Ben POV (day of finals)
I woke early today, stretched and warmed up before the melee that was in the morning. The archery would be after that and the joust would be in the afternoon, just like all the others. I told Nathan to check my armour and sword, making sure it was fitted properly, no scales placed awkwardly that would affect my movement. I will use scale armour instead of my hunting gear as throwing knives aren’t permitted in the melee.
My opponents today are Thoros of Myr, the red priest, in the melee and Varis, the heir of house Yronwood of the Dorne in the archery. I have scouted both competitors, they likely the same with me, and the melee is definitely my greatest concern. Archery is a given, while Varis is undoubtedly a great archer, he is nothing compared to me. I could have beaten him before breaking through and now I can out shoot him while standing on one leg. I won’t do that of course, while it would make a great tale and let me gain fame, it would also make me the enemy of a strong house by humiliating their heir. The melee on the other hand is going to be difficult.
While I have improved my close quarter ability and in terms of pure swordskillsThoros is about the same if not worse than Jaime, the problem is that flaming sword of his. Yes, a literal flaming sword. I heard stories about it before, but always assumed it was just the colouring or nickname from some battle or myth, but no, he literally sets the sword on fire. When I first saw it, I nearly shat my pants. It was during the semi-finals, Thoros was fighting Beric, Lord of House Dondarrion from the Stormlands. Apparently, he didn’t find any of the previous fighters worthy, because he set his sword on fire for the first time in the tourney. When I saw that my first thought was to surrender ahead of the match, second was to run from King’s Landing immediately. I had seen only one man do that before and it was in the previous life against a 3rd tier warrior.
Me and Brutus were both 3rd tier at the time, our elements were ice, Brutus could use a roar that freeze his surroundings, while I cast it on my arrows to create frozen bolts that could each destroy the trunk of a maple tree. Our opponent was the general of the neighbouring territory and we were at war for a mountain pass. If they got the pass then they would be able to invade our eastern borders. Fortunately, me and Brutus were both 3rd tier at the time and were guarding the pass.
The enemy had twice our numbers but we had the height and strategic position. With the range of my bow it didn’t matter if it was siege weapons, armoured infantry or longbowmen, none could reach our lines without losing either their leaders or enough soldiers that they were forced to retreat. With no other choice, the general charged himself, bearing the brunt of my assault to lead his men to the lines.
I ordered a preemptive strike before he could reach our defensive position, shattering our forces for the rest of his men to follow through. My rangers galloped past their right flank, peppering them with arrows, drawing them to attack us. While a company of pike men formed an angled line, forcing the cavalry to change direction towards the walls of the pass and away from our defences.
When they reached the wall, they were forced to stop, at which point my rangers that had run past them turned around to cut off their retreat and the pike men closed in around from the left, trapping them. Without momentum the cavalry had lost their greatest advantage. We then engaged the enemy, Brutus and I taking on their general. It was a tough fight, they were an elite unit and the general was strong. By the end I was exhausted and Brutus had several large wounds and burns that would take days to heal, even for his regenerating abilities.But we won, and losing their general caused the enemy to retreat and sign a ceasefire agreement, with their lord paying reparations for 5 years.
Now however, I and Brutus are at the beginning of 2nd and peak of 1st respectively, with it being just me fighting Thoros. ‘fuck that shit, I'm out’ I concluded. Good thing I decided to watch the rest of the match. I wanted to see if I could figure out why such a strong warrior was here, despite the rest of the competitors paling in comparison. The first clue I was mistaken was his speed. He was fast, for a human, and strong, and while his swordsmanship was incredible, but he was no-where 3rd tier. The second was that sword, the flaming blade was nothing compared to the generals. When he swung his sword, it acted as a whip burning down droves of men, when it clashed with steel it would melt, destroying the opponent’s weapon in just 2 or 3 strikes. Thoros’s flame stuck to the blade, and it was hot to be sure, but you would likely need to place it on top of another sword for a good minute to cut through.
His fight with Beric was a good fight, with Thoros emerging victorious, to the kings great pleasure. After asking around I found that the flame is the result of wildfire, not qi. Wildfire was an alchemical substance that was used primarily in war to burn enemy armies. It was invented by the Targaryen ancestors, though since their reign a number of organisations outside the Alchemist Guild has attained the knowledge to make it. The Red priests of Essos are apparently one of those organisations.
That made me feel much better, but thinking about it I would still have trouble in the finals. Thoros might not be as fast or strong as me, but he is a better swordsman, and this isn’t a fight to the death, rather they do it to either first blood or to surrender in the finals, I think it is to make a better show. I considered just using qi to strengthen myself from the outset and destroy him, but felt reluctant to do so. Thoros seems like a swell fellow and all these years of duels and tournaments have affected me in a way. If I use overwhelming qi rather than the sword skills I have trained over the years then it feels like cheating. This will probably be my last tournament in Westeros and ending it like this would be disappointing.
After considering for a while I resolve myself to go both ways. I will rely only on my superior body for the beginning and try to fight that way, but at the same time I will be ready to use qi at a moments notice to speed myself up. That will be avoid losing strikes or potentially dangerous strikes. I can use qi for a flashy finisher though. This will be considered giving face to the kings friend.
It seemed that the king met Thoros several years ago and was the winner of many tournaments, and participated in the kings wars. Due to their similar temperaments they would often drink together, to the High Septons displeasure. The primary religion in Westeros and Kings Landing is the belief in the Seven Sisters, and the association of the king with the priest of another religion has been a sore spot for them. The fact that he never stays for long and has never tried to convert the king, or anyone for that matter has been his saving grace.
