ATF Alternate Universe
The crowd for the afternoon joust were beginning to file into the arena. Buck and Nathan wandered amongst the crowd. They saw Robin Hood make an appearance followed by his merry men.
"Come on Buck let's go talk to Josiah," Nathan said.
Buck nodded and they made their way through the crowd. When they got clear they could hear Todd talking to Josiah.
"I've never seen the crowd so big before," he commented. "I don't think everyone is going to fit."
"I guess Chris and Vin are pretty popular," Buck laughed.
"Actually that's all I've heard visitors talking about all day," said the young man playing Allen Adale. "They keep asking about them."
"Josiah can we talk to you a minute?" Buck asked.
They walked behind the gates to the back stage area to talk privately.
"Have you seen anything yet?" Nathan asked.
"Nothing yet," Buck admitted. "Micah was right about them being a closed mouthed group."
"I think we'll learn more tonight," Josiah said. "They have to feel comfortable before they can trust us. It's only our first day."
"You're probably right," Nathan agreed. "But I have heard a few remarks about Philip. They said he's going to be jealous of the attention Vin and Chris are getting. It seems he's usually the draw for the joust."
"They saw Taylor riding up followed by Phillip and their squire Anthony. They heard the trumpets blare that heralded the arrival of the King.
"We better get back outside and mingle with the crowd," Josiah said.
The three of them slipped out the gate and Josiah rejoined Robin hoods men. Buck sauntered over to one of the wenches selling pretzels and helped her carry them after stealing a kiss. Nathan shook his head. He wasn't sure they were going to be able to get Buck to leave after this assignment was over. He stayed by the fence and was invited up to the King's box by Ezra. The crowd grew quiet as the King stood.
"Master of the List is everything ready for the joust?" he asked.
"Yes my Liege," called a man standing in the arena.
Another trumpet sounded and the gates opened. Anthony led Taylor and Philip out. Their silver armor glinted in the sun. The gray horses had blue and silver ribbons braided in their manes. They trotted around the arena waving at the crowd as they cheered. They stopped in front of the king and bowed. The King acknowledged them with a nod of his head. Sir Taylor was about to say something when the gates burst open and JD charged in followed by Chris and Vin. They cantered around the arena as the crowd booed and stopped their horses next to the others. Their all black armor and black horses seemed to absorb the light. Vin's horses was restless and tossed his head throwing his long mane in he air.
"Now that you have arrived let the tournament begin," the King announced.
They went to opposite sides of the jousting list and JD dismounted, as did Anthony. Chris and Phillip would joust first. They trotted to opposite ends and waited.
"My Liege might I suggest a wager," Lady Margaret called.
"Duke Reginald does she speak for you?" King Stephen asked.
"My Lady wife speaks for herself," Ezra announced which made the crowd cheer.
"Very well my Lady what do you suggest?"
"I wager 100 gold crowns that the black knights can beat your men," she announced dropping a purse at the Kings feet.
"Done," he said dropping his own purse. "Master of the List you may begin."
"Relax Nathan,' Molly whispered. "They'll be fine. Taylor is a good teacher."
"That maybe but I'm still going to worry," Nathan said.
JD and Anthony handed their knights each a lance and stepped back. At the signal Chris and Phillip cantered towards each other. Chris hit true and splintered the lance on Phillips armor. They jousted three more times and Phillip was declared the winner causing the crowd to cheer. This didn't sit well with JD and he began to taunt Phillip. Anthony drew his sword and challenged JD. They fought until the Master of the List separated them
"I see you have taught your squire manners," the King sneered.
"I have," Chris smiled. "And they are better than yours."
The crowd oooo'ed as the Kings follower's advanced on Chris. The King ordered them back and said to continue the joust. The Master of the List explained that Vin and Taylor would be jousting in the French style, which was more dangerous. That announcement didn't please Nathan. JD and Anthony helped attach a metal plate to their right shoulders. This would be the target that they had to hit using heavier lances. The scoring was higher for this joust and the distance separating them was longer. When they were ready Vin and Taylor trotted to opposite ends of the arena. Vin's horse was eager to start and pranced as he held him back. The signal was given and Vin's horse reared before it charged forward causing the crowd to gasp. Vin hit the plate on Taylor's armor and the lance split with a loud crack. Taylor swayed in the saddle and grabbed the horn so he wouldn't fall. The crowd booed as Vin trotted back to his place. When Taylor was ready they were handed new lances and they charged again. This time Taylor scored against Vin and the crowd cheered. The next two runs were hits for Vin and Taylor was having trouble staying in the saddle. He leaned too far to the left and tumbled out of the saddle. The crowd booed as Vin raced circles around the fallen knight. Vin finally dismounted as Taylor struggled to his feet. They drew swords and began to fight. Taylor was still disoriented and his swing went wide. Vin walked closer and slammed the pommel of his sword into the side of Taylor's helmet and he went down and didn't get up. Vin stepped back and raised his visor.
