Some distance away Sir Tucker was still have the life squeezed out of him by the incredibly strong Ronan who had him in a bear hug. There seemed to be no room for Sir Tucker to move as his opponent held tightly. He had also been lifted off of his feet which only made his situation that much worse. He was used to being hugged by Jessica but thankfully she had never hugged him this hard.
The trial by combat was still being watched by the other clan members who were howling in excitement. They thought that Sir Tucker was nearing his end and that Ronan was just moments from breaking him. Ronan seemed to be bathing in the howl of the other clan members as he continued to squeeze.
Kermit was watching the trial with much fright as not only Sir Tucker's fate but his own. From the start he had thought that Sir Tucker had not stood much of a chance against Ronan and it seemed liked his prediction was coming true.
"You can't escape my grip outsider," said Ronan as he tightened his arms even further which caused Sir Tucker even more grief. "My brothers and sisters will watch me kill you right where you stand."
"Would help if I was actually standing," replied Sir Tucker with some difficulty. Each breath he wasted was another step towards his own demise. There was only one part of his body which he could still move and that was his neck. This was the only weapon that he had right now. "But this fight isn't over yet."
With only his head as a weapon Sir Tucker began to head butt Ronan in the face. This didn't do as much damage as he hoped but one thing that he noticed was that Ronan's grip on him a little, not enough for him to escape but enough for him to see that his attack had caused some damage.
Sir Tucker began to repeatedly head butt Ronan in the face over and over again. The brute seemed to take the attacks in his stride but they were causing some damage. Sir Tucker was also receiving damage from his attack but right now it was the only option that he had. He had never head butted anyone before but it was a skill which wasn't too hard for him to get the hang off.
After what seemed to be ten head butts Ronan finally released his grip and staggered back as Sir Tucker landed on the ground. He had come down in a crouching position and although he felt disorientated after all the head butts the first thing he did was take his first decent breath in what seemed to be forever. He did stand back up to his full height but this was not the best idea that he had since like Ronan it made him stagger back.
When Sir Tucker looked over to Ronan he saw that the brute's nose had been broken by the head butts but if anything all it had done was make him angrier. He was still taking his time to recover but time was something that he had as Sir Tucker didn't seem to be in any shape to launch any kind of attack.
The pack members were surprised with how Sir Tucker had been able to break out of Ronan's grip but if anything it seemed that he had just delayed the inevitable as Ronan still seemed the clear favourite. The brute began to take a few steps towards the newly knighted Sir Tucker. He was still a little dazed from the head butts but with each step he took he could feel himself becoming more and steadier. Sir Tucker still seemed to be unsure on his feet as he was still shaking off the damage.
Sir Tucker's world was spinning and although it was becoming more still with each passing moment it didn't seem to be happening fast enough as Ronan ran towards him and with one mighty thrust to the chest Sir Tucker found himself on the ground. He saw Ronan looming over him and before he could sit on his chest to punch him in the face Sir Tucker kicked him in the leg. He kicked it with enough force to make Ronan take a couple of steps back as he had been taken by surprise.
Sir Tucker rolled up to his feet and made his own way towards Ronan. He acted more out of speed and instinct rather a definite plan as he kicked Ronan's leg once again. The brute tried to defend himself with a couple of punches but Sir Tucker was able to duck out of the way and deliver another hard kick to Ronan's leg. This was enough to make the brute go down to one knee.
With Ronan seemingly weakened Sir Tucker saw his chance and delivered a powerful kick right to the side of Ronan's face. There was a loud cracking sound as Ronan's jaw broke and he keeled over onto the ground. He looked down at his fallen foe and he wanted to finish him off but something inside of him was stopping him. From his view Ronan was defenceless as he was drifting in and out of consciousness.
The clan members watching the fight were deadly silent as they realised that their mightiest warrior had fallen and seemed only a few moments from death. None were more surprised than the Priest who was watching with some terror in his eyes. Not only did it seem like that the clan had lost one of its greatest members but without a sacrifice for the gods he felt that the clan would be doomed.
