The finale of
The Nightmare Rider
The crowded stands were cheering when Jefries Talfar entered the arena riding Pendragon; his white Cavalier model WarHorse. He still wore his regular armor; gold with red accent pieces and red plumes atop his helm.
"Lord Jeffries Talfar of Bergitan in the Northern lane," Sir Belvin announced then turned. "In the Southern lane; Commander Patrick Fotens of the Eighty-Sixth Freelancers!"
The cheering turned to a roar as Patrick halted Daemon inside the arena. The Commander's insignia gleamed against the dull black finish of his armor with green accents. The main body being black; parts such as the Pauldrons, Couters and Poleyns were green. The Pauldrons of Solos would feature their Regiment affiliation. In Patrick's case a black Eighty-Six contrasting the green background. The Commander's insignia was affixed high on the left side of his chest along with his name and platoon.
Patrick closed his visor then took the lance and moved Daemon into starting position. Jeffries snapped his own visor down and grabbed his lance. Pendragon side-stepped to the starting position and Talfar shifted to settle into his saddle. Patrick merely lifted his lance to signal his readiness as the official took his place at the mid-point. Jeffries signaled he too, was ready.
The official looked to both sides again after holding the flag out then yelled as loud as he could, lifted the flag and ran clear. "GO!"
Pendragon hopped forward then bolted forward to race for the other end. Daemon lunged into stride towards the end. Talfar sat leaning slightly forward in the saddle; shield angled outward with his lance forward of line and seemed to be aiming for the center of Patrick's shield. Patrick sat straight in his own saddle, shield flat with his lance slightly behind his line, also aiming center shield.
Jeffries had seen Patrick earlier and knew one of his tactics was shorten stride just before clash so that his horse would be at full extension of launch so he increased the last bit of speed from Pendragon when he drew closer to counter it. At the last second he angled his lance to the left and up; believing Patrick would angle his shield down and out at the clash.
The crowd cheered loudly as they watched the two riders streaking towards each other. Suddenly there was almost a collective gasp as they crossed. Jeffries Talfar wanted to bellow with rage to see his strategy thwarted in the blink of an eye. Patrick had thrust his shield forward and angled back to meet the lance. Doing so, in effect, caught it. Patrick then pulled back and twisted in his saddle. This action pulled the lance harmlessly high and back in toward the lanes, yet spun his own lance directly into Talfar's shield. Jeffries felt the connection to his shield. It was a hammer-blow! Patrick had compensated as well. Instead of hitting center, he hit low to the right.
Time felt like it stood still for Jeffries Talfar then he felt the impact shock and began to fly backwards amid a flurry of shattered lance bits. The noise all sounded faraway as he slammed into the sandy floor of the arena. He didn't stop when he hit the ground. Jeffries had so much momentum that he had been turning in mid-air and when he hit the ground he ended up rolling one and a half times. The stands roared in excitement.
Up in the stands Count Doucet shook his head, "I hate to say this to you; but that Solo Commander is a brilliant tactician."
"Yes. And my son is an incredible fool," Duke Talfar remarked. "He already crossed paths with him before and suffered from it. I understand the Commander was reluctant to hand over punishment to the Academy."
"I see. So he is making an example of him," Count Doucet said with understanding.
The Duke shook is head slightly, "no; I think he is just expressing his displeasure over the whole affair."
On the other side sitting beside her parents, Jessica Weyden winced when Talfar slammed into the ground and rolled. A hand gently rested on her shoulder.
"Aren't you glad you're NOT him," a familiar voice said into her ear.
"VERY much Highness," Jessica affirmed to Prince Vaan then turned to his parents. "Your Majesties."
Both nodded back to her kindly then went back to watching intently while clapping moderately. Jessica regarded them a moment longer then turned back.
'They're applause is polite but their eyes say they approve of Talfar being hit so hard and unhorsed. They must not like the Talfar family I guess,' Jessica thought to herself.
Down below; Jeffries Talfar struggled to get to his feet then retrieved his shield and lance. When he turned to mount Pendragon he saw Patrick Fotens had already returned to his starting point and taken up a new lance.
"Bastard! Sitting there mocking me," Talfar snarled to himself then climbed up onto the horse.
He rode back, tossed the lance aside and took a new one. He shifted to settle in then signaled he was ready. The official had already taken his stance, noted Patrick's readiness and held the flag out.
"GO," the official yelled then raised the flag and ran clear.
