Tournament

by Chris O'kane

"I've forgotten something". Misha stopped at the door and stood there for a moment. The fox morph examined himself. He was wearing brown pants and a green shirt. Misha chuckled "even off duty I dress in camouflage". Old habits die hard. "It's a holiday, and I'm dressed for work. I need something festive, bright". He went to the dresser and started rooting through the drawers. A white shirt was discovered and put on. He kept looking. There was a fine blue vest in there somewhere. In the back of the bottom drawer he caught sight of a bit of blue cloth. He reached in and carefully removed it. It wasn't the vest, it was a tunic. The tunic was of fine silk, edged with gold braid. On the front of the tunic was sewn a gold oak leaf. Misha just stared at it for a moment. "Damn" he said in a quiet voice. A gold Oak leaf was his family crest. Finding it had brought back many memories, not all of them pleasant. He ran his hand over the leaf. It had been 5 years since he had worn it. That was 5 years too long. He put the tunic on, and it still fit, even if it did smell of mothballs. A couple of minutes in the fresh air would get rid of the smell.

Misha picked up his quiver and longbow from the table, and started for the door. He stopped and examined himself again. There sitting on top of his desk was his wristgaurds. Misha shook His head and muttered a mild curse, as he picked them up. Now fully equipped he left for the tournament.

The lawn in front of the keep had been turned in a festival ground. Brightly colored tents and pavilions were everywhere. People were eating, laughing, talking and playing, as they walked around. There were people selling food, clothing, jewelry, and all sorts of things. There were tents where you could play Ring Toss,throw darts or knives, or any of a dozen different games. Misha ignored them all and headed straight for a bright, yellow and blue striped tent. The front of the tent had been removed and a counter set up. Over the counter was a large sign, "FADGER" it boldly proclaimed for all to see. Misha walked up to the counter behind which stood a tall female otter morph. "Hello Caroline. Where's your father?" He asked. "Hi Misha, Dad's delivering a necklace" Caroline answered. Her father, Will was the keep jeweler, and the badger did a lot of business at the festival. "Do you know if Tarkin picked up his clock yet?" he asked. Carol just shook her head "No, not yet".

The wind shifted and it brought the scent of rats to the fox and the otter. Misha turned and saw Charles Matthias and Lady Kimberly strolling arm in arm past him. "Charles, Lady Kimberly. Good Morning" he said as he walked over to them. "Good Morning, Misha" they both answered. "You're dressed like a fine nobleman, this morning" lady Kimberly said. Misha took a long graceful bow "Thank you dear lady" he said "your looking beautiful today". Misha took her left hand and kissed it, and then he kissed it again. Misha licked his lips "MMMM, tasty. That reminds me I haven't eaten yet," Misha said. Then he slowly licked her hand, and wrist "Do you mind if I grab a bite to eat". Kimberly let out a squeak and jerked her hand free. "MISHA!" Charles shouted and stepped between Misha and Kimberly. Misha looked at them for a second, "gotcha" he said with chuckle. Charles stood there for a moment. Behind Misha, Caroline shook her head and laughed, "you're going to get killed some day, Misha". "That wasn't funny Misha" Charles said in a serious tone. Misha put his left hand to his chest, bowed, and in a serious tone answered "My apologies. I couldn't resist the joke. Its a fine day and I'm feeling good. I'm sorry if I scared you. That wasn't my intention". After a moment Kimberly spoke, "Apology accepted".

Kimberly pointed to the longbow in his right hand and asked, "You're in the archery tournament?" Misha nodded yes. "Which one?" Charles asked "Distance, or accuracy?" Misha's answer was short "Both". Misha held up his bow "I'm ready and I'm going to win" he said confidently. "What type of bow is that?" Kimberly asked. Misha held the bow out for her to examine "Its a Longbow. Made of the finest Yew". Kimberly hesitated to take it "go ahead, take it" Misha encouraged her. She took the bow, it was over 5' tall, a foot taller than she was! "It takes years to learn how to use one. I started when I was 10, and worked my way up with larger and larger bows. It's a deadly weapon in the right hands" Misha explained. Kimberly carefully handed the bow back to its owner, "Good luck" she said as he took it back. "Thank You Lady Kimberly" Misha said.

