Chapter 13: of past tourneys
“This is cool,” Nath said as used his head to look around, he would have likely spun in a circle to get a full 360-degree view but his fingers were currently interlaced with Ellie’s, and spinning himself around would have looked silly enough, let alone spinning her around with him. Truth to tell Horsburgh could hardly be called a city from a more modern perspective, which is something the more analytical voice in the back of his head was pointing out, but the more wondering side of his brain really didn't care, he was in what could be called a medieval town. A fantasy medieval town if the occasional deviant he saw walking around was anything to judge by. For every deviant he saw there were likely a hundred or more normal people, that wasn't quite the ratio Elle had told him about but it was likely that there were simply more people that were deviant that had decided to live in the city. After all, essence wasn’t cheap to buy and so the people who used it more often, I.E. the more affluent, were more likely to live in larger cities. He glanced over at Ellie and saw that she was fighting to hold back a laugh and raised an eyebrow at her. He prompted her but she simply shook her head before answering him.
“It is just odd, and somehow enduring, that you see things the way you do, I cannot count the number of times I have been to Horsburgh, let alone the number of times we have gone together, it just seems normal, average, but with you now, you point out little things, details that have faded into the monotony for me, and for a second I can almost see it, see things through this lens of newness that you have.” She shrugged and let her smile say the rest.
“This is sickening,” Jorona groaned behind them and Nath didn't even look back at the master at arms. “The sun has barely risen and the two of you are too much for me to bear at this early hour,”
“Ah, your just jealous,” Nath said calling back at the lone guard that accompanied them through the streets. He had tried to convince Jorona that there was no need to have guards here in town following their every move, but Jorona would have none of it. The only accommodation Nath had been able to get was to make it so that the entire company was not going to be trailing them through the streets and instead one man. It was a decent enough accommodation to be fair, but the fact that they needed one retainer, or more to the point, that they were not trusted enough to keep themselves out of stupid situations riled Nath. As such he had taken it upon himself to poke some fun at Jorona, it was only slightly mean truth to tell, as he did understand.
“Jealous? Of you two?” Jorona snorted. “You two love birds are the exact opposite of anything I would ever be jealous of,” he said in a gruff and yet still friendly tone of voice.
“You expect me to believe that your Mrs. wouldn't like to be out on a nice walk around town?” Nath asked, this time looking back at the man.
“Oh I am sure she would, but you would never catch the two of us causing tooth decay for anyone who had the unfortunate fate of being near us due to overwhelming sweetness, honestly Nath, it has gone well past the point of good taste and into the ruined the tea territory, it has become so oversaturated that I worry I might go into a diabetic coma from just being near the two of you.”
Ellie, who for the most part seemed to ignore the man like he wasn't there, perhaps it was all of that noble upbringing and whatnot, turned to look at the main with a raised eyebrow. “Now I know for a fact that that is not true, and it is not kind of you to keep Nath in the dark simply because he does not remember.” Jorona blushed, which was a first and a surprising one at that in Nath’s opinion. “Sir Jorona here,” she turned back to Nath and gave him a coy smile. “Is actually quite the romantic.”
“Jorona?” Nath asked skeptically, “We are talking about the same man right? Tallish, going a little bald, always sounds like his breakfast was granite pebbles and they are still stuck in his throat and what not?”
“Going Bald?!” Jorona choked out as he stepped a few steps closer in what was supposed to be a menacing movement but was somewhat undercut by the way his hand quivered as if he had to fight the urge to bring it up and feel his own scalp for signs of this apparent onset baldness. “Now listen here-”
“Oh yes,” Ellie said, fully ignoring Jorona and his accusatory pointing finger. “Quite the romantic, so much so that it has practically become a local legend at this point.”
“There was once a fair maiden that was so beautiful her mere presence was enough to draw every man out to come and see her, it got to be a problem really, all of those men leaving work simply to go stare at Miss Theresa when she went to fetch water, or go to the market or any other task that brought her our under the sun,” Ellie said laughing and Jorona closed his mouth and gave a sort of half agreeing shrug. “Every man unwed or unpromised, and unfortunately quite a few of those who did not fit into those categories wanted nothing more than to make her their own, and as such, it became a competition between these men to see who could win her affections, brothers turned against brothers, friends against friends, and rivalries devolved even further. ”
“That's, about right actually,” Jorona half shrugged.