Patrick had Daemon leaning back, as if coiled, and sprang forward when the flag raised. The Warhorse launched itself forward into full stride and barreled down the lane. He sat slightly leaning forward, shield angled down with his lance even with his line. It appeared to be aiming high center to Talfar's shield.
Talfar spurred Pendragon to bolt into a run. With the second stride he was re-settled and leaning slightly forward, shield flat with his lance even with his line. He was aiming center left. He tried to check his opponent's speed and adjust Pendragon's stride. The roar coming from the stands echoed inside his helmet.
Daemon's stride was adjusted for the fourth time as they closed on each other and Patrick did the unexpected. He leaned back and twisted slightly away. His shield now angled up and outward. He also pulled his lance back from his line, causing its angle to change. The crowd watched in shock as Talfar's lance glanced up and away while Patrick's lance connected low and left as it broke. Essentially Jeffries Talfar was lifted up from his saddle and carried for a moment before dropping. Natural instinct took over and he flailed wildly as he fell to land in a heap.
Patrick rode back past him as he managed to catch his breath. The urge to punch something was difficult to resist. Slowly he stood up then picked up his shield and lance. Many called out encouragement as Jeffries climbed onto Pendragon. The WarHorse trotted back to the starting point. Jeffries tossed the lance away and signaled for water. Quickly he drank then snapped his visor back down and took the new lance. Anger festered within the young Noble.
"DAMN him! I am NOT going to lose to a damn Solo," Jeffries Talfar swore within his helmet.
At the other end of the lane Patrick waited at the starting position with a new lance. Few had noticed that he had shifted to settle into his saddle after taking position. He suspected Talfar was practically beside himself with fury now. He decided now was the time to give him a glimmer of hope. When Talfar signaled he was ready the official held out the flag.
The official raised the flag and ran clear, "GO!
Both horses bolted forward and tore down the lanes. Patrick sat just barely leaning back with his shield flat and his lance forward of his line aiming center of Talfar's shield. In such a way was sure to make Talfar believe he would do something at the last second. Daemon's stride was adjusted to be off when they crossed.
Talfar leaned forward in his saddle, angled his shield down and outward with his lance held forward of his line. He checked the stride of Daemon and adjusted Pendragon's to counter it. They closed on each other and strides were adjusted again. Finally came the clash. Talfar made the first contact and for a moment, was confused. Patrick's lance hit and broke against the shield as he was pushed back. He almost laid back when the lance began to slide up the shield and over his shoulder. Talfar felt the strike to his shield, but it felt dampened compared to the previous two. The crowd cheered at Talfar's success.
The horses slowed then turned and trotted back to their sides. Talfar had flipped up his visor before riding back and smirked as he passed. Patrick showed no reaction even though his visor remained down. Back at the start point Patrick casually exchanged the broken lance for a new one then took position and signaled. Jeffries tossed the lance and drank from the water bottle again then snapped down his visor. He took a new lance and trotted Pendragon to the start.
"It was points but I showed him. He must be weakening," Jeffries smiled inside the helmet and signaled he was ready.
The official had already took his place and held his flag out then looked to Talfar. Jeffries Talfar signaled he was ready.
"GO," the official yelled as he raised his flag and ran clear.
Jeffries spurred Pendragon to jump forward and take stride then settled to lean forward. He angled his shield outward and held the lance even with his line. The plan was to aim center left. Pendragon's stride was adjusted and he barreled toward the opposite end of the lane.
Patrick had Daemon lunge forward and take stride. He sat straight in the saddle with his shield flat. His lance was slightly behind his line and aimed high center. Daemon's stride was adjusted. Quickly they closed on each other.
Up in the stands Fiona watched the two riders streaking towards each other.
"Is Talfar going to unhorse him this time," Aruna Moning asked her.
The Countess shook her head, "no. Fotens toyed with him on the last lance. Jeffries is about to be decimated."
Jeffries aimed his lance as he smiled. A smile that dropped to a look of utter horror.
"NO," Jeffries tried to shout.
Daemon's stride had changed as the lances began to cross. The back hooves were planted then pushed off. Patrick threw himself forward in the saddle and thrust his lance. The bold move also changed the angles of shield and lance. His shield now angle up and outward. The lance now aimed low and left of center.
The move took Talfar completely by surprise. He had thought Patrick was weakening from constant performance at high level. The impact hit harder than ever before. Patrick's lance shattered as the young Noble was practically catapulted, his own lance glancing harmlessly off Patrick's shield to remain intact.
