A MATCHLESS MATCH, A FOE TO CATCH
Season 2, Episode 2
Kat, Baxter, Jonathan Crisp, and Pilgrim arrive at Stromvald’s Holdfast, the residence of Sir Karlak the Red Rider when he is in Strongwood, where the town’s reeve Mortimer Schteck meets with Sir Karlak, his chamberlain Braden Crownworth, and his man at arms, Sir Kaeden.
Kat explains the incident that occurred in the dark streets in the dead of night, of how Lady Tamra d’Marek fled from her pursuers and how Kat, Baxter, Jonathan Crisp, and Pilgrim dispatched them.
While Schteck and Karlak’s men take this news as a serious threat, they are already distraught with the news that the Iron Lord will not be attending his own tournament. Hraegar Citadel is not far from the town of Strongwood—it’s practically in his back yard. Before the Iron Lord’s messenger departed, he mentioned that the Iron Lord was busy courting a lady with hair the color of spun gold, with whom he was more than enchanted. Sir Karlak’s council affirms that Sir Karlak is to step up and assume the Iron Lord’s duties in officiating the tournament (a duty for which the Red Rider, a rugged hunter and hawker, cares little—though he will do his duty).
With the Iron Lord absent, there’s a greater chance for lawless, wild behavior amongst the people. Schteck assigns his regular watch to the town and the roads, while putting Kat, Baxter, Jonathan Crisp and Pilgrim to security detail at the tournament proper. As rough and independent as his special force can be, they also carry a reputation in Strongwood and have proven themselves competent, a fact Schteck never publicly admits no matter how many times they succeed at keeping law in the town.
Kat, Baxter, Jonathan Crisp, and Pilgrim accept their assignment from Mortimer Schteck and make their way through town to the tourney grounds. Dawn has broken and merchants and commoners alike are streaming down to the faire grounds outside of Strongwood and across the river. Kat checks in with the senior officer Chandler in front of the watch’s barracks—Chandler comments that they have it easy, taking a day at the tournament while the rest of them have to work. Kat has never forgotten that Chandler used to work on the first watch under her father, and that he was expelled for setting an enemy’s house aflame. Relations between them remain chilly. As they leave the gates, Kat checks in with her old friend Gregor, who is the head sergeant of the watch. Kat tells Gregor to look for suspicious activity and relates some of the mornings events. Gregor thanks her and continues to keep his eyes on people coming and going through the gate.
Deeming it necessary to keep their eyes in as many places as possible, Kat and Baxter look over the tournament grounds while Jonathan Crisp and Pilgrim take the market.
In the stands, Kat and Baxter watch the tournament. In the tests of skill in which the knights compete at jousting for garlands, at a spear toss, and at jousting against quintains, Sir Havalhorn of Gondry is the clear winner. Sir Havalhorn is a renowned hunter, and though Sir Karlak did well, he could not equal Sir Havalhorn’s prowess.
Kat notices that lady Tamra d’Marek has a place in the stands amongst the nobility, and that from what little she can see of the lady, she looks none the worse for last night’s encounter—as though it never happened. Sir Gurney does not do well in the opening games. He is awkward and clumsy, yet he doesn’t have the body of a man as old as Sir Gurney is supposed to be—whoever is inside Sir Gurney’s chainmail is a younger man with straight posture, unbent by the years. When he takes his helmet off at the end of the games, Kat and Baxter see a young man with flushed cheeks and short brown hair. They ask Sir Kaeden who it is, and Sir Kaeden tells them that the man is Tamra d’Marek’s cousin Sir Troyen, taking his uncle’s place.
The first joust of the day features the tournament’s host Sir Karlak the Red Rider against Sir Jandy the Golden Griffon. Of the Order of Maj Hraegar, these two are the most popular and best known knights, though Sir Jandy is more than ten years Sir Karlak’s senior. The two tilt with lances and eventually move to an axe melee from horseback.
While the match plays out, Kat and Baxter spy a conflict beginning to break out in the stands between the fans of Sir Desmond the Black Knight of Breckshire and Sir Jandy the Golden Griffon. Kat moves to take control of the situation, but Baxter advises her not to get involved in the dispute and to let them air their emotions. The black knight’s fans continue to insult the Golden Griffon’s fans, however, and vice versa. One of the black knight’s fans throws a punch, but Kat is already there to break it up. Baxter follows along behind, uncertain that they’re following the best course of action. As the fans challenge one another with Kat in the middle, Baxter arrives to back his captain up. The black knight’s fans try to push past, when Baxter puts his hand on his sword and says, “You don’t want me to draw this, do you?” The black knight’s unarmed fans back down and Kat tells them they owe Sir Jandy’s fans a boon—she suggests they settle their differences over ale rather than blows and coerces the Breckshire man to pay for a round of ale for the Brenmark man. The Breckshire man grudgingly hands over the money and moves off. Kat and Baxter make certain the situation has been sufficiently diffused. They have only drawn a little attention from the action of the tournament and have not distracted from the match overly much. Only a few curious bystanders seem to notice. In the field, after tilting at one another, Sir Jandy does better going against the Red Rider with axes, but not enough to best Sir Karlak, whose skill with the lance wins him the match. As the knights finish their round, Sir Robiram of Gentold prepares to face Sir Havalhorn of Gondry in the lists, also with the battleaxe.
Meanwhile, the market area is bustling. Vendors sell flower garlands, ribbons, bells, and other trinkets. Merchants sell all manner of food and goods. As Jonathan Crisp and Pilgrim spend the morning walking the grounds, a buxom miller’s daughter selling stew from three small cauldrons catches Jonathan’s eye. As Jonathan flirts with Meg Blackman, the miller’s daughter, just behind her he spies two pickpockets working their way through the faire. Though Jonathan Crisp has no trouble with this as a gypsy sea rat, he remembers what happened last time they let pickpockets rob freely amongst fairgoers and he resolves to take action.
Jonathan Crisp places five silver coins in his palm and approaches one of the pickpockets. He grabs the man’s hand and presses the five silver into his it. “Look, I know what you’re doing,” says Jonathan Crisp, “and if I see you doing it here again, I’m going to cut your balls off.” He gives the man a penetrating glare, and the pickpockets hustle out of the market as fast as they can.
Sir Robiram of Gentold beats Sir Havalhorn in the lists, and now Sir Gurney prepares to face Sir Desmond the Black Knight of Breckshire. Jonathan Crisp suggests that he and Pilgrim make another circle of the market, heading in the direction of the knights’ encampment this time. But as they near the knights’ encampment Jonathan Crisp thinks he spies a familiar face in the crowd. Indeed, it is the thug that escaped last night’s encounter. As soon as he sees Jonathan Crisp looking at him, the man sprints off and Jonathan Crisp pursues him.
The man vaults onto a melon cart and snaps the reins and the cart takes off, just as another man with a bow, and wearing the colors of Breckshire (though a rough peasant version of them with shoddy dark cloth and a silver-white shoulder bag), leaps onto the cart with the first. Jonathan Crisp and Pilgrim likewise leap onto an unoccupied cart and shoot off after them.
Kat and Baxter speak with Sir Kaeden in the lists. Just when she thinks she has everything under control, Kat turns to see a runaway wagon headed straight for the open gate of the tiltyard, while people scatter before it. Pursuing them with dogged determination are Pilgrim and Jonathan Crisp, and they look like they mean to wreak some serious havoc. Kat groans as the two carts bear down upon the tourney field.