Episode 12

in memoriam : Sanja, the best dog in my world, most loyal friend, most loving oddball. Rest in peace – Ian (PawPaw)

Previously in Up and Under:

The Mytilan Militantes prepare for their second game against the Ebolicorum Skitteringi. The mood in the changing room is sour; first newly signed star player Anne d’Arc doesn’t turn up for the pre-game prayer session, then she is furious when she finds out she must share a changing room with mere peasants, finally Grimmy Grimejacket, the agent for the Xonyxas on the team, informs them Anne is getting seven times the pay of everyone else.

The game begins and the Militantes lose control of the ball deep in the Skitteringi end. A ruck forms around the loose ball and the fight is tilting in the Militantes’ favour when Uber-vermin Gnashnash Flailtail goes charging towards the action. But a heroic figure stands in the monster’s way: Anne d’Arc. Single-handedly she puts Flailtail down and, rather than foul him, she lets him stand up to fight again. When he does so, she up-ends him once more. As Jacyntha gets control of the ball and throws a touchdown pass, the fans aren’t singing for her, they sing for Anne: “There’s only one Anne d’Arc!”

After the game, Anne ruins the post-match celebrations by crowing about her dominance of the Umber-vermin.


“Crack the whip.”

Cassandra Thordwall sat, ensconced in her newly purchased house in Barrio La Vega, the not-so-pretentious as the Monte Alto neighbourhood on the other side of said High Mount. She had opened fully the banks of windows in her office to catch the early summer breeze off the bay. It wasn’t vital yet; it was still early in the morning and the worst heat and humidity would only hit some hours later. Still, she liked being in a breeze, a hold-over from her days as a pirate, no doubt. She pursed her lips and considered the man in front of her.

Umberto sat slumped in a chair in front of her desk. She sat on the sill of the window closest to the corner, where she could enjoy the cross-draft coming through the windows behind her desk and out this window that overlooked the Bridge of a Hundred Arches. She could just see the Militantes’ practice pitch on the other side of the bay, its tall columns and lofty roof at the foot of a rising favela. She had grown up in Mannheim’s equivalent of that slum, never conceiving she might own a row house in Guayamartí someday. She sighed.

“You’ll not like it if I do, Umberto,” she said in response to his urging.

“No one likes being under the threat of the lash, but I’m willing to deal with a bit of brooding in the short term, see, if it solves a bigger problem in the long run. Anne’ll make life miserable for a while but she’ll get over it. The others’re smart enough to shoulder the misery knowing it’ll eventually ease.”

“I don’t think you understand where I’m going.”

“Well, where are you going, boss?”

“I paid a big signing bonus to Anne d’Arc. And Grimmy Grimejacket’s got it wrong about her wages; they aren’t forty silver a game. They’re more. I’m not shelling out all that to have her sit on the bench. And I don’t need to tell you about her talent after what she did to Flailtail.”

“Moreaka’s angry about that. After how she dealt with the Salamanders’ Dracodile in the pre-season, she’d been given assurances to be the designated player to take on the big guys.”

“Hmmm … well, that’s where I’m going, Umberto. Maybe Moreaka shouldn’t have been given such assurances. I opened up my purse strings to bring some real quality to the team. Your job is to knit the players into a well-functioning squad.”

Umberto stared at her for a long while before the doubloon dropped. He nodded. “Ok, I get it. It’s not Anne the problem, it’s me, is that it?”

She hopped down from the windowsill and plunked herself on the corner of her desk, hoping that bringing herself closer would soften the blow. “I once heard a wise man say, ‘Footy’s a hard business, and we’ve got a cup to win’. So, knowing it’s a hard business, what does a hard head coach do knowing he’s got a wizard’s bolt bottled up in a jug and some disgruntled players who’re envious of the magic?”

He shook his head. “I hear what you’re saying, boss, and I’ll give it a go. But she yelled at me in front of the Xonyxas! If she’d done that to you, you’d have that whip of yours snapping quick enough. I’m a commoner, see, so she won’t listen to me.”

“How’d we make Eguardo Giamucci listen to us last year when he was busy undermining us?”

“We raided his villa. Are you suggesting I break into her flat in the middle of the night?”

“No, Umberto, I’m not suggesting you break into her flat.”

He grumbled, “Well with you, see, a guy never knows.”

“I am suggesting that actions speak louder than words. Last year it was saying to Eguardo ‘Don’t fuck with us’ by sacking his villa. Maybe now you can convince her to listen to you by putting on the most professional practice sessions she’s ever participated in, by dazzling her with your tactics, by taking her aside and asking her advice on something … anything! She’s got five seasons of experience, something none of our other players have, and she’s won the player-of-the-match honour in our last game.

“We’ve got the Mongrels coming up in a ten-day, Umberto, and I shouldn’t need to tell you how tough Orcs are. You’ve got to solve your locker room issues before we take to the pitch. I want a smiling happy team.”

He sighed like a put-upon child, but he nodded and got to his feet. He pursed his lips as though about to say something but then must have thought the better of it and crossed to the door. He paused on his way out and finally gave voice to that thought, which told her he was deadly serious. “You know how I kept going after you for taking stupid risks? Remember how you’d even listen to me and change your plans? Like when we kidnapped Duc Tancred de Baston? Well, hear me out on this; you’ve looked at Anne and seen her talent without seeing how destructive she’ll be to the locker room. I’m tellin’ you now, boss, this isn’t going to end well.”

