The next morning's events began with archery. Lady Madeleine's brothers -- important students of the military school -- were introduced with great dignity and fanfare; then the rest of the lists were read. A ripple of disbelief spread through the crowd as Jasper's name was called. A quick commotion ensued as the Master of the Tourney stepped onto the dais to confer with the Keeper of the Lists. After much hushed haranguing, he resumed reading.
Jasper took up his bow, feeling Madeleine's brothers' keen eyes upon him. They were massive men, raven-haired and curly-horned, and yet they moved with a easily. They pinched their noses as Jasper passed.
He marched up to the line beside the others, took aim, and bitter shame spread across his cheeks as his first arrow flew wide. His second flew better than the first -- it manage at least to strike the target -- and his third, by some miracle, nearly found its mark. Not too terrible, he reflected, as the next archer took his place. In the end he did not do well enough to attract attention nor poorly enough to attract scorn, except in the eyes of Madeleine's brothers.
The herald announced pairs for the next event, wrestling. Jasper's distress at being paired against Madeleine's elder brother Serge was only outweighed by Serge's.
"This is an outrage," he complained to the Tourney Master. "I cannot fight him." The Master gave Jasper a sidelong glance. "I understand your situation, but the rules of the tourney are clear. If you concede, the match will be awarded to your opponent."
Serge huffed and stomped back. He stripped off his shirt and glared at Jasper. "Let's go."
Jasper swallowed and shed his own shirt. This was not a contest he could win.
Serge circled. Jasper tried to keep his back to the ropes. What had possessed him to enter the lists? He hadn't the least training in hand-to-hand combat, and Madeleine's brother was easily twice his weight.
The larger man charged, feinted, and as Jasper failed at ducking, he discovered his one bit of luck: Serge could not bear the thought of touching him.
Jasper charged, intending to flatten his opponent. Serge's arm shot out and Jasper found himself flat on his back. A knee dug into his chest.
Jasper winced and raised his hands against the magical field that held him down. "That's cheating."
"Shut up, dirt clod, or I'll hit you for real."
Lord Miacha ended the count, and Jasper was allowed to rise.
Not well. Not very well.