The Guild – Chapter 31 – Andrei

Ceph’s mood is still dark, despite Kaitlyn’s apology. She’s not the best at admitting her faults, but maybe I’m the only one that knows that. I look over at Kaitlyn, talking to Eli about something. I see him chuckle and I wish I could hear what they were saying. Instead, I try to distract Ceph with a question of my own to get his mind off things. I tap him on the shoulder to get his attention.

He looks up at me without moving his head.

“Umm, why don’t we do some training of our own?” I ask, hoping he’ll take the bait.

He doesn’t respond right away, still staring at Eli and Kaitlyn by the water. He stares at them, unblinking until he nods with a longing look toward the two. It’s strange, the way he looks at them, or is it just Eli? I’m not sure. I wouldn’t want to jump to conclusions.

We walk along the tree line away from the others. The lapping water soothes the tension that seems to comes off Ceph in waves.

“I’m sorry if I have offended your girlfriend,” He says. “She is talented and strong and I admire her for that. I only wanted her to teach mine how to be more familiar with his fire.”

I look up from the sandy beach as he speaks, he’s shaken up and his guard is down. “You mean Eli?” I say.

I watch as his face turns a shade of red. “Y-yes,” he stammers.

I chuckle, “It’s ok. I understand.” His jaw clenches and I see he’s at a loss for words. “Kaitlyn is good at what she does, she’s good at a lot of things, actually, but she’s usually soft-spoken and doesn’t speak up. Even with me. To be honest, we only just started dating,” I explain. I still can’t believe it’s only been maybe two or three weeks since we met. So much has happened in such a short time. I can’t wrap my head around it.

“You’ve only just met? You are able to talk sense into her very well. I commend you for that. Fire is hard to handle. When Elias and I first met, we didn’t get along well, until…” he trails off. “Well, until we got to know each other better,” he finishes.

“You guys almost act like brothers sometimes or best friends. It’s great! Sort of like how my roommate, Kaede and I were, before I moved to the Guild,” I compare.

He chuckles and stops when we reach a rocky section of the beach. Ceph bends down and picks up a rock from the beach, rolling it over in his hands. “Time, it can be harsh on some, and kind to others, but knowing how to use that to your advantage can help you overcome most hardships. As time mages, we can manipulate time and see others times as if it were part of our own. We are less likely to be defined by our original time because of our ability. We must learn to see time objectively. Although the world around us ages, the people in it rarely do so. They often make the same mistakes, forgetting those of the past and ridiculing those who are different,” he says, staring at the stone.

His words are deep, I still wonder what he had to endure to learn that. I feel like I’m taking the easy way out.

“Have you thought about your block? Have you been meditating?” he asks, dropping the stone in a clatter.

“I’ve tried, honestly, but… It seems I still cannot let go. The tick is gone and I’m worried as hell,” worried is an understatement. It’s been eating away at my brain for the past few days, hindering my sleep at times. I seem to only forget it when I’m training for the tournament, losing myself in the drills or when I’m sleeping with Kat. I have this anxious feeling in my gut and I get a pang in my chest. I’ve never felt so alone, even surrounded by friends like Ceph and Kaitlyn.

“Hmm,” he ponders, rubbing his chin. “Well, if you are unable to perform magic, perhaps I can still show you until you are again able to. I want you to try this one day. Just like we can speed up the time of an object, we can slow down the passage of time on an object or space around us. Watch closely.” He swipes his hand in front of him and I don’t see anything, at first. Suddenly the sounds around us slow and the water on the end of the beach slows as it heads for the rocky beach.

The little waves slowly creep towards us, like waves of syrup or molasses. The water outside of the affected area continues to shift and pulse at regular time. I notice the air next, filled with dust shifting slowly around us like that found in an abandoned dusty farm building on a breezeless day. The movement of air also feels slower, lightly brushing up against my arm, hardly noticeable but for the slight buffeting, I feel against the hairs on my arms.

“You’ve created a time bubble?” I ask in disbelief.

“Yes. This is a circumference of space where the time is slower. Anything entering it is slower than regular time, including ourselves. It will feel normal to us. You might notice your pulse is also slower,” he points out.

