Sir Tucker's world began to come alive around him again. He felt some pain in his head and a small amount of shame for being knocked unconscious twice on the same day. He wanted to groan at the pain that he was experiencing but he kept it to himself because he knew that he was not in the safest of positions.
The next thing Sir Tucker tried to do was move and he discovered that he couldn't. He was not completely paralysed but he did discover that his hands and feet were tied to one another making any significant movement practically impossible. He began to look around at the world around him and he discovered that he was in some kind of small wooden hut. There was nothing around there of significance but he did notice that Kermit was sitting next to him. The older man had not regained consciousness yet but it was obvious that both men were in big trouble. His vision had returned to him so that was at least one thing that he was thankful for.
One unfortunate detail that Sir Tucker noticed was the fact that both Juggernaut and his shield were gone. This would be a major blow to any kind of escape plan since without them escaping would be very difficult. He thought that it was wise for his captors to take away his weapons away but it didn't make it any less annoying.
There was something else that Sir Tucker could tell and that was that wherever they were they were not alone. He could hear numerous people outside of the hut and it almost sounded like it was some kind of celebration. It was no celebration that he wanted to be a part of and now escape was the only thing that he could think about.
"Kermit," said Sir Tucker fairly quietly so that anyone outside couldn't hear him. Unfortunately there was no response from the older man. "Kermit!" His voice was louder this time and it caused Kermit to begin to stir. He groaned quite loudly as he came to. The groan was so loud that Sir Tucker feared that the people outside might hear but thankfully if they did none of them investigated.
"W-Where am I?" asked Kermit as he was regaining consciousness. His confusion was even greater than that of Sir Tucker.
"Kermit are you alright?"
"Sir Tucker?" The memories of what had happened began to return to him and he looked over to Sir Tucker. He was happy to see a familiar face but he could see that they were both tied up. "W-what happened?"
"I think we were ambushed." He tried to move his hands which were tied behind his back with no success. "The worst thing we can do now is panic, there has to be a way of getting ourselves free."
"You could cut the ropes with your sword." There was some optimism in the voice of Kermit as he hoped beyond hope that he could somehow get them out of this situation. The odds however were not very good.
"No they took my sword and even if I did have it my hands are tied behind my back. I wouldn't have been able to use it." He continued to move his wrists in the hope that he could wiggle his hands free but whoever had tied them knew what they were doing. There was no room for his wrists to move.
"Maybe we could find something to cut ourselves free." Both men quickly began to look around to see if there was anything sharp to cut the ropes on. Unfortunately there was nothing remotely sharp inside the hut so it seemed that cutting themselves free was something that wasn't going to happen.
"There's no two ways about it. We're stuck and the only thing that we can do is wait for whoever captured us to return. Can't say that it is something I'm particularly looking forward to be right now I'm all out of ideas."
"I was afraid that this might happen." He looked over to Sir Tucker for a moment. "Some security you turned out to be." There was some anger in his voice as he felt that Sir Tucker had failed in his duties. He had been hired for one reason and it seemed like he had failed in every way.
"I was taken by surprise, no one could have prepared for that." He was standing by this statement as he genuinely had not expected what had happened. Arguing about it wouldn't solve their problem either so for now Sir Tucker was going to forget about it and simply continue to try and figure a way out.
Their privacy was disturbed when they saw a man entering the hut. He was a very muscular man with long brown hair and a thick beard. It looked as if he hadn't had a haircut or a shave for many years. One of the most striking things about him was that he was wearing a wolf pelt which covered his upper body. He definitely had an intimidating appearance but to Kermit this was nothing. The older man hated being tied up like this and he wanted to be free as soon as possible.
"How dare you take us prisoner you brute!" shouted Kermit who was not keeping his voice down at all. He didn't care if the gods themselves could hear him. All that was left of him was anger. "I demand that you release us immediately and return to us what rightfully belongs to us."
"I think you better shut up," replied Sir Tucker quietly who could see that antagonising this giant of a man would not help them in the slightest.
"Do you hear me?" Kermit had completely ignored Sir Tucker's warning as he continued to antagonise the man. "If you don't release us right now you will suffer the King's Justice first hand."
