Episode 3

The Story So Far:

Umberto de la Calle, Head Coach of the Mytilan Militantes, gets paid a late-night visit by Dred Curseweaver, sister to the Dark Elf witch who had played for the Jesters the previous season and who had killed the Militantes’ previous coach, Karsgaard Neuvil. Dred, who plays for the Duskdaggers, is also a witch, one who’s curious to find out what really happened to her sister, Nytmir. The popular story is she died summoning a fire demon to a room atop a granary during the rite which claimed Neuvil’s life. She claims to have eye-witness accounts of someone, an assassin perhaps, walking calmly away from the granary, suggesting it was someone built like Umberto. As she leaves she places a hand on Umberto’s cheek and reveals, “My dear sister Nytmir wasn’t a summoner.”


“You’re a cabal of killers.”

Cassandra Thordwall pointed a finger at all but one of her counterparts, a dozen team owners gathered around the massive oak table in the Cámara de Comercio de Guayamartí. The encounter, a meeting of the Board of Governors of the Sommer Sea Football League, might have been better held in the league offices, but last autumn Thordwall herself had ransacked them. So the chamber of commerce had rented the league the space … after the team owners had fronted a significant damage deposit.

Though she had made a point of not pointing at her new High Elf colleague for fear of causing insult, her words evidently weren’t as incendiary as she had believed. The other owners nodded, frowns upon their faces. One or two even nodded and shrugged as if to say, “Well … yeah.”

Only Duc Tancred de Baston took offence. “We are no such thing, you wretched wench.”

“Says the man who plotted with Eguardo to entrap me so as to disqualify my team from league play, after me having given you all a hefty purse! Need I remind you all that the man who ran the league office here conspired with players hired by the league itself to murder my head coach?”

The duke banged his fist on the table and replied, “A most vile slander! Rennigan Slythe was a hero! He died trying to free your man Neuvil.”

Thordwall knew she’d get nowhere without trimming her sails to that particular wind. “Oh come now, Your Grace! You’re an intelligent man. Surely you do not believe such drivel? I can present you half a dozen witnesses who will tell you Slythe had been plotting all through last season to reignite Neuvil’s addiction to rat-root. I have proof he finally succeeded by working through Nytmir Curseweaver. I have further proof Slythe used his authority to detain Neuvil, but instead of doing things properly, the villain dragged my coach to Curseweaver’s sacrificial altar. I have over a dozen eye-witnesses to his murder. Slythe arrived on the scene knowing where Neuvil was!”

Now it was the duke’s turn to point a finger, and he pointed straight at her. “If thou knowest such things, why didst thou not inform the Inquestors?”

“You might recall I had been forced into hiding by the league! And I had very good reason to hide, as it turns out. I might have been dragged to that sacrificial altar as well! These were league actions, Your Grace! I had to threaten a rupture of the Pact of Peace through Sport last season to get you maniacs to play nice. I tell you now, you’re playing with sorcerous wildfire if you don’t change the way you … the way we … work.

She made a show of taking a deep breath. She looked all her colleagues in the eye before continuing. “With all due respect, the league needs a commissioner with power over us, not a pair of league Officers for Conduct who do our bidding … or the bidding of some of us. We need someone to keep us in-line, however capable the remaining Officer of Conduct we now employ.” She added that last touch with a nod to the current holder of both offices. Then she addressed the Dwarf directly, “Indeed, Dwarrig son of Dwarran, I propose to this gathering that you be appointed commissioner effectively immediately.”

The gruff Officer for Conduct furrowed his brow and pursed his lips. He gave her a curt nod of thanks but otherwise remained impassive, maintaining his impartiality.

“Listen,” she said, looking at the representative of the newest oldest team to join the league, “what the league did to the Militantes might occur to any other team, should the winds blow from any particular direction.”

Thordwall had heard that footy was a trivial matter on the island of Hithilgalán and attracted the attention of only the basest of the base. Evidently one such was Sea Lord Ansal soan tor Mondronaltiaron. The white-blonde High Elf dressed a lot like Grimmy Grimejacket, though she had tactfully removed her navy blue bicorne and set it on the table in front of her. And rather than wear a crimson jacket, like Grimmy was fond of, hers was of the purest white wool, though it had just as much gold embroidery, cords, and dangly bits. Underneath was a white blouse with a stiff collar. Blue breeks and knee-length black leather boots with silver buckles topped off the High Elf Admiral vogue. On Grimmy Grimejacket, the look was absurd. On Sea Lord Ansal, who just happened to be a High Elf Admiral in addition to the owner of a footy team, it was shockingly impressive. Her carefully ordered blonde hair was pulled back in a bun that her bicorn would normally hide from the elements. She had the narrow nose, angular ears, and thin eyebrows so common to her race. She was the most beautiful person Thordwall had ever seen.

