The Spectators on the Shining Path.
I arried late to the tourney. Tardyness is normally something which I would avoid like the plague, but I was waylaid by brigands on my journey, and a fellow must play with the cards he is delt. Because of that, I was forced to pitch my tent at the rear of the grounds, with the servents and peasents.
Haing struck camp, I relaxed with a sack of wine and took a good luck around me.
To my left, a buxom serving girl was roasting a huge quantity of ribs. To the right, another girl was sat by her camp fire. She immediatly caught my eye.
‘Are you here to compete?’ I called out to her.
For we live in a brutal age, where women must defend themselves through feats of arms as surely and stoutly as a man.
‘No sir’, she replied.
‘You suprise me,’ I said, as she had a fierce look about her.
She gestured subtly to her right leg. Between her britches and boots, was a scar. In fact, it was the most horrendous wound that I have ever seen on a living body, it was asthough her flesh had been torn apart then folded back together.
‘Why would I try to do something impossible, when I cannot even do something simple?’ she said.
Then she hobbled off to collect firewood.
Being weary, I fell asleep before she returned.
I woke at dawn and doned what passes as armour these days- a steel breast plate, helmet and leather glooves. I ate a few sausages for breakfast, then sharpened my axes. Not that they needed the maintanance, but it was a ritual I favoured.
At midday, I was to fight in the melee.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in the red corner stand Sir Karl, Knight of the chalace. In the green corner, Dan of Suffolk. In the blue corner, Sir Mary, knight of the Golden Light. In the white corner, Grace the Tall. In the silver corner, The Namesless Knight of the Shining Path.”
That was I, a Knight of The Shining Path, stood in a corner of the Melee Pentagon… waiting for the crowd to stop cheering so we could start butchering each other.
The problem with the melee is that someone is always going to be outnumbered at the begining. Maybe 2–3 or 2–1, but it’s always going to happen.
Which was exactly what happened to me when Sir Mary and Grace the Tall decided that I was an easy target. Sir Mary came at me with round shield and sword, and Grace with her massive spear.
I’m still not comfortable with the idea of fighting ladies… but maybe that is just an excuse for how easily they thrashed me. Grace maimed my hand as I lashed out at her spear, and Sir Mary side stepped round my guard and knocked me out cold.
I woke up in agony and could not feel my right hand. When I could open my eyes, I saw the girl with the wounded leg looking down on me. I looked up at her icy blue eyes and saw pity.
‘You’ll live,’ she said,’ the healer has worked strong magic.’
‘It’s called medicine,’ I grunted, then remembered myself. ‘How are you, lady? I did not expect to see you again.’
‘I was curious, if you would live or die.’
‘I too was once a Knight of the Shining Path.’
‘There are not many of us left.’
‘Proably because of their ridiculous policy of forbiding shields.’
‘Maybe… Please pass some water.’
I struggled to sit up, then drank. Only then did I inspect my right hand. Despite the heavy, bloodstained bandages, it was clear that I had lost three fingers. Only the thumb and index finger remained.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ I said,’ it reeks of blood.’
She helped me back to camp and cooked us some soup. After that, I drank the last of my wine and slept.
It was midafternoon when I woke again. My body was in severe pain, including phanton pain in my missing fingers- which seemed unfair. Again, she was stood over me.
‘I’ve got some magic pebbles to help with the pain,’ she said.
I inspected the tablets.
‘They are called “more-fean”’ I said, then added,’ thank you. I don’t even know your name, why are you helping me?’
‘My name is Molly… I’m helping you because when my leg was smashed there was no one to help me, and it was shit.’
The next day, I went to the tourney market and bought a pair of metal gauntlets. They served to both hide and reduce my injury.
We live in a brutal age, and must hide all weakness.
When the tourney was over, we were on the road again. It was logical to travel together, and I had offered Sir Molly a job as guard and enforcer in my holding. I would need another pair of hands, and knew that my men would respect her experience.
She stayed in my fortress for over three moons. As I expected, she worked well, and my men respected her stength and wisdom. We became close, a little too close.
I learnt to perform most tasks with my left hand and saw her struggle bravely on her wounded leg.
From the window of my tower, I watched the sun set over the purple fells.
Molly entered my room without knocking, which was unlike her.
She wore a fadded grey robe, which she silently removed to reveal herself. I do not expect you to believe me when I tell you that it was the first time that I noticed quite how beautifull she was.
‘I want you,’ she said simply,’ take me now.’
My shock must have been apparent.
‘We need to breed more soldiers for the next war,’ she explained, as though it was obvious.
‘Lady… Molly… I think not.’
The change rolled across her like a summer storm. She snatched up her robe, and her pretty face was contorted with rage.
‘Sir, you insult me mortally- and I demand satisfaction,’ she said.
I put down my horn of wine and took stock of the situation.
‘As the challenged party, I have the choice of weapons,’ I stated.
‘Then I choose hammers which are so heavy that they are impossible to lift… Molly, we live in a brutal age, and sometimes it is good to do impossible things.’