was making her more liked amongst the people but she didn't want to really take advantage. "I don't mind paying full price for them."
"No I insist." She tried to smile at Jessica who gave her a curious look. She remembered the last time that someone had tried to give her something for free. It was the necklace that put her under Lord Nostory's spell. This time was different however since it wasn't an expensive piece of jewellery but just a pie.
"Well alright I guess." It had taken her a moment to think it over but she decided that it was a risk worth taking. She then gave the woman the gold coins required for the two pies and she took the third free as was promised.
With that Jessica walked away and the woman gave out a large sigh. She was glad to see Jessica gone and she still couldn't think of how anyone could live with being that tall. It was something that Jessica struggled with every day.
As Jessica continued to walk she took a bite out of one of the pies that she had been given. It didn't taste quite as fine as she expected but she was hungry so she didn't really care how it tasted. She was able to eat the first pie within a couple of mouthfuls, despite having eating it all she still felt hungry so she ate the second pie in quick succession. This one did taste a little better than the first but she still felt hungry so she ate the third and final pie. This time it tasted cold and she was tempted to spit it out but her hunger didn't allow her to do this so she just swallowed it.
Now that was all finished she began to feel a little lonely. Although she was still a little angry with Tucker over what he had done with Gwen she still felt like she wanted him by her side. He had been her friend for many, many years and the fact that he was away only made her feel that much lonelier. She also wanted to see him fight but she knew that she couldn't get through until the knockout stages had begun. She feared for his health and the last thing she wanted was for him to suffer a serious injury.
There was an idea that popped into her head that caused her some discomfort. She knew that Tucker was a man with some amount of pride and she remembered how he reacted the previous day when word about her escapades were entertaining people and yet he wasn't mentioned. She also remembered when they were in Lake Town and she grew and stepped into his battle. She thought that he had entered this tournament not just to win them some gold but to also try and prove himself. She didn't want Tucker to do this because of her and in a way she felt guilty about it.
Jessica didn't know that Tucker was already on the field of battle. His battle royal had not quite started yet but it would do at any moment. He too was missing Jessica as he always liked to have her close to him. The fact that she wasn't there at that moment in time was another slight factor for his confidence becoming lower. He could still see many of the men who were taking part in the battle royal and he didn't lie when he thought that many of them looked to be bigger than him. Where he was wearing more padded armour he could see that some of the competitors were wearing full metal armour which covered them completely from head to toe.
One particular foe was close to being seven feet tall and when he was in his full armour he looked to be a monstrosity. Anyone who crossed swords with him would most likely fall quickly and Tucker didn't want to find himself in this Knight's sight. Even though they were only using blunted swords Tucker thought that the Knight's strength would be enough to slice a man in two.
Tucker could hear a lot of grunting from the various competitors around him as many were eager to get the battle royal started. They were all keen to start so that they could eliminate as many people as they could and advance to the knockout stages. A few of them felt like Tucker but now was not the time to back away in fear but instead to go forward into the battle and either come out with their heads held up high or their spirits down in the mud.
On the side of the battlefield one of the officials placed his lips upon the whistle. He was given a signal by a couple of the other signals that everything was ready and with one hard blow the whistle sounded beginning the battle royal.