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  All hell broke loose as the combatants went charging into one another. Within the first few moments there were already three men who found themselves on the ground and thus eliminated from the competition. For now Tucker was not amongst them but he found himself looking upon two different foes at once. He held his shield close to his body to protect himself and he had a firm grip on his sword. He had been taught what to do when facing two enemies at once. He remembered his stance and he made sure that his shield covered his vital areas.

  The taller of his foes struck at Tucker and he quickly blocked it with his shield. He knew that they were only blunted swords that they were using but in the heat of the moment he believed that they would do him serious harm. He did take a hop back to create more space between his foes. He did notice that their stances were somewhat off and he ran into the shorter of his opponents shield first. The suddenness of the impact caused the shorter man to be knocked down to the ground. There was some anger in his voice as he got back up and he wanted to attack Tucker but unfortunately his fall had been spotted by one of the officials who ordered him to leave the field as he had been eliminated.

  Now Tucker had only the one opponent, it looked to be a fair fight but within a few moments that all changed. However this time rather than being two on one against Tucker it was two on one for him. Another man stood by his side and showed that he was willing to fight along with him. It was not because he liked Tucker but because it made eliminating the taller man that much easier.

  This time it was the taller man’s turn to be on the defensive as Tucker and his temporary ally began to attack. To his credit the taller man was able to fend them both off for a respectable amount of time. Tucker tried to stab and slash at different areas of his foe’s body but each time he tried it was skilfully blocked.

  It didn’t take long however for both Tucker and his ally to defeat the taller man. Tucker’s partner aimed high causing their foe to lift up his shield to defend himself. With that Tucker attacked the man’s legs causing him to fall to the ground and thus be eliminated from the tournament.

  For Tucker all that concerned him was everything that was within a five foot radius of him. He couldn’t see what was going on around him. If he could see he would have thought that what was happening was a battle field rather than a tournament. Some of those taking parts were receiving nasty bruises from the swords of their opponents but they knew that if the swords had been real it would not be bruises they received. They would be receiving nasty cuts that would be life threatening. In the rules of the knockout stages a blow like that would be determined as a fatal blow and would end in the competitor being eliminated. However since it was still the battle royal it was only when knocked to the ground that a competitor was officially eliminated.

  With the defeat of the taller man Tucker and his ally quickly turned on each other. Rather than both going for an attack they paced in a circle with their shields covering themselves. Each was looking for a weakness in the other and for now they were both waiting for the other to strike first.

  Tucker thought that he could see an opening and went to stab his sword into his opponent but much to his surprise the attack was side stepped. His foe then went to take Tucker’s legs but the young wannabe knight was just able to block the attack at the nick of time. If he had even been a tenth of a second slower he would likely have been knocked down and lose everything.

  There was a flurry of attacks and blocks from both men as they went at it tooth and nail. It seemed that they were evenly matched and it would take several seconds before one of them would gain a decisive edge.

  This didn’t happen however as both men heard a whistle blow. This meant that the battle royal had finished. The adrenaline was still pumping through their bodies but slowly both of them came to a stop. At no point did they take their eyes off one another but slowly the heat of the battle subsided.

  Both men gave a sigh but they were just happy that both of them had advanced to the knockout stages of the tournament. They felt that the most difficult aspect of the tournament was finished and that it would be much easier. There was only downside was that there could only be one winner.

  “Well fought,” said the man. His voice was somewhat muffled by his helmet but Tucker was able to make out what he was saying.

  “Thanks,” replied Tucker. There was a confident smile on his face as well. “You’re not so bad yourself.”

  “Excuse my ignorance but I don’t recognise you. I know many of the fine knights who battle here on this day but you are a new face to me.”

  “My name is Tucker Martel but for now I’m no knight.” He wanted to be a knight more than anything else, it was even possible that he wanted to be knighted more than he wanted to find Three Man’s Treasure.

  “It has been a pleasure battling you Mr Martel. With skills like yours you will soon be knighted.”

  Before the conversation could go any further both men were told that they needed to leave the field so that the third battle royal could take place. Tucker thought that he would be seeing his opponent on the side lines but much to his surprise he was nowhere to be seen. Tucker had not been able to see his opponent’s face so he had no idea what he looked like. He had also been trying to see if the knight had any sigils but when he had looked he had been able to spot nothing.

