|Hawk strode through the crowd that parted for the renowned warrior. Many an admiring eye followed his progress. |
As he neared the field Hawk heard a roar of dismay. He sped up to see what had occurred.
There, next to the Royal Enclosure, stood the Marshall and his attendants. The Marshall had a very distressed look upon his face.
Hawk was now within range to catch what was being proclaimed.
By order of Her Royal Highness, Princess Sweetcheeks of the Vale, the rules of this Tourney have been made null and void. They have been replaced by Her Royal Highness with the following:
There will be no weapons allowed.
All contestants will only wear a breech cloth.
Before entering the ring, each contestant must grease himself.
The last man standing in the ring will be declared the winner.
The winner shall receive the hand of Her Royal Highness, Princess Sweetcheeks, in Holy Matrimony.
The next to last man standing shall receive 100 Roks for the rest of his life.
May the best man win"
The Marshall started to repeat the Proclamation, but Hawk was no longer listening. His mind was whirling and his life was once again turned upside down.
He was no wrestler! A swordsman must know how to grapple but wrestle??!! And nearly naked and greased to boot?
Just then Hawk felt a hand stroking his arm. He looked down to see Zelda looking up at him with a concerned expression on her face.
"Oh, Hawk! Now what will you do? Some of the strongest men in the Kingdom have entered this Tourney. I know that you could have beaten them with your superb swordsmanship but some of these guys outweigh you by 100 pounds! Why even Kraak the Ogre has entered!" Tears of frustration and despair traced a path down Zelda's lovely face.
A flash of inspiration raced through Hawk's mind. There just might be a way to have his cake and eat it too!
"Zelda, my dear, would you be so kind as to invite Kraak to my tent? I need to have a word with him."
Zelda wiped her tears away and nodded. She wondered just what Hawk had up his sleeve.
Hawk returned to his tent and set out some strong ale. He knew that the Ogre would be more friendly upon seeing a favored drink waiting.
Then he looked in his rucksack and found a breech cloth... something he would normally only wear for mixed company bathing. He shook his head and set it on his cot.
A scratching at the tent flaps caught his attention. Hoping it was Zelda and Kraak, he invited them to enter. To his dismay it was Princess Sweetcheeks! Hawk quickly dropped to his knees and bowed his head.
"You may rise." Princess Sweetcheeks rasped.
Hawk stood and tried to hide his worry. The Princess, while fair to look upon, was a notorious scold and whiner. To have her here in his tent, now, was not a good sign. "What may I do for you, Your Highness?"
"Just stand there and look pretty," Princess Sweetcheeks drawled. " Yes, I think you'll do just fine as my future consort." The Princess strolled around Hawk, lightly touching him. She eyed him like one would a fine cut of meat... or a future stud horse.
"While your Majesty flatters me enormously, the contest is not yet won. Especially since I am a swordsman and not a grappler."
"Oh, I wouldn't worry too much... I am the Princess... what I say goes!"
With that the Princess twirled and left the tent. Her "Grand Exit" would have been impressive... except she crashed head-long into Kraak the Ogre.
"You oaf! Stay out of my way!" The Princess turned a horrid shade of purple, clenched her teeth and stomped away.
Kraak stood and watched entranced as she and her entourage left for the Tourney field. "She some woman!" he growled. "Make fine bride for Kraak!"
"Ah, yes" Hawk smiled," Just why I needed to talk to you. How about if you and I team up and work together?"
"Why Kraak need you? Kraak is big. Kraak is strong." With that, Kraak cracked his enormous knuckles. " Kraak no need help beating puny humans."
"You might if several of the other humans decided to take you out first. Then Kraak wouldn't win the Princess." Hawk was smiling on the outside but inside he was all cramped up. If Kraak didn't go along with Hawk's plan... well, Hawk wouldn't even go into the Tourney. A sprained ankle or something would keep him from competing.
"Hmmm, Kraak no think of that. What you get out of this?"
" I want the money! The Princess is, umm, too much of a woman for me." It just about killed Hawk to utter that but a man's got to do what a man's got to do. " I'll watch your back, take out as many men as I can and at the end, when it's just you and me...I'll fight my hardest!"
Hawk knew that if he had said he would lose, the Ogre would be indignant. No self-respecting Ogre would allow a trick like that to be played on himself. Ogres might not be smart but they did have gigantic pride.
Kraak scratched his head. He thought about Hawk's proposal. He thought of the luscious Princess Sweetcheeks. He thought of how her body had felt when she had crashed into him. He thought about what he had for lunch.
"Well, is it a deal?" Hawk stood proud and tall. If the Ogre decided against this plan... Hawk was ready to pack up and go look for Dragon loot or maybe Troll treasure.
Kraak shook his head and replied "What you ask again?"
"Can we be partners?" Hawk asked as politely as he could through gritted teeth.
Outside the horns blared the 10 minute warning.