Legiehn completes a round and more is learned about Belkin and his presence in the Tourney. Kas shows particular favoritism. I attached a "violence" warning because, after all, the whole point ...
Legiehn straightened, re-sheathing the knife in its rightful place against his left thigh and held out a hand to help his opponent up. "Good fight," he said as he hoisted the man up. The man only nodded in return and saw to the task of brushing dirt and grass from those places he could reach.
He was going to offer his personal with those places that were out of reach, but the judge felt the need to intrude, calling out to them as he stepped over the rope that acted as separation between their battle and the audience. "Congratulations, Minister-err... Champion." He fished a small pamphlet and pen from his pockets and scribbled something down on a blank page. "This victory will advance you to the next round. Tomorrow morning on the lower grounds, west quarter. Judge Aberney will oversee your first match."
The sheet was torn out and handed over to Legiehn-rather unceremoniously, he thought. "I look forward to it." Legiehn inclined his head regally as he accepted it.
"Do not be late. Lateness results in-"
"Automatic forfeit and loss," Legiehn waved the warning off, earning himself a glare from the judge and a slight chuckle from his opponent. "I shall be as punctual as the clock in the North Tower." Which had actually stopped working ages ago, but that was certainly a minor detail. So far as Legiehn was concerned anyway. He winked at the other fighter who smiled shyly and looked away.
"Champion Riddick, you have two more matches remaining." The judge obviously was not amused, as evidenced by the way he now spoke through gritted teeth, the dark glare he wore as he pulled a loose sheet-this one already containing some writing-from a different pocket. "I stress, however, that one more loss will remove you from the Tourney." Legiehn often wondered if lacking a sense of humor was prerequisite for becoming a judge. All the ones he met up with him certainly proved the theory.
"Yessir," Riddick executed a rather formal bow and moved forward slightly to accept the slip from the judge.
"Your next match will be in four marks, upper grounds, South quarter. Judge Madlren will oversee you." The paper was practically thrown at Riddick, who scrambled to catch it before it could fly into the dust as the judge pivoted on his heel and stalked away.
Riddick was not very successful in his pursuit, and Legiehn managed to snatch the slip from his reach. Stepping in closer, Legiehn leaned in, dropping the paper into Riddick's hand, making certain to let his fingers brush the inside of the fighter's wrist. "I shall hope for your victory. I look very much forward to meeting with you again in another round." He winked again, grinning when Riddick colored slightly, then stepped back and strode away.
"You keep flirting with the champions, Leg, and I shall have to tell your lady wife."
Legiehn laughed and stepped over the rope and out of the ring. "You do that, I guarantee Callista will be down here before you could finish your tattle to aid me in my endeavors. Anything she can do to ensure I keep my... oh how did she put it last? Ah yes, my 'filthy, grubby paws off her person'."
His cousin only shook his head. "So you're still getting along quite well, then."
"A more perfect couple never was so much as conceived much less brought to being. But enough of such nonsense." Legiehn drew a hand across his face, wiping the sweat from his brow. "You have made it through, then."
"And your precious Guardian?"
"His fourth match is set to start any moment now." Kas turned and started along the path between the ring Legiehn had just been in and across from it. "It's just a bit farther up this way."
"Fourth?" He could not keep the surprise from his voice as he fell into step beside Kas. "Surely your personal guard has not already lost one battle."
"Obviously, he has. But do not concern yourself over much." Kas sent him that look that warned him against any further judgmental comment. "His second opponent was Minister Callum's champion-Rourk."
"I see." Legiehn nodded. Rourk was a tough man to get around. He was not especially skilled-hell, Legiehn would be surprised and impressed if the brute could even tell the difference between a table knife and hunting knife-but he was big, built like wall of rock. The few matches Legiehn had fought against him had resulted in a lot of bruising in a lot of places.
Which had made the fights to follow for several rounds a lot more interesting. Legiehn winced at the memory. "I would hope he is sufficiently recovered from the experience to press on." He would have to be. The rules demanded that every fight in a round be fought in the same day. Special considerations could be made, but only under the most extreme conditions. What those conditions were, any man had a clue about, but it hardly mattered as such an occurrence was rare.
So far as the preliminaries went, a round consisted of five matches. A champion had to win three of them to advance to the next round, and he never faced the same opponent twice within a round. On any given day, a champion could fight as few as three or as many as five matches. It was tiring and trying, and the only chance for rest came once a round was officially over for that champion. A four-hour stretch between matches such as champion Riddick had just gotten was unusual. Many of the veterans knew to aim for victories in the first three.
It had been attempted a couple times in the past to rewrite the rules to allow for more time between matches, carry a single round over a number of days, but with as many champions as there always were to start, it was not conceivable. To hold a match a day-even if they still held several simultaneous matches a day-would cause the Tourney to last well beyond the three weeks it normally took.
Besides, the Tourney was about more than just skill and strength. A man had to rely on more than those to make it through however many rounds it took to whittle the number of champions to fifty. Endurance, adaptability, perseverance. This may only be the preliminaries, but they were hardly easy.
Though certainly some of them made it look easy.
"You'd be surprised. Bel can take a hit better than you. I think Rourk just caught him off guard." Kas shrugged. "You know how it is the first time through. Especially in the preliminaries."
