The King of Kalbem: Chapter 9 - The Tournament
Updated: Sep 11, 2020
Chapter 9: The Tournament
The day of the tournament arrived. It began with a parade of knights. Eight knights listed from Kalbem and the two neighboring kingdoms, Tezel and Volez.
As they rode their horses through the courtyard, the herald called, “Sir Gerrard of Tezel, Sir Hector of Tezel, Sir Michael of Tezel, Sir Gavin of Volez, Sir Phillip of Kalbem, Lord David of Kalbem, Sir Johnathan of Kalbem, and Sir Aaron of Kalbem.”
Katrina and Will were shocked to hear that Michael was from Tezel. He never stated exactly where he was from, but he implied it was a distant kingdom they wouldn’t recognize. Kat started to wonder if he might have something to do with the Tezelian assassin coming through the secret passageway.
The competitors arrived at the arena and faced the royalty. Will stood up and addressed the crowd, “It is written that after the death of King Alexander that a joust is to be held. The winner will face me in a special predetermined kingly task, unbeknownst to me. This joust will be done so that every knight will face each other knight, à la toille. The rules we will go by will allow helmet hits since we want to reduce ties. Each joust will have three runs. One extra point will be rewarded for breaking on the helm, and unhorsing makes an automatic victory, but you will not be winning any of the horses. There will be no sword play and no hitting the horses. Sabotage is an automatic forfeit. Remember the Knight's Oath. We have 28 matches to do, so let us warm up and get started.”
Round one. Gerrard and Phillip were up first. They broke lances on each other's chests and each received a point. The next pass they missed head shot attempts. On the final pass, Gerrard made a head shot and Phillip a chest shot, so Gerrard won with 3 to 2. Hector beat David with 3 to 1. Michael beat Johnathan with 4 to 3. Aaron and Gavin were up next. On the first pass, Gavin broke a lance on Aaron's helmet while Aaron only broke his lance on Gavin's chest. On the next pass, Aaron aimed low and knocked Gavin off his horse – Aaron won.
Round two. Hector beat Gerrard 3 to 1. Michael and Phillip faced each other. On the first pass, Michael made a head shot while Phillip made a chest shot. On the second pass, Phillip tried to make a head shot but missed, while Michael landed a head shot. Michael made another perfect head shot while Phillip broke the lance on his chest on the third round, so Michael won 6 to 2. Aaron beat David by unhorsing him. Gavin beat Johnathan 4 lances to 2.
Round three. Michael beat Gerrard with 5 to 3. Hector faced Aaron, winning 3 lances to 2. Gavin beat Phillip with 4 to 2. David beat Johnathan with 2 to 1.
Round four. Aaron beat Gerrard 3 to 1. Michael and Gavin each broke a lance on the other's helmet and then Michael unhorsed Gavin, winning that match. Hector beat Johnathan by unhorsing him. David beat Phillip 2 lances to 1.
The competition was over for the day with Hector and Michael in the lead, and the festivities began. The banquet was held in the Great Hall, and the dance followed shortly after. Edmund and Duncan watched the royals like hawks, but Will and Kat managed to have a lovely time with their Little Lizzy, which they started to call her as Edmund's nickname was beginning to stick.
Prince Michael offered his hand to Jennifer, “May I have the honor?” She accepted, he escorted her onto the floor, and they began to dance. “You didn’t have anything to do with the king’s death, did you?” he questioned.
Jennifer gave a wicked grin, “Pretty skillful work, right? Cracked yew seeds in his salad the night before. The first symptom is usually death.”
“I thought you were just a thief!” Michael kept his voice low, but was genuinely surprised.
She winked at him, “I was when you first recruited me, but I expanded my skills during my leave of absence.”
“You practically signed your name though with that flower,” he criticized.
Jennifer laughed, “You’re the only person who knows it’s my signature, besides, no one would suspect the light-headed Lady Jennifer. And if they did, I could easily dispose of them.”
Michael was a little uncomfortable with talk of killing people unnecessarily. She took note and continued, “Besides, I think the flower sends a powerful message. For instance, this killing was expressed as a symbol of justice since Alexander never had a right to the throne in the first place.”
Michael nodded his head in agreement. “Now that the king is dead, I finally have my chance to win this kingdom back, fair and square.”
