[CANON RP Episode] The Great Tournament


#82

Misha looked confused, “Archery? Isn’t that a little…outdated? Never mind, sure I’ll ask.”

Misha went offside to speak with the city guard captain. He then returned with an answer. “The captain says that’ll be alright, although you’ll have to provide your own weapons. We’ll use hay-bales as targets.”

The crowd looked on with questioning looks as attendants started setting up hay bales in the middle of the Arena. What was so special about this fight?


#83

Down below, Danek waited with baited breath to as the cheers of the crowd rung and echoed in the shady, underground hall. He had been slightly terrified ever since he’d been selected for this. He was a fair fencer, sure, but he was surely one of the wackier of the lot. No, swords had never been his thing. Having been born in the Maruban mining village of Kirugrad he’d grown up with a father with a constant color of charcoal and a baker of a mother.

Danek’s father, who went by the same name as his firstborn son, parrished in a gas explosion, which tore asunder a large portion of the early mine in the area. His youth, which until that point had been spent with other boys out on the hills of the valley, was now in danger. To avoid the village life, he joined a hunting party and began bringing in money that way. Applying for servitude was merely to avoid the short life of a miner which he’d otherwise have been forced into by the Inheritance Act, because he’d enjoyed the hunter’s life very much.

As he sat there on his crate, overlooking the large crowded hall, a man came running in with a cone-shaped object in his hand. He patted it lightly and his voiced rung out around them; “Archers to the front! Archers!” A murmur began in the wake of the silence that erupted during the man’s words. “Archery? No way! They never said…” A handful people however, had taken to the words with enthusiasm, and were now moving ahead to the arched doorway where the man stood. Danek jumped down and followed them, hope surging in his chest, as he saw a way not to loose all the little dignity a miner’s boy possessed in front of half the greatest powers of the world.

Archers?” The man said without the cone, “Perfect, follow me!

The group followed the man up the corridor until they arrived just within the gate up to the arena, the cacophony of sound from ahead growing louder with every step. There they were halted by a pair of guards in light armor, who directed them off to a chamber off the corridor, where they each collected a quiver and a bow, as none of them had any with them, aside from a couple of lásemen. The green clad champions were waiting eagerly by the gates as the rest of the group returned, Danek in the lead. The bows weren’t bad, although Danek knew his preferences and it felt a little bit heavier than what he was used to. One of the guards stepped forward and grabbed him unceremoniously by the arm, shoving him to the front of the line, where he now stood side to side with one of the lásemen, who was just adjusting something on his elegant, dark bow.

Name, lad?” the guard asked.
Danek Littauer” Danek replied.
That won’t do now will it?” the guard coninued, “place of birth?
Ehm,” Danek said, a bit startled, “Kirugrad, sir, it’s a mining village south of…
Yeah, yeah, that’ll do!” the guard said, now a bit dismissively. He stepped back, pushed a few buttons on the wall and turned back to them.

Now, gentlemen! Listen up! Archery is by all means harder to use for dueling attractions. Yielding is hardly possible with an arrow in your forehead is it? No, the way this is going to work is the duelists will shoot arrows at four targets, one stationary and one mobile each on foot and on horseback.” A few groans issued behind Danek at these words. “We’re 16 duelists right now. That’s eight duels this round. Those who prove themselves victorious will return while the stands enjoy some more fencing, after which they will return for two more rounds, until only one remains.” He smirked at this last part.

I do wonder who’ll stay that long gentlemen, I sincerely do! Now good luck!