"You're king of the world until you realize you're not."
"Bel hardly has your ego, though he is quite confident in his ability. With good reason, too. Watch and see." They pushed their way through a crush of people, coming out at a line of rope that bordered yet another fighting ring. For the preliminary rounds, the whole of his courtyard as well as the perimeter along both sides of the outer wall had been divided into a grid of thirty-five fighting rings, all the same size. They were spaced enough apart to provide both a clear path all around and space for observers to stop and watch without hindering those on the move.
Come the master rounds, the grid would be torn down and the courtyard divided into two-though sometimes it was three-larger areas. That was when the real show would begin. With the smaller areas, most champions did not bother pulling out their flashier techniques. Only under extreme circumstances would they even consider it. The preliminaries were for weeding out the less serious and less skilled. The masters were when the battles really began.
And when the crowds started to gather. Though by the looks of it, Belkin had drawn in rather a large one already. "Well..." Legiehn turned his head to take in what he could of the people packed in to watch the fight. "I see your Belkin has already made himself quite popular."
Kas made an inelegant sound. "It's been like this all day. Wherever he goes. They're curious about his sponsorship. His prowess in the ring is second thought and added bonus." He cast a significantly annoyed look at the people pressing in around them, then turned his attention to the men fighting in the ring.
Belkin's opponent rushed him, swinging up with his sword in a wide arc. Belkin leapt back, dropping down and rolling to the right, kicking one leg out in a sweep that brought the other down. "He fights weaponless." Legiehn brows rose in surprise. "Impressive."
"He's skilled in several techniques," oh, the pride in that voice damn near made Legiehn roll his eyes-though it also made him smile. "This is his favorite." Kas smirked. "Though you should see him when he wears his gloves."
"Gloves." The audience released a collective gasp of awe as Belkin delivered a high kick that knocked the sword from his opponent's hands. It mostly disguised the disbelief in his voice.
"Once you have seen it, you won't think it nearly so mundane, I promise."
Somehow the man managed to grab his sword back, and he swung out wildly, pushing Belkin back to the very edge of the ring, but Belkin did not stay pinned for long. This time he jumped, narrowly avoiding a downward sweep of the sword, and landed in a crouch just to the left of his opponent.
The swordsman roared and swung down in a fury. Belkin caught his arms at the wrists, blocking the motion before it could be completed, and kicked out again, leaving the man to fall face down in the dirt. The audience cheered and applauded and made a raucous noise.
Kas made another indistinguishable sound. "You wouldn't know that only hours before they were petitioning for his expulsion from the Tourney."
"Has there been any further talk of that?"
"Not that I've heard." Kas shook his head. "But then... it's rather hard to hear right now." He sounded annoyed certainly, but that was definitely a smile threatening to break the stern frown.
As they had predicted, the announcement that Tryvane had sent along a representative had met with quite the stirrings of attention. And some protest, although, as an official prefecture of the regency, there was no valid way Tryvane could actually be forbidden from the Tourney.
It was hardly unusual for citizens of Tryvane to participate. There was always at least a small handful who entered their names every year. But they usually fought under the auspices of their families or towns or companies. Tryvane itself tended to remain aloof and uninvolved.
Bordered as it was by the Alniac Sea on three sides, Tryvane devoted much of its attentions to the sea and the trade routes open to it. Their ports were always bustling and busy, their streets packed with merchants and foreign travelers. The customs and traditions of several nations had mixed and meshed over the years since the trade routes were opened, the result of which was a prefecture that was practically a foreign country itself, hardly recognizable as being under the same regency as those around it.
This in turn had led to suspicions amongst the other Ministers and even among some Regents, as to their loyalty to the regency. Those closest to their borders cut off much of their communications and dealings with Tryvane, doing so only when it was absolutely necessary. It was too different and out of step, not to be trusted. In response to the animosity it faced, Tryvane turned even more reclusive.
Legiehn could only imagine the talks that had gone into convincing Minister Levin to sponsor Guardian Belkin. Or even the circumstances that had led to such talks at all. Though, knowing Kas, getting Tryvane into the Tourney was probably a project he had been working on for years. Belkin obviously being the key the finally turned the lock.
"They certainly do not seem to mind much, anymore." Though, judging by the conspicuous absence of the Minister or some other representative beyond Belkin, Legiehn would surmise Tryvane still had very little interest in the affair. "You really will have to share your story at some point, Cousin. It is far to intriguing not to be spoken of."
Kas raised an eyebrow. "How do you know it is intriguing?"
"You are Regent. You are intriguing by default." Legiehn gestured vaguely in a direction he assumed to be Belkin's general location. "Belkin is obviously a citizen of Tryvane, representing them in the Tourney for the first time in years, and he is Guardian. He is saturated in intrigue. Together, the two of you are dripping, practically oozing with intrigue."
"Just because you say so, it does not make it so. Now if you are finished? I like to watch him fight." He used that Regent tone he used when making some decree or other, and Legiehn wondered why he had any thought that it could possibly work on him. He always ignored those decrees.
He had learned, though, to pay close attention to-and be wary of-that particular look that only seemed to accompany decrees given specifically to him. So Legiehn dropped it-for the time being-and commenced to watch. He would get the full story later. Eventually.