I focus on the beating of my heart and freeze. “That’s freaky!” I say. It’s almost like I have no pulse at all.

“To people on the outside, it might appear as if we are not moving at all. Time to them looks different than to us within the bubble. This is different than speeding up your time to make you move faster. That is easier, more an impulse move. Where, in a dire situation, slowing down the time is just as helpful, if not more so, as it confuses the enemy into thinking you are not moving when in reality you’ve given yourself more time to think and react. Not to mention, once they enter the space they are at a disadvantage because their actions will slow down. In a sense, it is like we have moved faster by slowing down our own time because we can set ourselves to e\anticipate their reactions as they enter our time-space.”

“I see,” it seems it would be quite a useful skill. Especially in combat. “How do you invoke it?”

He smiles, faintly. “You must desire it to slow down, focus on the ticks, the movements and pull them back from moving forward at the regular steady beat. With practice, you can affect a larger space. It can be taxing, though, to slow too much space. I wish I could have you practice now, but it seems you are still unable to,” he comments regretfully.

I hang my head in shame. I’m hung up on protecting Kaitlyn that I can’t seem to let myself use magic. What a waste of a trip to the past.

“The tournament is tomorrow,” I hear Ceph say, calling me out of my thoughts.

“Yes. I think I’m ready,” I say, holding up a fist.

He smiles warmly. “Good. Eli and I will be there to watch. We may accompany Kaitlyn, though she might not want to sit next to me.”

“Thanks! I want to prove to her I am capable of winning the tournament and be her knight. I want to give her the winning flag.” I don’t know why it excites me so much, but I guess part of the reason is, back in this time, winning for the lady was part of the game and giving her that ribbon was a gesture of your feelings for her. “I want to see her smile when I pass it to her.” I find myself saying out loud.

He laughs aloud. “That’s quite the goal, you’ll have to win every match in order to do that, even against King Arthur, who is known to compete in his own tournaments. He has magnificent skill with a blade, be warned,” he says.

“Well, I may not have much experience with the blades of this time, but when I went to France in the 17th Century, I was one of the Musketeers!” I say excitedly.

Ceph’s eyes widen slightly, he must know about them then. “I have heard of them. They are revered for their skill with the blade too. Well, maybe you are a good match. The blades are different but the skills transferable. I wish you luck. At least I can vouch that you cannot cheat on anyone with your magic,” he grins.

I frown in response, though. “I wish it was there. Even if I wouldn’t use it in the tournament, It would be a comfort to know I had it at my disposal.”

“It is tempting to use, and easy to forget your morals while in combat, though it’s good to hear you say that. Well, you need your rest before the big day. Let’s head into town and grab some mead, shall we?” He invites, releasing time.

~*~

I wake up in a panic, nearly jumping out of bed. I look around my room, yes, my room, and realize it’s the tournament day. My head is a little foggy from the night of drinking mead with Ceph and the other tavern-goers. I don’t remember returning to my room last night either. I dash to the window to gauge the time, worried that I’m late. I look out over the grounds and sigh in relief, the sun is still only rising. I wash my face in the basin and change out of my sweaty clothes.

I throw on a clean tunic I find at the end of my bed. Though wrinkly, it’s better than yesterdays shirt. I run my fingers through my hair as the door opens and a servant walks in with a tray of breakfast.

“My lord, your breakfast,” He says, placing it on the table with barely a sound. I feel all jittery with anticipation as I sit at the table. I eat much to quickly and by the time I’m done, another servant has arrived to take me to the preparation tent.

“My lord, you’re armour and equipment are ready in the tent on the grounds. When you are ready, I can take you down to the grounds to prepare,” He offers with a bow.

I thank him for the notice, but there’s something I wish to do before I head down. I tell him I’ll be right back as I dash down the hall and stop at Kaitlyn’s door. I raise my hand to knock, pausing before I make contact. Would she be up? There is still a couple of hours before the tournament ceremony begins. I hesitate, thinking to turn back when I hear a pair of voices from inside. I can’t make out what they’re saying.

