"Come on, now. You know that I'm not that great with the lance, so I will have to count on you to score nicely."
Holding Helga's massive head between my hands, I rested my forehead against her soft skin covering her thick skull. In this tranquil moment of connection between a human and his companion, a rider and his horse, I could bet some sort of mystical bond once again connected the two of us, allowing me to transfer my thoughts to the brain of this smart animal.
After a long while during which I simply stood in front of my trusty horse, the commotion to the side finally broke me out of my daze, prompting me to grab a few clods of sugar from the hands of one of the servants passing through before feeding it to my partner. Feeling Helga's soft nostrils as her lips swiftly swept through my palms cleaning them out of any trace of the sugar, I couldn't help but smile.
All females were weak to sweets, be it human or a horse!
"Sit Mike, the contest will be starting soon! Are you content with going second?"
While if I were to aim for winning the contest, going second meant that I would have no idea what the score I would need to stay at the top, only adding the anxiety to my already nervous state of mind, with how I only needed to make a good impression on the governor, the faster it would go for me the better!
"Sure, mind telling me who will be going first?"
Grabbing Helga's harness and following the servant, I asked the question out of nowhere. There was no rule stating that those who went first were better, worse or simply more or less known. Most of the time, unless it was a royal tournament hosted at the fields beside the capital of the country, people just went one by one in random order.
"Sir Bart Opurh, of the twin-tail crest. He is but a young knight, recently admitted into Governor's private army in the rank of colonel."
Oh? So, sir Jan, decided to start with his familiars? Well, it wasn't that bad, considering how the young age of the opening challenger gave me some hope to not make a joke out of myself right off the bat!
Approaching the contest field, I couldn't help but shrug seeing the unorganised state of everyone. If that's how most of the noble's camp looked like, one of the greatest shames on the future commonwealth history, when a big war-camp created to fight off cossacks rebels, turned chaotic, with people trampling each other and leading to the collapse of the entire army, suddenly made sense. And all it took, was a simple drunk noble shouting: KHMELNYTSKY!
At least, the first challenger was already in the position to start his attempt. With a young horse bearing the marks of the pure polish breed, he flaunted the wealth of his family not only by using such a fine and insanely expensive horse for the sake of simple, friendly tournament but also by wearing his full, hussar heavy armour!
While the year was still too early to showcase the hussar full, heavy equipment that became famous in the later ages, the young guy's defensive suit already bore some signs of similarity to it. But while his armour was the most eye-catching and expensive part of his outfit, my attention was brough rather to his lance of usual length, proving that one of my greatest worries was thankful, unwarranted.
Looking around, I could see the Governor himself sitting at a small, wooden tribune, despite small sparks of fire clearly visible in his pupils, as he looked with longing at his own set of equipment lying right beside him. Considering how he was the host of the entire camp, he couldn't take part in the tournament himself, to not make things hard for his fellow nobles. After all, who would dare to try their best, if besting the governor could easily be considered an affront?
With only a few moments passing, the young man suddenly hit the sides of his horse as if he wanted to squeeze the air out of its lungs. Just this alone showed how little respect he had for such a fine animal, proving that outside of his family wealth, his skills most likely wasn't up to par.
As his horse stood on its hind legs for a moment and jumped into a run, the Bart guy leaned over its back, locking the handle of the lance in a special handle mounted on his saddle, attacking the ring on a wester manner, instead of relying on his skill alone to do so, as literally any respected Polish cavalryman would!
With over ten rings to gather, the first ones were fairly big, making it easy for even an amateur to pick them up. Running along the track, the first three rings have fallen on his hand, indicating the start of the real challenge. With the radius of the following circles already half the size of the starting ones, he barely managed to pick one out of three, finishing the entire track with only five of them.
Three warmings, one easy and one average, meaning he scored only eight points in total!
But instead of rejoicing at the fact that just, by comparison, I would have to try really hard to look bad after this show of lack of skill, I decided to focus on my own turn. Ignoring the stirrup, I extended my left leg backward, as if I wanted to hit the ball during the penalties, before kicking the air as strongly as I could and using the momentum to carry me on top of the saddle.
Marching Helga to the starting line, I nodded my head to Bart, who was just returning back to the area designated for the challengers waiting for their turn. As if insulted by this basic form of respect after his disappointing display, he simply looked at me with his face twisted in poorly hidden anger, before passing by me and breaking the line of sight.
What a waste of a good horse on such a snob!
But that wasn't a time to think about someone else, as I waiting for the servants to replace the rings on the poles that Bart managed to strike out while weighting the short lance in my hand.
Just like back at the fight with the bandits, it took me only a moment to regain the familiar feeling in my muscles as if my body recalled all the information it required to wield this weapon.
With a wave of cloth by the referee at the other end of the challenge track, I was free to start my own attempt at any given moment. But instead of jumping into a run right away, I stood in my stirrups, leaning over Helga's ear.
"I trust you with this one. Let's show them what a great horse you are!"