Short Story: Tilting at the Ring


His horse stamped and chomped the bit. Madoc shushed him and tugged the reins to draw the gelding’s attention. The horse danced beneath him and Madoc could feel the powerful muscles bunch as the horse prepared for the charge.

The ring bobbed and swayed in the breeze.

Madoc rolled his shoulders beneath his chainmail and plate. He had been practicing this for months yet still he missed. Alexander had said it would come eventually. Reaching up he slammed his visor shut. Lion half-reared and snorted. He wanted to run, they’d stood long enough. Madoc embraced the gelding’s anticipation, he too wanted to run.

Lifting a practice lance from the rack Madoc rested it on his stirrup. Guiding Lion with his knees and one hand on the reins Madoc brought them into place in the lists. Lion chomped the bit and snorted. Madoc breathed out and squeezed his knees against the gelding. Lion leapt forward his hooves eating up the ground as they tore toward the goal. Madoc trusted the horse to follow the rail and lowered his lance into place focusing only on that ring. Leaning forward slightly he aimed for the ring.

His breathing echoed in the helmet and he could feel the sweat slip down his cheek. This was his tenth run.

Lion’s hooves beat the earth.

The lance tip clinked against the ring.

The tip slid past.

“Damn it!” Madoc shouted. Lion slowed to a trot and headed back to the start. He knew the routine.

Dropping the reins Madoc lifted his visor and glared at the ring. What was wrong? Was his form off? Was he not watching the ring to the end? Shaking his head he slammed the visor back into place as Lion stopped facing down the list. The gelding pawed the ground and shook his head beneath the metal place.

“Again.” Madoc muttered and Lion whinnied appreciatively. They charged down the list. Madoc leaned forward. Every fiber of his body focused on that ring and the surging beast beneath him. The pounding hoof beats echoed in his ears and suddenly, it all faded away. All he saw was that ring and the tip of his lance.

Sound was muffled.

The world slowed.


The ring slid over the tip of the lance.


The ring popped off the hook that held it on the rope.

Madoc whooped and hollered. Lion reared catching his master’s excitement. As the horse’s hooves thudded to the earth Madoc dropped the reins and patted the gelding’s neck appreciatively.

“Good boy!” He praised the gelding who huffed and began to walk toward the start. He was as sweaty as his master but hardly tired. They were both used to this. Madoc flipped up his visor and stared at the ring now resting against the vamplate of his lance.

He’d finally done it. He grinned broadly in boyish joy.

The sound of clapping registered at that moment and he looked up. Two men sat on the fence of the tilting yard. General Alexander Wellsey and Sir Tancred of Estmont were clapping and hollering. Leaning a little he redirected Lion toward the men and the gelding quickened to a trot.

“So you finally caught that ring! Congratulations highness!” Sir Tancred’s booming voice carried across the space to him as he approached.

“Yes sir I did.” Madoc grinned again and Tancred smiled back. Lion halted several paces from the two men. Alexander extended a hand. Madoc tipped the lance down and let the ring slid down to his waiting hand.

“Well done Madoc.” General Wellsey was one of the few men who ever used his given name. Madoc loved it. He disliked his title, his brother was the Prince, not him. He wanted nothing more than this. Knighthood was his goal, his passion and his pastime. Ever since he was boy he’d wanted only this. Alexander looked up at him and Madoc could see a challenge behind those sharp eyes.

“Can you do it again?”

“Yes sir!” Madoc slammed the visor into place and Lion trotted toward the start. Tancred reset the ring and Madoc watched it bob in the wind.

He breathed out and settled his lance.


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