“Why not just go straight for the hostile takeover?”
“Because that’s what makes me better than them. I play by the rules. But I will take matters into my own hands if they try to cheat. I prefer not to use intrigue though.”
“Are you certain you will win?”
“Don't insult me. This is what I do. I can make a head shot nine times out of ten and I've never been unhorsed. I trained here, so I know what all the knights can do. Sir Hector is good, but he's from my kingdom, and I beat him every time. Sir Aaron is rather good, but his aim is average, so he usually wins by unhorsing. I'll beat him without a problem.”
“Good,” she replied, “I’m looking forward to rule this kingdom together.”
Michael had never consented to that plan she constantly brought up, but he didn’t bother correcting her.
She continued, “You will marry me, we’ll rule both Tezel and Kalbem, and who knows, maybe we can take over Volez afterwards. Growing up there, I have a few ideas of how to do it.”
“I don’t quite understand why I should be motivated to marry you.”
“Don’t I please you, your grace?” she looked at him with doe-eyes. “I know you please me.”
He couldn’t hold back a slight smile, “Maybe I can send you to rule Volez or Tezel.”
“After we wed,” she insisted, “for I am not royalty and must marry into that title.”
“Very well,” Michael conceded, “Now, continue to lay low and make friends. Stay nearby, in case I need you.” He escorted her off the floor and kissed her hand.
“Your wish is my command,” she curtseyed.
After the ball, Kat made a point to thank the cook, Caroline, for the exquisite meal she made. Will and Kat saw their guests off, then she turned to him, “There is one more thing we need to do tonight.”
She motioned for Will to follow her, infant in arms, as Edmund followed. They found themselves in the garden. Kat smiled at Edmund, “You do your duty so well, but I think you should get a dance. Little Lizzy would like to have the honor.”
Edmund smiled, “Little Lizzy, may I have this dance?” Lizzy made an excited squeal and Edmund gratefully took the child in his arms and began to sway with her. Will smiled at the consideration of his wife, the tenderness of his guard, and the perfection of his daughter. He put his arm around Kat and they began softly singing a tune for Edmund to dance to.
* * * * *
The tournament resumed the following morning. Round 5 began with Gavin beating Gerrard 4 to 2. Aaron and Johnathan both broke lances on each other’s chests. Then Aaron got a hit to the head while Johnathan only hit the chest. On the third pass, Johnathan aimed for Aaron’s head but missed, while Aaron hit the chest. Aaron won 4 lances to 2. Then Michael beat David 3 lances to 1 and Phillip beat Hector 4 to 2.
Round 6. Johnathan beat Gerrard 3 to 2. Gavin beat David 4 to 2. When Aaron and Phillip faced each other, it was a gentle father to son match and Aaron won with 2 lances to 1. Michael broke a lance on Hector’s head as one broke on his own chest. Since Hector trained with Michael, he didn’t even try a head shot. Each pass was the exact same as the last, so Michael won with 6 lances to 3.
Round 7 was the final round. Gerrard beat David 2 to 1, as did Johnathan beat Phillip. Hector unhorsed Gavin, and then there was one last match to go.
Aaron looked at Michael across the arena. Aaron had 5 wins and Michael had 6, so if Aaron won, they would have a tiebreaker round for the winner and he could win the throne to give back to Will. But Michael was so skilled. Aaron knew how to knock someone off his horse, but Michael was not one to fall. Aaron knew he couldn’t make the head shots as consistently as Michael. He was not dreadfully confident that he could win, but he knew he had to do his best.
The flag waved the start of the first pass. Aaron aimed for Michael’s helmet and each knight broke his lance on the helm of the other. Two lances to two. On the second pass, Aaron aimed low and directly so his lance wouldn’t break and he might have enough force to knock Michael off his horse. Michael broke his lance on Aaron’s chest, while Aaron hit hard and true. Michael fell back, but strained to maintain his position on the horse and barely managed. Since Aaron didn’t break his lance, they were at 3 lances to 2.
Aaron guessed Michael would be able to break his lance without too much difficulty, so his only chance to win was to unhorse Michael. On the third pass, again Aaron aimed low and directly. Michael was prepared, breaking a lance on Aaron’s head and glancing Aaron’s lance upwards. Aaron’s lance broke, and with some difficulty, Michael stayed on his horse. Michael won with 5 lances to 3.