The gates opened, and the archers marched out onto a wave of cheering…


#84

Armed with the experience from their years of hunting, Virion and Meira found their initial duels simple as could be, hitting the targets dead centre time and again.
    However, upon reaching the semi-finals, Meira found herself matched against Danek of Maruba. The two were exactly matched, every shot perfect. For nearly an hour, they fired arrow after arrow at increasingly difficult tasks. Finally, irritated at how long the duel was taking, Misha took an arrow from each of their quivers. Thrusting them into the centre of two targets, he erected an elaborate rig at the far end of the arena and placed the targets upon it. They moved jerkily and unpredictably, at such great distance that even getting the arrows to fly that far was difficult.
    “All right,” he announced. “These will be the last targets. In the centre of each is one of your arrows. Your task is to split it.”
    The crowd drew in a collective breath. Mutters began to run throughout, calling the task impossible… “Quiet!” demanded the herald. Addressing the contestants once more, he said, “You will alternate shots. The one with the fewest attempts to split their arrow will proceed to the finals.”
    Meira breathed deeply. She’d travelled so far for this moment. Nocking an arrow, she drew the string back. Her target, far away at the other end of the arena, jerked and swayed, seemingly randomly, but her hunter’s eyes saw a pattern in the chaos. As it spun away from her, she fired her shot. The crowd gasped - she’d sent it much too early, the target was moving away from where the arrow was going. But she knew what they didn’t, and it suddenly jerked backwards, right into the path of her arrow. It hit dead centre, cleaving the target arrow in two.
    The crowd went wild, roaring and screaming. A seemingly impossible shot, and she’d made it the first time. She looked over at Virion, and both their grins ran ear to ear.
    Her celebrations were interrupted, however, by the shocked gasps of the crowd. Spinning around, she saw the targets pinned together by an arrow, running through the one she’d just shot and the one Misha had impaled in the target. Danek had split both arrows with a single shot.
    “Incredible as it seems, ladies and gentlemen,” Misha said, “we have here not one but two split arrows with one shot. I am pleased, therefore, to announce Danek of Maruba as the victor of this duel.”
    Meira was completely shocked. “How’s that fair, sir? I can split all three of those if you give me the chance!”
    “You both took your shots. You split one arrow, he split two. It’s obvious you both have the skill, but he has demonstrated more in this single shot and I am forced to rule impartially.”
    She went to argue more, but Virion came up beside her and said “We need to leave it, Meira. This isn’t how they should have decided it, but if we alienate all of the other countries here then we may threaten our diplomatic relationships in the future.”
    “That’s it, then?” she said bitterly. “Lose the tournament for the sake of maybe making friends?”
    “So it seems,” he said, “but not entirely lost yet. I had an easy match against a Danheimer. It was just your luck getting matched against Danek.”
    “Not my luck! We were told to split our arrow, not both, otherwise I could have done it!”
    “I know, I know,” he said, backtracking furiously. They were interrupted, however, by Misha.
    “And now we come to the finals of the archery!” he proclaimed. “We have Danek of Maruba” - the crowd gave a huge cheer - “and Virion of Lásenor!” Virion received less of an accolade, if only because his semifinal had been somewhat uneventful.
    The two stepped up to the line. History was about to be made.


#85

Vadim came up the stairs to the balcony, and whispered something in Valentina’s ear. Valentina gave him a doubtful look, she hadn’t even noticed that he had been gone till now. She listened to what he said, but she waved him away. “I’ll consider it.”

As the preparations for the archery final match began, Valentina stood up, and with a loud voice exclaimed,“ENOUGH! I’ve had it with this lengthy display of bravado! This is a tournament, not an archery convention! Finish this quickly and go on with the melee!”


#86

OOC: Episode will be held open to give @Kung and @ProfessorPekka a chance to wrap up their archery bout.


#87

A man came jogging down the side of the arena towards the two finalists, a lantern bobbing dangerously in his right hand, the sunset setting his ginger hair ablaze. “The queen wishes not to make the finals as lengthy as the semis, so you’ll do a single shot each,” he began as he reached the pair, “something close to impossibility, and whoever’s closest wins, fair? Not up for debate anyway! Your task is to hit a roklavian sparrow, with a blindfold.” He tossed two rough pieces of linen to the champions. “A what, sir?” the prince of Lásenor asked courteously. “It’s a bird, boy, the man said without hesitation. Freakishly fast bastard it is, the feathers are worth something I’ll tell you. Mostly they’re bred for sale, but we got two for you!