Kermit on the other hand was completely ecstatic with what he had seen as he knew that Sir Tucker had actually saved both himself and Kermit. He like almost every man and woman in Angleland knew that by Sir Tucker's victory it meant that the gods had favoured him and thus given him the skill needed for victory.
Sir Tucker looked down at Ronan and rather than seeing the mighty warrior he had just been facing instead he saw a broken man. His jaw was at an angle after Sir Tucker's mighty kick and it even looked like he was struggling to breathe. The brute was defeated and there seemed to be nothing that could be done about that.
"I'm done," said Sir Tucker as he turned around and went to walk away from the fighting grounds. This came as a surprise from everyone and although to them it was a relief the laws dictated that Ronan had to be killed for the contest to be over. The Priest slammed his staff onto the ground and this got Sir Tucker's attention as he turned to look at the older man of the clan.
"You must kill him," replied the Priest. He couldn't believe that he was actually saying these words but he knew that if the laws of the trial were broken there was no telling what fate might befall them.
"No I will not." He remembered his lessons from before he left Morgan and what Sir Thomas had taught him about the values of a knight. "Killing a man in the heat of battle is one thing but killing one who is unarmed and defenceless is another. I have won the trial there is no doubt about that, however I refuse to kill a man in this state, it goes against the code of a knight."
"If you refuse to kill him then you forfeit the trial and your friend as well as you will be our sacrifices once again."
"There is killing with honour and then there is outright murder and this is murder. Your champion fought bravely and for that he deserves to live but I will not lower myself to murdering him just because you decreed it. In the world of civilized men if one combatant cannot obviously continue then the trial is stopped. You may work differently but do you think that your gods will favour a murderer?" There was some talk between the other clan members as they saw reason behind his words. Unlike religious sacrifices and in the heat of battle their gods also looked down upon murder. This situation seemed to be similar but it was a trial by combat nonetheless.
"Stop talking and just do it!" shouted Kermit from where he was sitting. He could feel his chances of freedom slipping away with every moment that passed by. "There's no reasoning with these people, the only way that we can be free is if you get the deed done and be officially declared the victor. You've already done the hard part now all you need to do is finish him off!"
There was a few moments of silence as there seemed to be no words exchanged by anyone. The silence was unbearable for Sir Tucker as he had to make the decision that would either save him or prove his damnation. He looked down at Ronan for a moment and all he could see was the defeated and broken man before him. He knew that if the roles were reversed Ronan would have had no problem with killing him but he was not like that, he was now a knight of the realm and there was a certain code that he had to follow.
Sir Tucker didn't mutter a single word as he just walked away from Ronan and he made his way towards Kermit. He still needed to recover his armour, sword and shield before he could leave. He didn't really know where they were but he would find them easily enough in time. However he knew that it wouldn't be easy for him to leave as he saw the other clan members walking towards him. He began to think of a decent way for him to leave without having to harm anyone else.
"You saw what happened on this night," said Sir Tucker in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear. "I defeated your champion in fair combat, that means that the gods have sided with me and it is through their wisdom that I am sparing his life. If you are to strike me down now you will anger the gods and if history has taught us anything it is that a mortal must never offend a god. I have won the freedom of myself and my companion, bring me back our personal effects and we will leave you in peace."
"You claim that the gods gave you the wisdom to spare our champion but it is in fact your cowardice," replied the Priest who wanted to keep the ancient rules of the trial by combat intact.
"The gods control everything in our lives. They also influenced my decision to keep him alive, killing him will not change anything. The bottom line is that I won the trial and this is the will of the gods. This is something that no one here can deny, do you want to take the chance of offending the gods by killing me now?"
Once again there was silence as Sir Tucker waited for the priest to make his decision. He knew that in the next few moments he would either be walking away with his life intact or would be killed where he stood. He hoped that he had given a convincing argument but with people like this clan he just didn't know how things would go.
