Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Monday, May 19, 2008

Part II: Journey to a Tourney - A Knight's Realistic Encounter

Sir Michael Devereux of Wexford, Ireland scanned the English surroundings. This wasn't his first tournament, and would hopefully prove not to be his last. His squire Fletch polished his armour, while the rest of his servants set up his tent.

Although the tournament games had yet to begin, the list fields were abuzz with knights training, squires running here and there. Roars of laughter could be heard from the crowds that watched all manners of entertainment.

His nerves were shot, or else he would have surely wandered the grounds to take his mind off the games ahead. He had to win.

Ah, what he wouldn’t do for a nice cold mug of ale and slice of sweet bread.

“Sir?” His newest squire Colin, peered at him.
“What is it?” Michael’s voice came out harsher than he intended it too.

“I hear there’s a boxing match about to being, mind if I go and have a look?” His voice was filled with desperation and short of having the poor boy begging on his knees Michael relented. He remembered his first tournament…what a thrill.

Hoping to appear that he was watching the lad run off, he scanned the crowds of nobles. Where was she? Had she come?

He’d been in love with Lady Elena since childhood. Her family had held the neighboring holding to Michael’s father. They played, and when they’d gotten older, he felt for sure he could court her…but she’d been whisked away to England to marry the conniving old-

He spotted her husband, Chauncey DeBurgh, Earl of Gloucester’s, flag flying above a set of tents. It’s bright yellow backing with red or, 3 chevronels, gules, waved proudly in the wind.

Sweat broke out on his forehead, dripping down the sides of his temples, and tickling his sensitive earlobes. But it wasn’t fear of the joust, or even a sword fight. It was trepidation at the thought of not being able to speak to her, make eye contact. Perhaps, if he were so lucky, even gain her favor for his upcoming competitions. It wasn't uncommon for a married lady to bestow courtly love and tokens upon favored knights.
But what had his blood jolting through his veins the most was, the winner of this tournament would be given the charge of Captain of the Guard by Gloucester. As a second son of a nobleman, this would be an honor to him.

If he were to win the tournament, he would be closer to her… Michael paced the grounds knowing he still had an hours worth of time before he needed to begin preparing for his first joust. And then he spotted her.

“Lady Elena,” he whispered.

A sheer gold hood covered part of her hair, but he’d know those wavy honey-hued locks anywhere. She turned towards him, the fairest beauty in all of Christendom.

Her mossy green eyes met his, but before he could approach her a strolling troubadour bounced in front of him and began reciting a ballad. Bystanders crowded around him, blocking his view of Elena, as well as keeping him from moving without having to cause a scene.

Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight

Fair lady Isabel sits in her bower sewing,
Aye as the gowans grow gay
There she heard an elf-knight blawing his horn.
The first morning in May

"If I had yon horn that I hear blawing,
An yon elf-knight to sleep in my bosom."
This maiden had scrcely these words spoken,
Till in at her window the elf-knight has luppen

"It's a very strange matter, fair maiden," said he,
"I canna blaw my horn but ye call on me.
"But will ye go to yon greenwood side?
If ye canna going, I will cause you to ride,"

He leapt on a horse, and she on another,
And they rode on the greenwood together.
"Light down, light down, lady Isabel," said he,
"We are come to the place where ye are to die."

"Hae mercy, hae mercy, kind sir, on me,
Till ance my dear father and mother I see.
"Seven king's-daughters here hae I slain,
And ye shall be the eight o them."

"O sit down a while, lay your head on my knee,
That we may hae some rest before I die."
She stroak'd him sae fast, the nearer he did creep,
Wi a sma charm she lulld him fast asleep.

Wi his ain sword-belt sae fast as she ban him
Wi his ain dag-durk sae sair as she dang him
"If seven king's-daughters here ye hae slain,
Lye ye here, a husband to them a'."


By the time the troubadour moved on and the crowd dispersed, Elena as nowhere to be seen. Just as well, he needed to prepare for his joust.

Locating Fletch they headed to his tent. One of his other squires, Colin was gathering his blunt tipped lances and broad-sword. It had only been recently that the earls along with the king had deemed that no other weapons could be used. He was now only allowed his three esquires to assist him, or he’d risk imprisonment. He didn’t fault the lords, as it had become quite common place with such large tournaments for massive fights to break out, as well as the raping and pillaging of nearby towns. He shuddered to think that the men he held in as much esteem as himself, who knew to follow the chivalry code, would dare to act so heinously. He was only glad he didn’t know any of the men personally.

Jon assisted his groom in readying Black, his warhorse, making sure his caparison was in place, the heraldry of the Devereux family showing on the fabric draped over his body. His chanfron was of superior quality and fit so well, that no cursory glance from the lance would injure his horses face.

“Jon, make sure Charles puts on the high back saddle and long spurs. Fletch, you’ll help me with my armour.” His squires nodded and hurried to do his bidding. He was all business now. Everything had to be perfect.

His armourer had done a spectacular job of outfitting him for the tournament. He’d convinced his father to purchase the new suit, as his father had much pride in him that he would indeed win the spot in Gloucester’s regiment. He’d worn it during training to let his body adjust to its weight and length. Michael had no fear that he would lose the armour and his horse today. No, he was confident he would win. The stakes were too high, and he'd trained for this day for nearly ten years.