The man pointed at the lantern which he’d held in his hand all along. Danek stared at it. Now he looked closer, he saw that it hadn’t been a lantern at all. It was a miniscule cage with two of the most peculiar looking birds he’d ever seen. Golden red, with tinges of orange, they glowed brightly in the gloomy night air. “A phoenix!” Virion exclaimed. The man chuckled. “Superstition, boy, nothing but pure superstition. There is no such thing! This is a rare type of sparrow, only found, as far as I’m aware, in the deep mountainous heart of Nordenya, but you are correct that they have been thought of as magical by many a northern tribe.” A whistle came from somewhere above, and the man looked up, coming to his senses. “Now, get a last cup o water and get out there, the maruban goes first!


#88

Danek took a deep breath. This first round had been easy. The danheimer he’d dueled seemed only to have come for for the heck of it. Admittedly, the woman was no poor archer, but by missing 3 out of ten, Danek had gained an easy seat in the quarter finals. His second duel was far fiercer. They had an hour to rest in between each round, as the crowd demanded melee and got bored quickly with target practice. The second time, he was challenged by a keelish, and he’d almost missed the semis by a blundering miss with his heavy bow. Fortunately, the bolstered opponent let his guard down at this and missed as well, giving Danek the opportunity to catch up, and eventually defeat him.

After yet another hour of staring at the damp walls of the chamber below, Danek had returned to the surface to meet a girl barely older than himself, clad all in green and brown, her light, smooth hair placed in a long braided ponytail. As the duel began, Danek was sure this was the last one for him. The elegance and ease with which the girl handled the bowstring, almost lovingly, was wild. He matched the perfection of the shots, but as the duel began dragging towards an hour in length, he felt how his arms were getting tired. His savior had been the famous Roklavian impatience. But here he stood before the other green clad champion of the finals. Virion of Lásenor. Councilman Bogdán had been down to the chambers himself to congratulate him for the honor he’d earned for Maruba, by getting to the finals as the only maruban participant.

He knelt in the middle of the arena, where a ring of white chalk powder had been set. A servant came forth and fastened the blindfold ceremoniously across his eyes. Then the servant raised a dagger as if to stab him. The lack of a recoil from Danek seemed to confirm the efficiency of the fabric. “The bird shall be released in half a minute, maruban,” the servant whispered, before his scurrying footsteps ebbed away.

Danek was breathing heavily now. Stripped from his sight, he closed his eyes beneath the blindfold and while counting back from 30, concentrated on his other senses, preparing them for what was coming. Outisde the fold, the sun had already set, as it did rather rapidly this time of year. The sky had still kept a bit of red in its midst, but darkness was approaching. Before Danek, a bowl of liquid had been placed on the ground, along with a bowl of fire. Remembering their positions, he lowered his arrow and dipped it, first into the liquid, then the flames, and let the heat spread onto the flint peak.

3…
2…
1…

Danek heard a screech as the cage door unmistakably had been opened and the bird took flight towards freedom. A collective gasp could be heard across the arena, as the beautiful bird soared through the sky. The miner’s boy from Kirugrad raised his bow, and aimed almost straight upwards. Lowering it slowly, his ears were ringing for the sounds of wingbeats. “There!” He’d spun around and released the arrow before most people had realised what was happening. Danek tore the blindfold off his face just in time to see the orange dot, which was his arrow, sore towards the majestically glowing bird, and missing it, by a mere foot. Instead it continued past the sparrow and hit the arena wall, only to clatter to the ground, the fire extinguished. The bird gave another loud screech and took off towards the northern mountains.

It could’ve been worse,” he told himself, as he bowed and began walking off to the side, where the other combatants had been watching behind a glass barrier. “At least I was close!” But it felt slightly heavy to walk. For a split second, a wonderful moment, he had believed that he’d hit it. Applauds hit his ears, and he was jerked back to reality. The other archers, most of them anyway, were giving him an ovation. He couldn’t stop a faint grin. Then he spotted Virion. “Good luck sir!” he stammered as the young man walked past him. “Thank you, I’ll need it!” the reply came. Then the láseman strolled away towards the only light now visible in the belly of the arena, the bowl of fire.


