It was late Spring when the Jousting season began and Heralds had been out through all the Kingdoms to bring word to all who may wish to compete. The first big Tournament of the year was the Honey Joust and the Heralds
The roads of the South were full of Knights and their retinues some with a dozen or more carts in their caravan and tens of marching men-at-arms, others simple hedge Knights with one or two retained servants. There were troupes of Players and any number of varied Minstrels. The roads were awash with colour and full of the sounds and smells that a thousand or more travellers may bring.
Further North the numbers reduced but not the variety of those travelling South. The hardiest of warriors from the North had what looked like small villages in tow. These Moorsmen were a tough breed living in the high hills that slowly gave way to the inhospitable icy grassland of the Tundra.
Further North still a single rider left the ice-bound vastness of Eboracumshire in the Icefields beyond the Tundra. Competition through winter had determined who would represent the tribes of the Icefields. The rider, diminutive and robed in furs, controlled the huge beast with a simple word or two of instruction. The mount was a Great White Bear, prime predator of the Icefields.
None traveled with the Champion of Ice. They had other things to keep them occupied without a need to travel South. Yet each year they selected a Champion of Ice to go to the Honey Joust and bring back the prize. If the Champion of Ice failed to win they may never return North of the tundra. If they crossed that rugged grassland their life was forfeit and any one, no matter how base or from what tribe, may kill them on sight, take all they carry and fear no retribution.
It was a position of honour to be named Champion of Ice and this year a Brigante, one of the tribes of the Icefields, had risen to the challenge. To those of the Icefields she was Integra of the Fair Brook. To those South of the Tundra she was simply Integra of The North.
As she travelled South Integra shed the layers of fur, selling them to traders as she went. Coins of the South had little value at home but she would need the coin to buy food and lodging. Even the hardy Moorsmen mounted on their Aurochs and Dire Wolves shied away from the Great White Bear.
Integra kept to the grass as she made her way South to avoid the crowds. Engelbert was of mild temperament for his kind at most times. As with all Great White Bears it took a rider with strong force of will to command him and the other riding beasts, even the mighty Dire wolves felt as prey when he looked upon them.
From the East and West came riders on Mountain Bear, Wood Bear and Black-Eyed Bear. There were riders of Rhino and Water Buffalo, riders of Bison, Oxen, Komodos and Axe Beaks. The teeming masses flowed like a river of flesh towards the grassy fields of the South.
In the South the Meadowland was full of bloom and a-hum with insects gathering pollen. Herds of Unicorn and Deer pranced in the grasses and flocks of Pegasi flew through the air landing to graze among the other peaceful creatures.
Knights of the South preferred these graceful creatures to the more rugged mounts that others brought from their homelands. What they gave up in strength they gained through speed and agility.
The Honey Joust was held in a large Meadow outside the capital city of Londiniumopolis. There were tens of thousands of tents erected thereabouts. Over many flew the heraldry of the Knights staying there-in. Others were for the supporters both of gentle birth and small folk. Others for the Players, Minstrels and Fools for the Hawkers, Vendors and Peddlars, for the Brewers, the Vitlers and the providers of various diverse entertainments. There were the Manageries, the Freakshows and the Curios. There were Fortunetellers, Soothsayers and Midwifs.
The night before the first day of the Tourney Integra of the North arrived, riding Engelbert. She found an area to place her camp just outside the main throng. Her neighbours were Fools, some Peddlars a Fortuneteller and a Midwif. Nearby were lean-tos erected by families of migrant workers, some farmhands, a family of charcoal burners and a group of ruffians that looked more like footpads than honest laborers.
Continued in … PART 2