I sigh in relief and knock on the door. The voices stop and I announce my presence. “Kaitlyn, ummm, it’s Andrei. May I come in?” I ask, nervously.

The door opens, revealing a slightly pudgy, round-faced blonde girl. At first, I’m shocked, thinking Kaitlyn gained weight overnight. Then I spot Kat in the back sitting at the vanity, hair half braided and sigh in relief.

“Umm, may I speak to Kaitlyn please?” I ask the servant girl. Servants still make me nervous. I don’t like that they can know everything that’s going on.

“Of course, my lord,” The girl bows as she opens the door wider, stepping to the side to let me in.

I walk in, approaching Kaitlyn. I kneel beside her chair and smile, resting my hand on her arm. “Good morning M’lady. Did you sleep well?” I ask.

She smirks coyly. “It was a little lonely, I’ll admit. How about you? Seems you had quite a night,” She nods to the girl at the door. The servant leaves, closing the door behind her.

I chuckle half-heartedly. “Yea, I don’t remember much of that. Some pre-tournament celebration I guess.” I shrug. “I wanted to see you before I head off to the grounds, for good luck!” I say, stretching up to kiss her lips.

She presses her palm against my cheek as she returns the kiss. “Try not to get killed out there. Remember what I said about vengeance,” she teases.

I pull away from her in mock shock. “Me? Killed? Never. What did you say about vengeance? I might have forgotten that lecture,” I tease back, wrapping my hands around hers and rubbing it gently. I lace my fingers between hers.

“I said,” she twirls a lock of my hair with her free hand, “that I would have to burn this whole kingdom down… and I’m a little worried that I just might be able to too,” she muses. “Besides, then I’d be stuck here.”

“Oh, that…” I remember with a frown. “Well, if it came down to a death match, I supposed I would be allowed to cheat then wouldn’t I?” I smile half-heartedly, hoping it doesn’t show her that I couldn’t possibly cheat with my block. I haven’t really spoken to her about it… yet.

Her expression darkens and she looks at me with sad eyes. “Could you, really?”

I look at her, giving her my most confident smile. I’m not ready to tell her yet. Maybe after the tournament. “I wouldn’t leave you stranded here alone,” I tell her. “I would cheat if it looked like someone might kill me. But I doubt there’s a knight in this kingdom that could. I’m the Great Andrei!” I shout, standing up and holding my arms at my waist like a grand statue. “Best swordsman to ever live in the…” I count the centuries on my fingers, “next fifteen centuries!” I grin like Zack Effron, flashing her my teeth. Hide the worry, Andrei. Hide the worry.

She stares up at me, her face unreadable. She sighs, turning to the mirror. “I hope you’re right. I’ll be watching.”

I drop my arms. “You don’t need to worry, Kat. I’m going to win this thing, and I’m going to be the knight to give you that ribbon. You’ll see,” I smile. I hate that I have to run, but I know it’s time. “I’ll see you in the stands?” I ask, stepping towards the door.

“Good luck,” she smiles, waving.

I wave back, leaving her room. My servant waits outside to take me down to the grounds. “Ok, I’m ready now.”

“Yes, my lord,” he leads me outside to a green tent. A chill wind blows through the tournament grounds, fluttering the tent flaps as it passes through. I wrap my arms around myself to keep out the cold. Maybe the armour will help to block the wind.

He draws the flap back and motions for me to enter. The Inside is much warmer than outside and I see the armour laid out on a table. Another servant waits inside, ready to assist in the dressing. It takes a good thirty minutes to completely assemble the armour. Once I’m ready, I step out of the tent and follow my servant to the presentation grounds. We weave through the tents of the various other knights of the realm and I feel a ball of excitement form in my gut as I anticipate the fight.

We turn a corner and I stop suddenly in my tracks. I notice Kaitlyn, red hair braided into a tight bun and a simple but beautiful dress, not bulky like the other ladies I see walking about the grounds, and without a shawl. I see others watching her with wide eyes, turning to talk as they pass. It’s surprising to see, considering it’s late November, and cold out. The cloudy sky looks like it could break open at any moment into a flurry of snow. But they don’t know that she has a natural heat to keep her warm. I smile, deciding I will show her the armour.