A badger walked up to the group, "Good Morning, Misha" he said, slapping the fox on the back. Misha winced and answered "Good morning to you too, Will." Will nodded to Charles and Kimberly, who nodded in return. Will looked to Misha and spoke "You'll be here after the tournament to help?" Misha nodded "Of course. Right after I win" he replied confidently. Kimberly and Charles had confused looks on their faces, and Will answered their unasked question. "Misha and I make clocks together", he said. Misha chuckled "Thats an understatement. Will makes the outsides, and I make the insides. We sell them under the name Fadger. They sell for a lot of money in the south. Nobles think its Chic to buy a clock made by us Metamore monsters". Charles laughed,"The name Fadger, its short for Fox and Badger" he asked. Will and Misha both nodded yes. "We only make 2 or 3 a year, because we both have other things to do" Misha said "I'm a scout and Will is the keep jeweler". Misha shrugged "Still, all told, we do make quite a bit of money from them". A wolf passed with a bow in hand. "Excuse me folks, I'm going to get in some practice before the tournament" Misha said. Charles wished him luck, and Misha took his leave and headed for the archery butts.

There was no time for practicing, the contest had started by the time he got there. Misha didn't watch the other shooters, it only made him more nervous than he already was. He carefully checked his bow and arrows to relieve his nervousness. It didn't work. Once he was shooting he was all right, his mind was occupied. It was the wait that got to him.

It seemed like forever, but it was finally his turn. Misha stepped up to the line with 4 other archers and waited for the whistle. Shooting a longbow is not easy. Most bows are shot by holding the bow still and pulling the string back. A longbow is shot by pushing the bow as well as pulling the string. It's not a easy method to master, but it does have the advantage of power. With other bows, the archer uses just the muscles in their arm and shoulders. A longbowman uses his chest muscles, as well as his arms. That extra muscle meant more distance, and power, both very important in a battle and an archery contest.

The whistle sounded, Misha now had 2 minutes to shoot 3 arrows at his target. At 70 yards he had no problem getting a bullseye.He was declared the victor for the group, and advanced to the next round. The other 4 were eliminated. Misha's group was the last to shoot so the targets were moved back 20 yards, and the shooting started over again. Misha din't watch the shooting. He watched the crowd, the sky (where did that wind come from?) or checked his gear again. It seemed like only a minute before his turn to shoot came up again. The target was 90 yards, still no problem for Misha. Again Misha was the best shooter,and he advanced to the third round. The other 4 shooters were thanked for their fine shooting and dismissed. The targets were again moved back 20 yards, and the third round started.

The competition continued. As round followed round, the targets moved farther, and farther away, and the number of shooters quickly diminished. Misha noticed none of this, he only had eyes for the target, the wind, and his gear. Misha was taken by surprise when the judge announced "Final Round"!

The target was 250 yards away, and the wind seemed to be blowing harder than ever. There was a small break and Misha finally took a moment to examine the competition. He was facing a man, a woman, a ferret, and Caroline. Misha walked over to her "How goes it Caroline"? he asked. "Not bad, I wish the wind would die down though" she answered. Misha nodded in agreement. "Shooters to the line" the judge announced. "Good luck Caroline" Misha said as he walked back to his position.

Misha was nervous, every single one of his opponents were expert archers. The best shot in this round would win. Misha took a deep breath and tried to dispel his nervousness as he waited for the whistle. He took his time with these three shots. All three slapped into the target close to the center. Misha stared at the other targets, this contest would be won by inches. All 5 of them stood there while the judge carefully measured all 15 shots. It took a long time For the judge to make a decision. Finally the judge walked to the shooting line and held up his hand. The crowd quieted down immediately. Misha trusted the wolf. He was well known for his honesty. He had eliminated his daughter in the 3 round. The wolf cleared his throat and announced "The winner is Caroline Hardy. Second is Robert Hunt. Third, Sir Misha Brightleaf". The crowd cheered and clapped. Misha was disappointed. Still third wasn't too bad, considering the people he shot against. Misha wanted to congratulate Caroline but she was surrounded by too many people. He watched from a distance as she was given a very fine set of magic arrows. The distance competition started half an hour later. Only 1 shooter really worried Misha, a large elk who stood at least 7' tall. Misha got a 10 minute pause and raced to the Armory. He walked along the racks of non-magic longbows looking for a more powerful bow. He picked up, and rejected several before choosing one. He strung it and tested the draw weight. Misha normally used a bow that took 120 pounds of force to draw fully, this one was at least 170lbs. The length was about right, but the draw weight worried him. Misha had no choice, against that elk he needed more power. His aim would be awful, but that didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was range, the farther, the better.

