5 - A Delicate Condition

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Fye tried to contain herself. Self-control was a hallmark of a good knight, after all. But when she and Reuben got back into Reynolds' courtyard, she could not stop herself any longer. She threw her arms around him and let out a squeal of delight.

"Ugh! What are you doing? Get off!" Even as he said it, though, he returned the embrace. "You're going to pay for this in training," he said in her ear.

"I don't care." She kissed his cheek like she had done dozens of times when she was a little girl. "Sir Reuben, you're possibly the greatest, kindest, scariest, most intimidating, least honorable, most awe-inspiring knight in the history of forever!" She kissed his other cheek.

"I know. Except the kindest part. Don't accuse me of being kind. Now get off."

She released him, but she could not stop the enormous smile that dominated her face. She didn't care that Gregor's men were staring, didn't care that she had probably just started a rumor about Sir Reuben and the young maiden from Luntberg.

She was going to be in a tournament! A real tournament! With real knights! There weren't enough exclamation points in the universe for her to express her excitement.

"Thank you," she said.

"What are you thanking me for? You're going to lose, and it's going to be painful. Maybe this is punishment for being stupid enough to risk your life to save me." He pushed her toward Titan. "Let's get out of here. I really do need to get home to rip off Lady Ayla's clothes."

"You're the best." She hopped onto her horse.

"I know."

"And I'm not going to lose."

"Did you forget? You're going to be competing against me."

Oh. Yeah. That.

*

5.2

"Hey!" Fye said as she popped into the room where Xander had been peacefully convalescing and trying to figure out if Fye was a figment of his imagination. Her current presence seemed to indicate that either Xander had finished losing his mind or she did indeed exist.

"Hello," he said from his position on the bed. The door had been open, yes, and he was fully dressed except for his shoes, yes, but did that mean that the girl thought she had license to intrude into his contemplations? Maybe he could forgive her if she kept smiling like that. The brilliant smile, complete with its near-perfect teeth... and her wild tangle of dark wavy hair... It was all some sort of divine joke, Xander was sure. No one as beautiful as her ought to be as crazy as her.

"Sir Reuben is getting ready to go back to Luntberg. He wants to know if you're coming with him, staying behind to rest, dead, dying, or have decided to quit your job."

Xander reached for his shoes, grunting as his entire body screamed in protest. Sir Gregor's healer had patched him up and recommended that he rest for at least a week—but Xander didn't imagine that a week's worth of rest would go over well with Sir Reuben. "I'll be down in five minutes," Xander said. "And let him know that I'll quit on the day Luntberg gets a snow storm in the middle of the summer."

Fye giggled. "You're tougher than his last squire. Once, Reuben made him cry in front of half of Luntberg's guards. He ran away and was never seen again. But you're older than the last one. You must be close to being knighted, huh? Why switch knight masters when you're so close?"

"The last one died."

"Because you couldn't protect him?"

Xander glared at her. He might like her if she learned to stop talking. "He got drunk and walked off a cliff."

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