The Day Romance Died
By Master Hector of the Black Height
Ealdormere, as usual, was running a flanking operation on the right. We swept right; they swept against us. The battle swirled (as often happens on the open field) and after first contact life got pretty confused. I was fighting with a spear, and I ended up tucked in behind a thin line of fifteen or twenty of our people, facing a similar number of Easterners. We were skirmishing inconclusively when a general hold was called across the field. I knelt in place and took a moment to look around. I didn’t like what I saw. With all the swirling and flanking there was nobody close behind us except for two Easterners. One was about fifteen yards back, on my left. One was about fifteen yards behind me, on my right. Both were looking at me and were smiling like foxes in a hen-house.
My future looked pretty obvious; the two Easterners had seen a line with no rear-guard and a spearman looking forwards. The hold had delayed their separate charges; on the “Lay on” they’d move forward with enthusiasm and their paths would intersect somewhere on top of me, where I would rapidly make the great transition from spearman to lunch-meat, followed closely thereafter by several of my comrades. I wouldn’t have time to turn around and protect myself; with a single spear I might take one down but I couldn’t stop both of them.
The marshals called “Rise in place”. I stood, unable to tell anyone what was about to happen (the hold wasn’t over and one cannot talk tactics during a hold). Even if I had told someone on my side, what were they going to do about it? All were busy to the front. So, on the “Lay on” I did the only thing possible; I spat myself out of trouble like a watermelon seed. I charged straight ahead, through our line and right through the thinnest spot in the enemy line I could find. I got through unscathed (who expects a spearman to charge through a line?) and ran for open ground. Now floating free on the far right flank of the battlefield, I started to look for another fight I could join.
Suddenly I saw five or six Easterners running in single file, from my right to left, twenty or so yards away. I looked left and there I saw Duke Eliahu. His Grace too was adrift on the battlefield and was moving across the field looking for a fight, wearing his steel helm with Ducal coronet (a.k.a. his “hit-me” hat) and his knight’s belt and chain, oblivious to the threat racing toward him. The half-dozen Easterners’ aim was clear; they were going to defeat a Duke on the battlefield and gain bragging rights over the friends. It is illegal, of course, for six fighters to attack a lone fighter from behind. However, it is completely legal for the first fighter to stand behind the lone fighter and tangle his sword. The next three fighters can come around to the lone fighter’s front, engage him as per the rules and pound the victim in the hit-me hat until he falls down. This obviously was their plan. Duke Eliahu hadn’t seen the Easterners; however, they hadn’t seen me, and I was a little closer to His Grace than they were.
I took off at a dead run towards His Grace. As I came up to him I smacked him in the back with my hand and screamed “RUN!!!” His Grace has been a fighter for many, many years; Pavlov’s bell rang and he was off like a rocket, straight ahead. We ran together about twenty yards or so before His Grace, whose manners justly are famous, turned his head to me and said “Excuse me, but why are we running?” I pointed behind us and he saw the Easterners. It was 114 degrees; they’d had enough get-up’n-go to sweep down on an unsuspecting target for twenty or thirty yards. They didn’t have enough stamina to chase a sprinting Duke across a farmer’s field in August, so they had given up and were gasping for air. His Grace turned back to me, smiled and said, “Well met indeed!” and we marched off to find another fight.
We found one. It was another little line fight near the edge of the field, about a dozen on a dozen, and I tucked in behind a shield or two and started stabbing at the bad guys with my spear. Suddenly another general hold was called. We all fell to our knees and I saw water-bearers running onto the field, so we had a couple of minutes for a breather. I dropped my spear, removed my helmet and found myself ten or twelve feet from an angel in armour, a lady fighter of surpassing loveliness, who happened to be one of my targets a minute before. Leaving my helmet on the ground (so I’d know where to start from again, after the hold was lifted) I dashed across the field to her. I knelt before this vision of beauty and sang towards her barry helm — that displayed a face that could launch a thousand ships — my favourite schmaltzy love song. It’s one of Schubert’s 18th century lieder, blatantly out of period but killer schmaltz, well suited to sweeping arm gestures and holding one’s own hands over the heart (in gauntlets and armour you get a nice clanking noise). I professed my undying love in song to the object of my momentary affection, and was rewarded by a smile and a sigh. I then stood up and ran back to my helmet, because the water-bearers were leaving the field and the marshals were making “Let’s get started” motions.
I replaced my helm as the poor, perplexed Eastern beauty turned to her commander. I could see through her barred helm that her face was bright red (and not with the heat). She cried out “How can I hit him now?” as the Marshals cried “Lay on”.
And I rammed my spear into her chest and she dropped like a stone.