They must have a different definition of “basest of the base” on Hithilgalán.

Upon hearing her words, the Sea Lord stood, knocking aside her armchair. “What are these reports Mistress Thordwall recounts? Are they true?” Ansal glared across the table at the representative of the Duskdaggers, a team of Dark Elves, the hated enemies of the other Elven races. “I tell you all, I have not deigned to re-join the league only to have its officials skew the game’s playing surface when it suits them! If this Rennigan Slythe participated in a Dark Heretic blood rite, then the stink will follow you all forever!”

“Our rites are our business, Mondronaltiaron,” Blood Lord Tôr-Tchúr Jangleskull riposted. The owner of the Duskdaggers was everything Sea Lord Ansal was not. Her jet-black locks splayed out from her head at every angle although she was certainly just as well-coiffed as the High Elf because the angles did not seem random. She wore a crimson robe so dark of hue that its black embroidery hardly stood out. The nails on her fingers were an inch long and her skin betrayed the ink of someone inducted into the secrets of Nagra-Lath, the cruel Dark Elf god. “It is enough the league bans them from the Eztadio Matadoras for our home games.”

“It didn’t stop Nytmir Curseweaver from indulging in them right here in Guayamartí,” Thordwall snapped. “Resulting in the murder of my coach, Karsgaard Neuvil.”

Jangleskull swatted that observation away with an idle, languid hand. “Nytmir adhered to our beliefs but she had nothing to do with the Duskdaggers. If memory serves, she was a member of the Jesters when all that mess last autumn occurred.”

“If it had anything to do with the Duskdaggers, we would not be here,” Sea Lord Ansal hissed through clenched teeth.

“Aw, come on now!” piped in Eguardo Giamucci, trying to prevent tempers from fraying any further. Giamucci was a Guayamartí spice merchant and owner of the Wharf Rats, one of the two local teams. Thordwall had once despised the man, but she’d come to appreciate he was a cunning adversary but not necessarily a cutthroat enemy. In an odd way, she kind of liked him … when he wasn’t sabotaging her Militantes. “We didn’t know what Slythe was up to. He had his own under-moves in place. We had nothing to do with it.” Then, seeing the doubt clearly evident on the Sea Lord’s face, he added, “I think Cassandra’s onto something. I’d willingly have the Wharf Rats submit to the authority of a commissioner such as Dwarrig son of Dwarran. But I’d want his authority spelled out clearly to prevent … well … under-moves and such.”

The discussion over the authority of Dwarrig or any other potential commissioner continued long into the night, but Thordwall only spoke up infrequently. She focussed her own interventions on opening the door to limited player mobility between teams. When the meeting adjourned, she felt well-contented. She had achieved what she wanted: a platform that would prevent her rivals from undermining her team as they had done the year before, and the opening she needed to get her hands on the player she had in mind who could take the Militantes from contenders to champions.


“Boss, we’ve got a problem.”

Umberto pushed past her, barging into her newly purchased house in Barrio La Vega. Thordwall rubbed sleep out of her eyes and blinked at his passage. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”

“Yekko let me through the gate. Blame her, not me. Besides, she trusts me. When I told her I had to see you, see, she knew I wasn’t messing around.”

She closed the door and gestured towards her sitting room. She still had trouble thinking of Umberto as anything but her bodyguard, even if he’d been running the Militantes since the play-offs the previous autumn. “What is it?”

“I’m guessing Blood Lord Jangleskull showed up at the Board of Governors’ Meeting.”

She nodded. “Yes, it was unexpected. She hasn’t shown up for a meeting that wasn’t held in Halos for over three years. How’d you know?”

“Well, here’s the thing, boss. She didn’t sail here alone, see. Dred Curseweaver has come over as well. She paid me a visit. She’s determined to find out who killed her sister. She’s going to return the favour.”

She shrugged. “Good luck to her. It was her accursed sister who got herself killed. Dred’ll need one of those Necromancers out of Val Mort to bring Nytmir back from the dead so she can re-kill her.”

“That’s the thing, see. Boss, there’s a thing or two I didn’t tell you about that night down in El Bosque.”

“Go on.”

“Well, strictly speaking, I kind of killed Nytmir. And now Dred’s come to Guayamartí to kill me.”


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