A/N: I usually don't write AU's but since this is a present in the Gift-Giving Extravaganza for Forever Siriusly Sirius, who loves AU's, I stray from my usual path of writing. So Liza, especially for you: Jily, medieval style!
The sky was filled with a sense of apprehension and excitement as members of Grande Bretagne's nobility settled on the honorary tribunes. The ordinary tribunes had hours before been occupied by the common people, who stood in the blazing sun until the Dukes and Marquesses, Barons and Viscounts deigned themselves ready to make their appearance. The plebs was hoping to see some blood being shed, but the noble men and women came for an entirely different reason. The tourney was a great way to form allegiances, betroth heirs and heiresses and of course to flaunt one's wealth.
However, none of this mattered to the knights that were preparing themselves for the hastiludes in their own secluded tents. They were nervous and each of them was bossing around their squires. For today was a special day: It was the final day in the week long Tourney of the Lily. Many men had fallen and only a handful of them were still candidates to win the Tourney. The King only had two daughters and the eldest, Petunia, had been married off to the son of a Duke of a neighbouring duchy to assure his loyalty to the throne. The youngest, Lily, had many noblemen courting her and the King had decided that he'd wed her to the one that would be the most valuable asset to the court; one that was valiant and brave and above all, loyal to the throne. Which is why a tourney was organised.
Of the handful of knights left, two names were whispered to have the best chance of winning the tournament, and therefore the Princess Lily's hand in marriage.
One was Sir Severus of the noble House of Snakes, whose loyalty to the crown was undeniable. His looks weren't in his favour, but he had known the Princess from when they were little and they had always been friendly. The Princess thought that if she had to get married, she could do a whole lot worse than Sir Severus.
The other name people on the court whispered was that of Sir James of the brave House of Lions, who was fairly new to the court. Sir James possessed good looks and was of decent ancestry, but he was also a marauder. Even though their father tried hard to keep them in line, he and his brothers Sir Remus, Sir Sirius and Sir Peter would occasionally poach on royal territory and James' loyalty to the crown was dubious. He was known as a rogue and a rascal and the Princess didn't have a high opinion of him. But Sir James had fallen for the Princess' grace and red locks and he was determined to win her heart.
"You do know that your actions today will reflect on all of us as well, don't you?" Sir Peter squeaked. He was the sensitive one and had his mind set on the youngest daughter of the Marquess of Winchester, who was quite a few years older than he was and a fair bit higher in peerage as well. His brothers had declared him mad, but he was persistent that she'd notice him once Sir James would win the tournament and the Princess' heart.
"You're just a boy to her," Sir Sirius declared, sensing his trail of thought. He was the reckless one, the one Sir James got along with the best. His focus was on Lady Marlene, a member of Princess Lily's personal court.
"He needs to focus now. We can't have the House of Snakes overtaking us. They'd banish us from the court," Sir Remus interjected. He was the sensible one, and his heart beat faster for the Countess of Sutherland.
Sir James smiled at his brothers as his apt hands weaved a chain of daisies together. "Fear not, my brothers. I'd never let a Snake beat me at anything." He held up the chain of daisies, which now resembled a crown. "I have a feeling that this will please the Princess," he said with a confident grin.
There was a clarion call and Sir James straightened his back. "This is it, my brothers. The final day to win the Princess' hand and heart."
His squires helped him to get on the back of an Appaloosa horse. A little nervous, but confident that he would win, Sir James rode towards the tourney field, the chain of daisies loosely in his hand.
As any other knight, Sir James rode around the tourney field, waving and bowing at the people on the tribunes. The noble women hid behind their fans, giggling amongst each other at the sight of the handsome knight glad in shining red and gold.
Sir James finished his honorary round and stopped in front of the royal tribune. He made a deep bow and smiled at the Princess. He noticed that she was holding a single lily and Sir James snorted. Probably from Sir Severus. How unimaginative.
"Your beauty inspires me to great deeds, my Lady. Allow me to give you this token of my affection." He held out the daisy crown, which the Princess accepted with a hesitant smile. He then tucked a loose daisy in his chainmail. "Just so you know my thoughts will be with you this day."
Princess Lily watched as the knight turned around. There was something intriguing about him and she had to admit that he was rather handsome. In the course of the tournament, she had come to admire Sir James' bravery and the way he approached each opponent differently.
Her father had made it all to clear that her days of celibacy were over with. Petunia was already with child and it was high time that she too provided an heir. It had all been planned out already. Since all nobility was at the court already, the wedding between the winner of the tourney and the King's youngest daughter would take place the next day. The banquet had been prepared, the dress had been made to her figure and eight different drapes had been embroidered. But Princess Lily had a fair idea that the drapes on her wedding day would end up being either Sir Severus' green and silver or Sir James' red and gold.
They both proved to genuinely care for her – though she had to admit that she had expected more of her lifelong friend Sir Severus than just this one lily – and they were both valiant knights. She smiled. She would consent to the marriage whichever one of them would win. Officially, she wouldn't have a say in it of course, just as Petunia didn't have a say in her marriage, but Princess Lily liked to think she had some influence.
As was to be expected, Sir Severus took out his first opponent, as did Sir James. After every two jousts, there were games for the common people, so they wouldn't get bored and wreak havoc. Sir Archibald, an elderly knight, surprising took out his much younger opponent, and Sir William was the fourth remaining knight.
"Isn't this exciting?" Princess Lily whispered to Lady Marlene. "Oh, I do hope Sir Archibald isn't the one to win, I would be ever so disappointed."