  Tucker knew that he would be seeing this knight again since they would be selecting numbers before the start of the knockout stages. It somewhat reminded him of when he saw the man in black at the inn while Jessica was venting her anger. He still didn’t know if the cloaked man had been real or just a figment of his imagination. He had been drinking a fair amount before so his true recollection was not entirely reliable.

  Rather than watching the other battle royals Tucker decided that he needed something to satisfy his hunger. He hadn’t seen Jessica since early that morning but he wasn’t too concerned, if he had learned anything about her it was that she was more than capable of looking after herself.

  Thankfully for Tucker there was a small stand which was giving complimentary food to those taking part in the tournament. It wasn’t a warm meal that would have been ideal but instead just some cheese and bread. Tucker ate what he was given which was two rounds of freshly baked bread with cheese that had a strong taste to it. He could see that many of the others around him were not all that happy since almost all of them had been eliminated during the battle royals.

  While he was eating Tucker felt a strong tap on his shoulder and when he turned around he could see the two men that he had eliminated during the battle royal. Both of them didn’t seem to be too happy that they had been eliminated by him. Tucker knew that he was in trouble but rather than panicking he tried to play it cool. He thought that if he showed any kind of aggression he would be disqualified.

  “Hey I remember you,” said Tucker. He could see that they were still angry but he didn’t really react to it.

  “And we sure remember you,” replied the taller man. “Because of you I lost the money I gained from my father.”

  “Well I’m sorry about that but the name of the game is to win. Maybe you’ll have better luck next time.”

  “We won’t need to come next year because right now you’re giving us both our money back right now.” Tucker could tell that these men meant business but rather than rising up he decided to remain calm.

  “I believe that it is against the rules.”

  “Rules were made to be broken, just like your legs if you don’t pay up.” By now Tucker had noticed the shorter man what he thought was some kind of large stick. Both men had their swords taken from them after their eliminations but it had been easy to find an alternate weapon.

  “You must be mistaking my friend. That sounds like a threat.” If Jessica had been with him he knew that she would likely step in and resolve the matter without the need for violence. He knew how much of an intimidating figure she could be but this time he only had himself to fall back on.

  “There isn’t a mistake, now had over the gold or else you won’t be walking to the next round.” The stepped closer to Tucker and he could see that the situation was indeed bad and he placed his hand on his sword. He knew that if he used it there was a good chance that he would be disqualified.

  “I’m sorry but I’m fresh out of gold. Maybe when I win the tournament I might give you some gold. A couple to polish my sword maybe? It hasn’t had a good polish for many months.”

  They didn’t answer as the shorter man tried to strike Tucker with the stick. He had seen the movement happening almost in slow motion and he dived out of the way. He rolled onto the ground and got back up to his feet. He wanted to use his sword but the risk of disqualification was too great. It would mean that he would truly lose his sword and shield and have absolutely nothing to show Jessica when everything was said and done.

  The confrontation was noticed by others who stopped eating and turned to look what was going on. Despite the amount of people watching it didn’t seem like any of them were willing to get up and help Tucker. He just had to keep dodging the attacks as they came, at no point did he try to attack. Instead of acting scared Tucker was still being confident and he was even able to give a couple of one liners that if anything just antagonised the two men. They began to become angrier but their rage made their moves more sloppy and easier for Tucker to dodge.

  “What is the meaning of this?” asked an angry male voice. All three men stopped what they were doing and they could see a well-dressed aged man standing not too far away from where they were standing. He had two armed guards standing by him and he had an angry expression on his face.

  “Who in the hell are you?” replied the shorter man as he didn’t recognise the man before him. Most of the others watching did recognise him. Most of them knew that something interesting was about to happen.

  “I am Lord Tyrone, the Lord of this Castle and host of this tournament. You will cease all aggression before I have all three of you cast down into the dungeons.” There was much authority in his voice. The shorter man dropped his stick and both he and his friend reluctantly moved away. Tucker was left there standing by himself, he didn’t know whether to stand up tall or drop down to his knee to show his respects. Instead he gave a small bow to show him gratitude.