Thoros is a veteran of many battles, same as me and he knows how to take every advantage of that sword. He will not only try to burn the person, but the flickering flames can be a distraction and reveal openings.
When it is time for the fight Nathan helps me put on my armour while Brutus walks beside me to the field. We walk through the crowd of commoners, separated by guards and rope, to the ring. I can hear calls of “Thoros” and “Red Priest” for my opponent, and “Baskerville” and “Beast” for me. Not sure how I feel about ’Beast’, definitely intimidating and strong, but makes me sound wild and impulsive. Oh well, I guess I should just be glad ‘Hound’ was already taken.
As I enter the ring, I spot Thoros, praying to his sword as he cleans it. We both bow as the King and Ned arrive, they take their seats as we are introduced, announcing our titles, honours and homeland we represent. The fact Thoros gets more cheers from Myr than I do from the North, shows how detached my land is from the capital, if a city across the Narrow Sea has more suppoters than one of the Seven Kingdoms. I had Nathan hand me a flask of water which I took a swig from before pouring the rest over my head. It won’t do much against burns but if my hair is wet at the very least it shouldn’t catch fire.
“In the name of House Baratheon, I command you 2 to get on with it!!” The king bellows good naturedly, and we start.
Thoros lit his sword on fire while I drew my own and we began to circle. The crowd has been split into those that are silent for fear of missing something and yelling at us to start. I oblige the second half.
A quick step inwards has my sword swinging down towards his neck, fast as a viper and with no warning. It’s not enough, Thoros gets his sword up and catches my blade on the guard. He uses that to swing my sword downwards and steps inwards, releasing his left hand and striking towards my face with his elbow. I not only duck under it but get my shoulder in and push him off and away.He has excellent reflexes and is more skilled at close combat than me, but my speed outmatches him easily.
We repeat the clash, me more than not the initiator, trying to overwhelm him with my superior speed and stamina, while Thoros will block with the minimal of movements, before countering with either a jab or thrust or even another punch or kick. This repeats 5 times before we retire.
We reform our stance as the audience cheers, not expecting to see such speed and varying fighting styles. It is clear that both me and Thoros are not duellists, we were warriors, those who would do anything to win, and rely on instincts more than patterns. Thoros is smiling at me and despite myself I smile back before leaping in for another go.
We repeat the same process for a number of times, when I make a rash move. I feint a swing and instead step to the right and crouch down, where I sweep my sword at his left leg from below. Thoros spins on his heel and blocks my strike with his leg brace. Not only that but he takes advantage of my position to strike my side. The flaming blade strikes the scales, sparks flying with several scales as well and bounces off, we both back off once more.
The crowd is hushed, knowing that the fight was very nearly decided there and then. The more martial spectators know that the end isn’t far off. I managed to twist my body so the blade would bounce of my scale, still sore though, but Thoros is worse off. The fast clashes have taken their toll. If you can’t tell by the sweat pouring down his face or rapid breaths how tired he is, then the blow to the leg should have.
I had made several similar strikes, though none so risky, and he would always step back rather than try to block it with his armour. He has received enough of my strikes to know how much power was behind them. Even though my sword hit armour and not skin, the force still travelled through and has hurt his leg. The only reason he let that happen was because he either couldn’t move in time, or he could but chose not to because he knew he couldn’t continue for long and had to risk injury to finish this fight, which he failed.
I was just about to begin the final assault when Thoros charged at me instead, taking the initiative. Before it was always me starting our altercations, he would whether them in the hope that I tired, exposing a weakness. I had recently broken through so he would have better luck trying to outrun a lion than outlast me. He likely realised both his leg and stamina wouldn’t last if he gave me control over the pace, instead risking a quick assault to throw me off. I parry the flaming blade, it getting especially close to my face, ash and sparks flashing in my face, throwing me off. That was then he made a decisive thrust towards my shoulder, a move that would undoubtedly break my armour and draw first blood, ending the fight. Just as planned.
In one fluid motion I twist to the side and swing down on his blade at the same time. The enormous blow exceeding what is humanly capable sends his blade flying, causing Thoros to stumble. I place my sword by his neck.
“Yield!” I demand, the stands silent, allowing my voice to carry across the courtyard.
Thoros pauses for a moment, then starts to laugh, “By the Light, I have seen the some of the best fighters in the world, from knights, khals and pit champions, but I swear by the god that that was the single fastest swing I have ever seen! Ser Baskerville, I’d like to get a drink with you, your treat of course.” Thoros holds his hands up in surrender, before holding one out to me.
I sheathe my sword and bow to him, “Thoros of Myr, that was one of the greatest fights in my life.” That’s the truth, even counting my previous life there was few times I would put myself in such a difficult situation. An archer has many advantages with not letting your enemy get close being one of them. “I would be honoured to join you for drinks and tales.” I shake his hand when I rise.
“HA HAHA, great match, I was so caught up I didn’t notice I spilt my wine, you will have to make up for that!” Robert bellowed with a loud voice, appearing happier than I have ever seen him. “I invite the both of you to the feast tonight, you will sit at my table, that’s a command from your king.” He adds on, showing he had perhaps drunk quite a bit of that wine before the match as well, or the stuff he’s drinking is much stronger than the stuff I am used to. Knowing the king’s reputation, it could be either.