The stands went to dead silence and many had sprung to their feet in shock. Awestruck they watched as Talfar rose high and flew back to slam into the arena floor and roll over several times. More spectators began to stand up when he lay unmoving. Quickly the officials rushed out. Carefully they turned him over then lifted his visor. A Trainer checked him over then broke an ampoule and began to wave it under Talfar's nose. A moment later Jeffries winced the grimaced.
"What happened," Talfar asked.
The Trainer ignored the question, "can you move everything?"
Slowly he flexed his fingers, hands, wrists, elbows then shoulders. That was followed by lower extremeties.
"I can move. Did I even hit him," Talfar asked as they helped him up then saw the Solo Commander sitting stride his horse looking down on him.
Slowly Patrick raised his visor. The expression he wore was of bland acknowledgement. Comprehension hit Talfar like a brick thrown through a window. Fotens had feined weakness and he became over-confident. Without word the Solo Commander turned his horse and rode away.
Sir Belvins announced, "VICTOR; COMMANDER PATRICK FOTENS!"
Duke Talfar went down to the Nobles' ready area. Jeffries was having his armor removed.
"That was quite the hit," the Duke commented.
Jeffries looked up, "I'll be ready to ride in a few minutes."
The Duke nodded and left. Jeffries looked over to the other side. Fiona Doucet was arriving and began changing into her armor. One of his squires applied an ice compress to his left arm and another across his shoulders. The cold began to ease the soreness. However nothing would ease the pang of humiliation of being so gullible to fall for the Solo's tactic. He would have to bring Fiona down quickly. A drawn-out contest would decrease his chances for success. In thirty minutes he would be facing her. He saw her father, the Count, approach her and the two talked quietly.
Patrick was in the Solos' ready area and took off the upper components of his armor. He used a cool wet towel to wipe down his chest and back then dunked his head in a bucket of water. His squires were using cloths to wipe the inside of his armor. He toweled off then slipped on a dry under shirt and waited for the match to start. He would watch Doucet and Talfar since he would be facing the winner.
"Countess Fiona Doucet of Sparzo in the Northern Lane," Sir Belvin announced then had to wait for the cheers to die down enough to announce. "Lord Jeffries Talfar of Bergitan in the Southern lane!"
The crowd's cheering was less for his announcement. It was easy to discern the crowd favorite. Fiona Doucet turned and waved. Her silver tone armor had a lavender hue to it and lavender accents. Her helmet held lavender and white plumes. Her armor also made her feminine charms very obvious. Her WarHorse was a white Paladin model named Charlemagne gleamed brightly as did her armor.
Up in the stands Count Doucet turned to Duke Talfar, "something that has been on my mind since yesterday; What happened to the Paladin model WarHorse I gave Jeffries? He looks to be riding the same Cavalier model as last year."
"What? You mean you didn't have it taken in for replacement," Duke Talfar asked.
The look of confusion appeared to be genuine to the Count. Had Jeffries lied to his own father?
Crossly the Count replied, "I did NOT."
Duke Talfar could see he was truly angry, "I'll find out after the match."
Just outside one of the ramps to the stands, Patrick Fotens stood looking into the arena below. Talfar would have nothing new for him, but Doucet would still have several tricks in her bag. Even if this contest went to all five lances. He watched her intently.
Both had signaled readiness when the official took his place then held out the flag.
He raised the flag and ran clear yelling, "GO!"
Charlemagne reared then jumped into a run carrying Fiona down the lane. She sat straight in her saddle but with a slightly inward twist. Her lance was held forward of her line and appeared to be aimed center of Talfar's shield. Inside her helmet, Fiona grinned malevolently.
Jeffries had Pendragon lunge forward into long strides. He leaned forward with his shield angled down. The lance was held even with his line and aimed high center. He believed she would lean forward at the last second to brace the impact. Quickly they closed on each other.
The lances crossed each other and Talfar's mind went blank to see Fiona pull her lance back then ram forward high center of his shield. The tactic distracted him to forget about correcting his aim. Jeffries lance glanced off Fiona's shield to swing back toward the lane then be pushed back by her lance so hard, he flipped over backwards and landed on his back in the sand.
The crowd called out in surprise, with some even cat-calling. Many simply cheered for Fiona when she rode back by making Charlemagne prance while she smiled and held up the broken lance to the crowd. She put on her little show all the way back to her end and exchanged lances then snapped her visor.