With seven victories, Michael was the undisputed tournament champion. “Well done, Sir Michael,” Will congratulated with a little less enthusiasm than he hoped to fake. He called to the crowd, “My people, we have our tournament champion!” The crowd cheered. Will continued, “As it is written into law, tomorrow morning Sir Michael and I will face each other in a kingly task, previously set by our late king. Neither of us know what this task is as I can assure you, on my honor, that the king never even hinted to me what this task was to be. We will all find out together, right now, as our herald reads the words of the king.”
The crowd went quiet as the herald opened a scroll and began to read, “There are many attributes this lovely land needs in its king. A king must be brave, honest, kind, engaging, noble, chivalrous, loving, creative, and teachable. To test the true value of those competing for the throne, one must go among the people and learn. The task required of the next king will be to go among the people for the space of one month. No supplies may be brought or sent from the castle or other kingdoms; all items must be earned in the villages by work or generosity.
“In the month’s time, the competitors must each learn a new trade, such as blacksmithing, tanning, or hunting. This may not be a skill said competitor has already trained in. Prince William is a silversmith, so he will not be permitted to count the new trade as silver or goldsmithing. With this new skill, the competitor will create an item worthy of a king, by his own hands and as his own idea, though aid in this is acceptable.
“At the end of the month, the castle sages, George, Henry, and Janet, will see these items and read statements of their value; they will judge these items without knowing who created them. The item that most fits the kingship will be selected and the man who created it will be crowned king. Each competitor may bring a personal guard as witness and protection. The competitors may not interact during this month. If either man dies or is rendered incapable to rule, even by accident, the task will be forfeit, and the kingship will be assigned by the enclosed inheritance. Remember that we choose a leader for his mind and heart, not only for his strength. Go to, create, and may the best man win.”
The crowd spent a moment in silence, as this was not what they were expecting. Will and Michael stood, turned to each other, bowed, and the crowd cheered. “The task will begin in the morning,” the herald announced.
Another feast and ball were held that night. Will and Kat danced to every tune played and charged Edmund with the task of watching the young Elizabeth, which task he accepted graciously. That night, Will held Kat close, “I will miss you while I’m gone, Katrina.”
She stroked his cheek, “I will miss you as well, my love. I will write to you and visit you though; that is allowed.”
He smiled, “I would enjoy that very much.”
“Take care of yourself. It was very nice of your father to make it so they can’t attack you, but they can sabotage in other ways.”
“I’m aware of that. I will be on my guard, and Duncan will not let his eyes off you.”
“I’m so glad you chose to take Edmund; he will take good care of you.”
“He is an incredible bodyguard,” Will agreed. “Where should I even begin?”
Kat thought for a moment, “The village north of the castle, nearer to the mountains. They are known for their craftsmanship. I’m sure someone will take you in; the prince is quite beloved in our kingdom.”
“Do we know any of the villagers there?”
“That’s actually Caroline, the cook’s, home.”
Will smiled, “Well then, the village certainly has some talent. I recall doing some business with the tinker from that village. Thomas, I believe his name was. I shall pay him a visit. But enough of the task, my next month will center around that. What can I give you to help you through this next month?”
She hugged him tightly, “I don’t need anything; I just need you. Please stay safe and win; that is what you can do for me.”
He turned her head and kissed her slowly. She smiled, “Kissing you keeps getting better and better.”
He embraced her, paused, and turned to his sleeping child, “I have a present for you, my treasure.” He pulled out of his pouch a small silver spoon with beautiful and intricate patterns. It looked like a rose design, but Kat knew better that it was gardenia. He did most of his silversmith patterns with gardenias, and this one was masterfully crafted. He turned the spoon over to see the name Elizabeth engraved on the back and Kat beamed. The spoon was placed on Lizzy’s open hands, which immediately closed over it as she pulled it close.
“She loves it, I’m sure,” Kat smiled.
He turned to her, “I made something for you to match.” He pulled out a bracelet which looked like the handle of a larger spoon bent into the shape of her wrist. The patterns were identical.
Kat glowed, “Oh Will, it is beautiful! I love it so much! Thank you, it will be so nice to match my angel’s most valuable possession.” She reached up and kissed him. “My cherished companion, I love you so much!”
“I love you too, my Gardenia.”
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