“It got to be such an issue that a tourney was formed in order for the men to simply fight it out and impress her,”
“It wasn't formed for that, it was just the local tourney, but that is more or less what it morphed into,” Jorona said a wistful half-smile on his lips.
“Made for or not that was what it was, and I would be most pleased if you would allow me to do the telling, after all, you a biased party, and your input is not needed,” she said, and while the words were rough the smile on her face belayed them. Jorona held up his hands in surrender and Nath watched as Ellie’s cheeks dimpled as her smile widened. “As I was saying, there was a tourney held for Miss Theresa’s hand, and men from all around came to prove their honor and worth to the young woman, for three days and nights they fought, jousting, melees, archery, and feats of strength of arm and back, and at none of these did Theresa appear too impressed, rather she looked as though she wanted to be elsewhere.”
“Well, that was because-” Ellie held up one finger and Jorona’s mouth snapped shut with an audible click.
“As it so happens on the third and final day of the tourney she was interested, interested in the ranked general melee, and men rejoiced at having captured the fair maiden’s attentions finally. They fought hard, fought well, and for some strange reason her eyes were fixed on a next to unknown soldier’s son, of average height, decent build, and the most stunning golden mane that ever adorned a man’s head,” Nath had to glance back at Jorona this time, one eyebrow raised and the master at arms gave him a wolfish grin and simply shrugged. “The others seeing this grew angry and were crueler than they ought have been to the soldiers’ son. I would like to tell you that he won every fight, trounced every opponent, but that would be a lie, I can say the soldiers' son gave as good as he got, and despite the cruelty of his opponents he treated them all with the utmost of respect and courtesy as a proper man should,” Ellie smiled. “It is said that it was this, not the strength of arms, or the skill of blade that really captured Theresa’s attention, and when this soldier’s son’s handkerchief was so soiled with his sweat and blood that it could clean no more Miss Theresa took a knife and cut a section of her own dress' skirt and used it to wipe the soldiers' son’s face for him, and if I am not mistaken he still carries that boon, do you not?” she asked looking back at Jorona, who was smiling sheepishly but nodded, padding his left pocket out of which Nath could see the tip of what looked to be a bit of green cloth.
“Did this soldiers' son win the tourney?” he asked a smile of his own on his face.
“Oh heavens no,” Jorona laughed, “It damn well seemed like every man wanted to grind me into the dirt, and each and everyone tried their best, I believe I ended up placed twenty-second out of one hundred and twelve, not the best place to be sure, but I still won the prize, and my what a prize it is.”
“Ha,” the bark of laughter came out as a sort of cough from Nath’s throat, and it was like the first crack in a damn, it spread, and soon he found himself unable to hold back the torrent of laughter. Ellie and even the gruff-faced Jorona joined in, and the three of them must have looked like right idiots the way they stood there half bent over with laughter. When the currents of humor subsided Nath stood up straight and leaned his head back looking at the sky and drawing in deep breaths of air into his lungs in an attempt to stave off the incessant giggles that seemed to want to start up and risk another breach.
“Funny enough, that was how I met your father, at that tourney, after our fight he decided that I would make a useful member of his little group and thus we became quite pair, before I was stationed in Greviing, Theresa and I didn't come back to the area until a good time later, at that point John had married, and you and your brother had been born, it was good timing that, seeing as you were in need of training and I was in need of a job, what with my third child on the way,” he laughed. “Seems like a lifetime ago, that.” he let out a contented sigh, his hands resting on his hips.
“From what I hear the two of them still act like newlyweds,” Ellie said a smile on her lips.
“Hardly, we are much more comfortable with one another at this point than that,” Jorona laughed. “But that is beside the point, the truth of the matter was that I got quite thoroughly trounced,” he laughed. “Now, the past aside, let's talk about the present, where are we off to? We have just been wandering around doing literally nothing aside from looking, is there a destination you have in mind?”
“I know next to nothing about this city remember?” he asked with a chuckle, “I’ve just been wandering around, if either of you has any points of interest you would like to show me however I would be more than interested in seeing them.” Jorona and Ellie looked at each other.
“Market district?” he asked looking at her.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” she said nodding at him.
“Market district it is, follow me,” he said stepping forward and leading the way.