Episode 10

The Story So Far:

The SSFL season kicks off! The Mytilan Militantes face the Guayamartí Wharf Rats. Eguardo Giamucci, owner of the local team, invades the box of Militantes’ owner, Cassandra Thordwall. He meets Thordwall’s brother, Horatio, and discusses the dangers of piracy given rumours the Elven races are stamping it out on the Sommer Sea. He’s so sure his team will win, he proposes a bet on the match, offering Thordwall two to one odds. He speaks cryptically of how the Wharf Rats have a counter to the Militantes’ “up-and-under” tactic, the “up-and-over”.

On the pitch, Jacyntha notices an unlikely new Wharf Rat player: a Halfling! So fixated is she, she doesn’t see another Wharf Rat hit her. When she comes to, a brawl has broken out, with Coach Umberto and refs pulling the teams apart. The Militantes’ physician informs Jacyntha her new most-hated rival is the man who punched her, Diandro Paredes. Our friends from last season, the fans Hansi and Nykal, argue about Paredes hitting Jacyntha before the game even begins. Hansi says it’s good footy. Nykal loses control and yells it was a crime. Soon the Militantes’ fans are singing, “Crime! Crime! Crime! Shame! Shame! Shame!”

The ref angers Umberto de la Calle by handing out three red cards to Militantes and only two to Wharf Rats, neither one being Paredes. Arguing does no good. In the stands, Hansi and Nykal bicker; Hansi says the crowd wants to see Paredes play and Nykal says he hates the sport.

The game kicks off and the Militantes receive. New star player, Anne d’Arc gets the ball. She’s so angry about her role in the backfield, she ignores Umberto’s game plan, losing control of the ball. Paredes upends Pillcu and the Halfling kicks her in the head, a clear foul that goes unpunished. Both opponents later prevent a Militante TD, injuring Ellpay in the process.

In the owner’s box, Giamucci is ecstatic at the nil-nil scoreline. Thordwall is livid that the Halfling put out two Militantes by fouling. He says she’s being hypocritical and again refers to the up-and-over, saving it’ll win him lots of gold from their bet. Despite playing great defence in the second half, and with time running out, the Wharf Rats get the ball to the Halfling, who gets picked up by the Wharf Rat Ogre and thrown downfield. Jacyntha can only look on as the dirty little player lands on his hairy feet and bolts into the end zone for the winning touchdown.


“Diandro Paredes is a bastard.”

Jacyntha sat at the side of Ellpay’s bed in the Xonyxa dormitory. Ell sat in bed, propped up on pillows, a grimace of pain on her face. She had trouble taking breaths whenever she spoke. But she seemed to need to get something off her chest, so Jacyntha let her speak. “I almost got to him in the fight but Anne d’Arc kept getting in the way! If I’d decked him, he’d never have been around to drive his shoulder into my ribs.”

“I have no actual memory of him attacking me the way everyone says he did,” Jacyntha said. “And I don’t doubt any of you, so yes, he is a bastard. But that hit on you was legal, Ell. Injury is the risk we take playing footy. It could have been worse: remember Occlo.”

Ell winced as she shifted her weight against the headboard. She nodded. “Yes. But that was different. None of us should have to fear for assassins murdering us on the pitch.” She winced again. “Protecting Gods, this is painful!”

“What’s Huaco-chic’ya doing to speed up your recovery?”

“She says there’s not much to do for broken ribs: patience, followed by patience, with a dollop of more patience added on top. Oh, and all accompanied by boredom.”

It was Jacyntha’s turn to wince. “Sounds awful. No VaVOOM at all.”

Ellpay chucked at their inside joke, and then bent double from the pain of laughing, then straightened at the pain from having bent double. “No … noVaVOOM. Not for a while. She says they’ll heal on their own but they need six weeks. Six weeks, Jacyntha! I’m going to miss at least two games, maybe three!”

“The Skitteringi at the end of this ten-day, then the Stonecarvers ten days after that … So you might be back to face the Mongrels?”

Ell nodded. “I’m supposed to listen to my body over the next few weeks. I should stay active, but I shouldn’t do anything that makes the pain worse. Right now, that includes breathing so I’m already not following our physician’s advice!”