Jeffries was swearing the whole time as he got to his feet, collected his equipment and went back to his end of the lanes. The lance was intact which infuriated him all the more. He tried to calm himself while the official checked both sides for signals. Finally the flag was held out.
"GO," the official yelled as he raised the flag and ran clear.
Jeffries spurred Pendragon to bolt into a run and tore down the lane toward Fiona. Again he leaned forward in the saddle, but angled his shield back and inward. The lance was held even with his line as he double-checked the stride of Fiona's horse.
"You are going know YOUR place Bitch," Jeffries swore within his helmet.
Fiona had made Charlemagne hop twice then break into a run heading for Talfar. She sat forward in the saddle with her shield angled down. The lance was held even with her line and again looked to be aimed center of his shield. Again the visor hid her grin from the spectators.
As the lances crossed Fiona's timing was once again flawless. She leaned back instead and dropped the angle of her lance as she twisted in, slightly away from the lanes. Talfar's lance slid across her shield up and away safely and an instant later her lance jammed into the lower part of his shield to yank him out of the saddle and drop him straight to the ground.
Fiona just laughed as he screamed out profanity at her from the pain. With her visor up; she blew kisses to the crowd as Charlemagne pranced back to her end of the lanes.
Duke Talfar cleared his throat, "Lorn. I get the very distinct impression that Fiona may actually hate him."
"I would very much like to NOT make a speculation of my own if you don't mind Harless," Count Doucet replied.
The Duke shook his head, "I can tell where this contest is going. I believe the real contest will be between Fiona and that young Commander. Fotens I believe is his name."
Over by the ramp a voice asked softly, "well Commander. Any thoughts?"
"I would say it's fairly obvious Arento. Doucet is enjoying herself," Patrick commented blandly.
Prince Vaan chuckled, "I concur. She is indeed having a GRAND time. I have no doubt the final contest will be the two of you. Please don't think ill of me for cheering her."
"She's your girlfriend Arento. I'd be surprised if you didn't," Patrick remarked in a low voice.
Vaan regarded him warily, "really?"
Patrick continued to watch the arena floor as Fiona took position and spoke softly, "you two hid it well. I just happened to see you by accident. I imagine her father would be furious if he knew."
"Find me later and I'll ensure your discretion is properly compensated," Vaan remarked then wandered away.
Fiona had signaled her readiness as did Jeffries, only angrily. The official held out his flag as the crowd lowered their cheering some. She knew for certain Jeffries was raging, she was also using it against him.
The official raised his flag and ran clear as he yelled, "GO!"
Fiona had been making Charlemagne prance in place sideways for a moment until the flag went up then made him rear up then launch into a run. She rode leaning back in her saddle with her shield angled back and up. Fiona's lance was held back from her line and aimed for low center. Charlemagne's stride was adjusted shorter.
Pendragon hopped once then broke into a run. Jeffries adjust the stride longer as he sat straight in the saddle with his shield angled flat. His lance was held forward of his line and he was aiming for center low of her shield. He checked and adjust the stride again.
The crowd went completely silent as the two riders closed on each other until the clash was heard. Fiona's split-second timing was once again perfect. She suddenly threw herself forward in the saddle and thrust the lance out to hit high center of Talfar's shield and shatter. Her shield deflected his lance once again to glance off harmlessly intact.
Again Jeffries Talfar felt horror as he was stripped from his saddle and launched backward to land in a heap. The crowd roared in approval of Fiona's skill as she slowed Charlemagne to a trot then turned him to prance back while waving to the crowd. Talfar regained his feet as his squires collected the shield and lance.
"VICTOR; COUNTESS FIONA DOUCET. THE FINAL CONTEST WILL BE IN THIRTY MINUTES. COUNTESS DOUCET AND COMMANDER FOTENS," Sir Belvin announced.
Jeffries Talfar stormed out of the arena. Outside the tunnel he yanked off his helmet, threw it to the ground then kicked it away.
Iia stood in a shadow next to Daalumos, "Lust. This is very fascinating! The pretty mortal girl was enjoying tormenting the boy. I felt hatred coming from her."
"As did I. You should not be surprised. Many find animosity against a competitor; it justifies defeating them. The mortals claim this is peaceful but I see otherwise. You have as well. The mortal yesterday that our Mistress faced first. That was nothing but pure intent to kill," Daalumos explained.