Rather than being terrified the man simply laughed and his voice was booming. It was so loud that Sir Tucker would have covered his ears if his hands had been free. As he laughed Sir Tucker could see that the man had some missing teeth and the ones that were remaining were all yellow.
"You're definitely joking if you think the King cares about a shit stain on the map like this," said the man as he laughed again. "You've got more chance of getting help from the gods rather than him." He took a few steps towards Kermit and picked him up effortlessly. Kermit was not a small man by any stretch of the imagination but this man lifted him up with ease. Sir Tucker figured that he was as strong as Jessica when she was at her smallest and that filled him with dread.
"Unhand me at once!" Kermit struggled as much as he could but with his hands and feet tied there was not much that he could do. Sir Tucker was also helpless but to watch Kermit get taken out of the hut. He felt powerless to do anything and he felt that if he had his sword then he would have been in no danger.
A small part of him wanted Jessica to just burst onto the scene and free him but he was determined to get out of this situation by himself. Some help would have been appreciated but he didn't want to keep depending on Jessica to get him out of trouble when times got tough. He was a knight and now was the perfect time to show that he had earned his knighthood.
Sir Tucker was not alone for long as he saw the man re-enter the hut and without saying a word also picked him up as easily as he had picked up Kermit. Unlike Kermit Sir Tucker didn't resist and just allowed it to happen. If he had of resisted it was likely that he wouldn't have gotten anywhere anyway.
When Sir Tucker was outside of the hut he could see numerous other people there. Most of them were around an enormous fire which was burning brightly making it almost seem like it was daytime. There were several other huts there as well but one thing that Sir Tucker noticed was that everyone there was also wearing wolf pelts much like the man carrying him. This gave him a feeling of uneasiness as by now he knew that both he and Kermit were in serious trouble.
Sir Tucker could see an equal amount of men and women all around him but he couldn't see any children, he didn't know whether this was a blessing or the sign of something more sinister. From where he was he could feel the heat of the fire and it was a very uncomfortable feeling, he didn't know how the others could stand it. The fact that they were wearing wolf pelts made it seem like they could easily catch on fire.
After being carried for a minute or so Sir Tucker was unceremoniously dropped on the ground and he landed hard. He feared that he had broken something but before he could check he felt himself get sat up properly. He looked and saw that he was sitting right next to Kermit once again. He had no idea what was happening but he could hear some of the people around him beginning to howl.
Above them was a full moon that lit up the night sky and under normal circumstances it looked beautiful. However from Sir Tucker's prospective it was anything but, he knew that it was the reason for his kidnapping to have taken place. He wanted to believe that he could find a way out of the situation but the more he looked the more that it seemed that he might indeed be doomed.
There was one almighty loud howl which caused the others to stop howling. They all began to gather around near where Sir Tucker and Kermit were sitting and only the crackling of the fire could be heard. Sir Tucker could feel his heartbeat increase and he was probably more terrified than he had ever been in his life. He didn't show his fear however as he knew that it wouldn't help anything.
Eventually Sir Tucker saw a man carrying a staff walk in-between them and the fire. He was still a good distance away from the fire to not have to worry about being burned. The others that he had seen around him had been wearing brown wolf pelts this man was wearing one that was completely white. Sir Tucker had heard of an affliction which many animals including humans were born with. This affliction made them completely white in both skin and hair and normally gave the sufferer purple eyes. He figured that the wolf pelt was no different as the wolf had suffered this affliction before it had died.
This man also seemed to be older than the others that Sir Tucker had seen around him. Despite his age the man seemed to be strong looking but his eyes couldn't be seen as the pelt covered the top of his head and left his eyes shadowed. The people around him were absolutely quiet in respect to him. For Sir Tucker he knew that this only meant trouble and that there was a good chance that he and Kermit wouldn't be leaving this place alive.
"Welcome my children," said the old man with enough volume in his voice to be easily heard by everyone around him. "This night we have once again been blessed by the full moon, the source of all life in Angleland." Sir Tucker expected the people to cheer but instead they remained silent. This made him feel unnerved but he saw how this man walked around. "On this night we pray to Aristoteles God of the Moon and to Laytos Goddess of the creatures of the forest. Since time eternal we have prayed and sacrificed to these gods and we will continue on until the end of time. Not to do so will be an insult to the gods and we can surely invoked their wrath. Step forth the champion of this full moon and allow me to offer him thy blessing." Sir Tucker saw as the man who had carried them to this spot stepped forward and bowed down to the older man. His head was dipped with submission and it seemed strange for such an intimidating man to be bowing to one that looked significantly weaker than him. "Ronan, tonight you have been elected to be the champion of Aristoteles and the defender of Laytos. Do you accept your position?"