“But you’re supposed to stay active?”

Ell nodded. “I should avoid anything that puts pressure on the chest, such as lifting, pulling, and pushing heavy objects. So that pretty much eliminates practice.”

“Even if you wrap your chest up tightly?”

Ell shook her head. “Supposedly I shouldn’t do that, or anything else that will prevent the lungs from expanding. Huaco-chic’ya wants to avoid pneumonia. So do I!”

“Okay, but then that means you can go for walks at least, keep up your fitness?”

“Yeah, starting tomorrow. But there’s only so much walking a girl wants to do, you know? I wanna dance! I want to shimmy at the summit of the Monte Alto so the Sommer Sea can take in my beautiful ass!” Even that brief burst of enthusiasm was too much for her; she winced again and clutched her side.

“No VaVOOM, remember.”

Ell sighed. “I worry about the boredom most.”

“Well, you can still attend and watch the training sessions, can’t you? And afterwards, maybe you could use some company? There’s a young woman I met late last year, just after the Blue Blood Cup Final. She’s a scribe or inventor or something. She wants to document our season … you could relive some of your most VaVOOM moments with her.”

Ell nodded. “Guayamarteña?” Jacyntha nodded. “What’s her name?”

“Thalia. Thalia Espinas. She wants to know what it’s like to be a footy player. This is a golden opportunity for you both! You get some company to relieve you from your boredom, she gets insight into the world of footy.

“What could go wrong?”


“Mishtresh Jassintha!”

Sam Gosling personally welcomed Jacyntha into the Luffing Lateen, speaking in his odd accent. “As ever, I am honoured by your preshench in my establishment. Can I get you an Artemish Tenantish?” Then he leaned in and whispered, “I can even give it to you at the pricsh of the local schwill.”

Jacyntha laughed. She whispered back, “Señor Gosling, I am certain you purvey nothing that could be called ‘swill’. But yes, I’d love an Artemis Tenantis. Please make it two; my cousin will be joining me.” Then, patting her stomach, she added, “A volero please, not a full pint. I’ve got to stay in match shape.” Gosling nodded and moved off behind the bar. Jacyntha went over to the windows, shutters wide open to catch the summer breeze. She sat on a bench by a table looking out over the Maral Canal and watched the palm trees sway to some music only the breeze could hear. If it was Guayamartí, it was certainly a cumbia or a samba.

Karolyse burst into the big room and came stomping over. “Sorry I’m late.”

“You aren’t. I’ve ordered us a tankard of Artemis Tenantis.”

“By the Viper, Jacyntha, that’ll last us all of two heartbeats!”

“A tankard each, cousin.”

Karolyse sat across the trestle table from her. “I got a troubling letter from mum. That’s why I was late.”

“You weren’t late. I just got here. What’s your mum got to say?”

Karolyse leant in. “Havoc Warriors and their Goatyrs are testing the defences all along the wall!” 

Jacyntha felt like her eyes had nearly popped from their sockets. Galto’s Wall was key to the defence of Mytilan. “They’d risk contravening the Pact?”

“Mum says they’ve pulled their team from the La Liga Lágrimas.”

“Really? Why?”

“Something about a Hithilgalán blockade of Ol’musci.”

Jacyntha was about to guess at the cause and effect of this latest bout of politics from back home when Sam Gosling arrived with the voleros of ale. They might have returned to the subject, but just then they became aware of a ruckus over by the canal. They looked on as throngs of people on both sides sang competing chants.

“They’re not chanting a familiar name by any chance?” Jacyntha asked.

Karolyse furrowed her brow. “Sounds like it.”

Some part of the throngs on the banks of the canal were chanting, “Di-an-dro! Di-an-dro!” But there were others trying to drown out those chants with “Freddy Guerrero! Freddy Guerrero!”

Jacyntha called out to a retreating Sam Gosling. “Can we take the voleros outside to see what’s going on?” Gosling gave a shallow bow, so Jacyntha said to Karolyse, “Let’s go.”

Jacyntha climbed out the big window and took the pewter tankards from Karolyse’s outstretched hands. Then her cousin clambered through the window as well. To get a good look at what was going on, they walked further down the canal and looked back. Jacyntha’s stomach roiled at the sight, though she could hardly understand it.