I clank over to her, my servant frantically dashes to my side as I turn away from him. I go to call her name when I notice her attention on another approaching her. I stop and watch, not recognizing the man that steps up to her. He wears fine grey clothing, decorated at the cuffs and collar with lace. He’s tall, nearly six feet maybe, and his hair is long and white. He places a firm hand on her shoulder in a familiar manner and I suddenly tense, wanting to push him away from her. Why would she let another touch her so… friendly? I stop myself in my thought tracks. When did I get so possessive of her?

She appears to be annoyed until he speaks and I see her eyes widen in shock and recognition. Does she know this weird looking man? I frown beneath my armour, anger stewing in my chest. I approach with vigor, glaring at the mans hand in disgust.

“Excuse me,” I seeth in my armour, reaching an armoured hand out to grab him, “but I do believe it’s not customary to lay hands upon another knights maiden. Am I mistaken?” I ask, placing my hand on his and pulling it away.

He turns to face me with a smile, long white hair framing his long, angular face. I study him hard until I notice his eyes, a brilliant silver colour, look down at me with intrigue. His smile splits into a grin. I’m put off by the familiar expression. Who is this guy?

“My mistake,” he bows slightly. “You must be Andrei,” he says.

I frown, letting go of his hand and trying to put mine on my hips. “Yea, I am. And you are?” I ask, dropping the proper language.

Kaitlyn coughs, her face red. “Andrei, this is Aevraig… I met him yesterday… morning… with Merlin.” Someone forgot to mention anything about this to me…

“Albeit,” the man adds, “My appearance was somewhat… different at the time.”

“Yesterday?” I ask. “You met with this man yesterday? I thought you said you met with a dragon?” I say offensively.

She stares at me with a blank face it’s as if she’s trying to process her response. I glare back, still lost. The moment stretches uncomfortably, and I can’t figure out why she won’t answer my question.

She looks at the servant behind me. “Would you excuse us for a moment?” My servant bobs his head and takes several steps away until he is out of earshot.

The strange man leans down toward Kaitlyn, his silver gaze fixed on me with amusement, “A little slow on the uptake, isn’t he?”

Kat sighs, “Andrei, this is Aevraig,” she repeats. “Aevraig is the dragon I met yesterday.”

I scrunch my nose with a frown. “So… You’re telling me this man… is a dragon?” I look at him and raise a skeptical eyebrow.

The man claps, his face lighting up. “Ah! The tin can has a brain after all!”

“Shut up,” Kat snaps at him as my own eyes glare daggers. “You’re not nearly as intimidating as a human.”

I don’t like him… insulting my intelligence like that. “Just because I’ve never seen a dragon in human form before doesn’t mean I’m dumb, lizard,” I fume in the amour.

The man bows his head. “Apologies. Kaitlyn speaks highly of you. Forgive me if I’m a little biased about your appearance. I admit I don’t spend much time getting to know many knights before I eat them,” he smiles pleasantly. Kaitlyn rolls her eyes.

“Well then, you’ll be happy to know I don’t plan on skewering you today or any day,” I say from beneath my helm, though I do want to poke him and see if, in human form, he’s any less vulnerable than in his dragon form.

Just then, a trumpet blares over the grounds, summing the knights to the ceremony. I give the dragon man one last look before smiling at Kat. “I can’t wait for you to see the tournament,” I grin happily. “Just you watch. I’m gonna win this thing.” I give her my signature wink before turning and locating my servant who rushes in front of me to lead me to the ceremony.

He stops before a large wooden stand which has been erected for the purpose of today’s tournament. In the centre of the stands in a raised dais with two thrones and a slightly smaller chair on either side. I see the Queen, Guinevere already standing before her throne, beside her, Arthur’s chair sits empty. Before I have time to see more, my servant gestures for me to enter the grounds and stand in the line with the rest of the gathering knights for introductions. I trot into the arena, stopping at the end of the row.

