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  Tucker had a few minutes before he had to attend his match so he decided to spend that time with Jessica. The knockout stages hadn’t started yet but some of the people had begun to get some pretty decent seats. For Jessica she knew that she would have to remain in the back so that she didn’t block the view of other people. This was one downside to her height as she would have loved to be in the front row to cheer him on.

  With some of the gold coins that Jessica had earned she bought herself and Tucker a drink at a nearby tavern. It wasn’t against the rules for the competitors to do this but all that was requested was that they would return for their match. There were some tables outside which was a welcome relief for Jessica since the inside of the tavern had very low ceilings which by now had become her arch nemesis.

  Originally Tucker was going to have some ale but Jessica convinced him against it. She didn’t want him to be impeded in any way. When he did ask her where she got the money for the drinks she didn’t mind telling him that she was using some her new fame to get some much needed gold. This only made Tucker even more determined to win the tournament so that he could be famous enough to be asked for autographs. He hated to admit it but he was somewhat jealous of his best friend.

  “Are you nervous?” asked Jessica as she took a sip of her drink. If she wanted to she could down her entire drink in a single gulp. However she wanted to savour it and spend that little bit of time with Tucker.

  “Of course I’m not,” replied Tucker. There was a hint of confidence in his voice but Jessica could see through it.

  “You know that you can’t lie to me.” There was a look of mischief in her face as she said this. She knew that Tucker was a lot more nervous than he led on. “I know that you are nervous.”

  “I assure you that I’m not.” He took a sip out of the drink and still played it cool. “I’m as cool as ice.”

  “If you’re so confident then why is your knee jerking?”

  “My what?” He looked under his table and saw that his knee was jerking up and down. He tried to stop his knee but discovered that he couldn’t. Although he was confident on the outside on the inside his nerves were getting the better of him. “Ok so maybe I am a little nervous it’s not a big deal.”

  “I know it isn’t Tucker but it’s ok to be nervous.” She gave a bit of a sigh and she knew that she had to give her friend a few words of wisdom. “You’re only human so you’re gonna feel nervous at some point and to tell you the truth I can understand why you’re nervous now. You’re about to face trained knights for the first time and you’re still questioning whether you’re up to their calibre.” Her words were ringing true and it left him speechless. “The moment you allow your nerves to get the better of you is when you have truly lost. All I can suggest to you is to try and take your mind off of it when you’re fighting. Think of a happy thought and it should do the trick.”

  “You mean like when we used to play when we were kids?” He was still dumbstruck with what Jessica had been saying and this was all that he mutter.

  “Exactly like when we used to play hide and seek?”

  “Yeah but you would always find me. I still think that you were peaking when I was finding somewhere to hide.”

  “I told you before.” She gave him a smile. “I could sense you, kind of made hiding from me nearly impossible.”

  “How come I never got to find you?” He knew the answer to this but he wanted to hear the answer from her.

  “It was before I had my dress so I was big all the time.” She could still remember her younger self being too big to hide. It didn’t stop her from trying and sometimes Tucker would pretend not to see her just to spare her feelings.

  For the pair it was nice to think about when they were younger. Back when things didn’t seem to be so dark. I time when even the simplest of things seemed to be magical and breath taking. Unfortunately that time was over and nowadays the wonders of the world normally had a dark underbelly.

  It was around this time when Tucker decided that he needed to return to the tournament before he was disqualified. He finished off his drink and not too surprising he saw Jessica finish hers off with minimal effort. They both made their way back to where the tournament was taking place and they had to part ways when they reached it. Tucker had to go where the other competitors would be waiting for their matches. Jessica had to go and find herself a decent seat to watch the tournament. One thing that she did have going for her was that Tucker had given her a ticket which were given to all of the competitors. It allowed them to give it to another person so that they could have a premium seat. These premium seats were nothing however in comparison to those that belonged to the so called high borns. They were greater than those of any other spectator.

  A few minor lords and their entourage had made the journey to Indigon to cheer on and bet on the competitors. Lord Tyrone’s heir Sir Ty was the favourite to win the tournament although a few of the high were betting on some of the lesser known competitors with low odds. This was not so much because they believed that they would win but because if they won they would win a lot of gold. Normally these low chance bets didn’t have too much riding on them and were more for fun than anything else.