"I do," replied Ronan. His voice seemed to be much quieter than the priest's and it came as some surprise to Sir Tucker. "With all of my strength and life I will fulfil this duty as the gods see fit."
"And do you promise protect those of the clan?"
"I do, from this breath until my last our clan will be under our protection. All who stand against our beliefs and practices will be destroyed."
"Rise then Ronan." He watched as Ronan got up to his feet and as he slammed the butt of his staff into the ground the top of it began to smoke. The top was covered by the lower jaw of a wolf but the people around seemed to be excited to see the smoke. "I name you the Lunar Warrior of our Clan. The mightiest of our warriors and protector of our beliefs, but your title requires one more action on your half."
"Name it wise one and it shall be done." He knew what needed to be done but for ceremonial reasons he still spoke the words. If he had not done this the others would have called foul.
"Before you sit two outsiders." The priest pointed his staff over to where Sir Tucker and Kermit were sitting. Sir Tucker had a sinking feeling in his gut as he could imagine what was next. "You must sacrifice them in fire to fulfil your destiny and truly become the champion of the clan."
"The deed shall be done."
Ronan took a few steps towards the two sitting men. Sir Tucker tried to make himself free but unfortunately he still couldn't move. He was helpless but to watch Kermit get grabbed by Ronan and get picked up with ease. He could hear Kermit demanding to be put down but as Ronan carried him towards the fire his cries were more of fear rather than anger. He could feel the heat blasting him in the face and in a manner of seconds he would be one with the fire unless Sir Tucker could do something to save him.
"Wait!" shouted Sir Tucker so loud that everyone could hear him. Ronan turned to look at him along with the priest. Everyone watching also looked at him but he knew that he only had a few seconds to save both himself and Kermit before it was too late. "I demand a trial by combat."
"Your demand is ignored outsider," replied the Priest. "Your sacrifices will continue as planned."
"But you are condemning two men to death without a just cause. A trial by combat has been declared and you have no choice but to accept. Even your gods decreed such a trial and by ignoring them you will be insulting your own gods." There was a lot of chatter between the clan members and for a few moments Ronan just stood there and was unsure what to do. The priest hated to admit it but Sir Tucker was right. A trial by combat was one of the most ancient laws of Angleland and decreed by the gods themselves. That included Aristoteles and Laytos.
"Very well then outsider." He hated what he was about to do but to keep the integrity of his clan and to keep in line with the laws of the gods. "I suspect that you will be defending both your own life and that of your friend."
"Indeed, I fight for both my life and my companion's. I am a knight of the realm and I am more than capable of being my own champion."
"I declare Ronan to be our champion. His might is great and is yet to be defeated in combat. Your efforts are only delaying the inevitable."
"Oh I know that I'm going to die but I'd prefer if it took place in sixty years in my bed and surrounded by more gold than the King." He was confident but underneath he was actually quite nervous. He was going to have to get out of this situation knowing that Jessica wasn't going to be there to help him. However he felt that as long as he had his sword and shield he could defeat anyone.
"Your humour is pathetic but in all seriousness the trial by combat will take place immediately on the fighting grounds. It will take place within the next fifteen minutes, I hope that you are ready."
"Well I would be if I wasn't already tied up." He would have liked nothing more than to be free but of course the ropes prevented him from doing this.
The priest nodded towards a pair of other men who approached Sir Tucker. One of them was holding a knife but rather than stabbing him it the knife was used to cut the ropes that had kept him bound up. Kermit saw what was happening and he hoped that he too would be freed but he had no such luck. Instead the two men grabbed Sir Tucker's arms and forced him up to his feet. This was simply so that he couldn't escape from them, he had no intention of doing this without Kermit but the clan members didn't want to take any chances. For all they knew Sir Tucker was a lie and a cheat.
