It was Sandra’s first time at a Renaissance Faire and she was both amazed and aghast at her surroundings. Amazed at the setting, the costumes, the activities, the food. It seemed she’d stepped through time. There were ax-throwing booths, archery contests and many medieval sports and activities. People in Renaissance garb sold their wares from booths made of cloth tents. It’s all so Arthurian, she thought. But she was aghast at the time and money people spent on their costumes, not just the vendors—after all, it was their job—but the guests too. There were princesses, minstrels, bards, jesters, and yeomen; fantasy themes were also abundant and people dressed as fawns, wizards and even elves—the Tolkien kind. The costumes fascinated her; they were top-notch and made of the best materials, not the homemade sheet-with-eyeholes type she’d worn on Halloween.
“Gosh,” Sandra turned to Kate, “did you ever imagine this?”
“No, I feel like I’ve stepped into Geekdom, but this is awesome!”
“I don’t know whether I should be amused or appalled. It’s supposed to be a Renaissance Faire, and everything’s like from the Middle Ages!”
Kate threw her head back and laughed. They’d been best friends since Kindergarten and had always wondered what these Faires were like. For the first time they’d attended one, and it didn’t disappoint.
They browsed from tent to tent and admired the fantasy-themed jewelry and the medieval-style pottery and crafts. The weapons vendor’s wares were plastic, but some weapons locked in a glass curio cabinet looked real.
The food dismayed though, the vendors sold pretzels, fries, corn dogs and all matter of American fast food. Sandra had expected something more old world and had been rather excited at the prospect of tasting Renaissance-style fare.
“Maybe Shakespeare ate burgers and fries,” joked Kate, taking a bite out of a salted pretzel.
“Well, you can have a turkey leg,” Sandra giggled, “they look right out of Ye Olde England.”
“I don’t think it would fit in my mouth!” Kate laughed as a large blacksmith passed by eating a turkey leg so big the man’s face looked small.
They sat down at one of the large wooden picnic benches and enjoyed their snacks. Sandra observed the people around them and Kate made witty comments.
* * *
Rob straightened his belt and remembered Julia. He had gotten into this mess because of her. He’d never considered himself a geek, but after meeting Julia… She had slowly changed him into a person he hardly recognized, not that he hated it, in many ways, he liked himself better. She had pushed him to try out new things, visit museums, go to concerts, poetry readings and whatnot, but when they’d sampled medieval sports, Rob, always the jock, had found his talent and passion. Julia had bolted soon after even though it had been her idea. It was ironic that she’d left him for a gym trainer, someone who wasn’t such a geek, she’d said.
Rob shook himself from his reverie and got ready. This was his first Faire appearance and he trusted he would impress everyone. It had surprised him that these sports came natural to him, no one could ride like him, handle the lance like him or wield the sword like him. In the short time he’d taken up the pastime people in the circuit had even called him Lancelot.
“It’s just a game,” he muttered to himself, though he knew this was his chance to prove himself. But to whom? The absent Julia who preferred to look at that pea-brained muscle-man do squats?
Rob flexed his own muscles. He’d always been an athlete, and at least through Julia he’d learned he wasn’t pea-brained. Now it was time to prove that brains and brawn aren’t incompatible.
Rob took a deep breath and stepped out into the sunlight.
* * *
Trumpets sounded all over the campground-turned-Faire.
“Hear ye, hear ye!” A skinny youth dressed in puffy knee-length pants and tights addressed the crowd, “The tourney shall begin!”
Sandra and Kate rushed to a fenced-in field where the players were getting ready. There were horses and knights and banners! It was to be a joust! They laughed and giggled at the sight.
Kate snickered, “Can you believe this?”
“This is so awesome!” Sandra replied.
Just then, one knight caught her eye. He dressed in medieval armor, but had not put on his helmet. He was tall and muscular, with black hair and neat, trimmed beard. His posture showed confidence. He was talking to a man dressed like a squire. Sandra saw he was quite handsome and elbowed Kate.
“Oh hello,” Kate murmured when she followed Sandra’s gaze.
The knight turned in their direction and their eyes met. Sandra liked his bright blue eyes and fine nose, her knees weakened and her stomach fluttered; bashful, she smiled and the knight turned bright red.
“Ooh-la-la,” Kate teased and they giggled like little girls.
* * *
Rob and Jerry, his squire, readied the horse; good ole Gawain (yes, like the Knight of the Round Table) was strong and reliable. They could count on him not to spook and to stay the course; he was the perfect jousting horse.
Rob’s mind was all on the tourney. He’d learned long ago not to heed the crowd before a competition. His mind must be clear and his eyes on the prize, but the wind carried the sound of women’s laughter and he turned. Watching him were the most beautiful green eyes he’d ever seen. Julia’s light brown did not compare. These eyes were piercing emerald and, despite himself, Rob blushed right up to the tip of his ears. His heart skipped in a way it hadn’t since his adolescence; not even Julia’s classical beauty had provoked such a reaction. The face that framed those eyes was exotic, open and friendly. And the smile! Oh that smile promised a thousand nights of… well, everything. Love, companionship, sensuality, comfort, everything irradiated from that smile. Rob didn’t want to turn away.
The tourney began. A lot of fanfare, the crier gave his spiel and the audience oohed and aahed when the horses cantered. Sandra noted the handsome knight carried the blue and white banner.
The archery contest came first, then the buffoons and jugglers.
Rob kept his composure through the opening activities, but he found it hard not to glance in the woman’s direction. For the first time he understood what it meant for the knights of old to vie for the damsel’s heart. He wanted to win this so much more now that those eyes had captivated him. He knew this was his chance to elevate himself to her and be more than just the nerd in the cheesy armor. He wanted to be Lancelot.
It was time for the joust.
Sandra watched the handsome knight mount his horse; the squire handed him the lance. Rob couldn’t help sneaking a peek at the beautiful woman following him intently from the crowd. The opposing knight with the red banner made himself ready at the other end of the list.
Off they went! They galloped towards each other and as Rob passed by, Sandra yelled, “Go, blue and white!”
The handsome knight heard her and did a double-take (Kate later called it rubbernecking). He was looking in Sandra’s direction as the red knight’s masterful blow struck Rob’s shield and threw him off his mount. Sandra gasped and covered her mouth while the handsome knight remained motionless on the ground. That was the end of that. He’d been the knight favored to win but one flash of emerald had turned the tables.
Winded and embarrassed, Rob’s his pride shattered into a million pieces. How would he ever look into those eyes again?
Squire Jerry helped Rob to his feet. Abashed and eyes fixed on the ground, Rob limped to his tent; Gawain snorted and, head held high, trotted beside him.
Rob plunked himself down on the wooden chair in the safety of his tent. Jerry mumbled words of encouragement; this was his first tourney, and Sir James was an excellent opponent, he shouldn’t be so downtrodden. Rob sneered and said nothing. Those bright green eyes had a name, and after this spectacle, he was certain he’d never know it. He covered his face with his hands.
Rob was unaware that Sandra and Kate huddled and giggled by the tent with the blue and white banner, waiting for the handsome knight to emerge.