The succubus shook her head, "there is no prize to win. Why kill?"
Daalumos chuckled, "there is no official prize to win. Many have private deals; mainly the futures of their children. Alliance through marriage. Marriage is the mortals' way of exclusive coupling. A pact to spend their remaining time together. Many do so out of love. Usually the lower classes. It is very common for these higher class mortals to arrange the mates of their children. Not so different from our world. The boy was paid to eliminate a formidable threat."
"He did that to benefit someone else? Why," Iia asked.
Daalumos quivered with mirth, "his reward was substantial, but it pales in comparison to that of the one who hired him expected to get. Pay attention. The one that hired was named Laanower. Laanower has alliegence to Talfar, the one who was just defeated. I discovered that this Talfar boy is in arrangement to the girl that just defeated him. The details I do not know, but can guess. At the least, he must defeat her to win the arrangement. At most; she must win all contests against her to keep her freedom."
Iia considered that, "so this Laanower mortal benefits an alliance with this Talfar. Talfar benefits an arrangement with the girl. Laanower tried to ensure his ally's victory because it would benefit him. Is this correct?"
"It is very possible. The question remains; did this Talfar participate in some way or was Laanower really acting on his own," the BloodLust mused.
Iia pondered that, "that is a good question."
Both went silent suddenly as they felt a presence.
"Do you feel," Iia asked.
Daalumos growled, "yes. A High Demon is here. I see him now. It is Barbatos!"
The succubus shivered, "Duke Barbatos? Here? Why?"
"Because he was SENT," Daalumos replied. "We will stay as we are. It is time for our Mistress to ride again."
Sir Belvin announced, "The final contest. In the Southern lane; Commander Patrick Fotens of the Eighty-Sixth Freelancers! In the Northern lane; Countess Fiona Doucet of Sparzo!"
The crowd cheered loudly for the two. To everyone's surprise Fiona began walking her horse down the lane. She had not taken a lance. Patrick handed off his lance and rode forward to meet her. They stopped at the mid-point.
"Commander Fotens I've been looking forward to this for quite some time," Fiona said after saluting.
Patrick returned the salute, "I'm sure you have Doucet. I'm also fairly certain you want to put on show."
Fiona smiled broadly, "absolutely! I'm going to bring everything I have to this contest, Patrick."
"You'll need it Doucet. Daemon; battle," Patrick said then saluted and turned his horse around to return to the starting position.
Fiona saluted with a smile and rode back to her end. She waved to the crowd again then closed her visor and took up the lance and moved to the starting position and signaled. Patrick closed his own visor and took the lance from Bess. Daemon side-stepped over to the starting position and signaled his readiness. The official had taken his place and held out the flag as the crowd went completely silent.
The official checked both riders then raised his flag to run clear as he yelled, "GO!"
Daemon lunged forward and took stride. Patrick rode straight in his saddle with the shield flat. He held his lance even with his line and aimed center of her shield. Stride was adjusted as the WarHorse traveled down the lane toward the opposite end.
Fiona spurred Charlemagne to jump and run. She adjusted his stride shorter and settled to ride leaning forward in her saddle with her shield angled in and upward. Her lance just forward of her line and she was aiming low and left of his shield. The crowd was mixed in their cheering now. Almost half and half for the two riders. As the lances crossed the real tactics were used.
Fiona twisted slightly inward to enhance her shield's angle. this also gave her something to brace her lance against as her target changed to be dead center. Patrick leaned forward to brace against her strike and angled his shield down then thrust the lance forward.
The clash was louder than ever as both lances shattered on impact. Fiona managed to deflect the bulk of the strike but still felt herself turned even more in the saddle. Her lance slammed into Patrick's shield and almost exploded but enough force remained to push him back, almost out of the saddle. The crowd roared as the two riders passed each other.
Patrick slowed Daemon to a trot then a wide turn and headed back for his end. Fiona brought Charlemagne to a stop and wheeled him about to return to her end. They saluted each other in passing. Patrick tosed the damaged lance aside and took the new one from Bess and moved over to the start position.
Fiona exchanged lances with a smile then pranced Charlemagne over to the start point, closed her visor and signaled to the official. He looked down to Patrick and accepted the signal then held out the flag. Again the crowd grew silent as they waited.
"GO," the official yelled as he raised the flag and ran clear.