The majority of the clan members made their way to the fighting grounds which was nothing more than a patch of ground with some rope around it which indicated the boundaries. These grounds were mainly used for sport but with moments like this it was used to decide the fate of a man. The light of the large fire could still be seen and it provided the pit with all the light that it needed.
Within moments the clan members had completely surrounded the fighting grounds which made it impossible for anyone to escape from. There was some excitement from the crowd as they were looking forward to seeing Sir Tucker get killed by Ronan who was already standing on the opposite side. Sir Tucker was standing on his own side with the two clan members still holding onto his arms. Kermit was being held by one of the other clan members but he could still see what was going on.
The Priest stepped out from the other clan members and made his way to the centre of the fighting grounds. He lifted his staff up into the air and almost instantly everyone around him became silent. Sir Tucker could see him clearly and there was a feeling in the pit of his stomach that something was going to go very badly very quickly. All he could do was hope that his skill was enough.
"The outsider has demanded his trial by combat and under the laws of the gods we have no choice but to accept," said the Priest although there didn't seem to be much regret in his voice. "Ronan has been selected to be the champion of our people." Ronan lifted his arms up into the air and the crowd began to cheer. "And the outsider has been determined to be his own champion. The rules of this trial is simple, the first man to kill his opponent or force him to give up is the victor."
"I demand that my weapons are returned to me," replied Sir Tucker as he interrupted the Priest. He had become a little worried that they weren't going to be returned to him before the trial.
"Oh you misinterpret outsider. Our trial by combat is completely unarmed. Neither combatant has any weapons or armour." He nodded again to the two clan members holding onto Sir Tucker's arms and quickly they began to remove his armour so that he didn't have any protection. "Both combatants are required to battle in hand to hand combat without any outside influences. Disqualifications can take place if either a weapon is used or if there is outside interference. Either way these actions will not be tolerated and the guilty party will be executed immediately."
Sir Tucker looked over to Ronan and he just realised that his chances of victory had just fallen significantly. With his weapons he felt that he had stood a chance against this muscle bound brute but with just his bare hands he knew that he was in for a lot of trouble. While he was in Morgan he had learned some hand to hand combat but he didn't think that it would be enough for him to comfortably take on someone like Ronan. It seemed that only a miracle could save him now.
Ronan took a few steps towards the centre of the fighting grounds and Sir Tucker felt a similar push in his back which indicated that he had to do the same. He continued to walk and as he got closer to Ronan he saw that his opponent was around half a foot taller than him and easily outweighed him. The Priest was still standing there as he was ready to start the battle at any moment.
"We are here tonight to witness the trial by combat between the Champion of the Clan Ronan and the Outsider," said the Priest. He hadn't bothered to learn Sir Tucker's name and it seemed like it wouldn't matter in a few moments. "May the gods favour the righteous party."
With that the Priest stepped out of the fighting arena and that was a clear indication that the trial had begun. Sir Tucker could see a sadistic smile on the face of Ronan who could see that he had a clear physical advantage over his opponent. He was known as one of the strongest warriors in the clan, on more than one occasion he had been able to kill a man with his bare hands. It seemed like Sir Tucker would be no different.
Sir Tucker himself was moving around and looking at Ronan as he tried to spot any kind of weakness in the man. This wouldn't be easy though as he could see that Ronan seemed to be in his prime with no obvious injuries. He also made sure that there was a safe distance between himself and Ronan.
The crowd were beginning to get restless as they had wanted to see Ronan destroy Sir Tucker. They were calling out for blood but none of them were willing to step in as they knew the consequences of such actions. All they could do was watch and wait for Ronan to do what needed to be done.
Sir Tucker did remember a particular move that he had been taught by Sir Thomas back in the day. It was meant for an unarmed knight to be able to take down a larger opponent. The only thing was that he would have to get to Ronan from behind and from the looks of it that wouldn't be an easy task.
Ronan lunged at Sir Tucker who wasn't able to get out of the way in time. Ronan's speed had taken him by surprise as he had not expected someone of Ronan's size to be able to move so quickly. He felt himself get grabbed around the waist and then effortlessly picked up into the air and then slammed onto the ground. The move had winded Sir Tucker as he began to gasp for air.
