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The final day of the joust had arrived with great pomp and circumstance, but before it could begin there were a hundred squires to be raised to knighthood by King Daeron’s own hand. Among the new-made knights were Ethos Mertyns, Holtyn Rosby, Jan Marbrand, Urston Coldwater, and the young Lord Guy Cordwayner. After the ceremony was completed, the grand final would begin with the victors of the previous seven days defending the Queen of Love and Beauty, the Princess Daena, from all challengers. The first six champions were Ser Almer Connington, Ser Triston Templeton, Ser Gueren Waters, Balian Blackwood, Prince Aemon Targaryen, and Ser Aidan Dayne. The seventh would have been the esquire Seth Blackwood, but his injuries prevented his participation. The king considered the matter, and choose to substitute Ser Bonifer Buckwell, due to his great deeds in the joust for love, most notably defeating both ahorse and on foot Ser Ardon Tyrell while he was disguised as the mysterious Weeping Knight.
There was no hesitation, as seven new-made knights challenged the champions, Sarmion Stormbreaker’s former squire, Ser Ethos, challenging Sarmion’s previous squire, Ser Almer. Fourteen knights charged, with Ser Ethos being overthrown with a few other knights in the first pass, and the rest were vanquished soon after, leaving all seven champions in charge of the field. And then the challenges came fast, with Ser Triston facing Gueren Water’s son, Ser Ondryn, whom he defeated, and Ser Bonifer Buckwell facing and then defeating Prince Cadan Martell. As the day wore on, the flow of challengers slowed, but there were over a hundred who had meant to take part, and it would be well into the afternoon before those final jousts were completed.
Other notable contests included Ser Gueren, who had ridden brilliantly up to that point, facing the famed Ser Roger Ryger, who managed to unseat the crownlands favorite and take his place. So, too, did Ser Almer fall to his rival, Ser Dagur Saltcliffe. Balian Blackwood faced many challengers as well, the lone lance who was not a knight among the champions, and he acquitted himself well as he defeated Ser Benedict Rogers and several other notable knights before the Bastard of Three Towers, Ser Endran Flowers, knocked upon his shield and soon unhorsed him to take his place.
Prince Aemon the Dragonknight rode as brilliantly, all agreed, and had more luck, defeating among others Ser Anders Dondarrion—who gave the Dragonknight several hard-fought passes before succumbing—and Ser Ingram Swyft, called Bluespurs, the Knight of Cornfield. Ser Aidan rode well as well, though he received fewer challengers than some, perhaps because few would find any great honor in defeating a Dornishman. Yet Ser Ardon Tyrell discharged his oath to seek Ser Aidan out, and was driven from the saddle in the first past, which he appeared to accept with equanimity, and then not long after Ser Kavan Paege the Young, tried his luck. In two courses, all the lances were broken, but Ser Aidan’s placement was the better and he forced Ser Kavan from his saddle.
Ser Endran did not rest on his laurels, nor did Ser Roger, as they fought a number of challengers. Some would say the Bastard of Three Towers had the harder contests, facing the likes of Ser Walder and Ser Halder Frey, the Twins of the Crossing, in succession and unhorsing them both in the first pass. The crowd cheered him on, as he seemed to be in the finest possible form. Then Lord Hugo Smallwood, known as Oakshanks for his size and might, came and challenged Ser Roger Ryger. After four courses with all but one lance shattered, the muscular Lord Smallwood hammered Ser Roger to the earth, and roared his victory as he took possession of the champion’s place.
One of the last contests of the day was for Ser Dagur Saltcliffe, who had been in fine form after overthrowing Ser Almer. But it was Ser Janden Melcolm who proved his undoing. The valeknight was not widely known, but had been the second place knight on the first day, and h e proved it was no fluke when he forced the Iron Serpent from the saddle and took the champion’s place. Ser Bonifer also faced a late challenger, Ser Eben Bolling of the City Watch of King’s Landing, but had better luck holding the knight off, defeating him after a pair of courses.
And then shortly after, there were no more knights to challenge. No less than four knights had kept their places as champions throughout the day, and all of them fought at least ten challenges in the process, with some significantly more, such as the Dragonknight.
At last it was the final contest, and due to his many challenges Ser Aemon was allowed to sit out the initial contests. Ser Bonifer faced Oakshanks, and was hammered from the saddle by such a blow that it is said ribs were seriously bruised, or perhaps even cracked. Ser Triston and Ser Janden traded courses, until at last Ser Janden had the better of his fellow valelord and pushed him to the ground. And Ser Aidan Dayne fought a close contest against the Bastard of Three Towers, ultimately defeating him.
When Oakshanks faced the Dragonknight, however, it proved a different story for him, and he was soon defeated. The Knight of the Twilight faced the bold Melcolm knight, who strived to at least match his performance on the first day, but nothing came of it as he was defeated. This left a last contest, between the Dornish jousting prodigy and the man considered by many to be the finest knight in the realm. Prince Aemon and Ser Aidan saluted one another before charging down the lists ... and they both unhorsed one another with the force of the blows!
There was a delay, as King Daeron and the herald hurriedly conversed, and then the herald called on the men to lay on with tourney blades to decide the outcome. They set to with great courage and prowess, but from Dayne’s tactics it was clear he doubted he could match Prince Aemon blow for blow. Instead, reversing his tactics from some tourneys before when he fought the Iron Serpent on foot, he forced the Dragonknight to chase him until he was near one of the barriers, and then lured him into flinging a decisive blow that ended with the tourney blade embedded in a barrier, the new wood and layers of whitewash sticking it fast. Ser Aidan flung away his shield and attempted to hammer the prince down as he struggled to remove the sword, but Aemon abandoned it and defended himself with his shield before the Dornishman’s withering, desperate attempt to take the victory.
It was his vigor that seemed like to prove his undoing. Hacking and slashing at the shield, at one point it split the shield part way down its length, and before he could withdraw it from the near-ruined shield, the Dragonknight gave a heave. The sword was ripped from the Knight of the Twilight’s hand, and Prince Aemon flung sword and shield both away. Then unarmed, for a moment they stared at one another ... and hunger for glory and victory, before took up the long narrow daggers at their belts, a standard part of a knights’ equipment which is rarely used on the tourney field and is thus never replaced with a blunted one. At that moment, the king’s voice roared out as he called for a halt.
After further consultation with the herald and Prince Viserys, the king determined that both men had proved their prowess equally well, and if the gods could not decide between them with either lance or sword, it would be called a draw and they would share in the prize purse. Both knights agreed to the king’s decision, naming it just, and upheld the right of Daena to wear the crown of Queen of Love and Beauty. Such a contest, and such a result, was surpassingly strange, and few knew how to take it. Some thought the king was kind to the Dornishman, perhaps even favoring the man as some accused him of favoring the Dornishmen in general. Others merely thought it good sense, to stop the contest before blood would be spilled in their eagerness to gain renown. The original first prize was no less than twenty thousand dragons.
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