#89

The blindfold was drawn across Virion’s face, coarse and rough. He’d had an easy time thus far in the tournament, but this Maruban, Danek, had outperformed Meira in the semifinals (if aided by Roklavian impatience) and was clearly not to be underestimated. Both he and the other Maruban had treated them very well though. “Maybe we should consider talks with Maruba once the tournament’s finished,” he thought. He shook his head. “This is no time for idle thoughts of the future.”
    The great bow he had hewn from a yew tree in his younger years was placed into his hands by the Roklavian servant. “The bowls are in front of you, sir,” the servant said. “Pitch is on the left and fire on the right.”
    Virion nodded. Breathing deeply, he dipped his arrow in the sticky tar. Wiping it down enough that it would flame but he would still be able to shoot well, he placed it against his string and tested the draw of the bow. Satisfied, he relaxed his body, drawing and releasing a bow in a ritual that evidently seemed strange to the audience, as they began curious muttering. Finally, he gestured to the servant that he was ready, and the countdown began.
    With ten seconds left, he stooped down and lit his arrow. The bird was released with a great screech, but it quickly faded out into silence. Virion stood, a lonely figure in the centre of the vast arena, lit only by the fires burning at his feet and by his hand, and simply listened. This was his greatest advantage over Danek - many years of hunting in the mountains and woods had developed his hearing to almost supernatural qualities.
    The flames licked up his arrow as he stood, drawing dangerously close to his hand. The crowd began to murmer, much to his frustration, as it masked the delicate wingbeats of the bird. However, as only an experienced hunter can, he heard to bird, and, with the utmost precision, tilted his bow upwards to where it was. He drew back the string, and took a deep breath. Pain suddenly blossomed out across his arm, and he realised the fire was spreading, and released the shot.
    The flaming arrow streaked across the sky, heading sharply upwards. The crowd gasped, but Virion was more concerned with his bow, which had caught fire from the arrow. His hunter’s habits of carefully stalking the prey did not pay off, it appeared, when there was fire involved. He dropped it, and began to stomp out the fire, furious at himself.
    He was interrupted, however, by a huge shout from the crowd. He looked up and saw the bird fly away, out over the arena. He had missed. Misha, however, thought otherwise. He picked up the now-extinguished arrow, and held it up for all to see, and there it was, clear as day, a beautiful white tail feather, struck from the bird by the arrow upon which it was now impaled.
    “Ladies and gentlemen!” he declared, his mighty voice filling the arena. “We have a winner! Here is the tail feather of the dove, struck from it by Virion of Lásenor with a flaming arrow while blindfolded.” The crowd went wild, astonished that anyone could have been near enough to hitting the bird to take one of its feathers.
    Virion was less pleased, however. He said to Meira (who had come up to join him), “But I missed.”
    “Yeah,” she said, “you missed the bird with a flaming arrow while you were blindfolded, and still hit its tail!”
    “I should’ve got it clean. I forgot my arrow was on fire. It burnt me, made me shoot a half-second early. And,” he said bitterly, “I burnt my bow.”
    Once more, however, the two were cut off from their conversation of the round, this time by a friendlier face. Danek came up to Virion and shook his hand. “A mighty shot in the dark,” he said. “And your talent, mi’lady,” he said to Meira, “was just as good. Roklavians, eh, rushing that round?”
    She laughed. “Roklavians indeed.” The three began to talk of inconsequential things, becoming fast friends and whiling away the hours.