"Your words have sense young knight," said the Priest. "Although I do not like to admit it your victory this night was the will of the gods and for us to go back on them will bring us dire consequences. You and your companion are free to leave along with all of the belongings that we confiscated. Be on your way before I change my mind."
"I thank you for seeing sense," replied Sir Tucker who felt that a small amount of courtesy was needed.
Kermit felt very relieved as he felt the ropes tying him up be cut away. As soon as his hands were free he began to rub them as they had been rubbed quite badly by the ropes. He did get back up to his full height and he didn't want to admit just how scared he had been. He had even been close to having an accident but thankfully he had been able to keep it in and save his dignity.
Sir Tucker and Kermit only had to wait a short while for their possessions to be returned to them. Sir Tucker didn't waste any time in putting his armour back on and attaching his sword and shield back to his person. He was a little surprised to not be given the map to the treasure that he had focused this section of his life on. It took him a moment to realise that it was Jessica who was in possession of the map. Kermit was given his pouch of gold back but before they could leave he counted it to make sure that each coin was still there. To his relief none of the clan had stolen any of his money and he attached it to his belt much like it had before they were captured.
The redness of the fire could still be seen behind the two men as it continued to flicker. A few of the clan members were worried now since they didn't have a sacrifice now. It was only a few hours before dawn and they felt that without a sacrifice their clan would come to an abrupt end.
Sir Tucker was still very anxious as he thought that at any moment they could be attacked by one of the clan members. His words may have swayed them for now but he knew that if he and Kermit didn't make themselves scarce quickly they could change their minds. The two men just walked away at a steady pace. They didn't care if they were going in the right direction to Kermit's home, just as long as they were getting further away from the clan and closer to safety.
One thing that Sir Tucker did do as they walked was keep his hand on Juggernaut just in case they were attacked. He would be able to draw his sword and take down his attacker before they had a chance to cause any damage. He was constantly listening out for anyone approaching but thankfully they seemed to be staying put. They didn't wish to upset the gods which was something that a mortal always did.
The brush with danger was all that Sir Tucker needed to regain a small amount of his confidence. He had been able to get himself and Kermit out of danger and he hadn't even needed Jessica's help. He knew that if she had been there she would have just grown in size and carried them away. By resolving the conflict by himself he thought that he had taken a great step to becoming a true knight. His confidence made him feel that there was no situation that he couldn't handle.
"I give you my thanks good sir," said Kermit as they continued to walk. They weren't even sure which direction that they were going, just as long as each step took them closer and closer to safety. "I was sure that we were done for."
"With someone like me by your side did you really have any doubts?" replied Sir Tucker with confidence in his voice. The truth was that inside he was shaking like a leaf but he couldn't allow Kermit to know this.
"It seems I made the right decision hiring you. If it had been one of those thugs they would have surely left me to die. I owe you more than I could ever repay you."
"The money that we agreed to will more than suffice." He knew that most people would have asked for more after such an experience but he decided to stick to the original agreement that they had.
"You are truly a man in a million good sir. It seems that fate has drawn us together." He smiled as he knew that he was truly safe as long as Sir Tucker remained by his side from now until their journey's end.
"As I said to those people it was the will of the gods that I won that trial. It is the same with our meeting. It was the will of the gods that we met and when I return you back to your home we will have to part ways."
"That will be a shame, you're an extraordinary man and it will sadden me to see you leave. I could use a man with your talents as protection more often."
"Well that is true but I have somewhere else to be. Like I said before I have a friend waiting for me. I can't keep her waiting, we have a lot to discuss and to tell you the truth I don't know exactly what will happen."
"For your sake I hope that the best outcome occurs. After this night I believe that you deserve some happiness. Whatever problems that you have with your lady friend I'm sure that you can iron it out."
"Hopefully because to tell you the truth I couldn't really imagine my life without her. I've known her for as long as I remember and if I lost her I don't know what I would do. She's always been there for me through thick and thin."