"I believe I've won," he announced as he smiled at the King.
Since Vin had scored more hits on Taylor them Phillip did on Chris the black knights won the tournament. The crowd booed as the King raised his hand for quiet.
"Lords and Ladies that is the end of today's Royal Faire," he announced. "Please join us again another day."
The King left the box and made his way towards the exit to say good bye to the crowds as they left. The knights went behind the gates and disappeared. Nathan wanted to make sure everyone was OK and went back by the corrals. Buck was also worried about JD and went with Nathan. They got there in time to help Chris and Vin off their horses. Buck helped Vin down and he swayed as his feet hit the ground and he grabbed for the saddle.
"Whoa there Junior, " Buck said grabbing him.
"I knew something was going to happen," Nathan fussed a Taylor quickly unbuckled Vin's helmet.
"I'm fine Nathan," Vin growled. The sharpshooter's face was flushed and he was sweating.
"Oh yeah you look fine," Buck laughed.
"I'm just hot is all," Vin protested.
"Yeah the black armor takes some getting used to," Taylor said. "I figured we could take turns wearing it."
"Come on lets get you out of that pressure cooker," Nathan said as he began to unbuckle Vin. "JD can you get Vin some water."
"I'll get it," Anthony said and ran off.
Once they got Vin out of the armor Nathan made him sit with his head between his knees. Vin growled and said he was all right and to stop fussing. Anthony returned with a Gatorade and Vin thanked him. With everyone helping the others were quickly released from their armor.
"Let me guess Mr. Tanner got over heated in the armor," Micah said when he saw him with a wet towel on the back of his neck.
"Thought I was in good shape," Vin said. "That stuff's heavy."
"Maybe I should have made Mr. Wilmington a knight," Micah said. "You just don't have the bulk."
"And Chris does," Vin said raising his eyebrows.
"I'm not the one falling flat on my face after a little ride," Chris teased.
"I don't think Vin could play a rogue," Buck added. "He'd get all tongue tied if he kissed one of the ladies."
"Isn't that what they want," Taylor said and everyone laughed.
"Think I've had enough abuse for one day," Vin scowled. "I'm gong to take a shower."
Vin stood up slowly and glared at Nathan when he took his arm. When Nathan realized he wasn't going to fall over he let him go. He followed Vin as he walked to the cabin. JD decided he needed a shower also and followed them. Micah pulled Buck and Chris over to the side
"I know you probably haven't learned anything today," he said. "But you've established yourselves and everyone should be friendly behind the scenes now."
"Don't worry Mr. Hansen," Chris said. "If I know Ezra he's convinced a bunch of your people that he's a rich man looking to get richer by any means he can."
"Yeah Ezra was buying drinks for everyone earlier," Buck said.
"I'll let you gentlemen decide how to proceed," Micah said. "Dinner is at eight at the main fire. We all eat together."
"We'll see you then," Chris said.
Buck and Chris headed for the cabin. When they got there they found Vin sprawled across one of the lower bunks.
"He didn't get far," Buck laughed.
"Nope," Nathan said.
"Are you sure he's OK, Nate," Chris asked.
"Yeah he's fine," Nathan assured him. "But you two better make sure you drink plenty of water tomorrow."
"Yes mom," Chris said. "I'm going to go hit the shower before JD uses all the hot water. Dinners at eight so I guess we can wander around and see what we can find."
They agreed and Buck went back out. Nathan stayed with Vin while Chris went to take a shower. Nathan decided he liked this play acting and was looking forward to tomorrow.
After the Faire was closed all the performers and merchants turned the whole area into their private town. Lanterns appeared in the sleeping areas above the shops and a large bonfire was lit in the middle of one of the streets. This was the main gathering area. Music and laughter could be heard in the night. Chris and his team made their way over to the fire. They were all dressed in simple tunics and leggings. Micah informed them that everyone stayed in character for the weekend. JD thought this was great and so did Buck. Ezra was a little upset that the shower was a solar heat bag that hung from a tree. Vin just laughed and said it was better then anything he had when he went camping. Nathan made sure Vin drank plenty of water until he complained he wasn't a goddamned fish. As they got closer to the fire they were greeted by many of the performers.
"We weren't sure you would show up," Molly teased. "First time performers usually fall asleep there first day."
"No us darlin' " Buck said kissing her hand. "We didn't want to miss all the fun."
"Buck if you would kindly take your hands off my wife." Ezra commented and everyone laughed.
JD and Vin disappeared in search of food. They returned with trenchers piled with food. Chris just shook his head and looked at Micah.
"Are you sure you can afford to feed those two?" he asked.
"You should have warned me," Micah protested. "Why is it always the scrawny ones that can pack away so much food?"
"If I have to wear that damned armor I need all the strength I can get," Vin said before he bit into t huge turkey leg.