  Jessica was seated in a seat that was behind a few other spectators who had gotten premium seats. She had opted to sit in the seat behind but she was beginning to regret this. Her legs were too long and she tried everything she could to make sure that her knees didn’t dig into the back of the person in front of her.

  What she was sitting wasn’t really a seat or a chair but more like a long bench with many others sitting on it. There was nothing to lean back on and the bench was pretty low so it was another reason why she felt uncomfortable. She just wanted to get this over and done with so that she could stand up and be comfortable once again.

  From where she was sitting Jessica had a clear view of the grassy grounds where the fighting would be taking place. On a heightened stage she could see many of the high borns sitting down. Their seats were much more comfortable than those that belonged to the commoners but there were two seats that she could see that were of extra comfort. Those were beautifully carved from top to bottom and were cushioned. They were reserved for Lord Tyrone Howlet and his daughter Nancy. Tucker had told her that Nancy had wanted to meet her and she thought that it was nice that someone of a high birth could want to meet someone like her.

  It was not the first time that such an event had happened and she could still remember what happened that time. She still remembered what Lord Nostory did to her and whenever she thought of his face it made her feel angry. Although she had simply walked away when she had a chance to destroy him she didn’t know how she would react if their paths ever crossed again.

  Jessica was lost in her own thoughts when she began to hear a fanfare of trumpets. It got the attention of everyone at the tournament. She saw what seemed to be one of the officials stepping onto the stage. All attention drew to him but he was not the reason for the fanfare that was what was coming next.

  “Ladies and gentlemen it is my pleasure to introduce Tyrone Howlet,” said the Official. Although he was a man of an advanced age his voice was still as powerful as ever. “Lord of Indigon and our host for today’s event.” There was another fanfare as people saw Lord Tyrone making his way onto the stage with Nancy following closely behind. “And accompanying him is his daughter Lady Nancy Howlet, the fairest maiden at Indigon by far.” People began to cheer and applaud as both Lord Tyrone and Nancy took their seats on the stage. They had a supreme view of the battlefield and for them they were going to be in for a good tournament.

  Sitting across at a table were three more officials. They were more than mere officials and had the important task of being the judges. Their task was to add up points scored by each opponent that would decide who the winner was if the time limit of the match expired. They would also stop the match if a competitor performed what was called a fatal blow. This would be a strike that would be lethal if they were using real swords. Once this happened the competitor on the receiving end of such a strike would be eliminated from the tournament and their opponent declared the winner. Unlike the battle royal being knocked to the ground wasn’t a loss.

  The first match to take place was between an agile fighter named Cecil Harrington against a noble knight named Sir Gareth Oxland. His attacks were more based on power rather than speed. A few times he tried to strike Cecil but many times Cecil would back flip out of the way. This was to show off to the crowd more than actually trying to get out of the way. Jessica watched from the side lines and although she thought that he was a little cute she still didn’t like how he was showboating. He was definitely fighting more for the crowd rather than trying to win.

  Cecil was popular amongst the audience, especially the women. His style seemed to play on the idea of a warrior who was a great lover as well as a fighter. There had been some stories about him of how he was able to woo the goddess of love and even claimed to have planted his seed in her. He was known in almost every part of Angleland as tales of his virtue would come to light.

  This didn’t save him however as when after performing a simple backflip to dodge an attack he landed funny on his feet. The mud beneath his feet had been a little wet which caused him to slip on the ground. Sir Gareth didn’t waste any time in moving towards him and stabbing his sword into Cecil’s chest. The strike didn’t actually stab into Cecil’s chest but it definitely came into contact and it would certainly leave a bruise.

  Almost as soon as the blow had been struck both competitors heard the word ‘Halt!’ This had come from the judges who determined that a fatal blow had been struck and declared Sir Gareth Oxland as the winner of the bout.

  This was a big disappointment for the women who had wanted to see their heartthrob carry on and defeat everyone else in the tournament. This was an opportunity that they weren’t going to see as they saw Cecil make his way back up to his feet. He was coughing and had his hand on his chest where the sword had come into contact. He was disappointed with himself and walked off the field he kept his head down as he was suffering the agony of defeat.

  The next match was a rather boring affair with it finishing on a judge’s decision. The winner was determined to be Sir Ryan Season. It was certainly a forgettable match but also allowed the audience know that Sir Ryan would be facing Sir Gareth in the quarter-final of the tournament.

