There was a silence of several moments between these two supposed best friends. This was definitely one of their most heated arguments and the tension could be cut with a knife. Sir Tucker was justifiably angry by what Jessica had done but she didn't regret her actions. As she had stated she would have done it again and again given the chance. It was difficult to see where this would end, one was a more than capable knight while the other could grow to a size that most thought to be impossible. It was incredibly unlikely that it would resort to violence but at this point anything was possible.
Sir Tucker looked at his best friend and he had seen this type of Jessica before. When she thought that she had done the right thing practically nothing could convince her otherwise. It was something that he respected about her but he also found it annoying like at this moment in time. The bruise on his face was sore and it would take a bit of time to recover, the last thing he wanted to tell people was that he was struck by a woman.
"You think that'll make what you're doing right?" asked Sir Tucker with anger in his voice. "You can't just baby me all the time, I'm a man damn it, no more than that, I'm a knight of the realm. I am more than capable of taking care of myself without you lingering over me." His words were somewhat hurtful to Jessica and these were his intentions. "I am no longer a child."
"I don't care about any of that," replied Jessica. She was starting to become angry herself and this translated with her height increasing by a foot. She didn't intend for this to happen but was just something her body naturally did. It did make her seem more intimidating but Sir Tucker didn't back down. "You know that I'd do anything to keep you safe and if it means pushing your manly pride down every once in a while I'm more than happy to do this." There was a subtle increase in the volume of her voice.
"This is nothing about pride, this is about me not being equal in your eyes. How the hell am I supposed to be a capable knight when I'm constantly living in your shadow? To know that I can never truly fight any of my own battles because you are always there to bail me out if things look too tough."
"So what you want me to let you kill yourself? I've only ever wanted to help you and you're throwing it back in my face." Her anger led her to grow another foot in height making her an impressive ten feet tall. Sir Tucker could see this growth spurt but he still stood firm. But he could see that this conversation was doing much more harm than it was helping. They were both venting out their frustrations and he knew that one of them would say something that they would later regret. He knew that he would have to step away from the situation or else things could turn ugly very fast.
"I think we should stop this right now." His voice had changed, before it was one of great anger but now it seemed to be calm. "As you can evidently see we are both too angry to properly talk to one another like civilized people. If this carries on I believe it might end our friendship for good."
"What are you suggesting?" She was somewhat worried about the answer as she feared that the golden friendship that they had shared for so many years was now nothing more than fool's gold.
"As you can imagine I don't want to see you right now and after this little heated exchange you don't want to see me. I suggest that we separate for now and meet up again in three days' time. By then whatever frustrations that we're experience will hopefully have subsided and we can sit down and talk like adults without raised voices. Then we will hopefully be able to sort out this tension between us in a way that is both much calmer and much more mature. Arguing like this isn't going to solve any of our problems."
"That I can agree." Her voice was also much calmer and she could see that Sir Tucker was making a lot of sense. She was too angry to properly talk to him and vice versa. "So what do we do now?"
"Simple for now you walk one way, I'll walk another and we'll meet again on this spot in three days' time. By then the frustrations that we're feeling right now will have subsided and we can actually talk."
"Ok that's fine with me." She turned around from him, she didn't look at him but at this moment she was more upset than she was angry. "I'll see you in three days, stay safe until then."
With that Jessica grew to her full size and walked away leaving Sir Tucker where he was standing. He watched her walking for a few moments before also turning around and walking away. It was then that he realised that Jessica still had the map but rather than going back to pick it up from her he would allow her to keep it until they met again. His cheek was still sore from where she had punched him. If anyone asked about it he would have to come up with some convincing story.
One thing that Sir Tucker did know was that there was a small village which was a few hours walk from where he was. He would stay there for the three days until he would go back to Jessica. He hoped that they would be able to iron out their differences and continue on with their quest.
It did feel odd to Sir Tucker that he was walking for miles by himself. He was used to Jessica walking the majority of the journey and him simply being on her shoulder enjoying the view. Right now he had to depend on himself in a way that was exactly what he wanted. To be able to roam around by himself and know that Jessica wasn't watching over him. That was good and bad in a way since it meant that he only had himself to count on which was something that he wanted to do all along. It also meant that his safety net had more or less been removed, before he had known that if he was too over his head Jessica would have stepped in and helped. Now that she wasn't here it filled him with a sense of both excitement and dread.