There was a loud cheer from the crowd as Sir Tucker's body was slammed into the ground but the only person who wasn't cheering was Kermit would could see that his life was coming close to an end. He could see that Sir Tucker was outclassed and he felt that he couldn't watch this take place. He closed his eyes and began to pray to the gods for some kind of miracle.
Ronan quickly got back up to his feet and tried to stomp down on Sir Tucker's head. The smaller man was just able to get out of the way before Ronan's foot came down. He too got back to his feet but he was still gasping for air. It was a moment of respite for him but if things carried on the way that it was things would be over before they had even begun. He wasn't sure but he thought that one of his ribs might have been cracked as he could still feel much pain.
"Give up outsider and I promise that your end will be quick," said Ronan as if he was offering Sir Tucker a favourable deal.
"No," replied Sir Tucker. "Maybe if you gave up I'd make your end quick." He knew that this wouldn't likely happen but he thought that a bit of taunting would likely make Ronan make a mistake.
"You throw my offer back in my face?" This seemed to enrage Ronan. "I will make your end slow and agonising!"
With that Ronan lunged at Sir Tucker but this time he was expecting it so he was able to just get out of the way before Ronan could touch him. It was a sidestep that he had learned during his swordplay training. He could see that Ronan was angered and he knew that this was a good thing. Although his opponent would be more determined it also made him sloppy and a lot easier to dodge.
Sir Tucker was right behind Ronan but he knew that he didn't have enough time to do what he needed to do so instead he dived at Ronan's leg. This caused the larger man to go down and also caused some damage to his leg as well. This was a point of weakness that Sir Tucker had been looking for and in the end he had created it himself.
He still remembered the lessons that Sir Peter had given him all those years ago. He had told him that by taking down the legs made it incredibly difficult for an opponent to move around. Even the fasted of opponents couldn't around move without their legs. He knew that all he needed to do was to focus on Ronan's right leg and it would weaken him enough for him to finish him off.
Despite spotting this weakness victory would still be hard fought as Ronan still had more than enough fight left in him to cause Tucker a lot of problems and the fact that he was still incredibly strong. Ronan could still easily take down Sir Tucker if he could get his hands on him.
"Come on mighty Ronan," said Sir Tucker as he decided to mock his opponent. He knew that it wasn't very honourable but it was exactly what he needed to do to keep Ronan distracted. "My girlfriend is stronger than you." He knew this to be true and although Jessica was no longer his girlfriend in the romantic sense Ronan didn't know this and purely thought that he was being mocked.
"You dare suggest a woman is stronger than me!" replied Ronan in a very angry voice. He was still feeling some pain in his leg but he seemed capable of carrying on. "I will send her your ashes and tell her that you died a coward!"
Sir Tucker for a moment thought about what might happen if Ronan did take whatever was left of his body back to Jessica. Most likely he would tell her what he had done and Sir Tucker knew that Jessica wouldn't be too pleased with this. Even though they had a falling out he knew that she would still be very sad if he died and he couldn't think what might happen to the one responsible.
Ronan lunged at Sir Tucker again but this time due to his leg he was a little slower than he had been before. Sir Tucker saw this and again sidestepped out of the way and quickly gave Ronan a quick kick to his right leg. It didn't seem to do all that much damage but enough of them would eventually get him results.
The other clan members were getting restless as they had expected Ronan to be completely on top but much to their surprise Sir Tucker was actually giving him a decent run for his money. The Priest in particular didn't want Sir Tucker to win since without a sacrifice that night things might turn out badly for him and the other clan members. He would have loved nothing more than to step in and have Sir Tucker completely overwhelmed by the other clan members but that would break the rules of the trial and most likely the wrath of the gods would fall upon them.
Sir Tucker was still moving around fast and it seemed that he finally had the speed advantage over Ronan. Unfortunately he didn't have the strength but as long as he could make some quick attacks and then back away out of reach he thought that he would be fine. It was working for him so far and he felt that if he kept it up he thought that he was more or less going to win.
However Sir Tucker got too overconfident and he found himself in a bear hug from Ronan. The large man had wrapped both of his arms around Sir Tucker and began to squeeze tightly. He could feel the wind being taken out of him and both his arms were trapped by Ronan. From his prospective there didn't seem to be any way out for him as he felt the life being squeezed out of his body.