  The third match was one that most of the crowd had been looking forward to. Lord Tyrone and Nancy were particularly looking forward to this match since it featured Sir Ty Howlet. His father hoped to see some honour in his son but he knew that would likely not see it in this tournament. He knew how much of a hothead his son could be and it made him fearful of what will happen when Ty became the Lord of Indigon.

  Sir Ty’s opponent was a noble knight who hailed from the Wetlands. He was a man who had just reached his forties although from his skill no one would think that he was that age. His name Sir Bastion Watership and he was the brother of the current Lord of the Wetlands Lord Benedict Watership. In his younger days he was often called the greatest swordsman in Angleland and although his skills had slightly diminished with age his technique was still second to none.

  There was much cheering when both men entered the field of play. Sir Bastion who a shining silver armour which glinted in the midday sun. He was a relatively large man but he could still move around with ease. It was mentioned that he spent more time in his armour than any other man in Angleland and that many members of his own family had never seen him without his armour.

  Despite all the tales of skill about Sir Bastion this meant nothing for the young and glory hungry Sir Ty. His armour was amongst the finest in Angleland but unlike many heirs he intended to use it as often as he could. He saw this as a stepping stone for his own path to glory, this tournament was the first of many challenges that he would face. He hoped that one day after he was long dead that the common folk would write stories and sing songs about his exploits. This aging knight was going to be his first hurdle before achieving absolute greatness.

  The crowd was silent as the match was only a few moments from beginning. Both Lord Tyrone and Nancy watched from their seats. Lord Tyrone knew that his son wouldn’t be too badly hurt but he was worried about him dishonouring the Howlet name. It was that name and the beauty of his sister that led to her marriage with King Percy. He knew that his eldest son was very hot headed and that one day it could cost him dearly. He just hoped that the Howlet name didn’t go through the mud in the process.

  When the signal to begin was sounded both men locked into combat with one another. Sir Ty was surprised with the skill of Sir Bastion who attacked with a flurry of strikes which the younger knight was only just able to defend.

  Sir Ty responded to his own attacks and once again he was surprised to see that Sir Bastion was able to block these blows and even perform some counterattacks. It seemed that Sir Bastion was far away from retirement but he didn’t have the energy reserves which Sir Ty had in plenty. The younger knight knew that he could outlast his older opponent and all he needed to do was wear him down.

 Over the course of the next few minutes that is exactly what Sir Ty did as he could see Sir Bastion’s attacks getting a little slower with each strike. It was not long before Sir Ty saw his opening and stabbed his sword right into Sir Bastion’s chest right were his heart was. As soon as the blow was struck the judges called for the match to be stopped. They felt that Sir Ty’s attack was a fatal blow and thus made him the winner.

  Sir Bastion was disappointed to see that he had lost but he was glad that it was to a superior opponent. He knew that not every man could defeat him in a fair fight and he felt that Sir Ty would become a great knight with such skill like that. He would have congratulated Sir Ty for his victory but discovered that the young knight had already left the field without so much as even a word.

  This was noticed by Lord Tyrone who was not too pleased with what he saw. He was happy to see his son win the match but he knew that after defeating an opponent like that the knights were supposed to shake each other’s hand on putting on a good match. Sir Ty had completely ignored this and it was seen as a slap on Sir Bastion’s honour. That probably wounded him more than any injury and Lord Tyrone knew that it might come back to bite Sir Ty so he would have to try and do something to try and repay for the insult.

  Just out of the view of the crowd Tucker was making his last preparations before his first match. He was more nervous than ever, unlike before he didn’t have a crowd watching him and this time he had a single opponent. He didn’t want to fall in front of Jessica and he would do almost anything to make sure that he progressed to the next round. He remembered to take deep breaths so that enough oxygen got to his brain. It allowed him to think more clearly and he just waited to call him out. These few seconds seemed to be the longest seconds he had ever known.

  “Ladies and Gentlemen it is now time for the fourth match in this opening round,” shouted one of the officials. “Introducing first from Morgan… Tucker Martel.” Tucker knew that this was his cue to leave where he was taking his breaths and enter the field of play. He took one more deep breath before stepping out and he could see the crowd of people that was watching him. Their reactions were no as cheerful as he would have liked but they weren’t booing him so to him this was a good sign. He looked around and it was difficult for him to miss Jessica who had stood up from where she was sitting and cheered for him. He was thankful to at least have her support. “And his opponent, from July Sir Randal Crawling!” This was when Tucker’s opponent stepped out onto the field of play. He had a larger reception since he was more well known than Tucker. Like Tucker he wore light armour but only his eyes, nose and mouth could be seen as the rest of it was covered by his helmet. He was quite a small built man but he was far from a pushover. There was word from all over on how he had defeated many foes that were much larger than him.