As Sir Tucker walked towards the village he was expecting some bandit to jump out at him from a bush with the intention of stealing everything that he owned. This wouldn't be all that much to say the least but he was still ready to draw out sword and defend himself in whatever way that he could.
No such event happened as Sir Tucker continued to walk and eventually he reached the outskirts of the village. It was a small village which couldn't have been any larger than Morgan and he saw many of the villagers going about their daily business. He expected them to look at him as he walked through the village but none of them even batted an eyelid as he walked passed them.
One problem that Sir Tucker had was the fact that he still didn't have any money. Lord Tyrone had returned him his sword and shield that he had forfeited during the tournament but he had received no gold.
Sir Tucker didn't want to resort to begging since that was beneath a knight. Instead he would have to try and earn a small amount of gold, that way he could buy some much needed food and hopefully have a roof over his head for the next three days. He was used to people looking in his direction but it was not to look at him but the enormous height of Jessica. She was practically the only eight foot person in Angleland and it tended to draw attention wherever they went. With her not there he now looked more inconspicuous as he walked through the streets.
Eventually Sir Tucker came what seemed to be the village inn which was named the Lone Hill Inn. As he entered he saw some people in there having a drink and talking quite loudly to one another. None of them turned to look at Sir Tucker as he walked inside. In a way he enjoyed this since it meant that he wouldn't be drawing any unwanted attention to himself. Thieves dwelled in every corner of society, no matter how nice a place seems it always seemed to have a darker side.
One thing that Sir Tucker did notice was that there were a group of men standing around a certain table. Carefully he made his way towards it but once again he didn't want to particularly bring any attention to himself. He just kept moving until he was actually at the table and he could see what was happening. Two men were engaged in a contest of wit which consisted of a card game. It was no mere game however as both men had placed a substantial amount of money on this little game.
Each man had put enough money down to easily buy a house and much of its contents inside. The game was a relatively simple one where by the end of the game one competitor needed to be in possession of a certain card. It would often change from person to person during the game but by whoever had it at the end would be the winner.
This particular game was drawing to its close and it looked like it would go either way. The crowd around were excited to see that one man was going to walk away with a small fortune while the other would leave with nothing. Sir Tucker couldn't get invested in the game at the same level as the others since he had only just arrived but there was a small sense of excitement as he watched the game come to its conclusion.
At the final phase both men revealed their cards and it turned out to be the older man had won the game as he had the winning card. There was a loud cheer from the group and the older man began to gather up the gold that he won and placed them into small pouches that he had been carrying.
This man looked to be in his late fifties, probably reaching his sixties and was not exactly the picture of health. He was relatively plumb and whatever colour he had in his hair was now gone replacing it completely with grey. His clothing indicated that he had a small amount of wealth but thanks to his victory he was certainly much more wealthier than he had been. As he stood up Sir Tucker could see that he was under five and a half feet in height which made him look short in comparison to the other men. There were even a couple of women within the group and they were around the same height as him.
It seemed like he was just about to leave and most of the crowd began to disperse. That was all good for them but Sir Tucker still had the problem of not possessing any money. He wouldn't get very far without any gold and he was thinking about a way of making himself some money before he returned to Jessica. However right now he couldn't think of anything better than begging.
As he was thinking he felt a tap on his shoulder and when he turned around he saw the man who had just won all the gold. He was surprised to see him and at first he couldn't really say anything. He didn't know why this man even wanted his attention but the only way he would find out is if he listened.
"You seem like a capable man," said the man to Sir Tucker. "May I sit with you for a moment and give you a proposition?" There was a smile on his face but this was probably due to the fact that he had won so much gold. It would be enough to put a smile on anyone's face.
"As you wish," replied Sir Tucker as he and the man sat at an empty table which was close to where they had been standing. It was not the most comfortable of seats but for what needed to be done it would suffice.
