Chapter 29

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Morning brought to the capital the hot suns and dry breezes that were customary for this time of year. Workers had been busy preparing the Royal Commons and erecting the stands for the King's Contest from the rising of the first sun. The knights also rose early, in part to prepare themselves for the Contest and in part to rid themselves of the effects from the indulgences of the previous evening.

By the start of the Contest at midday, the knights were anxious, the clerics grim and the stands full. A great many wagers had been placed by commoners and politicians alike and a small fortune was resting on the outcome. Though Bhel'Ehzz was the favorite to win both prizes, the insiders said the smart money was on the Warders of the Winds.

There were those who knew of the friction between Mharkhel and Setryv and figured it could result in a divided effort. The situation between the knights and the Princess had not changed since MidSummer: Ellycyn would neither speak with Mharkhel nor commit to Setryv and both knights blamed each other for their misfortune. But some argued, however, that Vhyqyrd would not stand for the knights' personal feelings to enter into the competition. The Captain of the Knights of the Flaming Swords did not demand victory, he simply expected it. After all, Bhel'Ehzz had won the last two Contests under his direction.

With the suns at their zenith, King Nherycyn dropped his handkerchief and the King's Contest began. The combatants charged each other and, after the initial clash, the Contest shifted into more of a controlled melee. The dwarves and elves quickly confronted one another as did the traditionalists and moderns. It was general opinion that those four would eliminate each other as they invariably did in past Contests, leaving the outcome to be decided between Bhel'Ehzz, Sevhert'ah, Vhyt Dhaxz and Rheg Nhor.

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