When we’re all lined up I gaze straight ahead, watching as the dais is filled. I now see Merlin to the right of the King’s throne, and beside him sits Ceph and Eli. On Guinevere’s left is Kaitlyn, and next to her, the dragon in human form, Aevraig. Once everyone is seated and the stands filled with spectators dressed in their thick winter cloaks the trumpets fanfare and the King steps up to the dais, seemingly from out of nowhere.

“Lords, ladies, and citizens from across the kingdom! I welcome you to this tournament, in honor of my very special guests.” He gestures to his right and then left. “The festivities begin now! Let us show them what our great kingdom has to offer!”

To be honest, I feel a little deflated after his speech, It wasn’t very inspiring and he seems to have forgotten I exist… I follow the crowd of knights out of the arena to stand before a board where the painted flags of each knight have been hung, displaying the proceedings of the tournament.

I’m a little confused when I look up at the board as I don’t know what flag represents me until my servant points at a painted flag with an hourglass on it. I look at it for a moment, then smile. It suits me, being a time mage and all. I realize I’m up first and my adrenaline starts to pump.

The speaker announces the other knight first, calling him into the arena.

“From the North, Sir Gladsworth!! He shouts and the people cheer wildly. The knight, Sir Gladsworth, steps into the arena and lifts an arm to wave to the people. He’s tall, and his armour gleams, despite the lack of sun. As the crowd settles down I wait eagerly for my introduction.

“And from a faraway land, visiting Camelot for the first time, Sir Hanganu!” He shouts, mispronouncing my last name without a care. The crowd is less enthusiastic about a knight they don’t know, which kind of hurts my pride, but I hope to change that. I smile at the crowds, waving my hand enthusiastically. We are motioned to take out stances as I lower my visor.

“Let the match begin!” The speaker announces.

We take our stances, swords raised at the ready.

A gong is sounded and Sir Gladsworth rushes at me. He is strong, forcing me back a couple of steps as I block his sword. So this will be a match of strength then? I brace my sword with my hand, forcing his sword away and prepare to spin around, out of the defense.

I hear him curse beneath his visor as I complete the maneuver and wave at the audience, all before he manages to turn around to face me. I am a sucker for flare.

I dodge his next blow and land a tap on his shoulder before he can re-adjust his stance to block me. I’m faster than he anticipated, which is to my advantage. The match doesn’t last much longer. I land two more blows to his back and take the chance to glance up at Kat smirking in the stands before I land a final blow to his shoulder, causing him to drop his sword in the dirt and grab his armour where I struck hard.

“And the winner is, Hanganu!!” The announcer shouts over the surprised cheers of the crowd. Sir Gladsworth exits the arena with a pout of dissatisfaction.

The tournament continues, pairs of knights from both trees of contestants duel in an epic display of skill and endurance. I can’t help but admire each knight for his trademark style in the arena. Soon enough, in the second round of fighting, I find myself paired with a more dexterous knight from the Eastern lands of Camelot. It’s nearly midday but the sun is hidden behind a thick layer of clouds. Despite the cold though, I find myself sweating as I parry the Eastern knight and try to fend off his blows.

He dances around me in an elaborate display, like those birds Caroline used to talk about after class. I can’t recall their names, but it was pretty cool that a bird would dance for its mate. I imagine myself as, a little to my dismay, the female contestant to this knight bird, testing his reach and attempting to knock him off balance. I play hard to get, not letting him beat me, he won’t win my heart today.

I land a striking blow to his knee, knocking off his knee guard with a triumphant shout! He growls at me from his visor and tries to swipe his sword at my own knee – a payback move. I anticipate the action though and leap out of the way just in time. I take him out with a final swing, making contact with his breastplate. The announcer calls the match and the crowd cheers joyously! They seem to like the new kid! I chuckle, leaving the arena as the next pair line up.

My servant runs up to me as I watch the next knight jab the others visor clean off in a flourishing display. He pulls me away and motions for me to follow.

“Where are you taking me? I want to see the match?”

“Sir, it’s the noon hour. Your next match isn’t for another six rounds. You should eat something now,” he gestures to a food tent laden with food.