He departed. She watched him climb into a waiting mateo and trundle down the hill, heading toward the bridge and the training pitch across the bay.

Maybe Duc Tancred de Baston hadn’t been acting when he’d laughed at her at the last Board of Governors meeting. She’d thought he’d been covering up his rage at having had a rising star plucked from his squad.

Could he have been glad to be rid of her and gladder yet to hear how much I’d paid to take her off his hands?


“It’s revolutionary!”

The young woman blushed. “You really think so?”

Jacyntha looked over the equipment again. Ellpay, who had gotten to know Thalia during her convalescence, gazed at examples of illustrations that her new friend had produced. Jacyntha said, “Well, I’m no expert in such things, but if it can really do what you say it can, it could turn the world on its head. You could use it to make tomes of revolutionary ideas in half the time it would take to copy one out.”

The young Espinas woman bit her lower lip and said under her breath, “Never half the time.”


Thalia shook her head. “It would take far, far less.” 

Jacyntha leaned forward. “Really?” Espinas nodded. “How long?”

“A day.”

“You could do one in a day?”

This time the young lady shook her head. “No. I could do …” Her brown eyes glanced up and right, then she blinked, and finally she said, “ten. A dozen? Maybe more.”

It was Jacyntha’s turn to blink. “You could produce a dozen tomes in a day?”

“I think so.”

“That’s incredible!” Jacyntha said.

“How about these reproductions of illustrations?” Ellpay asked. “If I could get you a portrait of me, how many times could you do me up?”

“The same,” Thalia replied. “Well, more actually, because there’d only be one page to do. I could do hundreds.”

“Hear that, ’Cyntha? There could be hundreds of me spread all around Guayamartí for my adoring fans to worship!”

Jacyntha thought on this for a while as they continued walking between the tables surmounted by machines, all stowed in the cellar of the Espinas residence. At length, Jacyntha asked, “And the Hierarchs aren’t impressed by this?”

Thalia huffed. “They would be if mother would only agree to rejoin their ranks. Until then, they want nothing to do with her. And mother thinks I’m wasting my time down here.”

“She doesn’t see the power in this?” Jacyntha asked.

Again Thalia shook her head. “If I can somehow get it to print gold coins and not pages adorned with words, then she’d be interested in its power.”

“That’s so short-sighted. What are you going to do?”

“I’ve got to figure out how to turn the printed word into gold coins.”

“Good luck with that,” Jacyntha said.

“Sell portraits of me!” Ellpay gushed. “You’d never have enough to sell, I’m so adored.”

Thalia frowned, thinking of what Ell had said. “That’s not a bad idea, though perhaps I should start with Diandro Paredes.”

“No!” Ellpay yelled to the rafters. Then she winced and coughed as her exertions clearly aggravated her healing ribs. She hissed, “He’s a bastard!”

Thalia shook her head. “No, he’s only played two games and he’s already a fan favourite. And he’s done a lot for the poorer neighbourhoods. He’s a hero.”

“HERO and ZERO both,” Ell bellowed.

“You’ve been so kind with your time, I don’t want to bore you with my hobbies.”

“Good!” Ellpay said. “Let’s go find some nice dulces.”

Jacyntha smiled. “Isn’t documenting our second season a hobby?”

Thalia shook her head again. “No. It’s way more important than that!”

“What’s down there?” Jacyntha asked, gesturing towards a portcullis barring a narrow tunnel descending further under the Monte Alto.

Thalia shrugged. “I’m not sure. Mother never lets anyone go down there. I think it’s where she keeps her best bottles of wine.”

Jacyntha chuckled. Keeping wine under lock and key was something her own mother, Queen Beatriz, would understand. They exited the cellar, emerging into the hot, sticky summer air. It was only then Jacyntha realized how cool it had been beneath the Espinas residence. Thalia locked the doors behind them and then guided the pair of Militantes to a bench in the shade of a big old roble. The bookish young woman kicked off her sandals and hopped up onto a big root, crossing her legs. Then she fished inside the ratty, ink-stained satchel she always had slung over her shoulder and brought out her ink jar and quill. Then she took up a folded sheaf of parchment and propped it on her knees. “So, you said you’d share your predictions for how the Militantes would do this season. It’ll be fun to jot them down and then compare how accurate you were at the end.”

Jacyntha chuckled. “Yes. But had we done this last year, I’m not sure I’d ever have predicted we’d play in the Blue Blood Cup Final. So maybe we already know how accurate my predictions are!”

Ellpay, disappointed her suggestion for going to get dessert had been ignored, said, “I’m going to end up with most touchdowns now that Pierce Rosethorn’s no longer playing.”

Thalia jotted that prediction down. “Papá would agree with you, Mistress Jacyntha. He says making predictions is a mug’s game … people only remember if you’re wrong.”

Jacyntha’s chuckle turned into outright laughter. “Your father sounds like a wise man.”

“So you’re saying the season will bring something unexpected?”

“I’m sure there’ll be all sorts of surprises.”


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