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Dreamy Days
e was awake, but didn't want to get up. The sun had long sence risen and already the summer heat was causing sweat to bead up on his bald head. He rested. His head on Bethany's bosom as he listened to the rhythm of her heartbeat. Somehow, to him it sounded like a birdsong. How long had it been since he had felt this way? Ten years? Fifteen? No, nearly twenty years now since that night. He was a young man then. Only 6 months had
passed since the completion of his apprenticeship.

The Emperor was celebrating his latest conquest and invited representatives from far and near to compete in
a two week long tournament. Tallon, Erkinwhine's best friend and heir to the throne would be competing for the first time. For years he had teased the young apprentice necromancer, saying real men studied combat and became chivalrous knights. The Emperor was very proud of his son and expected him to do well. To encourage a large field for the competi-tion, he opened the joust to anyone who dared enter. The young mage had considered entering, but Tallon made the deci-sion easy. By simply competing in one event, Erkinwhine would be able to forever put an end to the ridicule.

When Erkinwhine had made officially entered the tournament, Constance (Tallon's sister) expressed concern
for his safety. If Tallon had known that the two of them were meeting in secret, he would have been very angry. If the Emporer found out he would have Erk killed on the spot. Erkinwhine was of noble birth, but he was a bastard. And that didn't gain him any favors with the Emporer. At least not as far as the Princess was concerned.

She gave Erk a white linin glove to wear for luck. He gently kissed her hand and promissed to be careful.

When the first day of the joust finally arrived, Erkinwhine felt sick. He tried to invent an excuse that would
get him out of the competition without giving Tallon more ammunition than ever for his verbal melee. In the end, it was the glove he had tucked into his girdle that gave him the strength to suit up and take the field.

He spurred his mount and they began forward. Ahead he could see his opponent bearing down on him.
Erkinwhine closed his eyes and began to silently wish for it all to be over. With luck he would be unhorsed in the first pass. He could lick his wounds and tell the fair Constance that he had tried. If the other rider could not unhorse him, they would have to pass again and again until one or the other had broken the tips of three lances. Erkinwhine heard a sneeze ... and felt himself lifted from the saddle ...

... He was airborn, that much was true, but his studdies in physics suggested that he should be moving back-
ward ... The sudden impact of the ground on his visor and breastplate added proof to his opinion that he was still moving forward. That ... and then unconsciousness.

He had finally proven his courage to Tallon. He had competed in a competition of knights. Not only that, he had
won, albeit by foul. The other rider had sneezed and run Erkinwhine's horse through. He could easily lie back and say his injuries would not let him continue. But though he would not have been accused for cowardess if he were to quit, the blunder of his opponent gave him an idea. He might actually do well in this competition if he simply used a little of his special training. Somewhere in his zeal for recognition, he forgot his worries about personal injury.

Much to his surprise, Tallon was apprehensive about Erkinwhine's continuation in the tournament.

"It was all in fun and games, Erk," Tallon had said. "You proved you had the courage to do it. Now get out
before you get yourself hurt. You are Tallon's best friend, you know. Tallon would hate to see you injured."

'That's funny,' Erkinwhine thought. 'I always hated the way Tallon talked about himself in the third person. It
was almost as bad as his father's insistance in addressing himself in third person plural. We this, and we that.' He said, "You're just worried I'll do better in the tournament than you will, and Old Dad will be embarrassed."

"Tallon warned you about calling him that! Show some respect. He's your Emporer. That is how he should be

"Okey, so you are worried that Your Emporer would be embarrassed to see his favorite knight bested in a
joust by a young Necromancer," he said with a grin.

The knight's face flushed. He was obviously holding back a great deal of anger. "Stop playing with Tallon's
words ... you know what he meant ..." There was more, but the last was lost behind the slam of a door as he left.

Later, Constance paid a visit to her friend trying to convence him not to continue. "Even my father was
impressed by the courage you showed in entering the tournament. You have nothing else to prove. Bow out now, gracefully." A little tear rolled down her cheek. Reflexively, he reached out a finger to catch it, but stopped himself short. She was after all a Princess and he wasn't exactly in good favor with her father. The latter was never able to understand what his son saw in a boy who spent so much time playing with dead bodies. He had sacraficed the bulk of his childhood to the dilligent study of necromancy and couldn't see losing his head over a pretty girl before he had a chance to really live.