"Before we start anything may I ask of your name?" As he had moved Sir Tucker had heard the gold coins on his person crashing into one another.
"My name is Sir Tucker Martel of Morgan." There was a hint of pride in his words as he enjoyed officially addressing himself as a knight.
"Hmm a knight of the realm, it seems that I'm in luck." If anything this made him feel that much more impressed with what he was seeing. "As you can see I've just won quite a lot of money and I fear that if I travel back home with it there is a good chance that I might attract some unwanted attention. For a fee for your troubles I suggest that you accompany me to my home and ensure that any ne'er-do-wells we come across don't call me any hassle. I believe that sounds fair don't you?"
"Yeah but I was just wondering exactly how far is your home from here, there is a certain place I need to be in three days' time."
"By accommodations is merely a day away from here and you should be back well before your deadline. I'll be sure that your efforts will be reasonably compensated." Sir Tucker wasn't sure whether he could trust the man. A simple escort job had fallen into his lap and although normally he would turn it down but since he didn't have any gold to his name he felt that it was for the best.
"Very well then you have my services." He was also surprised with how trusting the man was. Sir Tucker had only said that he was a knight but he carried no real proof with him and anyone could assume that he was just another thief who happened to be better equipped than the average.
"Great we will start out immediately. I know that it is a little late in the day but I think that it would be in both our best interests."
"Y-yeah sure." Sir Tucker did feel hungry but he thought that it would be best if he picked up some food along the way.
Only minutes after meeting this man Sir Tucker found himself walking alongside him back towards the man's home. He had learned that the man was named Kermit LeStrange and he was a merchant. Kermit had fell on some hard times but his latest winnings had given him some hope for the future.
One thing that Sir Tucker did tell the man was that he needed to stay close to him at all times and if he heard anything of concern to tell him immediately since it could be some thieves waiting to ambush them. Sir Tucker made sure that his hand wasn't too far away from the helm of his sword. If anyone would be foolish enough to try and steal from them he would make them regret their actions immediately.
The path they walked across was well used and it was slippy every now and again. If Sir Tucker wasn't careful he could slip over and break an ankle. It would be equally as bad if it happened to Kermit since it meant that Sir Tucker would have to carry him the rest of the way. Kermit was by no means the smallest man in Angleland so Sir Tucker would certainly struggle to carry him.
"You seem to have a large bruise on your face there," said Kermit as he saw the bruise that Sir Tucker had. By now the pain was beginning to subside but the inner pain he felt that was still as fresh as ever. "I take it that you were in a fight recently."
"In a way yes," replied Sir Tucker. His tone meant that he didn't really want to talk about it but for Kermit for some reason seemed to be oblivious to this.
"I hope that you won."
"No one won." His words seemed to be sad but he didn't try and get too sad or else it would show some weakness. At this point any show of weakness might show Kermit that he hired the wrong man for the job.
"Shame about that, when it comes to me and fights I tend to avoid them at all costs. To tell you the truth fighting never really solved anything. Same can be said for wars, in times of war a merchant can make a lot of money out of what little they have. Unfortunately their supplies might be very limited but in times of peace a merchant can trade without fear of being killed by soldiers or having their wares removed. Of course there are always going thieves and pirates but at least there are people who have nothing better to do than stop them. War might be profitable in the short term but when it comes to the big picture peace is a merchant's greatest ally."
"For a knight a time of peace can be boring I guess. I believe most strive to die a glorious death on the battlefield."
"That might be true for some but I bet you that if you asked most knights they would prefer to die as old men in bed rather than young on the battlefield. Besides the longer a person lives the more chance I can sell them something."
Kermit was definitely one of the most interesting people that Sir Tucker had ever met. There was no denying that although Kermit did sound cowardly what he was saying definitely made a lot of sense. It almost seemed that a mind like his was wasting in the merchant trade but it seemed that he had heard his calling. Where for Sir Tucker his calling had been to become a knight but for Kermit it had been to become a merchant.
"So do you have any ladies in your life my good sir?" asked Kermit as they continued to walk on. As they spoke neither man seemed to notice the distance that they were travelling and it made the trip seem shorter.
