By Svein Kåre Gunnarson
The fair was bustling with life. Laughter, shouts and music filled the air. Merchants sold their finest fabrics and best weapons, probably for a higher price than usual as there were lots of people here, many from the nobility; This was the event of the year!
The knights were enjoying the attention they got from the young maidens before the jousting started. Or most of them, at least. Some were keeping for themselves, preparing themselves as the customs in their realms instructed, and at such a large fair as this, those were very different for each. Only one thing they had in common: To have earned their place here by being victorious in local tournaments.
It had been some hard and tough fights for most of the knights, many had scars to witness about this and showed them proudly to the maidens. They may exaggerate their tales a bit, but didn't hide the fact that it had been some tough fights and jousting to come this far. All but one, a young knight with the face of a cherub. At least, that was what he told himself; It had been easy to win the tournament in the realm he lived - the competition had posed no problem at all. At first he was getting lots of admiring glances where he stood in his bright, shining armour, but his popularity wore thin under his constant bragging. The maidens started to avoid him, the men looked at him with contempt, believing he couldn't have met any knights with experience at all. The knight didn't care, he intended to show them all that he would win this tournament as easy as he said.
The jousting was about to begin, and the audience gathered around the arena, a long field with a long, low fence in the middle. The knights would ride against each other on each side of the fence, lances lowered to knock the opponent off the horse. At the moment, the two first knights mounted their horses and got their lances from their squires, honoured to be the ones to open the tournament.
Cheering, shouts and ecstatic screams from the audience motivated the different knights as they were going the rounds against each other, they didn't care much who was winning, as long as they had fun. They just cheered a bit more when a knight from their own realm was on the arena. Then, the knight with the cherub face, or Tycho as he was called, entered the arena. The crowd stopped shouting for a brief moment as they discovered him, but then started cheering at his opponent. All of them hoped sincerely that he would knock Tycho off the horse, showing him where he belonged.
The two knights charged towards each other, aiming the lances carefully. Hitting wrong, and they would either lose, or be disqualified for dangerous hits. The cheers grew more intense as they got closer to each other, and then, impact. One of the knight seemed to sit in the air as the horse disappeared under him, before he landed on the ground with a crash. The crowd were stunned and silent as the knight looked around, confused. Tycho was riding back towards him and stopped. "Child's play," he said, with a disgusting smile.
And so the tournament continued, with Tycho winning each of his duels as easy as he had said he would, much to the grief of the audience. Only one time he had seemed shaken, curiously enough this had been against a young boy that had just turned old enough to be a knight, with almost no experience at all. People started to wonder why, as he seemed to beat experience knights as easy as if they were offering no resistance at all. Naturally, there were other knights that hadn't lost, too, but none of them had won this easy. But they didn't worry too much about it, he would probably be defeated by that old fox, or the big, squarely built knight. Or even that strange, black knight that never spoke nor showed his face. There were still lots of chances left.
But Tycho beat them all, one by one, until he was in the finale. The people seemed to accept the inevitable - if he only hadn't been such a bragging type, or made them feel so uneasy. The opponent was the knight in black, but when that big, musculous knight had been defeated, what chances had this one? He might be mysterious, but too small to stand a chance.
Obviously Tycho was of this opinion, too. His taunting was met with silence from his opponent, so he looked at the Lady who would give him the price instead. Oh, she might want to dismiss him straight after, but he knew how he would convince her otherwise. He smiled to himself as he lowered his visor.
Again, the familiar scene appeared: Two knights riding towards each other, a loud crash, and one of the knights found himself on the ground, confused. Several seconds passed in silence before the crowd discovered what had happened: It was Tycho who found himself on the ground this time.
Tycho couldn't believe it himself. "Who are you?" he shouted as he slowly got up on his legs. "No man can beat me! I paid."
"That's right." Tycho started at the voice, and stared as the black knight started to remove the helmet. Long, blonde hair flowed down the shoulders - the black knight was a woman! Tycho opened and closed his mouth like a fish on land, unable to say anything.
"But then again, I'm no man," she continued. "And there's always a price to pay. I paid with many hours of training and hard work. What price did you pay?"
The words took time to sink in, but when they did, Tycho paled.
The female knight turned towards the astonished crowd and waved, and they answered with a cheer louder than anything as she started walking towards the Lady, leaving a panic-stricken Tycho behind her. This year, the price would be hers. Her name, Monica, would be written in the annals together with the previous winners.