Charlemagne reared up and hopped forward then began to run. Fiona leaned forward and angled her shield down. Her lance was slightly back from her line. Fiona was aiming center high of his shield. She had to adjust stride twice on the way down the lane.
Patrick spurred Daemon to bolt. He sat leaning back in the saddle but had his shield angled down. The lance was held behind his line and aimed high and left. Fiona made Charlemagne launch into his run and settled herself to ride straight in her saddle with a slight inward twist. Her shield was angled down and in with lance held even with her line. She was aiming center low.
The crowd was cheering them on as the lances crossed. Patrick shifted to turn outward as her lance struck but jammed his own low and to the left on her shield before breaking. Fiona had threw herself forward and maintained her angle as she thrust the lance forward. Patrick's tactic caught her by surprise and the Countess was immediately flung off her horse as her lance snapped before swinging back toward the lanes.
A roar erupted from the stands. Quickly Fiona got to her feet, raised her visor and waved to the crowd then saluted Patrick as he rode back past; returning the salute. She grabbed her shield and lance then mounted her horse and rode back.
"Wow! That was something," Fiona exclaimed handing off the lance then took a drink of water.
The squire nodded, "yes my Lady. He's very skilled. Its impossible to predict his tactics until the last second. Much like yourself."
"That's why I've been looking forward to facing him. He's brilliant," Fiona replied then closed her visor and took a new lance.
The crowd called out support for Fiona as she pranced her horse over to the starting point. She raised her lance to show them her confidence. Patrick raised his own lance toward her which she did the same, indicating they both would continue. The official had taken his place and noted both of them showing readiness. He held the flag out as the crowd quieted some.
"GO," the official yelled then raised the flag and ran clear.
Charlemagne hopped and broke into a run. Fiona settled in to ride straight in her saddle with her shield flat and lance even with her line. She was aiming once again for center of his shield and adjusted Charlemagne's stride. Patrick had Daemon bolt from the start and settle into long strides. He rode leaning slightly back with his shield angled down and lance held forward of his line. Stride was adjust just as they closed.
Fiona twisted in and brace her lance to aim high left then dropped to center left as Charlemagne launched himself forward. Patrick wasn't able to counter the second move in time as he had threw himself forward in the saddle and aimed high center on her shield. His lance broke then slid away while her lance burst at the tip and bounced back at the shield to push him almost flat to the horse. The move dragged him out of the saddle, but luckily his feet stayed in the stirrups, keeping him on Daemon.
The crowd roared in excitement as Fiona had once again, taken the lead in the contest. She was leading in points with Patrick trailing not far behind. Before the match started they were even in points. Now Fiona was ahead. The horses were turned about and the riders saluted each other in passing. Many in the stands now stood as they called out, clapping and stomping their feet. Even the Headmaster was joining in the ruckus with a smile.
Lances were exchanged. Patrick had stopped to drink water before resuming and walked Daemon to the starting point. Fiona waved and blew kisses to the crowd with a broad smile. It was evident she was having a grand time. She closed her visor and took the new lance then pranced her horse over to the starting point. One lance remained after this run. The official took his place and noted both riders' ready signal. He held the flag out as the crowd dropped a level of volume.
The flag went up and the official ran clear yelling out, "GO!"
It was evident the excitement had reached the official too. Charlemagne reared up then lunged into his run. Fiona settled in to lean forward. She angled her shield outward and up with her lance forward of her line. Fiona was aiming low center of Patrick's shield. Patrick had Daemon bounce twice to get into his run then tear down the lane with good strides. He rode straight in his saddle with his shield angled in and down. The lance was held behind his line and aiming center high.
The stomping and clapping was at an almost fevered pitch as the two riders closed on each other. As the lances crossed Patrick pushed his shield forward when Fiona pulled back. When her lance streaked forward he turned to match it, shoving the lance to the side as he rammed his lance forward high right before shattering. Many yelled in shock as the Countess struggled to stay in her saddle from the spin Patrick had caused her. Fiona's lance had glanced harmlessly off his shield.
Barely Fiona regained her position, almost at the cost of discarding her lance which would have awarded Patrick more points. With her visor up, she saluted him in passing with a smile. For her, this was the greatest contest she had ever ridden! At her end the squire handed her a water bottle and she drank deeply.
"Last lance my Lady," the squire stated.
Fiona immediately turned Charlemagne around and trotted to the middle. Puzzled, Patrick rode out to meet her.
