Episode 11

Previously in Up and Under:

Jacyntha pays a visit to the ailing Militante, Ellpay, who regrets not having injured Diandro Paredes in the pre-game brawl before the season opener. She says, “If I’d decked him, he’d never have been around to drive his shoulder into my ribs.” Ellpay will need six weeks to recover. Jacyntha says she can help Ell pass the time by introducing her to a local scribe who is documenting Jacyntha’s second season, Thalia Espinas.

Later, Jacyntha meets up with her cousin Karolyse at the Luffing Lateen. They have a brief discussion of a new threat that has popped up against their homeland: increasing incursions by Havoc Warriors and Goatyrs. They get interrupted by chants of “Di-an-dro! Di-an-dro!” They go over to the Maral Canal where they see a race between Paredes and a stevedore, each pulling a scow of grain down to the main port. Paredes loses by a hair’s breadth, but is feted nevertheless; evidently it was all part of a fundraiser for a local home for an orphanage. Jacyntha thinks, This is the dirty bastard that nearly took my head off and that put Ellpay out for three games?

Topping off her surprise, she then sees Paredes take Militante captain, Anahuark, into his arms.


“You’s gettin’ ex-ploy-ted!”

Grimmy Grimejacket had turned up for the game against the Skitteringi to speak to the Xonyxas, now some of the agent’s key clients. True to form, he had donned his usual assortment of finery, though he’d made an effort to get decked out in the Militantes’ colours of blue and yellow. He wore a canary jacket trimmed with azure brocade in military style. Beneath he wore a sky blue blouse with ruffles sprouting around his scrawny neck like clusters of mushrooms. The frills burst out of the sleeves of his jacket as well, to drape halfway down his hands. On his head, perched lengthwise, sat a deep blue bicorne hat, with golden stitching and four brass buttons reaching up the left side. Black breeks and yellow shoes with silver buckles were meant to give an added touch of elegance but missed their mark. He always sought the High Elf Admiral look, but the polished black oak walking stick made it more pretentious than even an Elf would countenance.

Jacyntha caught the glance Karolyse shot her. “I thought our exploitation ended when you negotiated a new contract for us at the end of last season,” her cousin said.

Grimejacket replied. “I got you a sizeable raise, sure. But I wouldn’t be Grimmy the Grafter, a fully pro-fessional agent with the highest in-teg-rity, if I didn’t tells ya that Anne d’Arc’s not living off your chump change! She’s gettin’ forty silver a match. That’s more’n seven of you Xonyxas put together, even if we does factor in your Rookie of the Year bonus coins, ’Cyntha. I don’t know about you, but I know what I calls that! Ex-ploy-tation! If I was gonna put my ass on the line today against those pestilent Rodentiens, I’d wanna know.”

“Grimmy, I appreciate you looking out for us, but we have to go get ready for the match,” Jacyntha said. “Can we all get together and discuss it tomorrow?”

Grimejacket tipped his bicorne and said, “Enjoy the ex-ploy-tation.”

Jacyntha found the mood in the changing room sour. Grimejacket had spoken to more than just Karolyse and her. Anahuark, ever the revolutionary out to tear down Mytilan’s monarchic rule, was grumbling to Pillcu and Laylalla about wage slavery. The new woman, Moreaka, appeared downcast gazing at one of the royal blue macaw feathers they used in their uniform. Even Ellpay wasn’t her usual effervescent self, though that was understandable given that she had to sit the game out. Her broken ribs prevented her from doing much, so she sat on the floor cooing softly to Chico in his basket. 

The sullenness stood in stark contrast to the spirit of their gathering at the temple that very morning. To start the day, they had gathered to give thanks to the Jaguar for their myriad blessings and to beg the Viper to grant them strength and courage for their game. Afterwards, everyone seemed elated. They were excited for the game to start. The first warning sign had manifested itself when the young woman documenting Jacyntha’s second season, Thalia Espinas, had asked why Anne d’Arc hadn’t attended the service.

The cavalcade to the Eztadio de Sanger had been encouraging, with lots of locals cheering their passage through the city despite the day’s drizzle. There was a genuine festival atmosphere everywhere in the city, but that was more for the game that would follow later in the day between the Guayamartí Wharf Rats and the Pierce-Fucking-Rosethorn-less Gloriana Quarrels, both of whom had started the season with wins. Many tickets had been sold for the Militantes – Skitteringi match-up just because people wanted to get to the best seats in the stadium for the late game. But even so, the Militantes had won over many a local during their cup run in their inaugural season and the day’s inclement weather clearly hadn’t discouraged anyone from turning out to wish them continued success.

It was when they arrived at the Sanger that everything had changed. Alighting from the carriage, Umberto had come face to face with a disgruntled Anne d’Arc, who hadn’t bothered with any sort of greeting and had said, “Where dost one find one’s changing quarters?”

“It’s the one with azure feather on a yellow field. You’ll know it, see, because the shaft of the feather’s been done up to look like a Xonyxa spear.”

Jacyntha had noticed Anne’s face harden … a thing she had believed impossible. “Dost thou mock me? Give me the credit for having a measure of wits! The peasant laying out the equipment didst inform my squire there was no room for nobles.”

Umberto had looked puzzled. “There’s plenty of room for everyone.”