  “My Lord,” replied Tucker. “I apologise for what has taken place but I assure you I was merely defending myself.”

  “Yes indeed.” His voice sounded much calmer than it had done a few moments earlier. He took a couple of steps towards Tucker, with each step he took the guards followed closely besides him. “I saw how you didn’t attack your attackers but I can’t say that I approve of your taunts.”

  “It is a technique which I was taught my Lord.” He had to remember to watch his manners. He thought that the slightest hint of disrespect might have dire consequences. “By taunting my opponent it causes them to become angry which in turn makes them sloppy which then makes it more likely that they’ll make a mistake. I was taught by Sir Thomas Parker before his passing.”

  “Sir Thomas Parker you say?” This seemed to intrigue Lord Tyrone, he definitely recognised the name. “He was a good man, he was one of my sworn swords but unfortunately age prevented him from fully performing his duties. His mind was willing but his body just couldn’t continue so I had no choice but to release him from my services and allow him to live the rest of his life in peace. He was a stubborn man at times but he understood and left with enough gold for him to live the rest of his life in comfort.” He stretched his hand to his side in order to show that he wanted Tucker to follow him. Tucker was a little hesitant since he had not had entirely nice experiences with Lords. But he did remember Sir Thomas mentioning about Lord Tyrone, he had stated that Lord Tyrone was an honourable man and thus Tucker did think that he could be trusted. He began to follow Tyrone and they continued to talk as they walked. “So Sir Thomas went all the way to Morgan, correct me if I’m wrong but that’s quite far to the west isn’t it?”

  “Y-yes it is my Lord.” Tucker noticed that the two guards were walking right behind them and they both had their hands on their swords. Each was ready to act within a moment’s notice.

  “That’s a little further than I expected but at least he found somewhere that he thought was peaceful enough to live the rest of his days. If you don’t mind my asking how did he die, did he suffer at all?”

  “No my Lord, one night he fell asleep and he just never woke up.” It was a little upsetting for Tucker to remember. Sir Thomas had been a friend and the only one who truly thought that he could become a knight, even when everyone had told him that it was a fool’s dream. It had meant a lot to him.”

  “That is good to know, it would have been very upsetting to learn that he suffered before he died.” By then they had begun to walk up the steps into the castle itself. Tucker didn’t know whether he should be going inside but he still continued to follow Lord Tyrone. “I did watch your skills during the battle royal and I must admit that I see promise in you, I can definitely see that Sir Thomas’s training has helped you considerably. I suspect that you’ll get far in this tournament.”

  “I hope to my Lord. My friend and I are a little short on money and we were hoping to win some here today. We’re on a quest you see.”

  “A quest? Whatever for?” He was intrigued, in his youth he had wanted to go on quests but all these dreams died when he became a Lord and discovered that he had many responsibilities, too many for him to ever go off on anything that even resembled a quest. He did look forward to hearing Tucker’s quest.

  “I have reason to believe that the fabled Three Man’s Treasure is real my Lord.” He still remembered his manners.

  “Three Man’s Treasure? I thought that was simply a myth.” The answer truly surprised him as like most people in Angleland he had believed that such a treasure was nothing more than a fairy tale.

  “So did I but I have found hard evidence that it is indeed real my Lord. My friend and I have risked life and limb to get this far and I believe that we’re not far from finding it.” There was a small amount of excitement in his voice, he knew that there wasn’t too much that needed to be done before they found the treasure.

  “If you don’t mind my asking but who is this friend you speak of?” By now they were inside the castle and walking through its halls.

  “Her name is Jessica Snape, she’s special to me my lord.” He saw the hint of recognition in the face of Lord Tyrone.

  “I think I’ve heard of that name.” He began to think for a few moments. “If you would be so kind can you remind me of who she is?”

  “If you would like my lord.” He began to think of the best way to describe Jessica that was not in any way demeaning to her. He respected her far too much to do anything like that to her. “There have been stories reaching the ears of many about her, she stands at eight feet in height but can make herself much, much larger than that.” He knew what he was saying sounded ridiculous but he carried on anyway. “Not only is she the biggest person in Angleland she is also the most compassionate. I am honoured just to be by her side never mind her best friend.”

