A wooden fence was laid out in a circle in the center of the lower floor with seating around its edges. Newt the Noble sat talking with a pair of men that Will did not know. “Newt, how have you been?” Will asked cheerily.
“William the Wanderer. I would count myself lucky to have never seen you again. What bring you hear?”
“An unfortunate turn of events has left me without coin.”
“Roy, the barkeep up top says that you drank nearly a bottle of spirit. Where did you get that coin?”
“You could say that drinking was the unfortunate event.”
“Will, have you met Jerome and Thomas Blout? Father and son, traders up from Maiden’s Kiss. Here to bet on the fights.”
“It’s a good to meet you.” Will said reaching out to shake hands with the two men. Jerome grasped his hand and gave him a pleasant smile a large scar ran down the left side of his face but his eyes were soft and not unkind.. “The pleasure is mine. Do you intend to fight?” Jerome’s boy didn’t have the same soft eyes as his father. They were dark, dark as night with little love hiding in dark pools of his irises.
“Care to make a wager?”
“Straight to the point. I’ll wager twenty gold pieces on myself against an opponent of your choosing.”
“That’s a more than a farmer will see in his whole life. A bold wager for such a drunk man. Do you have the gold.”
“I do, Newt can vouch for me. I’ve never shirked my debts.”
“He may be a drunk but he is an honest drunk and I must warn you my friend a damn good fighter.” Said Newt.
“Well then Will, we have ourselves a deal.” He said, “My son Thomas’ friend and our bodyguard will have the honor of meeting you in the ring.”
Will left the Thirsty Lion, the rain had grown worse but he stopped for a minute to take it in. It had a sobering effect on his body and mind as if it could wash the spirit from his body. He went to Walder and unpacked his mail armor sliding over his chest and legs. Plate gauntlets to protect the fragile hands he made his living with. His helmet was still too dented to wear, Walder had stepped on it one night when wolves had given him a fright.
He went back into the tavern, drawing strange and worried looks from the upstairs patrons. Downstairs his opponent waited for him in the arena. Full plate metal and longsword and shield. His armor looked as if it had just come from the smith’s that day. Bright and clean, not a dent or scratch to be seen. He was larger than Will but not by much.
“Bill, let me borrow your longsword.” Will said to Big Bill, heading to the bar before the small ring. “Another spirit.” He said to the barkeep.
“What’s wrong with yours?” Big Bill said gesturing at the sword that still hung at Will’s hip.
“It’s sharp.” The barkeep handed him his drink.
“I ain’t no smithy, Will. You tend to break these things.” He said patting his own blunted edge.
“I tell you what, I’ll give you mine to hold on to. Collateral, plus I’ll give you coin to fix up and scratches.”
Bill squinted his eyes at him, but in the end he gave Will his longsword. Will took the sword and slid it into his own sheath, then finished the drink before entering the ring.
The armored man opposite him, kneeled on the ground as the spectators gathered round the little wooden fence that separated them from the festivities. “I am Greg Herps. I hold no anger for you but I will do my duty.”
“This is no knight’s tourney.” Said Will. The knight rose to his feet and took out his sword, Thomas, the traders son helped the want to be knight to put on a shield, leaning out over the wooden fence. Torches were lit on every other fence post causing the shadows of both combatants to dance and flicker.
“Hey, drunk!” Called one of the spectators, “You forgot your helmet!”
“My beard is my helmet.” Will called back. But the call had distracted him enough to allow Sir Herps to get the upper hand on him. Herps was already at him with his shield up and sword at the ready. Will brought up the borrowed longsword just in time to protect himself. The strength of Herps was greater than WIll expected, he could feel his elbow cringe and strain to stay his opponent’s blade. Will put his off hand on the flat of his blade and used his hands to push Herps back. Herps took a step back before charging again. Will swung with both hands but his opponents shield was quick. Deflecting two quick blows before he had to jump back to avoid the counter attack.
Will could feel sweating beading on his brow and the sour taste of spirit began to bubble up his throat and spill into his mouth. He blocked a sword thrust from Herps only to find the man’s shield crashing into Will’s chest and head. He was sprawled out on the ground like a wanton whore. Cheers rose up from the crowed, “Finish him Greg” and “Kill the squirmy weasel!” among many others.
Will rose to his feet, blood running from a split lip ran through his beard dropped to the ground at his feet. He attacked again, and again he was unsuccessful. But this time when Herps counter attacked Will was ready.
He rolled to the side and brought his longsword back in a wide arch, catching Herps in the back of the knee. The big man went back to one knee with a groan. Will was on his feet again. He brought his sword down on the elbow joint of Herps sword arm with a resounding crack that reverberated of it’s owners plate armor. Herps let out a moan and then cried out as Will put a boot and the man’s back and kicked him to the floor. “Yeild.” He said, blood spitting out with his words.