The tale of a bold knight, a valiant steed, an innocent maiden and a cunning dragon…
After they had strapped a sword belt around him and hung a plain sword on one side and a lethally sharp dagger on the other, the dressers approached Barney with a helmet that looked very much like an upturned coal scuttle. He took it out of their hands and regarded it with some disfavour.
“Hammer,” he muttered and somebody put a large ball-peen hammer in his outstretched hand. He gave the helmet an experimental bash. Nothing happened. Barney smiled inwardly as an anvil in the corner of the tent caught his eye. He strode over and shouldered the black-visaged and scowling smith to one side.
“Watch and learn my friend.”
With six mighty blows of the hammer, Barney enlarged the eye slot and the breathing hole while producing an over-eye lump pretty well guaranteed to deflect blows away from the vulnerable facial area. He pushed out his lip as he studied his handiwork: it wasn’t pretty but at least he’d be able to see. And breathe. The smith actually smiled.
“Nice bashing, Sir Barnabas,” he said in an undervoice.
“Where in the name of my sainted dam did you learn that?” Salazar was incredulous.
Barney just grinned and strode back to where his ‘dressers’ stood with their mouths open.
“Keep walking. Go outside and stand by the mounting block. You’re carrying half a ton of steel and you’ll never get on my back without it.”
Barney kept walking and Salazar wasn’t far behind him. After an undignified scramble during which Barney swore and Salazar sniggered the brave knight was ready for his helmet and lance. With the helmet on his head, Barney could only see straight in front. It was a deeply unsettling feeling. Then somebody handed him about three metres of tapered wooden pole with a metal point at the sharp end.
“Rest it in the stirrup beside your right foot.”
That helped while Barney found the balancing point.
“Keep it upright until I say. Then just hold the thing steady. I’ll do the manoeuvring.”
Barney grunted and concentrated on finding his balance in the saddle. He had a while, as they joined a line of mounted idiots in search of glory. Salazar was unimpressed.
“Nothing here to bother us.”
When it was their turn, Barney could feel a change in the balance of the great warhorse as Salazar set himself for a charge. Somewhere in the background he could hear the crowd baying for blood and the voice of a herald bawling introductions. Then Salazar bunched his muscles. He set out at a rolling gallop and Barney gripped hard with his knees.
“Here we go, little knight. Couch lance. Now.”
Barney dropped the weapon to lie horizontal pointing over Salazar’s neck to where he could just discern another mounted knight charging along the lists towards them. The point of his lance bit into something unyieldingly metallic with a fearful screeching crash, and the jolt all but unseated him. All but. He twisted the unwieldy weapon, instinctively knowing he needed to free it from his opponent or be dragged to the ground. He fought the lance free, and Salazar slowed to a walk.
“Don’t look now, but he’s down.”
“I can’t look. Unless you could unscrew my head.”
And that was pretty much how it went all day, with Barney and Salazar growing in confidence and trust, until the shadows were lengthening and they’d unhorsed everyone else at least once. Barney was getting bored and his arm was aching when a discordant fanfare of brassy trumpets broke into his reverie.
“What is it?”
“The King’s Majesty has just ridden up to the lists.”
Even from the perspective of a former chucker-outer this rather changed the game.
“Wouldn’t be a good idea to unseat His Majesty, would it?”
“No. Look. How much do you trust me?”
Barney laid a mailed hand on the proudly arched neck.
“Pretty much all the way.”
“Okay. This is dangerous but it’s our only option. Other than letting his kingship unseat you. And I don’t feel like doing that.”
“What do I need to do?”
“Couch your lance. Sit still. And pray.”
“I can do all of them.”
Barney sat astride his tall companion, and while the windy herald introduced the King’s Majesty with as many flowery adjectives as he could think of, it came to the newly-created ‘knight’ that the warhorse beneath him must be weary. After all, the big stallion had been carrying a big man dressed in a steel suit all day. This required some thought. But just as the green shoots of a plan began to unfurl their leaves the herald finally shut his mouth. Came yet another rather off-key fanfare and Salazar broke into a rolling gallop.
This adventure of Barney and Salazar will continue next week…