Once there, the arrivals from the top saw the following sight, arrayed in a circle were the warriors and captains, in the center, the Mayor was acting as a martial, and the huge man with the maul was squaring off against a much slighter man armed only with a rapier and a hatchet that hung from his belt. He wore heavy manchette type gloves on both of his hands, an indication that he often used two weapons.
The larger man was in a tunic with a “V” cut that went down to his belt, he swung his huge maul easily around his head and then positioned himself, legs spread apart, holding the maul cocked back. Clearly he had a simple plan: crush the ant on the first blow, before he could even be touched. The man with the rapier however simply stood, rapier pointed down, not even taking any of the fighting stances, he let the point scratch the dirt on the ground a bit, and now and again kicked at a clump of grass with the toe of his left boot.
The Mayor looked at both holding a broadsword out between them.
“Are thee gentles ready for this Pas d'armes?”
“Aye.” The voice of the large man was echoing resonantly.
“There is a question for my esteemed opponent first.”
“Will you reconsider this as a touch duel?”
“I shall grind your bones little man.”
“Perhaps you will give a chance to reconsider, it would be a waste.”
“You will not pass me.”
With a quizzical air, the smaller man sighed and frowned. He spent several seconds observing his adversary, and then struck up a stance, feet pointed forward, somewhat spread, and the left planted just behind the toes, and the right foot firmly on the ground in front. He leveled the rapier at the eyes of the giant man, and twirled it round in his fingers, until the cross-piece was parallel with the ground. It had a solid cup to the hilt and a sweeping hand guard that came down from it, there was an oval counterweight, with a smallish counter point at the end. It wasn't clear whether this was sharp enough to stab, but it looked sharp enough to serve as a bludgeon. His clothes were hardly of high fashion, but his cap sported a feather, and his squarish jaw was closely shaven.
The broadsword lifted by the mayor, who shouted shouted “Begin!”
It was maul wielding giant shifted his weight from foot to foot, and began slowly circling. He tilted and moved his hammer, and his mouth was silently breathing some kind of prayer. Though not generally noticed, the princess made a short gesture with her own fingers, to detect if any forbidden magic was used. But, she concluded, it was a simple prayer for intercession, and therefore, she assumed, within the rules.
The rapier wielder merely stood. And stood. And stood.
At this point giant stopped.
Then the rapier wielder spoke up.
“Tired Higar? That thing must weigh more than an ox.”
“You will find out when I land it on you.”
“Oh I doubt that, it must be getting heavy in your hands even now.”
“I can hold this long enough to crush you.”
“Nay. I see it is already wobbling in your hands.”
Eyes turned to the giant, and, indeed, it seemed as if his hands were wavering. The shakes grew larger, and larger, and then the head dropped to the ground, leaving a large dig in the earth. He grabbed the handle of it, and desperately tried to pull it from the earth. He planted his feet to get a better grip.
It was at this moment that the rapier armed man took a half skip where his back foot crossed in front, and then he lunged. It was without flourish, but at its end a small bloody scratch was incised on the giant's chest, and then, as quickly, he withdrew and took a defensive stance.
From the crowd there were jeers.
From the crowd there were jeers.
”Forfeit!” Cried someone in the crowd.
“And penalty of his goods!” another one chanted.
“Hold!” And the mayor held up us hand.
“There was no magic your honor.”
“I will be the judge of that.”
The princess stepped forward: “Are you advanced in the arts of sorcery?” There was a softness to her voice and face. She spoke, not with an abrupt arrogance, but with a hanging rich question.
“Who would you be?” the Mayor asked, but then, seeing the richness of her clothes, he concluded that she must be someone, and therefore quickly added, “Lady.”
“Princess Si-yeona Chang, of the Empire of the Jade Throne.” Again a softness of words, she did not add, though protocol entitled her, “you may kiss my ring.” It was held out, but it was just a formality of words.
“However, ” she went on, “more importantly I am somewhat touched with magickal gifts, and would be happy to trace a circle around this combat, that would show as color any magicks used by the participants. Is this acceptable?”