#90

The next morning, the assembled nations gathered once more in the arena. “Ladies and gentlemen,” said Misha, “I thank you for visiting Roklavia for this tournament. However, an issue has arisen and the safety of our guests is threatened. I regret, therefore, that I must end the tournament here.”
    His announcement send a tide of angry mutterings through the crowd. However, as talented an orator as he would not risk leaving the audience angry, and he had expected this reaction. “Nonetheless!” he shouted, drowning them out with the sheer power of his voice. “Nonetheless, we still have our prizegiving to do.”
    Just as he had planned, this pacified the crowd, and he was able to run through the numerous prizes won by various contestants. Virion and Meira, having little interest in swordmanship or jousting, tuned him out, instead continuing their conversation with Danek from last night, until they were called.
    “And finally, we have archery,” Misha said. “Finishing third, with a brilliant performance in the semi-finals but unfortunately being outperformed by a hair -” (Meira coughed) “- we have Meira of Lásenor.” She crossed over to the centre of the arena, and received her prize - a small figurine, brilliantly carved of the highest-quality Roklavian marble. It bore her image, showing her mid-shot at the improbable target of her semi-final.
    “Finishing second, edging her out in the semi-finals and firing one of the finest blindfolded shots we have ever seen, we have Danek of Maruba.” Danek collected a similar trophy, depicting him firing blindfolded at the bird.
    “And in first place, managing to take a tail feather of the dove, Virion of Lásenor!” As he examined his trophy, he noticed that the sculptor had even included the flames licking at his arm and his bow - magnificent detail, if more than a little frustrating to remember. “We also,” sad Misha, catching Virion by suprise, “would like to give him this bow, made of the finest Roklavian wood and one of the finest in the world, to replace the one he lost during the tournament.” It was a beautiful weapon, simultaneously powerful and elegant, curving back on both sides like no other bow he’d ever seen.
    “Thank you very much,” he said.
    “Well, folks, that concludes our tournament,” Misha said. “If you could please all make your way back to the docks, your ships have been prepared and loaded with all your possessions.”
    The crowd, still unimpressed with the premature ending but buzzing from the prizegiving, filtered out of the arena, heading south. It would be the last great event to happen in Roklavia.


#92

As Misha concluded the award ceremony, there was a great scuffling below the balcony, as hundreds of people wanted to be the first one out. Valdemar could sense that more people than him had been caught by surprise by the sudden change of heart from Valentina. He was in a rather grumpy mood, having been awoken very early indeed, by a messenger, who, at spotting the rage on his face, very quickly spit out that he was very sorry to have to tell them that the meetings and remaining events of the tournament were cancelled.

Intending to persuade the queen otherwise, the maruban party had arrived first of all to the arena, however there was no sign of her, and she didn’t show up after that either. When Misha began speaking, and Valdemar realized that Valentina intended to omit being present, he’d dispatched Bogdán to find her and demand an audience, but a mere half hour later the councilman came back telling him of guards keeping the tower on lockdown.

This was all very odd in Valdemar’s opinion, but curious as he most certainly was of the reason behind the queen’s abrupt change of heart, he was sure anyone other than him would be seen as a trespasser and going in person was not happening, he was too loathed in these streets for that.

As the officials stood up, Valdemar turned to face the glum looking king Wesley. “Well, I had expected more from this!” he said, “there’s no point denying it! Anyway, farewell, my good Jarl!” They shook hands. “If ever you’re in Maruba…” Valdemar began, “likewise!” the viking king replied with a nod, before turning and stomping out, followed by the gigantic figure of Erik.

Clouds were towering up above the clocktower when they finally stepped outside in the brisk mid-morning of the city. They bowed and greeted the keelish officials and king Alexander farewell as well, and began looking for the contender exit, to find their team. They found them halfway there, chanting hysterically with Danek and Artyom, who’d won the swimming competitions the day before to few marubans’ surprise. Beside them walked two young people clad in green, one of whom had a brand new bow on his back. “A fine show, my good lásemen!” Valdemar exclaimed, “I have rarely seen such skill!” “Thank you sir,” Virion replied with a shadow of a grin.