Proudly Fiona announced loudly, "THIS IS THE BEST CONTEST I'VE EVER RIDDEN! COMMANDER FOTENS, YOU'VE SET THE GREATEST CHALLENGE I'VE EVER HAD!"
"If that be the case Doucet, bring forth all you can muster and see it to the very end," Patrick said firmly.
The Headmaster took the announcer's platform as Sir Belvin himself strode out carrying the flag.
"One thing is certain. The Academy hasn't seen a contest this close in MANY years. TAKE YOUR STARTING POSITIONS FOR THE FINAL LANCE," the Headmaster announced.
Both saluted each other and the crowd then rode back to their sides. Visors down and lances ready, they signaled to Sir Belvin. He nodded to them and held the flag out and the crowd went silent and still.
Suddenly the flag went up and Sir Belvin ran clear, "GO!"
Daemon lunged forward as did Charlemagne. Patrick leaned forward in his saddle, shield angled back and inward. His lance even with his line and aiming center of her shield. Fiona sat straight in her saddle with her shield flat. She held her lance back from her line and she too, aimed center of his shield. They both adjusted strides as they closed on each other. As the lances crossed Both thrust their lances forward. Fiona's shift changed her position before Patrick could compensate. His lance hit high on her shield and snapped. Her lance had dipped just enough to jam in low center of his shield and shattered. Patrick was pitched off backwards as the crowd roared.
Fiona squealed in excitement as she brought Charlemagne to a trot and turned in a wide arc. She yanked off her helmet to reveal her face lit with elation. Patrick was on his feet with no trouble and removed his own helmet. He saluted Fiona as she rode by triumphantly. She dismounted and saluted him.
"Patrick Fotens. Honored that I am to have ridden against you today; I'm also sad that I will not be doing so again next year. One day I hope there is some peaceful competition we can meet again at," Fiona stated.
Patrick nodded, "who knows what the future holds Doucet. If there is and I am there; I'll look forward to it."
"This year's victor of Tournament; FIONA DOUCET, COUNTESS OF SPARZO," the Headmaster announced and the crowd roared again.
Phoebe sat on her throne resting as Iia sat on the riser and Daalumos stood to the side. All three watched the doorway. Finally a bearded old man walked through and stopped.
"You are the new Goddess of Nightmares. Phoebe," the old man guessed.
Phoebe looked down at him, "I am. What brings you before me Barbatos, Duke of Demons?"
Duke Barbatos stated, "I was summoned to make enquiry. What is your stance upon the disposition of Phoetor? Will you claim his remaining property in holding or for your own? Are you preparing for war in the Underworld?"
Phoebe stared at the High Demon, "let him rot in the abyss. I care not for any of that. I have no interest in the goings-on in Underworld. You may go."
In a rush of flames Duke Barbatos left them, "Enjoy your rule Phoebe; Goddess of Nightmares."
Iia looked up, "what do we do now Mistress?"
Phoebe smiled finally, "whatever I want Iia. Now there is no disputing my reign."
Daalumos shrieked in delight as Iia giggled seductively. They had won without an argument or fight.
Fiona's victory nullified the arrangement to marry Jeffries Talfar. At the celebration that night, Vaan Arento proposed and Fiona accepted gleefully. Jeffries Talfar had to admit to his father and Count Doucet that he had sold the gifted Warhorse from Count Doucet to finance Eaton Laanower's ploy. After graduation he was quietly sent to Hawk's Rock fortress. Jessica Weyden finally became friendly with a third year Marquis during her Fourth year. They married after his graduation. Patrick Fotens faded into obscurity after promoting a captain to Commander. Sania Malzeek graduated with high honors and Tournament champion then led a force to decimate the Noble who's soldiers had brutalized and murdered her birth mother. Phoebe became widely known as the Goddess of Nightmares and many temples were built to her, many prayed and her power grew. Eventually she stormed Marduk Kurios' fortress then sealed him within the Abyss with Phoetor and never returned to the Underworld.
Well readers, so ends the tale of the Nightmare Rider. Thank you very much for reading and I hope you've enjoyed it. I sat in a quandry as to what I will do with this story when i finished it, it was the previous chapter that I finally decided. I will be leaving it up for free reading; however, The Nightmare Rider will not be open for fan-fiction. I don't see a sequel to this story either. I have a couple of things to take care of and then I will start work on my next project, which I hope you will enjoy as well. thanks once again to all the readers for your support, comments and kudos. Its been quite the Ride!
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