The next day was pretty standard, I arrived at the stands alongside the winners from yesterday and the nobles, mostly knights though there was the heir to House Umber, the ‘Small Jon’, Jon Umber. I had seen the Great Jon in the stands and I can see how he got his title, he looks like a giant bear, though Small Jon is a bit undeserving, considering he is nearly as big as his father. He is about 210 cm with a powerful frame and large greatsword.
Fortunately, I wasn’t chosen to fight him the first day, I won my first fights against a knight and 2 mercs, earning me a place in the semi-finals. I had a bit of fame in this tournament as the youngest person here. Even Jon Umber was 20 years old, while I was only 16 and could fight as well as most knights.
I was unable to gain any advantages in the proper melee. It is done on a point system, same as the one in BushBurn, first to five, the only difference is that we use real weapons, blunted though, and our own armour. I didn’t have the chance to find or get used to proper armour, so i just used some leather that I made and reused Ethan’s old chainmail. I won my first 2 fights with a 5 to 1 advantage though the 3rd was tough, at 5 to 4, with him leading at 3 to 2 at one point. Luckily, I got used to his movements then and pulled ahead at the end. Needless to say, the fights are a lot harder than I thought, it seemed that I didn’t give the fighters of this world enough credit. While they don’t have qi, they still train their sword skills, and the qi I have would only put me at middling level, giving me strength to probably match someone with Eddard Starks build in an arm wrestle, but it’s still nothing amazing in this world. The people in this tournament are elite fighters, but nowhere near the best in Westeros, not even among the best in the North probably.
After my matches in the morning I was free for the rest of the day, though instead of going back to the inn, I went to the medical tent to buy some ointments. I might have won my fights but I received more than my fair share of hits, bruises were covering my body and I was limping slightly due to a hit to my right leg. At the tent, after applying the salves and letting them set for a bit, I heard Arya and Jon come over, along with another boy slightly younger than Arya. Brutus, who had previously been lying on the floor outside covering his nose to avoid the smell of medicine, upon seeing the new arrivals immediately went up to bother them, giving the new boy a particularly long sniff, much to his delight.
While Arya and the new boy were playing with Brutus, Jon came to me and greeted me. “Hello there again, that was a decent match against Ser Thomas, he was considered a contender in this contest, a veteran of Pyke. Though, I must say your preliminaries were probably the most eye-grabbing of your matches.” He gives a knowing smile. “Me and Arya decided to bring Bran, our brother, when we spotted you sitting over here by the tent. I hope you don’t mind?”
“Not at all, it’s good to talk with someone, I will likely be sitting here a while and chatting distracts from the pain.” I gesture towards the leg. “That does look quite painful, will you be better by tomorrow?” Arya who had paused from stroking Brutus, asked me with concern.
I give a smirk. “Not likely, in fact I might withdraw tomorrow depending how I feel.” “WHAT?” Arya asks in disbelief, her brothers mirroring her shock. It seems they were picturing the image of me limping to the field, giving it my all and either emerging victorious by some narrow margin, or falling broken and spent, having fought the good fight but ultimately losing.
“Why would you withdraw, you already beat Ser Thomas, he was one of the best in this tournament, the others aren’t much better?” Jon asks me, his siblings nodding beside him looking for my answer.
“Have you ever heard the story of the dog and the bone?” they shake their heads, Brutus lifts his head at bone, and I pat him down to stop his anticipation. “There was once a dog who had a bone, he was carrying it home one day, when he comes across a pond, where he sees his reflection. He thinks it is another dog and that he is holding a large bone, larger than his. The dog gets greedy and bites the water to try and steal the other dog’s bone, and not only does he fail, but he drops his bone into the water in the attempt. Do you see the point?” I explain with a tale I heard in my last life, though it seems only Jon has guessed my point.
“Tomorrow I will participate in the finals for the melee and the archery. I have confidence I could win the archery, but the melee is out of my reach unless a miracle happens, like I recover the full extent of my abilities and one of my opponents gets disqualified. Like you said the other competitors aren’t any better than Thomas, however they are relatively uninjured and even if I could beat one, I would not be able to beat 2. In fact if I tried I would likely just worsen my injury, or worse, injure my arms or hands, and be unable to compete in the archery afterwards, losing my bone. If the archery was first and I could secure victory first, then I might try the melee as I have little to lose.” I explain the metaphor to them, a look of comprehension appearing on Brans face, though Arya still seems unconvinced.
“Even if you can’t win, by fighting you could still show your skills.” She points out
“That is true, for a warrior this is the prime opportunity to show their skills, making it easier to get work, or in my case be knighted. I will admit that I am tempted, but it is just not worth the cost.” I deny her.
“Is money the only thing important to you?” Arya asks, disappointment in her voice.
“Of course not.” I tell them to their surprise. “It’s just that the benefits of another fight are outweighed by the prize for winning the archery. If I cared only about the money I wouldn’t bother with this tournament, I would just become a thief and rob the winners, but that would mean giving up my pride and honour. Living a life full of wealth but haunted by the deeds of my crimes is just not worth it. At the same time, I won’t let pride and honour get in the way of that which matters to me more, like my life or my family.” She frowns staring at me, this seems to be a bit too complicated for a child, so I change the subject.
“Arya, you want to be a knight in the future, like I do? Well, we are similar in that we were both born with disadvantages in that case. You were born a girl, you don’t get the same training as your brothers. You are smaller and weigh less. Likewise, I was born a peasant, I need to work for my food and to look after my family, leaving less time for training.” That got here attention, she mentioned yesterday that it was her dream to be like the Visenya Targaryen and Nymeria Martell, 2 of the most famous and accomplished female fighters in the last 300 years.
“We have it harder than others, our journey will be long and hard. If we want to accomplish our goals, we don’t rush into everything, gaining injuries that will delay us. We must be efficient and know what is worth fighting for and what can be exchanged.” Arya was entranced, as was Bran and even Jon was starting to get a look in his eyes. I need to make sure they understand both parts of the lesson. If they think efficiency is everything and neglect the other part they could go down the wrong road. I grab Arya and turn her to her brothers. “Remember though, while it is alright to trade what you can for gain, you must draw the line and never cross it. That which you decide as priceless, even if the gods were to offer you a dragon, a kingdom, even immortality, you must refuse if the cost is them.” She looks at her brothers and then at me. I see the understanding in her, strong determination for one so young.
After we all calm down, I offer to buy them a sweet-roll at the stands, then we part ways.