“Alright, can’t argue with that.” He helps me out of my upper armour and I munch on some food while watching the board of knights still in the match. A squire moves the painted shields around, making the new matches for each round. The board is clearing up as the defeated knights leave the tournament. My own shield crawls upwards on the board towards the finals.

I watch him move a new shield to the rightmost tree of contestants, opposite mine. It has an interesting design, and I watch, intrigued as it’s placed for a match in the early afternoon. The shield bears a painted bird wreathed in flames. A Phoenix. It’s a common legend, although I wasn’t aware that it dated as far back as Camelot. I take a mental note to research that when I get home.

When my lunch if done, I make my way back to the arena and continue to watch. As I approached the field I see a short knight facing off with another. I glance at the board and realize it’s the knight with the firebird. I watch, entranced with the shorter knights movements. They are precise and accurate, not wasting any effort on flare. He fights well. I smile, hoping to face off with him in the finals. He clips the other knight several times, dodging his blows with skill.

When he wins, he neither regards the crowd nor lifts his visor. He approaches my end of the arena and I give him a smile. “Wow, amazing footwork out there. Congratulations on the win!” I extend a hand to shake but he ignores me, walking right past without removing his helm.

“Well, that’s rude,” I mutter under my breath. I watch him trot off to the tents. Well, looks like I’ll just have to make him acknowledge me when I face him in the ring. I take it as a personal challenge to meet him with the sword.

The pairings continue for another hour before I’m called again to the ring. It’s the semifinal round, to determine who will be the final contenders. It looks like I’m paired with the King himself. I scratch my head before putting on my helmet. Man, this kind of sucks. How am I going to face that firebird knight if I have to take down the King first? The crowd, I don’t think will be pleased.

I set the helmet into place and jog off to the arena. Time to show Kaytlin what I’m made of. The announcer calls Arthur Pendragon first, to my disappointment. The crowd erupts into cheers, the spectators waving pennants with the Pendragon stitched onto them. My hands suddenly feel hot. He calls me next and the crowd’s reaction diminishes significantly. I don’t even have their favour. I spot a few peasant girls who look to be my age pressed against the stands, waving wildly to me. At least I have their attention. I lift my visor and give them a wink.

Arthur and I take our stances. We raise our swords and before I can even take a full breath, he charges towards me. I sidestep, but he matches my movements easily. Our swords clang as I deflect a strike. I watch his movements closely, trying to find his weaknesses, but Arthur, I have to admit, is a pretty solid knight.

He manages to deceive me, scoring a hit on my elbow. He pulls away, throwing up his arms to the crowd as they roar with excitement. He points his fingers at Kaitlyn and I see her cover her face with her hand. Jerk.

I barely give him time to turn around before I’m onto him with my blade. We dance in the dirt, following the motions I learned from fencing. I feel like I’m in France again, one with the blade. My arm-work seems to be overwhelming for his defense and I score a hit on his wrist. Now’s my chance to look for Kaitlyn’s reaction.

I look up to the dais, lifting my visor to see her more clearly. She smiles sweetly, clapping. I give her my best wink before preparing to face Arthur again, but he’s already moving and I manage to block him just in time before he can knock me to the ground. I spin around, knee in the dirt, scoring another hit on his shin guard as I roll out of the way. The crowd boos but I don’t care.

Arthur and I are able to prevent another hit on each other for much longer than any of the other knights so far. Another twenty minutes go by before he scores on my left side, which I accidentally left wide open. I’m beginning to tire, and I see that he too is starting to lag. As the duel wares on, I start to wonder if I should take this match or not. I only need one more hit, but the crowd doesn’t seem to have me in their favours. Is it selfish of me to want to win this for Kaitlyn? To prove I can win without cheating? I’m sure I’ll have other opportunities to show her I don’t need my magic to win. Heck, this whole time I haven’t had it, and I seem to be winning.

I parry, barely distracted as I glance to Kaitlyn in the stands. She’s leaning forward, seemingly entranced. Her fiery hair even tied back in that bun, blazes bright. I really wish I could show her I’m strong enough to protect her.