They continued to walk but a sound made Sir Tucker stop in his tracks. He had been hearing some sounds ever since they left the clan and now that he had heard them louder he knew for certain that they were being followed. Rather than running away he told Kermit to walk ahead as he turned and drew out Juggernaut. The night was still quite bright thanks to the full moon and it would make fighting for his life. He wanted to make sure that Kermit was a safe distance away before he made his next move.
"Come on out I know that you're there," said Sir Tucker as he kept a tight hold on his sword and shield. He only had to wait a few seconds before he saw three men step out of the bushes. Each of them were fairly well built and were carrying swords that had been taken from fallen warriors. Each of them wore wolf pelts and it was obvious that they were there for a fight. He looked at all three of them and he could tell from their stances that they were not properly trained with their swords. "Go back to your family, I won the trial and thus are free. Killing me now will only damn you."
"You won no trial," replied one of the three men. "You didn't finish your opponent so the trial never ended. By leaving you have only confirmed your guilt, for that you are to come with us and be sacrificed as the gods decree." There was a mutter of agreement between him and the other men. Sir Tucker could see that the odds were against him but there was something that he felt in his bones. He thought that these men were not here under order but rather acted independently.
"I'm not going anywhere with you and if you try and fight me I will defend myself with deadly force if need be."
No more words were muttered by the men as the first one lunged towards Sir Tucker and tried to slash him with the sword. Thankfully the young knight was able to block the attack with some ease but rather than striking he just pushed him back with his shield. The other two men began to encircle Sir Tucker as they hoped to use their advanced numbers to overwhelm him.
Sir Tucker was a capable man but he wasn't able to keep his eye on all three of them at the same time. He was constantly having to watch them but whenever he had sight on one the other two would be in his blind spots. However this wasn't a situation that he hadn't been trained against. He simply remembered what Sir Thomas had taught him years ago, one thing that he had made important was to make sure that he was constantly on the move so that he was harder to hit.
Sir Tucker began to move backwards and was constantly looking out for anyone who got too close to him. He could see the three of them moving towards him and it would be difficult to fend all three of them off at the same time. His shield would help but it seemed that this situation as suited more for speed rather than strength.
One of the men just happened to get too close to Sir Tucker and he tried to fend him off with Juggernaut. At that very moment the second man went to slash him but once again he was able to get his shield up just in time. The third man lunged to stab Sir Tucker a few seconds later but the young knight darted back out of the way. It caused the third man to almost slash one of his own comrades. It had been a close shave for them but Sir Tucker knew that running wasn't an option as they would just pursue him. He needed to make sure that they didn't follow and if that meant that he had to kill them he would be prepared to step that line with a small amount of hesitation.
Unlike during the trial by combat Sir Tucker was fighting against fit and armed opponents where Ronan had been defeated and defenceless. If any of these men were to fall Sir Tucker's honour would remain and if anything it would truly make him a knight. However he wouldn't step across the line if he saw a way to keep them alive, like his best friend he would take no pleasure in killing someone.
With the three men now standing right next to one another Sir Tucker saw himself a chance to gain the upper hand. He slashed at the man that was furthest to the right and was actually able to cause some damage. Rather than aiming for a vital part instead he aimed for the leg which he was able to strike with some ease. It was only a slash but it was still enough to cause his attacker to fall to the ground. His sword was dropped and Sir Tucker kicked it away so that it couldn't be used.
Sir Tucker had just made the odds that much better for himself with now he only had two men to worry about. He could see that the downed man was crawling away and he knew that he didn't have to worry about him anymore. However the odds were still against him but he felt that his chances of victory had increased significantly.
"I'm giving you one more chance," said Sir Tucker as he felt that there was still a chance that they would back down. "Take your friend away and I promise that I won't follow. You will be left in peace."
"As long as you still our work will not be done," replied one of the men who seemed to be defiant.
