With Marcus out of the tournament I felt much more assured of victory, though that’s not to say I got cocky. There were a total of 64 people involved in the main tournament, peasants and nobles, with there being 2 rounds on the first 2 days and the finals on the fourth. From the preliminaries I saw the skill of the other peasants and there was nothing special, while Ser Koln was the only exceptional knight, and I was still sure I could beat him.
I didn’t dismiss anyone however, there were several new arrivals to the tournament, and just like I defeated Ser Thomas in my first tournament, I was an unknown fighter, while I don’t think there will be any other reincarnations in this tournament, the fact I have not figured how my own was possible means a repetition is always possible. Rather than someone like myself appearing it is more likely for a dark horse who was hiding their skills, which could either end in me being taken out unprepared, or injured meaning I lose the later match. Instead I treated every opponent like the finalist, used my superior reflexes and speed to counter strikes before going for a light tap to score the point. I avoided over committing or using my qi so I could be ready for a burst if they came at me with an unexpected move. In order to be fully committed to the melee I didn’t even sign up to the archery competition this time.
Fortunately, the first 2 matches were easy, I won with a score of 5 to 0 in them both, nothing flashy to the audiences disappointment, though they were happy with the second days match up. I was faced with Ser Koln in the 3rd round, the one before the semi-finals. Ser Koln and I were the favourites to win since Marcus was outed, and he was much more entertaining to watch. You might think that in a fast-paced duel based on a point system, someone who uses a bulky great sword would be disadvantaged, but that is only if you rely on points to win. If someone scores a hit on you, you have 4 more tries until you are out. But that only works if you can still fight after the first hit. Even blunted, being hit with 150cm of steel, wielded by a 200cm man, is enough to kill a man if it hits the wrong place and even if you block it, if you lack the strength then you will either lose your sword if you are lucky or break your fingers if not. Though deaths are rare, they most commonly happen due to people like Ser Koln use large weapons and accidently strike someone’s chest or head. It’s not malicious, he is just fighting with all his skill. His first opponent forfeited after 2 points, and his second didn’t even try to fight. Th audience was looking forward to our match, imagining they contest between speed and strength.
The second day I arrived at the stands to prepare for my fight. The Stark kids showed up to greet me, with a surprise guest of Marsal and another lad, younger than me, fit and steady gaze, though he looked slightly nervous in front of me. Marsal said his name was Nathan and was his nephew, he was a fan of mine and asked to greet me. Ispoketo him for a while before the match began, asking what his interests and hobbies are. I then entered the ring, across was Koln who nodded to me. I returned the nod, and we waited for the start.
The referee stood in the middle of us and addressed us to the audience. “Lords and Ladies, honoured guests, I welcome you to the 3rd round for the melee, this tournament is done in celebration of our Lord Stark’s eldest heir, Lord Robert Stark.” He indicates towards the Starks, the audience giving applause. This speech is done before all the matches that the Starks observe. “Our first contender is Ser Bradley Koln, chief knight of House Mormont of Bear Island, the man who led the defence against the Iron born raids 2 years ago!” Koln salutes the Starks as the audience applauds him.
2 years ago, one of the lesser houses from the Iron Islands launched a number of raids to Bear island, as they have for as long as anyone can remember. Bear island has been the most contested land between the North and Iron Islands for millennia. The ownership will swap hands every century or 2, the current owners, House Mormont, have had to fight them off for nearly 2 centuries now, with the constant fighting meaning they commonly send they’re women to fight when the men are away. The current head is Mage Mormont, though most call her ‘Mace’ due to her skill with a war mace. Her daughters are said to each be as fierce as her, with the rumours being that Mage is actually a spirit of Bear Island, with her daughters being the offspring of her and the bears local to the island.
“Our other contender is someone who has gained fame over the last 2 years, greatest archer in the North, the fierce hunter, Ben son of David of Oakbridge!” The referee introduces myself. Without titles he likely spent the last hour thinking of an appropriate nickname for me to rile up the crowd. It worked as especially among the commoners the mood was incredibly excitable. I bow as is required for a commoner addressing a Lord.
We ready our stance and prepare for the referee to call the start. We don’t wait long, for once he checks with the both of us that we are ready, he blows a small whistle made from antlers to signify the start. Koln charges me to begin with, launching a diagonal strike towards my shoulder. I get my sword in the way a manoeuvre the strike away from my body. Allowing my sword to slide along his I deliver a quick counter, striking his arms, before breaking off the confrontation.
“Arm, stop, point Ben.” the referee quickly calls the point informing us to pause and reset our position. The audience cheers, with Koln supporters calling for him to get his head in the game. Koln looks surprised at this outcome; my speed and strength were much better than he expected. Redirecting a sword is a lot harder than most would think, especially with a smaller weapon yourself. My blade is about half the weight and half the length of his, with him being larger and wearing thicker armour his momentum is astounding. The thing he didn’t realise is that I am basically all muscle, with fat minimized to the smallest degree, meaning my explosive power, even without qi, is only slightly less than his.
We reset and begin again, this time Koln is much more careful, rather than aim to finish this with a single blow, he uses the range of his sword to compensate for his lack of speed. I try to do a repeat of the last fight, look for an opening and dash in for a quick blow, but he’s ready for them. Although he is slower, he knows how to adjust his hands and shoulders to move the sword from a strike to a block in a smooth motion, cutting off my attack. One time he even managed to predict my movement and throw a punch towards my face. Just like the preliminaries attacking with other body parts is allowed but it will only count as a point if his weapon strikes me. With a burst of qi, I manage to lean back and avoid catching the worst of it, though it still connects with my helmet and throws my head back. I roll back with the blow, gaining distance before I stand up, mocking myself for such a foolish move.
It’s time to get serious. This time when Koln swings his sword, I neither block, parry or dodge. I swing my own sword directly at his blade, qi flowing throughout my body. His blade is sent back, seemingly against the laws of physics. In that opening I lunged forward, striking his helmet with a solid blow. The referee was slow to call the break this time, likely surprised by my strength, though I didn’t move to strike a second time. “Head, stop, 3 point, Ben” the referee finally called after a 3 second delay.
As we reset, Koln was clearly still dizzy, though he was given only 5 seconds to decide if he wanted to forfeit, then the fighting began again. Koln tried to fight defensively, he no longer swung at me, instead he used his sword at maximum range, keeping me at a distance while he tried to regain his balance. I don’t give him the option, I rush and attack from several directions, forcing him back again and again till he was at the edge of the ring. He was forced to attack or be forced out and lose anyway, which I took advantage to score another point on his arms. “Arm, stop, final point Ben, winner!” the referee reacts quickly this time, calling the match, followed by eruptions from the audience. It was an amazing match, even the Koln supporters cheered for me, there was no debate that I was the better fighter, only a few who lost money betting didn’t cheer. We returned to our supporting positions, listened to Eddard Stark complement our match, to which we both bowed. We shook hands and went our separate ways, Koln went to get his head looked at, it was bleeding slightly despite the helmet, while I went to find Brutus, who was already greeting the Stark kids.