  “Oh yes that giant woman that I’ve been hearing. I thought that it was only some tall tale the smallfolk told themselves for entertainment. I didn’t believe that this Jessica Snape was actually real.”

  “Did you say Jessica Snape?” asked a female voice. Both men stopped where they were as they saw a young woman approaching them. She had long fair hair and a very beautiful face. She wore a long blue dress and she was quite short. She was only just around five feet tall and this was something that she wasn’t happy about. There was some excitement in her voice as she spoke.

  “Tucker allow me to introduce you to my daughter Nancy. She is by far the most beautiful of my daughters.”

  “That is because you only have one.” There was a smile on her face as she did like the compliment by her father. She was definitely one of the prettiest women that Tucker had seen but he thought that Jessica was the most beautiful woman in Angleland. He saw as Nancy looked at him and there was almost a childlike excitement within her. “So you know Jessica Snape?”

  “Yes I do my lady,” replied Tucker. Once again he remembered his manners when addressing Nancy. She was the daughter of Lord Tyrone so she deserved the same amount of respect as him. “We’ve been best friends ever since we were children and we’re travelling together.”

  “Really?” Tucker’s answer had only seemed to make Nancy’s excitement grow. “What is she like? How tall is she? Can I meet her?” Nancy’s questions were coming so fast that Tucker didn’t seem to have time to answer any of them. He was a little overwhelmed and he heard Lord Tyrone just laugh.

  “I think Mr Martel has more pressing matters to worry about,” said Lord Tyrone to his daughter. He loved her very much but he knew that sometimes she could get a little overexcited. “I’m sure that he will be able to answer all your questions later but he has to concentrate on his next series of battles.”

  “You made it passed the battle royal?” Her eyes seemed to light up a little. She had grown up listening to stories about princesses and brave knights. Although Tucker wasn’t a knight she felt like he was. “So does that mean you’ll be fighting against Ty?” She didn’t really get on with her older brother that much and she wanted to see him taken down a peg or two. He was mean to her often and she didn’t like it.

  “I might but we haven’t even pulled the numbers yet my lady,” replied Tucker. This was the only answer that he could think about. He was a little puzzled with Nancy because of her questions but he found them innocent enough.

  “That reminds me we better get you back outside,” said Lord Tyrone. It was only now that he realised just how long he had been talking to Tucker. “If you’re not there in time you’ll be disqualified.” He looked at one of the guards that had been escorting him, “Lenard please escort Mr Martel to the remaining participants.”

  “As you wish my lord,” replied the guard. He turned to Tucker and he held out his hand much like Lord Tyrone had done earlier. “Please this way.”

  Before leaving Tucker thanked Lord Tyrone for his time before following the guard to the outside. His meetings with lords seemed to be doing better than they had originally. He still remember how Lord Nostory threw him in the dungeons and more or less kidnapped Jessica. Lord Logan had treated him honourably and he felt that Lord Howlet would do the same as well. He just had to remember to not do anything that could upset him, he didn’t want to get into any trouble whatsoever.

  Tucker had walked further than he had realised as the walk to the castle’s man entrance was quite far. He had been talking to Lord Tyrone at the time and hadn’t realised just how far he had walked. He was beginning to think that he would run out of energy before he even selected his number for the tournament. He did wonder what Jessica was doing and if she really was on her way to see him compete.

  Eventually Tucker was led outside of the castle and into a large courtyard where he saw fifteen other people were waiting. There were a few other men there who were officials appointed by Lord Tyrone. These were different from the officials that Tucker had seen earlier but they still commanded some form of respect from the competitors. There was one person that Tucker noticed and that was Lord Tyrone’s heir Sir Ty Howlet. In the face he looked much like his father but he was taller and a full head of brown hair. There was some muscle to his figure but this was blocked from view thanks to the armour that he was wearing. He seemed to be very confident of victory and he didn’t allow anyone to touch him. He was likely to slice off a person’s hand for that.

  “Thank you all for coming,” said one of the officials. His voice was loud enough for everyone in the courtyard to hear clearly. “And congratulations on making passed the battle royals.” In the time that Tucker had been eating and talking to Lord Tyrone the other two battle royals had taken place. “In a moment we will be drawing the numbers to determine who will face who in the tournament. As in the rules the man who eliminated the most opponents in the battle royal has earned the right to pick the first number. The heir to Indigon has earned this honour.”

