8 - Changing the Subject

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"Jousting!" Reuben said with a grin on his face as big as the whole of Luntberg. They were once again in the outer courtyard of Luntberg, once again with a crowd of watchers around them.

This was the one tournament event that Fye had no former preparation for. Reuben had told her before that jousting happened only in tournaments and on the open battlefield—and it only happened between real knights. So what was the point in her learning?

"The key to jousting is not to flinch when you see your opponent galloping toward you with his lance. If you flinch, you give your opponent and opening. Flinching could also scare your horse. Well, maybe not your horse, but horses in general. We'll do some practice on foot so you can get used to it. Hold it like this. Palm-up. Aim for the face, but it's also all right to hit the body. The face is better." Reuben marched away from her and accepted a blunted lance from a nervous servant. He pulled his visor down, and Fye did the same.

She could do this. In seconds, a giant man with a dangerous lance would be sprinting toward her with the intent of breaking that lance on her armor. No problem. Easy.

She smiled. Maybe it wouldn't be easy, but it would be fun.

When Reuben gave the signal, she ran. Reuben hurtled toward her, letting out a battle cry that had sent more than a few lances of soldiers scurrying back to their mothers. Not Fye, though. Nothing could make her scurry back to her mother.

How was she supposed to keep the lance straight? It started to slip from her grasp. She fought to readjust it.

Reuben drew closer.

She tightened her grip on the lance and refocused her attention on her Reuben just in time for—

Crack!

Splinters rained down around her as Fye crashed onto the stones, all the breath taken from her.

She writhed on the ground. So that was what it felt like to get hit by a lance.

As if she weighed nothing even with her armor on, Reuben tugged her to her feet. "Let's do it again," he said

And they did do it again. And again. And again. Once, Fye almost hit him, but her lance only glanced off his armor as his hit her square in the chest. At least he wasn't going for her face. If he had done that, her helmet probably would have been bent onto her head.

By the time the sun began to set and Reuben declared that they had had enough for the day, Fye was the proud owner of a brand new collection of bruises and an enormous grin.

"Take your armor to the smith," Reuben said. "Have him beat out the dents."

"Yes, sir." She paused on her way back to Titan, who had been saddled and who waited for her at the outer gate. "Sir Reuben? Um..."

"What? Don't tell me you're changing your mind."

"No." She hesitated. Maybe she shouldn't say it, but she couldn't get Xander's face or smile out of her head. Or his muscles or his skin, or his words or the impressive bruising on his ribs—part of which had been her fault. Yes, there was what she had done to Xander... and the fact that she hadn't killed the dungeon guard at Winterhaven. Reuben would have killed the man. "Do you...do you ever feel bad when you hurt people? Or kill them?"

He frowned. "Why would I? The people I kill always want me dead. I do it to them before they can do it to me."

"But..."

"Out with it, girl. What are you trying to say?"

"I guess..." She shook her head. "Never mind. I'll see you tomorrow."

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