  There was one thing that both Tucker and Jessica heard which sent a shiver down their spines. This was the mention of July which brought back painful memories for both of them. The last thing they wanted to do was have to remember their last visit to July which they wished had never happened.

  Despite this Tucker stared down Sir Randal and Sir Randal stared down Tucker. Both of them heard the word to begin and for the first few moments neither man moved. When they did move they didn’t charge into each other but instead began to pace around in a circle as both waited for the other to make the first move. Tucker could feel his heart beating in his chest. He wanted to glance over at Jessica but he knew that if he did it would give Sir Randal an opportunity to attack.

  In the end Tucker couldn’t wait around any longer and performed a quick but careful dash towards Sir Randal. The knight responded by holding his shield close to his body as he anticipated some kind of blow. He was ready to counterattack and hopefully gain an easy victory against Tucker.

  Rather than attacking with his sword Tucker decided to try and strike Sir Randal with his shield. This was quickly blocked by Sir Randal but it kept Tucker’s sword free and with it he attempt to strike him. Sir Randal was just able to get up his sword in time to block the blow. There was a flurry of swords between the two that lasted for a few seconds before the pair backed off one another.

  The crowd enjoyed this small flurry with a shout of joy but there was one who wasn’t calling for joy. This was Jessica who was probably more nervous than Tucker, she was more worried for his health rather than him losing their last chance of earning some money. She knew that the weapons used was to minimalize serious injuries but she still feared that he might get hurt. The last thing she wanted was for him to pick up an injury that would make his life more difficult.

  If Jessica could she would grow to her full size and stop the match but she knew that it would only cause more problems. Not only would it cause her trouble with the common folk and Lord Tyrone she knew that Tucker would also be angry with her. She knew how he wanted to show that he was formidable in his own right and didn’t always need her protection. She respected him for it but she just hoped that it wouldn’t leave him making unwise decisions.

  The two men began to pace around again as they glared at one another. This didn’t last for long as this time it was Sir Randall who charged at Tucker. Jessica almost lost her breath as she saw Tucker block the attack and tried to respond with his own. This was also blocked by Sir Randal and it led to another flurry of attacks between the two. The crowd seemed to enjoy this more than anything else that took place in the battle. They thought it was likely that one of them would take down the other.

  At first it was Tucker who seemed to be gaining the upper edge in this flurry but he discovered that he was actually having to defend more than he was attacking and it seemed to be continuing the further the battle went. It was obvious to him that Sir Randal had much more experience than he did. It seemed that Sir Randal was using this experience to great effect and if Tucker didn’t do something soon he would find himself on the receiving end of a killer strike and thus lose the match.

  The first thing Tucker did was try and create some space between himself and Sir Randal so all he did was take several steps back quickly so that for the moment he was out of reach of Sir Randal’s dull blade. It was more than easy for Sir Randal to make up the distance and strike Tucker’s blade so hard that it flew out of Tucker’s hand. This got another cheer from the crowd as they thought that Tucker was only moments away from losing the match. Jessica could barely watch as she too thought that Tucker was going to be eliminated. All of his efforts would have been for naught.

  Without his sword Tucker couldn’t launch a decent attack but he was more than capable of defending himself. His shield was blocking almost every blow that came his way but he knew that he wouldn’t be able to launch an attack until he got his sword back. He began to remember the little training session he had with Jessica which had a similar problem. He remembered how he originally couldn’t get passed her and she had applied a bear hug in an attempt to stop him. He doubted that Sir Randal would try and bear hug him but the experienced knight made sure that he was constantly between Tucker and his sword. A clever move to try and pick up a victory.

  Tucker tried to move around so that he could see his sword but he didn’t have a chance to look mainly due to the fact that he was constantly having to block attacks from Sir Randal. He was close to defeat as he knew that Sir Randal would eventually get around his defences and strike the killer strike.