"I'll be fine," he assured her. "Your brother does this kind of stuff all the time. I've never seen you shed a
tear for him...."

"His armor weighs more than you, Erk," she interrupted. "Besides, it is the thing he was trained to do."

"I think your brother weighs more than my horse," Erkinwhine responded with a chuckle. "I'll be okey.
I promiss."

There was a long uncomfortable silence between the two. Then she looked up into his eyes and a smile slowly
worked its way across her face. "You're going to cheat." She said at last.

"Cheating has such bad connotations associated with it. I prefer to think of it as using my special tallents.
The way I see it, it's no different than the way your borther benefits from his unusual size."

"I don't care if you cheat. I'll probably feel better knowing that you are. Just don't let my father find out.
All that chivalry and big brave man stuff. He would have your head for sure." She motioned that she wanted to whisper in his ear, but when he bent down she kissed him gently on the cheak, giggled and scurried out the door."

And employ his special abilities he had. In each round he used a cantrip to distract his opponent just enough to
help Erkinwhine score a victory. Everything from just a sprinkling of dust in the eyes to a sting on the charging warhorse's rump. He worked his way deftly through the competition displaying what appeared to the astonished crowd to be a natural affinaty for the sport.

At last he was in the semi-finals. His next opponent was the Green Knight. A very skilled opponent. If he could
find just the right cantrip for this Green Knight, he would probably face Tallon on the final day of the tournament. The question was, what would be the right spell. He had used so many....

His thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. When he opened it, a member of the Empirial Bodyguard
stuffed a note in his hand bearing the empirial seal. He tipped the soldier a silver crown and closed the door in the man's face. Ripping open the revealed a letter addressed to Erkinwhine in the princesses own hand. She was requesting an audience with him.

He had a bath drawn and spent what he considered a small fortune on perfumes. He felt the evening might turn
out rather special. But his bath was disturbed by his over-sized best friend.

"Tallon doesn't know how, but you are cheating. Tallon has kept his mouth shut this long because you are his
friend, but you are making a mockery of something he holds very dear. The semi-final matches are tomorrow and Tallon expects you to concede to the Green Knight. If you don't .... Tallon will ...." He was once again very flushed and chose to make another dramatic exit rather than continue.

What's that phrase? 'Out of sight; out of mind?' Erkinwhine paid him no heed and went about his bath. The
evening with the princess turned out to be everything he had expected. In the morning she presented him with a pink scarf to tie around his lance. A sign he was her champion.

Finally, the semi-final match was underway. If his trickery would work once more, he would be in the final
match with his friend, who had already won his match earlier. Tallon was Erk's best friend. Surely, Constance could convence her brother to throw the final match. The Emporer would be so impressed with the mage's prowess that he would gladly reward the winner with his daughter's hand....

At last his match was underway. As the two riders approached one another at a gallop, something happened to
Erkinwhine's saddle. It loosened and dumped its occupant unceramoniously to the ground.

Erkinwhine was livid. He struggled to his feet, the outrageous laughter of the crowd in his ears, and spat a
plethera of insults at the Green Knight. Most of them, probably too complex for the warrior's mind to fathom. The Emporer himself inspected the saddle in question and determined that it did indeed show signs of tampering. The Green Knight was disqualified and Erkinwhine was announced as Tallon's opponent in the final match. He had made it.

That night a sister beseached her loving brother to grant her a favor and he reluctently agreed. Erkinwhine
was sure that it had been he who had asked for help to make the wedding happen, Tallon would have killed him on the spot. But brother and sister had a specail relationship. In fact, the prince had made it clear that if he could find a way, it would be she who inherrited the empire and not himself. The thought of this had made Erkinwhine quite pleased. He would be Emperor.

The next day Erkinwhine prepared to meet his best friend head-on in a joust that would wrap his entire future
up in a pretty little bow. But as luck would have it, word came that the emperor's daughter had been abducted by the Green Knight. The match was postponed. He and his friend set out an hour later to free her, but neither of them would ever lay eyes on her again....

What was it about this moment that reminded Erkinwhine of his first love. Did Bethany touch a cord deep
inside that not even the likes of Jasmine could reach?