"Well I do but right now we've had a bit of a falling out," replied Sir Tucker. He didn't want to give too much away, especially the fact that the woman in question was a towering giantess.
"That is too bad to hear, I was married to my wife for twenty years before the Black Fever took her from me." There was a hint of sadness in his voice as he remembered his late wife, in his head he could see her face as if it was right in front of him.
"I'm sorry to hear that." The Black Fever had taken place around six years before and had taken many lives during the epidemic. Although not everyone who was infected with the disease killed by it but still a lot of people died.
"It is alright but what I found saddest about it was that I wasn't with her when she was fighting the disease. I was away on a venture and when I heard that she had the fever I raced back home as fast as I could to be by her side. Unfortunately before I could get there she was already dead and was even buried. That is one of my few regrets in life my good sir, it is something that I would never wish upon anyone."
This gave Sir Tucker something to really think about. He might have had a serious falling out at this point in time with Jessica but at least they had been together most of their lives. If he ever truly lost her he didn't know what he would do and it was probably the same for her if he died.
However he and Jessica still had some issues that they needed to iron out but Kermit's story had certainly put Sir Tucker's problems into prospective. The important thing was that Jessica was still alive and there was still a chance of patching things up.
"But enough about my lost loved one," said Kermit who probably wanted to make the conversation a little happier. "Tell me a little about your lady."
"What did you want to know?" He was a little confused about the request and he wanted to see exactly know. He wouldn't give him too many details but he thought a few brief descriptions wouldn't hurt.
"Well things like what she looks like and what is she like?"
"Ok she has long brown hair and hazel eyes that you could get lost in. She's a tall girl but is still as gentle as they come, it almost seemed like she would have done anything for me." He did feel a little sad as he spoke and it seemed that Kermit was picking up on this.
"That girl sounds like a keeper, you shouldn't allow something like a petty argument get in-between you. If anything a small amount of arguments is good for a relationship, it allows you to know what she's happy and unhappy about and vice versa. Then you can both compromise and come up with something that will make you both happy. The wife and I used to do that more often than not and it helped us with our marriage immensely. This might just be a little test from the gods to see if your relationship is made out of stone or quicksand. It is whether you come out the other end either stronger or weaker which is important. Of course arguing too much is a bad thing but in all relationships it is all about finding the right balance."
Suddenly the two men began to hear something inside of a nearby bush. Quickly they stopped and Sir Tucker got between the bush and Kermit in order to properly protect him. Part of him was telling himself that they should run with Kermit so that they could get to safety. But he was still feeling a little frustrated and needed something to vent some frustration and a would be thief would be the perfect punching bag.
Sir Tucker had Juggernaut in his hand as he expected to defend Kermit but this however came to naught as both men saw a fox jump out of the bush. This was disappointing for him because he had wanted some action but instead he just placed Juggernaut back in its sheath and turned to Kermit.
"False alarm there," said Sir Tucker. He could see that Kermit was a little nervous over what had happened but he was still in full control of his emotions. "We better keep moving, we don't know what exactly is out here."
Kermit couldn't help but agree with him and the pair continued on down the path. It was beginning to get late and Sir Tucker knew that it was the most dangerous time to be out on the path. They could be attacked from any direction and they wouldn't even be able to see it coming. He would just have to have his wits about him as there was a possibility for an eventful night.
One thing that Sir Tucker did consider was finding a spot to sleep for the night but that would leave them exposed to thieves as well. Although he was tired he did think that walking through the night was probably the best course of action. If they were able to get to Kermit's home in good time he would be able to get a good night's sleep there as well. It was just getting there which was going to be the hard part.
A couple of hours later and the daylight had completely disappeared and the world was bathed in darkness. Tonight also happened to be a full moon so there was moon light which could aid the men at all. This allowed the men a better view of the world around them then they normally had. It was still quite dark however.
Kermit did suggest that they lit a torch but Sir Tucker thought that it wouldn't be a very good idea since it meant that others would be able to see them. As long as they remained close together they wouldn't lose one another. In the past he had depended on Jessica for his protection but she wasn't here and now he had someone that he needed to protect. It did give him a couple of doubts but he wouldn't allow it to dictate his actions.
