"A challenge?" Evelyn asked incredulously, staring at the noblewoman.
"A challenge, Lady Evelyn," Kathryn replied. She looked very different dressed in simple tan pants tucked into brown boots and a white shirt similar to Evelyn's, only her's had a kind of collar that left the front of her neck exposed. A dark orange sash was tied around her waist, and a dagger rested on her right hip. Her hair was tied back in a tight braid and she wore no jewelry. Perhaps it was too much for Evelyn to ask for her not to wear it, but she still wore her makeup.
"A moment, Duke Jonas? Allow me to bandage Lady Evelyn's wound before she duels," the High King requested.
"Of course, Your Majesty," the duke nodded and the High King pulled Evelyn towards Orieus, who had been joined by the other King and Queens.
"Here," Queen Lucy held bandages, and the High King very quickly cleaned and bandaged the wound he'd given Evelyn.Queen Susan held a goblet, which she handed to Evelyn. The girl took a long sip of crystal water, then handed the goblet back.
"Duke Jonas, does Lady Kathryn wish for the use of practice armor?" The High King called.
"Yes, Your Majesty," the duke replied. The High King instantly pulled his camp armor over his head and helped Evelyn into it. Then King Edmund brought his gift forward. He handed a sword to her and she found it to be perfectly balanced for her. It wasn't too heavy that she'd grow tired quickly, but it wasn't as light as the rapier Kathryn had chosen. The dark haired King also handed her a sword belt with a place for both a dagger and a sword sheath. He slid the sword sheath into place on her left hip and she placed the sword inside. Then she drew her gift dagger from her boot and slid it into the dagger spot, handing her other knife to the High King as she did.
"Good luck," The Queens murmured, and both kissed her brow. The Just King too blessed her and didn't even seem fazed by it. The High King followed suit, and then he took her by the shoulders and turned her to the court.
"The terms of this challenge?" Evelyn asked, squaring her shoulders under the High King's hands. On the other side of the court, Lord Jonas and Kathryn stood in similar fashion.
"The duel is to be with weapons only. There is no hand to hand combat," General Orieus announced. "Also, the duel shall be to surrender. The loser must withdraw their claim on the property," he continued, and Evelyn growled in her throat. She had not made a claim on the High King, and now Kathryn was referring to him as property. As if he knew her thoughts, the High King tightened his hands on her shoulders and she relaxed.
Kathryn had a smug smirk on her face, and Evelyn realized the other girl had not seen any of the duels with the High King. Evelyn forced her face to stay blank, knowing it would infuriate Kathryn that she couldn't get the reaction she wanted. And Kathryn had already proved that she didn't make the best choices when she was angry.
"Would the challenger step to the court?" the High King called, and Evelyn knew it had begun. Kathryn stepped over the line painted on the ground and waited.
"Would the challenged step to the court?" the duke called in response, and Evelyn stepped over the line.
"Bow, miladies," Orieus instructed, moving to the edge. When they bowed to each other he nodded. "Draw your weapons," he ordered, and both pulled their longer blade out. "Begin," he finished, stepping back.
Evelyn was completely prepared for when Kathryn lunged forward, going for a traditional thrust. Evelyn side stepped, bringing her blade up under Kathryn's and arcing it up over their heads before she disengaged and moved behind Kathryn.
Kathryn swung around, slashing as Evelyn's ribs in a wide swing. Evelyn blocked it with ease, catching the other blade against hers and forcing Kathryn back. Kathryn disengaged and struck at Evelyn's head. Evelyn ducked and moved into Kathryn's reach. Instantly, Kathryn couldn't use her rapier, but she knew to reach for her dagger. Before Kathryn's was even clear of the sheath Evelyn's was stabbing at Kathryn's ribs.
Kathryn leaped back with a cry, and Evelyn went on attack. She knocked the dagger from a poor grip with quick efficiency. Then it was all Kathryn could do to parry and block Evelyn's strikes. She held Evelyn off for a few minutes before she stumbled and Evelyn slashed her across the forearm, above the bracer. Kathryn leaped away, but refused to give in and surrender. Then Kathryn lunged forward and stabbed at Evelyn's feet. Evelyn simply launched herself in a neat flip over the blade and behind the girl and Kathryn was too slow to spin all the way around before there was a clang. Kathryn fell back onto one knee and as her rapier went skidding across the court.
Evelyn lowered the tip of her sword to Kathryn's collarbone and settled cold, furious eyes on the other girl. Kathryn glared up at Evelyn, then huffed and snapped, "Surrender."
"And?" Evelyn asked.
"And I renounce my claim," Kathryn snarled. In one fluid movement Evelyn sheathed her sword and dagger and offered her hand to help Kathryn up. The noblewoman raised her nose and stood on her own, brushing Evelyn's hand away as she did. Evelyn just nodded, then spun on her heel and strode back to her Kings and Queens.
The Queens embraced her quickly, and then passed her to King Edmund, who clapped her on the shoulder. Then the High King was there and he pulled her to him gently. "That was risky," he scolded her, helping her from the practice armor.
"It worked," she murmured, taking a sip from the goblet he took back from Queen Lucy. They started to walk away to one of the gardens with the Queens chatting quietly behind them when she had an instantaneous feeling and threw herself sideways, tackling the High King to the ground. A dagger embedded itself in a tree exactly where the King's heart would have been, and Evelyn looked up to see the crowd of Calormen visitors streaming in every which way as they fled. Members of the Palace Guard and personal guards closed around the Kings and Queens as Evelyn helped the High King back to his feet.
"That was close. Thank you, Evelyn," he whispered into her ear, and his lips brushed her cheek again.
She turned her head so that her own lips skimmed over his cheek as she breathed, "I told you I can always feel your need."
"This looks like the weaponry Her army used," King Edmund told them, pulling the dagger from the tree.
The High King took it and nodded gravely. "It is. It's exactly like those," he agreed, passing it to Queen Susan.
"That looks like the knife I had when I came," Evelyn spoke up quietly."I think, I'm don't know, but I think I stole the knife I have. I remember riding a horse, looking over my shoulder, and feeling like I had to get away or I'd die," she added, taking the knife and examining it.
"Like you were running from something," the High King murmured. "Like you'd escaped from someone," he realized, looking at Orieus. He knew the General had the Captain's report on the rope burns and whatnot. The centaur nodded and ushered them inside, where they hurried away to get ready for the feast. The afternoon had flown by much faster than Evelyn realized, but she had rather enjoyed it, especially the time with the High King.
'How is this possible? I've known her for what, two days, and I'm flirting with her and kissing her. How am I falling this fast?' the High King's thoughts were racing and confused as he watched Evelyn run up the stairs to his old room, sword on her hip. Just before she vanished from sight, she turned and looked back down at him. He bowed to her and she did a graceful combination of a bow and curtsy at the top of the staircase.
Then, feeling rather daring, she blew him a kiss and fled. 'Oh, Aslan, was this part of your plan?' he thought, catching the kiss and placing it over his heart. 'Love wasn't part of mine.'
The man cursed to himself as he paced his rooms. The High King would be dead if not for that idiot girl. She had to go. Then they could go through with the plan. And Narnia would fall. To them. To Her.