  Jessica could barely watch what was happening and she was on the verge of tears. She never liked to see Tucker failing and she knew how crushed he would be to be eliminated at this early stage. She also knew that it would mean that he would lose his sword and shield. He probably wouldn’t mind too much about the shield but the sword he had made himself and had much personal value. To lose it would make him feel less of a man and it might even make him go back to Morgan.

  As Tucker was continuing to block the shots he saw his sword lying on the ground for the briefest of moments. This did help somewhat for him as he now knew exactly where the sword was.

  There was also one thing that he noticed and that was that Sir Randal was too concentrated on the attack and not focusing at all on defence. He was too busy striking Tucker’s shield and trying to get his way around it to really focus on any kind of defence. In a way this was the perfect opportunity to strike.

  Using his shield Tucker thrusted it right into the chest of Sir Randal in between his strikes. The blow had come completely by surprise and had hit Sir Randal head on. The knight was able to stay standing but the blow had severely winded him and quickly he gasped for air. Tucker didn’t waste any time in diving passed Sir Randal and grabbing his sword. Sir Randal was not out of the fight as he turned to the now rearmed Tucker but he was still trying to catch his breath.

  Tucker wouldn’t give Sir Randal the opportunity to recover as he ran towards Sir Randal went to strike him with his shield. This was however a dummy attack as Tucker stopped the strike just before reaching Sir Randal and then stabbed his sword right into the chest of Sir Randal.

  No sooner had this happened both fighters heard the judges call for a stop to the match. Tucker had inflicted the necessary blow to win the match and almost instantly the nervousness that he had felt melted away and was replaced by absolute joy. Sir Randal looked in some disbelief that he had lost. He couldn’t believe that only a few moments before he had been winning the match but now he found himself eliminated. It was no surprise that he was disappointed about this.

  Rather than basking in his victory Tucker held his hand out to Sir Randal. This was a clear indication that he wanted to shake his defeated foe’s hand. At first Sir Randal looked at Tucker’s hand but he had to admit that Tucker bested him fairly. There were no underhanded moves or cheap shots. Tucker had simply out manoeuvred him and he didn’t feel any shame in that. He responded by grasping Tucker’s hand and shaking it as he admitted that Tucker was the worthy winner.

  This was seen by the entire crowd who were surprised to see Sir Randal lose but it had been an entertaining match nonetheless. Lord Tyrone was happy with what he had seen and even applauded Tucker for his efforts. The way that Tucker moved and swung his sword he could definitely see Sir Thomas Parker’s handiwork in it. He felt happy to see that some part of Sir Thomas was living on after his peaceful death.

  No one was more glad to see Tucker’s victory than Jessica. Almost instantly she jumped out of seat and began to cheer loudly. She didn’t care if she was blocking someone else’s view, the joy that she felt was too much. She was even acting like Tucker had won the entire tournament instead of just his opening round. She hadn’t seen him fight like this before and she was surprised to see his skill. He was definitely a higher level than he was when they left Morgan what now seemed to be a lifetime ago.

  One thing that Jessica didn’t notice that one person in particular was looking at her. This was Nancy who could clearly see Jessica towering above everyone around her. She was impressed with Jessica’s height and wanted more than ever to meet her. However she wasn’t going to go out of her way at that point in time. She was more than willing to end until the end of the tournament. Nancy already wanted to ask her father if she could meet this gentle giantess but she knew that there was one thing that could spoil everything. That was her brother Sir Ty who she had never truly gotten along with. He would always remind her that she was small and that he was the most skilled knight in Angleland. One other thing he liked to remind her was that he was the heir to Indigon and if their father didn’t find a match for her that he would send her off to some minor lord in the Prime Islands where she would live out the rest of her days. Nancy wasn’t too sure if her brother was joking on that last part but she wouldn’t be surprised if he actually meant it.

  With the match over Tucker took his leave from the field and made his way back to a waiting area where the other competitors. He was still on a high from winning his match but he tried not to show it in front of the other competitors. He would have also loved to have gone and seen Jessica but he wasn’t allowed to leave until he was eliminated from the tournament. This was something that Tucker didn’t want to happen.

  As he now had to wait until his next match Tucker decided to sit down and wait until he was called up again. There were a couple of officials who were bringing refreshments around for the competitors. Tucker took a couple of pieces of bread to satisfy his appetite but there was one person who approached Tucker who he didn’t notice at first. If he had noticed he would have seen that this man was none other than Sir Ty Howlet.


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