Lady Marlene nodded gravely. "He does have great fortune and his lineage is impeccable. But, given the choice, I too would prefer any of the other three. And, as it looks, two out of them have brought you gifts." She gave a court nod in the direction of the lily and the daisy chain. "You should wear it."
"It's just daisies."
Lady Marlene shook her head. "No, it's more than that. It's a token of affection, didn't you hear him say that?"
Princess Lily hesitated. He had said that, and they were a wonderful gesture, but if she wore the daisies, wouldn't she be favouriting one knight over the other? What if he didn't win? Her future spouse would not be happy and that was not a good way to start a marriage. And what about Sir Severus, who she considered a friend, would it hurt his feelings if she wore the daisies, but not the lily?
"You know what?" she concluded. "If they both win, I shall wear both during the finale, so neither of them has a reason to feel offended."
"That sounds like a wise decision, Milady."
It appeared Sir Archibald was out of luck when confronted with Sir Severus. Sir Archibald was a good rider and he was good at jousting, but Sir Severus was better. The latter was seated confidently on his horse, his lance loosely in his hand and his casque open. Sir Severus wasn't afraid and his entire attitude showed it.
Now there's a confident man, the Princess thought. And if he were to become the winner, I'm sure he would honour me. She twirled the lily around, as she contemplated the idea of having to marry Sir Severus. It wasn't a bad prospect.
The next round was Sir James versus Sir William. Sir James won quite easily when Sir William was distracted by one of the noble woman tossing him a flower. This hadn't gone unnoticed by the king and he was furious. This tournament was intended to have the winner get his daughter's hand in marriage, and Sir William obviously thought another woman would be better. It didn't take long before Sir William was put in the pillory. Princess Lily was very upset and the tourney had to be put on hold for an hour.
The people waited, whilst the knights – Sir Severus in green and silver and Sir James in gold and red – prepared themselves for the final joust. Only one opponent stood between them and marriage and each of them was determined to not let the other win. Bets were placed and in the interlude before the finale jester and troubadours entertained the public with tales and songs of both knights' great deeds.
Princess Lily picked up both tokens and placed one on her head and the other in her hand. A grimace disgraced Sir Severus' face when he noticed that the Princess did not only hold his token of affection, but that of Sir James as well. Princess Lily did not particularly like seeing that side of Sir Severus. She turned her look to Sir James. It appeared that he took her gesture like a true chevalier. He bowed and said: "May the best man win. I can see that Sir Severus cares for you too, so either way, you will find a spouse that'll honour you, my Princess. I do pray however, that the odds will be in my favour, for I'm not sure I could live without you."
The Princess blushed at his words. This is a fair man, she thought. One that doesn't underestimate his opponents, yet one that is also confident about his own abilities. If he were to be the winner, I would pride myself in having a spouse like that.
There was a clarion call and Princess Lily leaned back as the two knights took their positions on the tourney field, lances at the ready and a mind determined on winning. The first round was always a rather friendly one. Opponents would scan each other, looking for weaknesses in the way they rode, the way their horse moves, the way they held their lance and the spots of body that were poorly covered by chainmail. None of them actually hurt the other as their lances touched.
The second round was a bit more vigorous. Lances met bodies and they both took a blow. They didn't aim to kill, not yet. The third round was where things were really starting to heat up. Princess Lily gasped in horror as Sir James received a big blow and splinters flew around. He almost fell off his horse. Sir Severus thought the game won already and a smug look on his face, but Sir James steadied himself and stayed in the saddle. The audience cheered and applauded. This was what they had come for.
"Are you alright?" Sir Sirius enquired when Sir James returned to his startpost. "That looked like quite a nasty blow.
"You have a splinter here!" Peter squeaked and attempted to get said splinter out of Sir James' shoulder.
"No!" Sir James cried. "Leave it, we can handle that later. I need to.. ouch…finish the touney."
"Are you sure that's a wise course of action?" Sir Remus said thoughtfully and concerned.
"I do not care about wise courses of actions," Sir James replied through gritted teeth. "I care about Princess Lily."
His brothers let him go, knowing that it was impossible to go against him if he was like that. Sir James took a slightly different stance and bit his lip in pain. His shoulder really hurt really bad. But I can't give up, not now, he thought. Not when I'm this close. He suppressed the pain and took the in the other hand. He winced. This time, it would be all or nothing, he knew that. If he didn't injure Sir Severus this round, he'd have lost already.
He managed to avoid Sir Severus' lance this time and struck him himself. Both men were injured now, meaning that for the next round, they would have to sort things out on the ground, with swords.
"Duelling is my specialty", Sir James had always declared to his brothers. "If it ever comes to duelling, I know I have about won."
Determination was written all over his face when he attacked first in the next round. His shoulder hurt terribly, but if he held his sword in his other hand, he could manage. He and Sir Severus circled around each other. A duel of swords was completely different than jousting, because you had more space to manoeuvre and more places to hit or get hit. Sir James defended himself so that the blow Sir Severus dealt didn't reach its goal and immediately dealt a blow himself as well. Sir Severus was now also injured on his shoulder and he grimaced in pain.
At least Sir Severus does no longer have that advantage over me, Sir James thought.
After about twenty minutes, both knights were exhausted, feeling the pain of their injured shoulders and also of various other injuries. Yet neither of them was willing to ask for a time-out, because that would indicate they were weaker than their opponent. Eventually, Sir James managed to give Sir Severus a blow on the knee, which caused him to collapse. He was dragged of the field to a physician.
"The winner is Sir James of the House of Lions! Tomorrow, he and Princess Lily will exchange vows," the court troubadour announced.
Sir James was beaming as Princess Lily smiled at him.
"Told you I'd win," he told his brothers later that day. "Sir Severus never stood a chance."