"You are on a fool's errand and it might just cost you your life. I don't want to hurt you but it doesn't mean that I won't."
Rather than staying on the defence Sir Tucker decided to attack. This was because it was the last thing that the men were expecting. He went to slash them high and as one of the men held his sword up to block the attack it was exactly what Sir Tucker had wanted. With the sword arm up the man had no protection so Sir Tucker thrusted his shield right into the face of the man. He felt the impact and it had also knocked out a few of the man's teeth and quickly he dropped his sword and clutched his face.
This only left one man left as his two co-attackers were on the ground in agony. He could see that his sword was shaking as he was nervous. A few moments he had been very confident but that confidence was now gone as he thought that his life was soon coming to an end. Despite the odds he still couldn't back down as he felt that he was in the right. He thought that the gods were on his side and that by backing down he would be damning himself and his clan.
"You are completely outmatched," said Sir Tucker as he thought that his attacker might see sense. "Please just back down and you won't be harmed."
"No the gods are by my side and I will not fail," replied the man who despite the odds still wanted to fight.
"There is no dishonour from backing down from this situation. Just look at yourself, you can barely hold your sword. Many in my position would have just ended you where you stand but I am letting you walk away. I beg of you to take my offer."
He went to slash Sir Tucker but his strike was more out of anger rather than any skill. The young knight was able to sidestep it and he struck him in the back of the head with his shield. This caused the man to fall unconscious almost immediately and he was out for the count. All three of Sir Tucker's attackers were down and although they had been injured they would recover.
Sir Tucker sheathed his sword and headed back in the direction that he had been walking before. He knew that Kermit wouldn't be too far ahead of him and it would likely only be a short walk until he reached him. He just wanted to forget about this night and just get Kermit back to his home safely. It had been a learning curve for him as he had gotten himself out of a very dangerous situation without Jessica's help. It had given him a confidence boost but he would have been very appreciative. He also did wonder how she was doing but he didn't worry about her safety. She was bigger than most problems that would bother an average person.
Sir Tucker did walk at a quickened pace until he was finally able to catch up with Kermit. The older man had not been able to get far and when he had heard someone coming he had gone into a state of panic. When he looked he was more than relieved to see that it was Sir Tucker and not one of the clan members. He had too many frights this night and he was surprised that he hadn't had a heart attack already. He was breathing quite deeply as he had been walking as quickly as his body could carry him.
"Oh thank the gods it's you Sir Tucker," said Kermit who had much relief in his voice as he thought that his life had been saved again. "I began to fear that our pursuers had gotten the better of you."
"They were unskilled and frightened," replied Sir Tucker. "They were beaten before they even decided to follow us."
"I hope you finished them off the better. The less of those people the better for us." There was still the slightest hint of fear in his voice but he knew that the worst danger was now behind them.
"No I let them live, they were defeated and I thought that a tough lesson for them was in order."
"But they could still follow us." He became more afraid with each passing moment. "You should have finished them."
"Believe me they won't be hurting us any time soon. Now we still have some ways to go before you're home so I suggest we keep going and hope that we can be there by dawn. I don't know about you but I think walking the rest of the night is our best plan."
"As do I but I'm afraid to say that we seemed to have gotten a little turned around upon our escape. I'm not sure that were even heading in the right direction."
"Then we should try and find some kind of familiar landmark so that you can determine which way we should go. Unfortunately since this is my first time in these parts you will have to lead me the right way."
Kermit began to look around but he couldn't see anything that seemed to be familiar. This was a really worrying thing for him. He was almost in a completely panicked state and was even on the verge of wetting himself. The night had been one shock after another and he just couldn't seem to take any more. But there was one thing above all else that Sir Tucker realised. That was that the pair were lost and that they were not completely out of danger. Other clan members might be following them and unlike the three that Sir Tucker had fought the others might be more competent with a sword. It was up to him and him alone to get them out of this predicament but the last thing he wanted to do was to panic or else all would be lost.