I feel a pang in my heart and suddenly Ceph’s words come into my head.

As a Guardian, and as a woman of the future, she is more than capable of holding her own.’

Maybe I’ve been looking at this from the wrong perspective. When I first met Kaitlyn, she was strong, and talented in combat, but socially inept. Now, she’s more confident and headstrong. Maybe it’s because we’ve been able to show her she doesn’t need… him anymore. I don’t really know, but the result is the same. She can probably protect herself better than I ever could. Proving it here isn’t going to help anything, it would just anger the crowds and destroy Arthur’s image in history as the greatest knight ever to exist, other than Lancelot.

“You are unconsciously stopping time…” Cephs words echo in my helmet.

Not only am I stopping time, I forgot… I can’t change time either. This is a jump to a historical period. I can’t win this tournament. Never in history has Arthur been beaten by another knight from a faraway realm. This would be too much of a time alteration. It could cause serious implications to history and our own future. I’ve let myself get carried away in proving my capabilities, and I’ve forgotten the joy of jumping into the past and witnessing history in its authentic state.

If I win this match, I will change history… I can’t do that.

I look up once more and see Kaitlyn watching intently. I frown behind my visor, as I force Arthur’s sword back and knock it from his grip. He barely manages to catch the hilt as I bring my own down. I see the action in slow motion, and I know if I continue to drop my blade, his won’t block it in time, and I will win. The stands fall silent as my sword arches downwards on a path towards Arthur’s shoulder. I know what I have to do, I just hate to do it, thanks to my own pride.

I shift my ankle, pushing my swing slightly off balance and my sword misses his shoulder, driving the tip into the dirt and giving him enough time to swing his sword up and land the final point on my breastplate.

The crowd jumps and cheers as I curse softly under my helmet. I’ll get over it… someday. Arthur stands up and holds his arms high. The people love him, even though it’s clear to me he’s the biggest player in all history.

I saunter out of the arena, looking up to Kaitlyn as I leave. I barely catch a glimpse of her as she stands up, rushing off the dais, her face serious. Have I made her angry? I don’t see how… I’ll have to ask when she comes down to see me. I walk towards my servants as they rush to me and help remove my gear. My hair hangs in wet ringlets and the air is freezing on my damp skin. They give me a dry shirt to change into. As I pull the clean shirt over my head I see the short knight walk briskly by me and into the arena. This ought to be good.

I make my way to the observation area where the other knights who’ve lost are gathered, watching with anticipation. There’s a half hour resting period between the final matches. When the time is up, the announcer calls Arthur, who takes a lap around the arena, waving and blowing kisses to his fans. The short knight is called by the name of Sir Halsey; interesting name. He walks into the arena with mixed reactions from the crowd but doesn’t even look up. He walks to the centre, draws his sword, and plants the tip in the dirt at his feet. His hands rest on the pommel and he seems to stare at Arthur, waiting for him to finish his show.

As the signal is given, Sir Halsey charges Arthur, moving impressively fast considering the weight of the armor. Arthur stumbles back with a shocked stance, blocking the first sword blow with his sheath still hanging off the end of his blade. Halsey swings again, and again, driving Arthur back several more steps. He appears to let up for a moment, and the King relaxes. The shorter knight ducks low, spinning with his blade, knocking the feet right out from under Arthur. He stands over the King, knocking his sword out of his hands, and then with the tip of his blade, he flicks the King’s helmet off. I lean over the railing in shock at what I’m seeing. Does this knight not have any regard for the fact that he’s a King?

I watch on as Arthur’s expression turns from one of shock to genuine fear as the knight steps over him, one foot firmly on either side of his chest. The short knight raises his arms, blade in both hands, pointed down at the King’s exposed face. I throw caution to the wind, grabbing a nearby knights sword and leap the fence. I rush in, knees sliding in the dirt to defend the King, shouting/

“Stop!!!!” I yell, bracing my blade with both hands as the knight’s sword collides with mine. I look up into the knight’s helmet, through the visor and glimpse a pair of bright orange eyes. “Kaitlyn?” I whisper with surprise. It can’t be…

 

By Kayla West

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