Anne had rolled her eyes and sighed, very much the enlightened ruler needing to instruct the base-born subject for the hundredth time about the workings of high society. “One doth not share such space with peasants. I endured it last game out of respect for Jacyntha and Karolyse, who haveth the right and obligation to defend their honour. They were too polite to do so, so I shalt speak for those of noble blood here. I demand our rank be respected! I demand a private space where we needst not fear for our purses getting lifted, our armour ruined, and our throats slit.”

“You are a knight, señora,” Umberto had thundered, “surrounded by over a dozen Xonyxa warriors. Who the hell do you think will slit your throat?”

Anne d’Arc had hissed. “Xonyxas have peasants just as do we Chivalrons. Some doth be little more than thieves, whores, and murderers. Find me and those of royal blood a place to don our armour in the manner fit for a noble or a consorore.”

Umberto’s jaw had clenched, veins suddenly showing on his temples. “I’m not your squire, see. I’m your coach … you know, the person who gives you instructions on how to play footy. Get your squire to find you a space to put on your pads. I suggest one of the latrines.” At that, Anne d’Arc’s own veins had nearly popped from her head. Umberto had followed it up with, “You weren’t at the temple this morning with the rest of us to pay your respect to the gods. Bad form that.”

Anne had spun on her heel and stormed off, spitting a reply, “I worship no Xonyxa god and certainly have no need of thine instruction on how to play football.”


“Stoopit wooman.”

Jacyntha jogged back upfield, having hefted a long pass to Anahuark. The rain had perhaps made the boarskin slick and the Militantes’ catcher hadn’t been able to come down with the ball. She got up-ended by Skitteringi striker, Abscès Ezqueek, and a ruck had formed around the loose ball, which was growing as the skirmish developed into a full-on brawl. If the ball ever popped out of that morass, Jacyntha needed to be nearby to scoop it off the turf. Likewise, Snisneek Griffeciel, her renowned Rodentien counterpart who had been named player-of-the-match in the year before last’s Blue Blood Cup Final, shadowed her, jogging along nearby, clearly out to contest any available ball.

“Hello Snisneek, how was the off-season? Your eyesight all better?”

The Skitteringi and the Militantes knew each other all too well. During the Militantes’ inaugural season, they had faced the Rodentiens thrice, once each in the pre-, regular-, and post-seasons. The Militantes had only lost that first tilt. In the second, Jacyntha’s deceased friend Occlo had injured Griffeciel, damaging his vision. The giant Uber-Vermin currently thundering towards the ruck, Gnashnash Flailtail, had impacted the last head-to-head contest in the semi-finals by turning on its own handlers, injuring two key Skitteringi players.

This same Rodentien currently jogging alongside her, Griffeciel, had infected Jacyntha with la plaga roja during that first game, a disease that had pushed her to the brink of death. Her struggle with the sickness had also brought her into contact with the Viper-bitten Pierce Rosethorn, the Sylvan who had played tricks on her heart and had gone on to play such a notorious role in the Blue Blood Cup Final.

There was no love lost between these adversaries.

“Better, better. Yes. I see through you now. Oh yes. Wooman rooookie of the year. Your vile fouling won’t help you.”

“I’m no longer a rookie, Snisneek.”

“You are not the stoopitist wooman, maybe. Who be that stoopit stoopit one?”

Protecting Gods! That’s a rookie error! 

One Militante stood tall before Gnashnash Flailtail, putting herself between the onrushing Uber-vermin and the ruck. Things were tilting against the Rodentiens, but Flailtail careening onto the scene would be like a tidal wave crashing ashore. The monster’s thunderous footfalls shook the ground, he roared upon seeing an opponent willing to fight him, his tail quivering like a bowstring. In last year’s semi-final, Pillcu had borne the brunt of Flailtail’s wrath and paid for it with a broken leg that had forced her to miss the final. Prior to this match, Coach Umberto had told them only to hunt Flailtail in packs. This woman, evidently keen to prove her quality, had placed herself in grave danger. Flailtail pounced.

Too slow!

The Militante leapt a moment before the Uber-vermin did. Anne d’Arc jumped forward yelling, “Sainte Hilaire et le Roi Carles!” She got inside his swing, grabbed his trailing leg, and heaved. His momentum worked against him; he needed that leg to plant properly if he weren’t to fall. But Anne kept driving forward, her legs pumping, and though his hawser-like tail whipped out to stabilize him, he pitched onto his side.

The Sanger erupted in cheers.

Flailtail, always a danger until put out of a game, scrambled at the turf trying to get up. Jacyntha tripped up Griffeciel – to a painful squeak – and veered her run to help Anne d’Arc keep the Uber-vermin down. 

What the …?

But Anne evidently had no interest in keeping Flailtail down.

But Anne evidently had no interest in keeping Flailtail down. She stood back a pace, gauntleted fists planted on her hips, her knight’s helmet giving her an air of invulnerability. Anne took note of Jacyntha and waved her towards the ruck. “Go thither to where thou art most needed. I canst take care of him.”

And she bloody well did.

Anne allowed Flailtail to climb to his feet and when he came at her, she dumped him onto the sodden pitch once more. As Jacyntha grabbed the loose boarskin and threw a touchdown pass to Moreaka, she didn’t hear the crowd singing her name. No, they were singing about someone else:

There’s only one Anne d’Arc!
She’s the ruler of the park!
She fights against the Dark
There’s only one Anne d’Arc!

And she bloody well let everyone know after the game, thoroughly ruining the post-match celebrations.


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