He’s pulling a scow loaded down with grain?

There was Diandro Paredes at the far canal lip, his legs driving hard and his body leaning forward. He had a harness around his bare torso.

There was Diandro Paredes at the far canal lip, his legs driving hard and his body leaning forward. He had a harness around his bare torso, to which was hitched a hawser that stretched back and down into the canal, to a grain scow loaded with what had to be a score of big jute grain sacks. On the near bank of the canal was another bare-chested brute similarly burdened. Jacyntha had seen grain being moved in such a way before, but it was usually mules doing the pulling.

“It’s a race!” Jacyntha said, finally understanding.

“He’s really handsome,” said Karolyse.

“Not Diandro, surely?”

“Surely. Not the guy with the missing front teeth, certainly!”

They watched the race, presumably to see which of the two men could get their scow into the main port first. The throngs along both banks continued chanting.

“Di-an-dro! Di-an-dro!”

“Freddy Guerrero! Freddy Guerrero!”

Whoever Freddy Guerrero was, he seemed to be winning, but it was a tight contest. Jacyntha couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement. She joined in the chants supporting Paredes’ rival. Karolyse, however, was chanting for the Wharf Rats’ striker.

Guerrero had about half-a-length lead and he let loose a horrible bellow as he kept driving his legs. Jacyntha could see why; across the canal, Paredes had gained an arm’s length. There was about one-hundred paces left and more and more people were crowding down to the canal banks to witness the competition. There were people holding out pairs of caps, thrusting one in the air and yelling “Diandro!” and then alternating, yelling “Guerrero!” People were tossing coppers into one hat or the other.

Guerrero bellowed again. Paredes had eaten further into the lead. There was now hardly an arm’s length between the two scows and there was still seventy-five paces to go.

Karolyse jumped up and down, “He’s going to catch him! Go Diandro go!”

Jacyntha could see it too. Her own chanting turned into frantic yelling. “Freddy Guerrero! Freddy Guerrero!”

Diandro Paredes let loose a colossal roar and drove his legs faster and faster. His scow caught up to Guerrero’s and then slid into the lead with fifty paces remaining.

Karolyse screamed, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

But Jacyntha could see that Paredes was flagging whereas Guerrero kept driving forward at a steady pace. With twenty paces remaining, Guerrero caught up to the Wharf Rat again and heaved his scow into half an arm’s length lead as the canal came to an end.

The horde all cried out: half in glee, the other half in joyous regret. On the far bank, Paredes doubled over, leaning elbows on his knees, panting. Guerrero thrust his arms in the air in triumph, though he wobbled on his feet. He staggered across the Puente del Puerto to the other side of the canal and took Paredes in a tight embrace. The whole crowd erupted in joy.

The men with the caps came together on the near bank and emptied the contents of the headwear into a broad wicker basket. A pair of women dug into the coins, counted them, and transferred them to a nearby coffer under the hawk-like gaze of a middle-aged matron.

At length Guerrero bellowed across the canal, “Mostli, how’d we do?”

The matron called back, “We’ve gone through four-fifths and we’ve got about sixteen gold.”

The crowd erupted in shocked glee, cheering and applauding.

Guerrero dragged Paredes to the middle of the Puente del Puerto and hoisted the striker’s hand high in the air.

“All salute Diandro Paredes! He couldn’t quite outmatch the mightiest stevedore in Guayamartí, but his patronage has raised enough coin to keep the home for orphans of stevedores open for another six months! All hail Diandro!”

 “Di-an-dro! Di-an-dro!”

This time it was the entire crowd who chanted. All except Jacyntha, who stood there looking on, her mouth hanging open.

This is the dirty bastard that nearly took my head off and that put Ellpay out for three games?

She’d never have thought her mouth could hang open even more until, after the applause had ended, she saw Paredes descend from the bridge and take Anahuark into his arms.


1 thought on “Episode 10”

  1. So to the Wharf Rats, enjoy your victory while it lasts. Because when we face you again, we’ll be ready. And we’ll show you just what our up-and-under tactic can really do. As for Paredes, well let’s just say that karma has a way of catching up to those who play dirty. Until next time, Wharf Rats. We’ll be waiting.

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