  With that Sir Ty stepped up and pushed passed anyone that was in his way. He walked up to another official who was carrying a relatively small wooden box with a hole on the top. Inside were sixteen slips of paper that each contained a number from one to sixteen. Everyone watched as Sir Ty placed his hand into the box and pulled out a small slip of paper. He opened it up and showed another official the number that he had drawn.

  “Sir Ty has drawn the number six,” said the other official who wrote down Sir Ty’s name on a tournament chart. Sir Ty stepped to one side and he was still confident that he was going to win the tournament and show everyone why he was the best knight in all of Angleland. He certainly the most confident man there.

  “The rest of you will pick your numbers when your name is called out,” replied the first official. “This will carry on until all sixteen competitors have drawn their numbers. Good luck to all.”

  Tucker waited patiently for his name to be called out but there was one thing that he did notice. The man he had been battling during the battle royal was nowhere in sight. He found this to be quite odd and at first he thought that he was just late but when he began to count the number of opponents waiting for their number he counted fifteen. This didn’t include Sir Ty which would have brought the number up to sixteen. This caused Tucker a lot of confusion since he knew that he had fought against another man and that they had both made it passed the battle royal.

  Tucker was lost in his own little world when he heard his name called out. This snapped him back to reality and he stepped forward to draw his number. He didn’t realise that he was sixth man to be called up for his number.

  Carefully Tucker stepped forwards and placed his hand into his hand into the box. He seemed to rummage around for a few moments before pulling out a slip of paper and opened it up. Inside he could see another number and this time it was the number seven. At first he thought that meant he was going to fight Sir Ty in the first round but when he looked at his name being written down he realised that Tucker’s match was going to be the fourth of the opening round while Sir Ty would be in the third. It was somewhat of a relief for him although he did know that if both of them won that they would face each other in the next round.

  After drawing his number Tucker waited to see if he would spot the man he had fought during the battle royal but none of the men that stepped up seemed to fit the bill. This made him very confused and he knew that he definitely fought against someone after the other two men had fallen.

  Eventually all the numbers were picked and the tournament chart had been completely filled. Tucker was still in a small amount of confusion and he did begin to think that he was going insane. He had recently eaten something that had made him go loopy but he was sure that the effects had long worn off.

  Tucker was walking around and deep in his own little world when he felt a large hand touch his shoulder. He turned around and was somewhat surprised to see the towering figure of Jessica. She had a crumb on her face from where she had eaten the pie earlier but she did have a smile on her face. She was glad that she had found him and she was surprised that he hadn’t spotted her.

  “Hey Tucker congratulations?” asked Jessica as she looked down at him. She had heard that he had progressed through the battle royal and for this she was proud of him. “You actually got passed the first hurdle.”

  “Did you expect anything less?” replied Tucker. There was confidence in his voice but she could tell that there was something trouble him. She could tell by the slightest hint in his voice.

  “Is there something wrong?” She did give him a concerned look and it did make Tucker feel that their friendship was on the mend. At least this time what was bothering him was not as bad as the previous time.

  “It’s nothing really.” Tucker felt much more comfortable talking to Jessica because at least this time he didn’t have to worry about hurting her feelings. “It’s just that during my battle royal I faced a warrior who seemed to be my equal. We both got through the battle royal but for some reason he’s not here and according to the officials everyone who should be here is here.”

  “That sounds a little odd. Maybe you just don’t recognise them for some reason, like was he wearing armour?” Rather than going for an outlandish theory Jessica first wanted to go try the most likely scenarios

  “Yeah from head to toe. I couldn’t see his face.”

  “There you go, most likely he’s just taken off his armour and you haven’t recognised him. I’m sure that when the rounds start you’ll spot him in his armour.”

  “I guess you’re right.” His mind was somewhat at ease with this as what Jessica was saying made a lot of sense. Most likely he had just not recognised his opponent without the armour. It seemed to be a realistic answer.

 “Now you wouldn’t mind showing me the best place to sit.” The smile on her face remained and her touch felt soft. “I want to watch you win this tournament and gain the recognition you deserved.” She still didn’t think that he would win but it was a push in the right direction for him.


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