And here are the marubans of the hour!” he went on, “lads, I have told you a hundred times yesterday, but I will say it again, I, along with the people you represented here, are to you ever grateful. I know that we planned on a longer visit, but we’ve shown them what we’ve got. We’ve shown them that being a maruban is strength! Thanks to you, and now I refer to the rest of you also, we have shown the world that we belong on the front line of things. No more shall we be the little pushover state we began as, no. Ladies and gentlemen, from this day, Maruba is something greater.” Something gleamed in Valdemar’s eyes as he said this, but he went on. “Now, I have never particularly liked debts that remain unpaid, so I suggest we stroll down to the pub, take a last round, on the state, and set sail. The heirs of Lásenor are of course welcome to join us for the drink?” Meira nodded, and the party set off down the main road towards the harbor.

Artyom, now walking on his own feet, came up to the Jarl. “My Jarl, would it be possible for us to stay another day? Only, I haven’t seen my family in so long, and one night really wasn’t sufficient for splitting once again.” Valdemar looked at his champion, and he felt compassion for the boy. “There’s really no point in straggling behind, boy.” he said, after a few seconds of quiet thinking. They broke off as the keelish airship flew past above them. When it had disappeared he continued. “The longer we stay the harder it will be to leave.” Artyom looked like he was about to argue, so he added. “My word is final Artyom, I mean it. I will however permit you to go say farewell. But don’t linger! We’ll wait in the Rusty Spoon, alright?” He bent closer and added in a whisper, “I’m not too verbal about it here, as the meetings were cancelled, but I have managed to bury the hatchet with this place, at least on a legal level, which means that they are welcome to settle in Maruba if they please, without legal repercussions. Councilman Menekvés should be beginning constructions of the new Nyugat block by the next full moon, so they will have residences.” Artyom shone with delight, bowed to his knees, and left in a trod back up the road.

The party entered the pub and settled themselves at a couple of sturdy wooden tables in a corner overlooking the large hearth opposite. Throwing their cloaks in a heap, they each ordered a large mead and chatted away the minutes. Valdemar was sharing a table with the lásemen, Danek and Jaromír. They discussed the events of the tournament, speculated the reason for the cancelling, which was a topic that self evidently spiraled into wild imagination within minutes. In the end, Danek was telling the amused northerners of how he’d bet anything the old witch had been assassinated by someone at the tournament, and that the state was doing a coverup.

The subject eventually ebbed out however, to be replaced with the future. “What’s next, my good Virion?” Valdemar asked. “I’m not sure exactly,” he replied thoughtfully, “the queen asked us to go out into the world and represent Lásenor, which we’ve done, I hope you agree.” He stroked his chin. “I guess we head home,” he said eventually, looking at Meira. “Why not honor us with a visit in Maruba, your grace?” Valdemar proposed. “We can arrange a transport back to Lásenor afterwards, and then we could discuss this potential route in more detail?” “With all due respect, your lordship,” Meira said, “we have been away for a long time already, maybe it’s best we return home at this time.

Could you excuse us?” Virion interrupted, nodding apologetically before tugging at Meira’s arm to follow him. The pair of them stood up and went off towards the bar desk. “Meira,” Virion began, “maybe it’s not a bad idea. I mean I get that you’re homesick, but…” “What?” Meira asked, eyebrow raised, “going to Maruba?” “Yes! As of now, no one in Lásenor except for your mother knows of our engagement. Wouldn’t it be great to announce it next to the news of a new trade route?” Meira frowned. “Maybe… but… I mean… oh alright then! But let’s be quick there, mother’s birthday is in a moon and a half and she wouldn’t forgive me missing it.

And so, the pair came back and announced their decision to the group. Artyom returned shortly afterwards, and together they walked out into the gloomy afternoon and onto the now rather empty looking pier. It was clear that most other participating teams already had left port. Boarding the two ships which as promised had been readied for them for departure, the marubans and the lásemen left the imposing city of Smertangelsk behind. As Valdemar saw the top of the clocktower’s angel disappear beneath the horizon, he pondered that, however wrong this trip had gone, Valentina had kept her word in one regard; this had been the greatest tournament the north had ever seen.
´

Fancy Line 1

The End


#93