The young knight radiated painful levels of keenness.
Christina, yes that Christina, sighed inaudibly and said, ”Very well. I will give you space in my pavilion and we shall ride together in the tourney. What was your name again?”
Her name was Liliane, and she had lived a lifetime in a month: first slaying the Demon of Cotterston, then knighted by the Good Queen Elisandra herself, and now, to be mentored by the Queen’s most puissant knight…
”We shall discuss strategy, and she will show me the best way to hold a lance, then she will compliment me on my broadsword technique!” thought Liliane. ”And perhaps, perhaps I shall best her in the grand melee, and as ransom she will offer me the Helm of Incendrius, and I will refuse to accept it, and we shall become the best, the very best of friends…”
Christina watched the young knight, smiled, shook her head.
“Let us prepare.”
They oiled the straps on their vambraces. They sharpened their swords. They polished their cuirasses, reinforced their shields, rolled their chain mail in barrels with a handful of sand. Then ritually, their squires armed and armoured them.
They were resplendent. They set forth.
Later: bloodied, muddied, sweaty and sodden, the knights retired after the first day of jousts and challenges.
Outside the tent smiled a great many young men, determined to show their appreciation of the valourous knights. Liliane giggled as she sat to remove her greaves. Christina, veteran of a hundred tourneys, winked knowingly back.
Liliane was emboldened to ask, ”What will you, um, wh- what are your plans for the evening?”
Christina replied, ”I’m going to take a nap.”
”But… you won the competition today! There are… groupies outside the tent! and Her Majesty’s feast is this night!”
”Oh, I shall definitely attend the feast and drink a cup to Her Majesty’s health. To do so I shall skip the cooing and froing, which is a pity. But since I want to win the grand mêlée tomorrow, I must rest now. Do you not feel tired?”
Liliane admitted that she felt, you know, a leetle bit tired after nine hours of combat and manoeuvring while wearing half a ton of metal in the hot sun.
”But… this a special occasion. And it’s only two days… I don’t want to miss a second of it! I can skip the nap, I’ll be fine.”
”Do as you wish,” said Christina. ”I will not say I told you so.”
Liliane polished her armour, sharpened her broadsword, and left in a cloud of perfume and pomade and pride. Christina settled down on her pallet and thought as she stretched.
She thought, You young fool. So diligent about taking care of your equipment, so lax about taking care of yourself. As if your body was not your most important weapon. As if your mind wasn’t your most important shield.
I could tell you. I could say, ”A magic sword in a weak hand is not just useless. It is dangerous.” I could say, ”The more a sword parries, the more often it must be sharpened.”
But you cannot see past the excitement and you would not listen, young fool. So tomorrow I shall hammer you into the ground in the grand mêlée. Perhaps you will learn then.
Christina rolled dreaming into the blankets, seeing past glories and glories soon to come.
It is five years later and sleep is a pleasant memory.
The wind scythes through the ravine, observing a valiant last stand. The knights of the Good Queen Elisandra are hopelessly outnumbered by the skeletal army of the Dread Necromancer Zod.
The fell and fearsome Christina has stood in the narrowest part of the ravine, holding the pass with sword and blazing eye, for three days and three nights. The bard is at the back, whistling and taking notes.
There is a lull amongst the undead ranks, as the disassembled troops grope to find their skulls and collarbones. Christina plants her sword in the pounded dust and waits for them to come again.
And then she is remorselessly pulled away to sit on a rock, sword replaced with stew, helm replaced with damp cloth. Liliane Traitors-foe, scarred and cynical and already more renowned than any knight before her, looms out of the sun and dust and offers a flagon of wine.
”Fine, sister knight,” growls Christina. ”A quick sup then I will be back to the lines. I thank you.”
The young knight, no longer so young, shakes her head.
”A leisurely meal, a long nap, confession from the archbishop, massage, and THEN you can return to the lines.”
”But… I wield the Sword of Adamant, against which none can stand!”
”But… there are none other who can push back the advance!”
”You are correct.”
”But… this army must be defeated, or our land will burn!”
”Therefore, I cannot rest!”
”We have barricades, and brave milkmaids with pikes to defend them. We have fire archers on the cliff walls. We will not advance, but we will hold while you sleep. Even if we would not, you still must sleep. A wise knight once taught me this.”
Christina rolls her eyes.
”That was tourney and play. This is disaster! We teeter on the edge of destruction. There is no time for… massages.”
”Your arms grow tired. Deny it.”
”Your mind grows dull. Deny it.”
”One more day of this and you will be less useful than the milkmaids. DENY IT.”
”BUT I MUST!” roars Christina. ”The Queen and the land must be defended!”
Liliane held her arm. ”Wise fool, we may need to hold this pass for weeks while the mages find a way to break the Dread Necromancer’s spell. Weeks! No matter how much we would wish to fight without rest, we are mortal flesh. We rest now to fight better tomorrow. We rest now in order to fight at all next week.”
There was nothing she could do in the face of that much sense. Christina found a hay bale and wrapped her cloak around herself.
She drifted off, as ever, seeing past glories and glories yet to come.
Looking for someone to rescue you from yourself? You should join The Provocateurs! All of the wisdom, with less of the contusions.