The Mayor looked at both combatants.
“Only so long as he removes the curse on my hammer.”
“There is, good giant, no curse, on your hammer.”
The Mayor bowed with all formality to the princess, and asked: “Can you ascertain this as truth?”
“Of course, good marshall of the list.”
With this, she pulled out a small round device. She pressed upon it, and up popped a pyramid made of gold wires, from which hung a pendulum, whose bob was a round smooth stone that looked like olivine marble. She let it pass back and forth, and then pointed it first at the Giant, whose armor pulled the course of the swaying pendulum towards it, and then she bent next to the hammer at her knees, and brushed up and down it. Finally she walked over to the swordsman, who gave a smooth and gallant bow. She examined up and down his costume and rapier, into his hat and feather.
“The lady seems to like to examine him closely.”
“Maybe more closely.”
In the direction of the words, almost blushed she looked, and then went back to examination of something else.
“As far as I can divine, Lord Mayor, there is no magic about the swordsman, and there is some about the leather of the giant. But there are no curses cast in either direction.”
“That does not mean I believe it.”
She turned and looked at the giant, almost with almost a sorrowful look. Instead of blasting him, as the bated breath from the onlookers seemed to presage, she spoke in a sing-song softness again. as it there were a choir of Angels.
“I have examined it carefully, and would never lie about what I found.”
“You did me a favor, my enemy.”
“Is he really?”
“He wanted to pass, and was blocked. It was agreed to have a pas d'armes to decide.”
“Is that really the best thing? I mean is this your tower, good giant?”
“It is not, but it is my way.”
At this point the astrologer walked forward, and spoke, there was a deep powerful resonance on his voice, and he seemed to grow in height as he spoke, though this was entirely an illusion.
“By right and grant and tenure longer than any of you have been alive, this tower is my tower, this land is my land, and I have high and low justice within it. I demand that you disperse, and if any are of a mind to come to my tower, let them by, without further hindering.”
The flickering torchlight that cast strange highlights and shadows on each and every face, and there was silence. Finally one of the captain's said.
“Alright, bets ride, and let's go.”
He seemed to be some kind of ringleader or organizer - the princess took a careful note of who this was. The crowd moved on, walking down the road towards where out of direct site, there was a lighthouse and a small boatyard. The swordsman stepped back several paces, and the giant was easily able to pull his hammer out of the earth. The giant glared, but said nothing and turned and walked away, bringing up the rear of the assembly.
Only one person was left, the swordsman. He bowed low to the princess, and then Jehanjir.
“I think you, and you, and thee both. That was turning uglier. I am Albrecht, a painter and soldier, and I am in your debt.” He turned to the astrologer, “I was told you were organizing an expedition, and that there might be of some use for those who have some skill at arms.”
“Well, ” began Jehanjir, “I did indeed send word for this, but am wondering why you came. I know nothing of your exploits. Nor have I cast your horoscope.”
“I am far far far from the most renowned of swordsman, but as you may have seen, matters take a different turn when I am present, I know not why.”
The Summoner, who had remained silent, took out a pair of ruby colored glasses and stared about. He took them off, polished them, and looked again. “I have a speculation, but I will have to investigate further good gentles. This is the man we want, however.”
“He hardly seems the most skilled of swordsmen, I would rather someone with greater flair and finesse.” interjected Captain Niccolo.
Albrecht raised an eyebrow.
“Thank you Captain, for your kind vote of support.” He didn't smirk or betray any emotion in his face.
“I would have him.” said the Princess, looking both ways.
The Summoner smirked, “Oh, and in how many ways?” Captain Niccolo stiffed a chuckle.
“I meant, on our voyage.”
“Oh. Just to be clear. Your highness.”
Not betraying any sense of pique, she turned away from him.
Looking uncomfortable, the Summoner gestured upwards towards the observatory.
“I think that Time and Tide are not our friends at this moment. I would suggest that all must be made ready for a launch of Captain Niccolo's vessel at the first possible moment.” He began ascending and one by one he was followed by the others. They reached the top a few minutes later.