The evening passed with the team being accepted by everyone. They learned that everyone came from a variety of backgrounds from laborers to stockbrokers. Chris had worked out their cover stories before hand incase anyone asked. He and Vin were half brothers and raised horses. Buck was an old friend and he lived with his cousin JD. Josiah, Buck and Nathan were construction workers and JD was a student.
"How did you get mixed up with this lot Ezra?" Molly asked.
"I often asked myself the same thing," Ezra smiled. "I inherited a substantial amount of money and I like to invest it. Chris came to my bank looking for a loan but was turned down. I couldn't help but over hear his conversation with the loan officers and I decided to help. When he left the bank I followed him and offered him the money. Needless to say he wasn't very grateful."
"What did you expect Ezra. You just walked up to me out of the blue and offered me money," Chris said. "I thought you were crazy."
"And that's how you ended up together?" Anthony asked.
"I know it seem rather strange but it's the truth," Josiah laughed.
"How'd you end up at the Faire? Todd asked.
"Micah is an old friend," Chris replied. "He's been bugging me to come help out. Finally I agreed. When this lot found out they thought it would be fun and tagged along."
Some of the musical performers entertained everyone for the evening. Buck was also encouraged to tell more of his outlandish tales. He was in the middle of one of them when Chris noticed four women walking towards their group carrying blankets and clay pots.
"Ah, I was wondering when you would show up," Taylor said.
"Well we had to eat first," one of them said.
Two of the women spread blankets out in front of Philip and Taylor. They pulled off their tunics and lay on the blankets face down. The women knelt by them and began to give them a back rub. The other two spread blankets out in front of Chris and Vin.
"It's one of the perks of being a jouster," Micah said. "It keeps you from being stiff in the morning."
"You won't hear me complain," Chris said pulling off his tunic and ling down.
Vin remained stubbornly seated and looked up at the woman.
"Thanks ma'am but I'm fine," he said.
"Don' t be stubborn Vin," Nathan scolded.
"It's all right darlin' if he doesn't want it you can give me a back rub," Buck said with a smile.
"I bet," she laughed and turned back to Vin. "Really Vin it helps. We can go somewhere more private if you like."
"No!" Vin blurted out. "I mean.........Aw Hell!"
Chris chuckled as Vin finally gave in and pulled off his tunic. He went to lie down but not before Anthony noticed his scars.
"Where they heck did you get those?" he asked pointing.
"I was sort of a wild one," Vin said thinking fast. "Ran with a gang when I was younger. Got into a few knife fights. Was shot a couple of times too."
"Until I kicked his ass and told him to shape up," Chris said going with Vin's story.
"Hey Micah how do I get to be a knight," Buck asked.
"No way honey," said a pretty blonde from across the fire. "I like you as the kissing bandit."
"Well maybe we should discuss it," Buck said moving over to sit next to her.
Around midnight everyone started drifting off to their 'homes'. Vin and JD went to help Anthony check on the horses before they went to sleep. The rest of the seven returned to the cabin to get some sleep.
"So Chris any ideas who LeBroc's contact is?" Buck asked
"Not yet," Chris answered. "But it's early yet. If Ezra keeps up his story we should snare someone's interest."
"I believe Corey Branch might be involved," Ezra said.
"Which one's he?" Nathan asked.
"Earl Monroe," Ezra answered. "The black haired noble dressed in blue."
"What makes you suspect him?" Josiah asked.
"He was very interested in some of my illegal acquisitions," Ezra smiled.
"And those are?" Chris asked.
"The usual," Ezra smiled. "Cuban cigars, Marijuana, and banned hunting rifles."
"Perfect," Chris grinned. "Now we just have to wait."
After everyone was asleep Philip wandered to his truck to wait for Corey. He received a message to meet him there. Philip pulled out a pack of Marlboro's and shook one out. He put it between his lips and struck a match. AS he took a drag he heard his name called.
"Yeah I'm here," he called.
Corey stepped out of the shadows and over to his truck. Philip offered him a cigarette and he took it.
"I think we might have a new customer, "he said as he blew smoke from his mouth.
"Let me guess, Ezra Simpson," Philip said.
"Yeah how'd you know," Corey asked surprised.
"Lucky guess," Philip sneered. "I don't like it. His showing up seems suspicious to me."
But he has a shit load of money," Corey said. "And he's already dealt in illegal goods."
"I'll let LeBroc know and see what he says," Philip reasoned. "He might want to wait and see what happens."
"I guess you're right," Corey agreed.
"I need to get some sleep," Philip said. "I have to joust tomorrow."
"Bet you don't like Vin stealing your thunder," Corey teased.
"Don't worry he'll get his," Philip threatened.
"Don't' do anything stupid," Corey said worriedly.
"You just mind your own business," Philip threatened. "I'm going to bed."