For a squire to keep his place at court is no small trial...
And if that squire has neither family nor fortune, his task is doubly hard.
Geoffrey Hotspur is one of the most talented squires in the hall of the famous John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster; but his place rests on the good will of the lady of the hall, Anne de Roet. And she does not suffer fools gladly.
As the seventeen-year-old Geoffrey nears the end of his training as a squire, his thoughts turn to knighthood and he increasingly feels pressured to ensure the good favor of his patron. However, a rapid series of misfortunes befall him. Misfortunes which test his character and conspire to threaten his place at court.
He was brought up on the old ideals of chivalry, but having been cloistered for so long in training for war, does Geoffrey Hotspur really understand the virtues of knighthood? When does pride of place become sin of pride? When is the time to strike? And when must one yield?
“Watch, watch, watch!” Geoffrey Hotspur yelled as he brought down his sword in a wild diagonal strike against William Beauchamp’s left side, grazing his shoulder and nearly knocking the sword out of his hand. Geoffrey was about to come up with a final strike to win yet another match in the tournament when he heard the swordmaster shout.
“No talking in the lists, Hotspur! This is a silent pass, so retreat!”
Geoffrey hesitated for a moment before drawing down from the towering falcon guard to the defensive iron door stance. The old man is being fussy today, he thought as he kept his eye on his opponent, who had set himself in middle boar guard while he reaffirmed his grip on the wooden play sword the squires used for training. Geoffrey wanted to return to falcon as quickly as possible, since it afforded him the best use of his height advantage and put the most pressure on an opponent, but William was not stupid, so he would wait for a few passes before trying falcon again. In the meantime, he decided to narrow play, although he preferred wide action, and apply brute strength to keep William on the defensive. He knew that William’s favorite strike was the safe middle thrust, since he was fairly timid between the barriers and had short arms, but a few solid parries should frustrate him and open up enough of a gap so that with his superior reach, Geoffrey should be able to advance quickly and land a solid blow.
“Watch the counter strike from low-middle, Geoff, you know he’s waiting for you,” his friend Roger Swynford warned from behind the barrier, “and mind his wrist.”
Geoffrey angled his stance to show that he was returning to falcon, but at the last moment he shifted his weight to his left leg and came out of iron door with an upward strike that went over William’s sword and scratched his cheek. Had he missed with the upward strike, he would have been exposed to a middle thrust, but Geoffrey had heard his friend’s advice and noticed that his opponent’s wrist still trembled from the last blow, and so he had calculated odds in his favor.
“Half a point to Hotspur!” the swordmaster announced.
The audience of squires shouted encouragement, although William received the lion’s share of support, since the Beauchamp family was so well known. The swordmaster waved his hand for silence.