9 - An Important Assignment

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Fye had been so busy preparing herself for the tournament that she had almost forgotten about Xander and his insulting-yet-knee-weakening assessment of her. When he emerged from his convalescence a week later, however, it all came flooding back.

He knew nothing about her! It wasn't his place to offer his opinion about her, even if he was the only person in Luntberg other than Reuben, Alys, and a handful of others who didn't look at her as if she were a madwoman. No, Xander did not look at her as if she were mad. He looked at her as if... as if he wanted to be shoved out of a tree and break his leg. The problem was that Xander was as tall and muscular as Reuben, and shoving him out of a tree was too much of a frontal attack for him. Fye would have to find something subtler.

Xander and Reuben met her in the meadow outside the keep for her first mounted joust practice. Wonderful. Now, instead of falling off her feet onto hard stones, she would be falling off an enormous horse onto dry grass. A glance at the castle's outer wall revealed that the guards there weren't doing their duty—unless their duty was to watch her fall on her rear end repeatedly.

As the two men approached, Fye could not help but marvel at the similarities between the two. Yes, the coloring was different—Reuben was paler and had dark eyes, whereas Xander had olive-toned skin and green eyes—but they looked like they could be brothers. Their gaits mirrored one another, the bone structure of their faces was similar, and they both had dark hair. Even their expressions had aspects in common.

Xander handed Reuben his lance then walked to Fye to give her weapon to her.

"Finally decided to get out of bed?" she asked.

"Bed is only interesting when there is someone to share it with."

Heat rushed to her cheeks. Even the men who called her "Sir Fye" treated her ears more delicately than that! Sir Reuben didn't, of course, but she was used to Sir Reuben. Xander had no right to disrespect her femininity.

Wait. That's fine. I don't want him to think of me as a woman. This is good.

Or did he say it because he does think of me as a woman—what if he thinks of me as that kind of woman? The first time he saw me, I wasn't exactly well-covered. And there was that comment about him wanting me to be his future wife...

In any case, she didn't like it. She didn't like him. Nope. Not at all. No matter how much he smiled at her or flirted with her.

She accepted the lance from him and adjusted her grip on it.

"Do you want some advice?" he asked.

"As if you could tell me anything he couldn't."

"My last master was a jousting champion. The pus-covered globule had exactly three skills: jousting, abusing defenseless woman and children, and archery—not necessarily in that order. Start charging just a split second after him."

"But I need as much speed as I can get."

"You're lighter than him; your horse has less of a load. The delay will let you see his stance, where he is aiming. Try it. Or not." Xander shrugged and walked away, to the pole they had set up as the middle of the jousting field.

Well, if it gave her an advantage...

Xander raised the flag. He whipped it downward.

Reuben charged without a drop of hesitation, and Fye used her oh-so-brief delay to watch him. With the way he held the reins, she might be able to...

She kicked Titan into a gallop and thundered toward Reuben, her heart going even faster than her steed's feet.

The imposing form of Sir Reuben drew closer.

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