"Good sir may I suggest that we have a rest?" asked Kermit who seemed to be out of breath. "My legs are not as strong as they used to be."
"A break might be a good idea at this point but we must not stay long," replied Sir Tucker. He was listening out for anything that anything that remotely sounded like a thief approaching them. He remembered Sir Thomas Parker telling him stories about how he and other knights were sometimes tasked to go into the countryside and apprehend thieves and highwaymen. He had learned that most of them would do whatever it took to ensure their own freedom.
"I will not need long to catch my breath."
Not too far from the path was a large fallen log which the two were able to sit down upon almost like a chair. When Sir Tucker did sit down he felt a great relief of taking the weight off of his feet. He didn't realise just how tired he was before he had actually sat down and he would have liked nothing more than just to remain seated for the rest of the night and carry on in the morning.
Although Sir Tucker didn't want to admit it he was close to falling asleep, he might have spent a large portion of the day unconscious but he was still feeling tired. He did wonder what Jessica was doing and if she was safe. He didn't have to worry too much about the latter however since time and time again she had showed that she could look after herself. It would be very foolish for anyone or anything to try and get the better of her. There was still a part of him that was worried about her. She might be incredibly powerful but she wasn't invincible and one day she might be in a fight that even she couldn't win.
One thing that Sir Tucker did begin to hear was the howling of wolves. This put him somewhat on edge as he thought that there were wolves nearby. A lone wolf would probably not be too much of a problem but if they ran into a pack of them then the outcome might be very different.
There was one thing that he did find somewhat odd about the wolf howls. He had heard them numerous times before over the years but these ones didn't seem to be all that genuine. If anything they sounded like people imitating the sound of a wolf. He didn't know whether to be relieved of this or more intimidated. Either way it meant that he would have to stay near Kermit for the older man's protection.
"Sounds like there're wolves nearby," said Kermit who was somewhat scared although he still kept his composure.
"Those aren't wolves," replied Sir Tucker as they continued to walk. "Those are impersonations, goods ones at that but still impersonations nonetheless." He was constantly looking around to see if he could see anyone or anything that was a threat. The moonlight did help him but not as much as he would like.
They heard the howling sound again but this time it seemed to be much louder which indicated that whoever was making the noise was close by. This made Sir Tucker even more on edge and it was to the point that he felt the need to draw out Juggernaut. He also took his shield off of his back and kept a firm grasp of it. If anything were to attack he wanted to make sure that he was ready as he got up to his feet.
Sir Tucker did hear a sound which sounded somewhat like a hissing sound. Before he could even figure out what was going on he saw an explosion of light a few feet ahead of him. It had come unexpectedly and he had the misfortune of staring right at it when it happened. Because of this the sudden bright light after being in darkness for so long blinded both men. Despite being blinded Sir Tucker made sure to keep a hold of his sword and shield. He knew that there would be trouble coming at any moment.
"By the gods I can't see!" shouted Kermit who feared that he was now permanently blind. He was reaching out to try and grab something so that he had some bearings of the world around him.
"Stay close!" replied Sir Tucker sternly. He was ready to attack anything that he considered to be dangerous but without his sight he was at a serious disadvantage. He knew that it would be a miracle if he was able to get out of this situation alive.
The next thing that Sir Tucker heard was the laughter of several people and he began to slash his sword in an attempt to protect himself and Kermit. Throughout all he had been able to strike was thin air but he knew that at any moment they would be approached and attacked from any side.
Sir Tucker could hear his own heartbeat and a sweat ran down his brow. Now was the time to show that he had earned his recent knighthood but he knew that he was in an incredible amount of danger. He didn't have Jessica to rely on this time and he feared that he might not see her again.
In a way this situation was what Sir Tucker wanted, not because he was in danger but to prove himself that he could deal with it without the aid of Jessica. He had been telling himself that he could take care of himself but right now was his chance to prove it. Was he truly a man or a wimp?
Unfortunately Sir Tucker felt a strong blow to the back of his head and he fell to the ground. Once again he was falling unconscious and he was completely defenceless from his attacks as his mind faded once more.