Inside his tent, Michael began to mentally prepare for what lay ahead. He took deep even breaths as he undressed, letting his body relax, and gain total control. His anxiety over Lady Elena ebbed somewhat. Jon brought him his usual regiment of cold water to splash on his face. Then he took a bit of orange letting it wet his palette, refreshing his breath and mind.

Colin and Jon together helped him to don his leggings and gambeson. The quilted doublet was long and fitted, coming to mid thigh. The slits up the front and back would enable him to sit Black without interference. Next came his hauberk of chainmail, attached to it his mufflers. Michael flexed his hands letting the soothing metal of the mufflers ease into place. He slipped into his tunic that bore his family crest, a simple white background with a fes gules, in chief three torteaux.

Jon attached his cuisses to protect his thighs, while Fletch fitted his chainmail coif over his head, and his shoulder-plates. Colin easily put his vambraces on his lower arms, while lifting his feet for Jon, and slipping them inside his leather boots.

It was like a dance with his three esquires. All knew what to do, and moved with rhythm and grace until the task was complete.

“Your helm, sir,” Fletch said handing Michael his helmet. He hated to wear the darn thing. It enclosed his entire head and face. It’s length was so long it came nearly to his shoulders. Slits were made for his eyes, ears and mouth, but the whole thing threw him off his senses.

Grasping its cool metal in his hand, he mounted his destrier and headed for the lists. His destiny was almost in his grasp.

Michael boldly approached the covered stand where Lady Elena sat beside her loathsome husband. Her eyes flickered with excitement turning almost emerald in color, as he approached, and she nervously licked her lips. For a fleeting moment their gazes locked, until she broke the spell by glancing quickly at Gloucester. The old man seemed to be oblivious, until Michael stood in front of them.

“My lord.” He bowed his head in Gloucester’s direction, feeling all the more ashamed of his Irish burr. The English truly didn’t like to have him at their games, even though his bloodline was the same as theirs. His father had been given an earldom in Ireland, where he and his brothers and sisters were raised. He swept the sourness of the earl’s distaste from his mind and turned to the object of his affection.

“My lady.” He reached out and grasped the delicate hand she offered him. So light. He wished he could remove his mufflers and feel the silky smoothness of her skin against his own sword-wielding rough ones. He pressed his lips fleetingly to her skin, breathing in her essence. Lavender, honey, and orange, a fragrance he would cherish.

“Sir Devereux,” she whispered. Her face was a mask of serenity but her eyes nearly lit his soul aflame, such was the depth of their emotions.

"I'd be honored for a token, my lady." He held his breath, as he pulled away. Elena smiled at him, not saying a word. She took the sheer gold scarf from around her neck and tied it to the tip of his lance. With the feminine piece in place he bowed his head to her and headed for the starting point in the lists, trying to ignore the soaring in his heart.

Black pawed the ground, and snorted, challenging the charger at the other end of the list field. He seemed to say, “you may have been breed for stamina and agility, but with my superior size and strength my master will deliver a devastating blow to yours.” As if in answer, the charger raised its head and whinnied, followed by a loud snort.

The crowd laughed and shouted, their excitement rippling from one end to the other. “Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!” Michael looked once and then tuned them out.

He only half listened as Fletch shouted of his family heraldry, his strengths, his victories and then the other knight's squire shouted about him. He didn’t want to focus on that, instead he studied his opponent. He sat his horse well, his armor looked just like his. His size was impressive, but he was not nearly as muscular as himself. With the weight of Michael’s horse and the extra muscle weight he no doubt had on the other knight, he could easily throw him from his horse. All he had to do was-

It was time. His opponent immediately took off, charging towards him. Michael counted, one, two, three, and spurred Black forward. Thrusting his body forward, he leaned a little to the left and lifted his lance into place. As his opponent neared, he leaned back and then – WHAM! He thrust his body forward, the extra weight of he and his horse unseated the other knight, in a flash.

The crowd cheered, and his squires rushed to him, shouting and slapping each other on the backs.

“One down, thirteen to go.” There was no time to celebrate his victory, or that he’d just won the unconscious man’s armor and horse. He walked Black to the prone knight just to make sure he hadn’t killed him with the force of his blow. As he drew near he saw the heraldry of Warwick. A powerful man’s son. He gloated for a moment on that note.

The fallen knight lifted his head slightly and shouted, “Good tactics, my lord!”

Michael was impressed with the Warwick knight's show of chivalry. “Thank you, my lord, for allowing me to display my skill. I am equally impressed with your horsemanship.”

The subsequent jousts were quick and easy. Now he would only need to prove himself in the sword fights. His future was almost within his grasp.


Shannon Robinson said...

I love it Eliza!! More please - is this work finished yet? If not, you'd better get going! LOL!!

Eliza Knight said...

lol, not yet!! Still have a little more to go...But you'll be the first to know!!

Gerri said...

That was great, Eliza! I wanted to continue reading!

Eliza Knight said...

Thanks Gerri!

Holly Greenfield said...

Great excerpt, Eliza!

Eliza Knight said...

Thanks Holly!