Misha raced back to the tournament field and got there just before it started. He carefully searched through all of his flight arrows for the 3 best. Flight arrows are longer and lighter than the arrows he used in the last contest. These were for distance only, they were too fragile for anything else. Someone lightly tapped Misha on the shoulder. He turned and saw it was Caroline. "Congratulations" Misha said. "Thanks Misha" she replied "You changed bows"? Misha nodded and handed it to her. She tested the string "Good Lord Misha, are you really going to shoot with this?" "I have to, if I want to beat him" Misha said pointing to the elk. "Can you handle it?" she asked. "I think so," Misha said skeptically. "You'll tear a muscle trying to bend this," she said as she handed the bow back to him. Misha started to answer her but he was interrupted by the judge "SHOOTERS TO THE LINE". Caroline kissed him "Good luck Misha" she said. Misha was surprised; he could still feel the warmth of the kiss on his muzzle. He was at a loss for words, finally he managed "thank you" and he quickly turned and hustled towards the shooting line.

The whistle sounded and Misha instantly realized this wasn't going to be easy. He managed to draw and shoot, barely. It felt like he was trying to bend a steel bar. It took all of his strength to do it. Still he managed to shoot a lot further than the other 4. He won the second round, but his left arm and shoulder were sore. Misha rubbed his shoulder, and arm to make the soreness go away. The third round went by quickly, and Misha shot 30 yards farther than anybody else. The soreness was replaced by a dull pain. Misha easily beat the other four shooters in round four. With this bow he was shooting farther than he'd thought possible, but at a cost.

This was the final round. Misha stood on the shooting line rubbing his shoulder and arm. They both hurt, they really, really hurt. He'd pulled something, of that he was sure. He was glad this was the last round, he couldn't take 2 more rounds. He was facing 3 other archers. He didn't know the woman, but he recognized the ferret from the first contest. The last archer was the elk. THe elk was standing proud, and looked confident. He had a right to be, he had outshot everybody he had faced by at least 30 yards.

Misha had been watching the elk shoot. He wasn't using his full strength to bend the bow. He was pulling the string and not pushing on the bow, all that strength was being wasted. Misha had a real chance to win, if his muscles held out. Misha glanced at Caroline, who waved at him. He waved back at her. When the whistle sounded, Misha didn't shoot immediately. He waited to see how the others did. All 3 shot quickly, the elk was the farthest. Misha guessed that the elk's best arrow landed 350 yards out. Misha started to draw, a wave of pain shot up his arm, and he had to stop. Misha took a deep breath and tried to forget about the pain, and concentrate on shooting. "Shoot fox, you only have a few seconds left" someone called from the crowd. Misha took one more deep breath "The pain is not real, ignore it" he said to himself. SNAP,SNAP,SNAP. Misha shot all 3 arrows in quick succession. Misha stifled a yelp as the pain shot up his arm. It felt like some one had shoved a lance up his arm and into his shoulder. Misha looked up at his arrows as they arced through the sky. He forgot all about the pain, this was a perfect shot. He watched as the arrows slowly began to drop towards the ground. All 3 hit the ground, 20 yards beyond the elks best shot. "YES" Misha shouted and he danced a little jig. The elk let out a bellow of shock that Misha heard clearly above the cheering crowd. The elk was standing there looking down the field, shock and surprise clearly written all over his body. People were crowding around Misha congratulating him, slapping him on the back, and shouting in his ears. It took some time to get the crowd to quiet down, so the judge could announce the results. "The winner is Sir Misha Brightleaf, second William Huntsman. Third, Diane Kinkaid" the judge announced.

Amid cheering and clapping Misha received the winning prize of 20 magic arrows from the judge. Misha reached out with his left hand to take the arrows, and the pain lanced through him. He winced, and finally took the arrows with his right hand. "Are you all right?" the wolf asked. "I'm fine. I think that I sprained something" Misha replied. Misha Thanked the judge for the fine gift. The contest now over, the crowd broke up quickly, and Misha headed straight for Brian Eirik Coe's tent.

When Misha came out of the tent he was bare chested, and his shirt and tunic were draped over his right shoulder. He was carrying his bow with his right hand. Caroline saw that his left arm and shoulder were wrapped in bandages. She walked over to him "How's the arm?" she asked with concern. "Nothing permanent, but I'll be in bandages for several weeks" Misha replied. "Congratulations Misha" Caroline said and she kissed him. "MMMM. That's a better reward than the arrows" Misha said. Caroline took the bow from Misha and the two of them started to walk. Caroline wrapped her arm around Misha's waist, and Misha wrapped his right arm around her. It felt good, and they both enjoyed the closeness.

"Misha, can I ask you something," Caroline said. "Sure" Misha replied casually. "Where are we going?" she asked. "Back to the tent. I promised to watch the counter, remember" was Misha's answer? "I was thinking Misha" Caroline started "After we close up for the night. You and me could celebrate our victories, together. We could have a quiet dinner in the tent and then we could go for a walk". Misha answered in a quiet voice "I'd like that". Together they walked back to the tent. All told it had been a great Easter Festival.

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"Tournament", copyright Chris O'kane