Episode 4

The Story So Far:

Cassandra Thordwall, owner of the Mytilan Militantes, bickers with the other members of the Sommer Sea Football League’s  Board of Governors. There is a heated discussion about the league’s efforts to sabotage the Mytilan Militantes the previous season. Finally, she convinces her colleagues to put in place a league commissioner with the authority to impose sanctions upon the teams. While the owners of the other teams bicker over the merits of having the Dwarf, Dwarrig son of Dwarran, be their commissioner, another of Thordwall’s reforms gets approved without much thought: player mobility between clubs.

Umberto de la Calle, head coach of the Militantes, barges into Thordwall’s home in the middle of the night to inform her of a visit he’d received earlier: Dred Curseweaver. He tells his boss that the Dark Elf Witch and captain of the Duskdaggers is in Guayamartí to find her sister’s killer. Thordwall shrugs off this news: Nytmir’s death was of her own doing. That’s when Umberto says, “Well, strictly speaking, I kind of killed Nytmir. Dred’s come to Guayamartí to kill me.”


This is Agony doubled!

The ball was big and round. It was thick polished leather stitched around an interior cavity stuffed with wool. And it was heavy! With a cry, Jacyntha twisted, torquing momentum into the damned thing, and she hefted it with all her wilting strength, her throwing arm pitching it all of ten paces through the air to Anahuark. The Militantes’ trouble-making catcher caught it with both arms, spinning as she did so, a grunt exploding from her lungs.


That was Agony.

Grimmy Grimejacket, the foppish, bottom-feeding, Goblin player agent, had lined up special training sessions for some of his prized clients. Of course, Grimmy being Grimmy, he made sure the expert trainers brought in were some of his other prized clients, thus skimming the cream off both ends of the deal. This week’s special sessions – Better Performance Through Improved Core Strength – were being run by Agony Muerevarg, the Mongrels’ star thrower. And Agony was enjoying putting fourteen Xonyxas through his own personal brand of torture. They’d already done eight repetitions of tossing this heavy ball around and if he was demanding another, then sure as sleet on a Guayamarteño winter day, there’d be a tenth to follow this upcoming ninth.

“I said, ‘Again!’ And I wasn’t sayin’ ‘After a pause to brush your pretty hair!’ Got it? Again!”

“You’ll be first against the wall,” Anahuark panted at their malicious trainer as she got her feet into position, “when the revolution comes.” She pivoted and heaved while Agony laughed. Ana’s throw lacked power – not unusual on the sixty-fifth heave – and Jacyntha caught the ball low before it hit the ground. It was hell burning in her back and arms bringing it back up to chest height, but earlier in the week they’d learnt the lesson about what happens if the leather hit the hard-packed dirt.

“When tha revolution comes, I be frowin’ tha most bricks at the Hierarchs … ’cause my bricks’ll be gettin’ frown … IN SACKS! Sacks of bricks!! ’Cause I’m ’ard as rocks, isn’t I?”

Grimmy Grimejacket, at the front of the dozen or so spectators who’d no doubt paid for come across the Bridge of a Hundred Arches on a sleety winter day to watch SSFL stars go through their training routines, asked, “And how’d ye git hard, Agony?”

“By frowin’ dis ball!”

The crowd applauded. 

As Agony flexed his muscles in response to the applause, Jacyntha steeled herself, twisted, and heaved again, sending the ball back to Ana.

This is Agony doubled!


“Ell, I’m sorry.”

The week’s training sessions had been the first time Ellpay had appeared at a team gathering since the previous season’s Blue Blood Cup. The team’s effervescent catcher, who had nursed an intense infatuation with head coach Karsgaard Neuvil, hadn’t taken well to Jacyntha literally handing the championship to the Quarrels. Ell had been her usual bubbly self with everyone else since the training sessions had begun earlier that week, but not with Jacyntha.

Now, with the session of agony over and the players sitting on the stone steps down onto the pitch collecting their gear and donning warm clothes, Jacyntha approached Ellpay. Ell turned her sweaty head, her face steely cold, and she said, “No you’re not. You’d do it again. You’d just hand away our chance to lift the cup.”

Jacyntha nodded. “Of course I would. I wasn’t wrong. I’m sad it hurt you, but I’m not sorry I didn’t accept the cup as a hand-out from Pierce Fucking Rosethorn.” She could see surprise in Ell’s eyes at hearing a Mytilan princess swear so heartily. “Would you have accepted a Queensguard position had you just been offered it without going through the test with the rest of us?”

Ell furrowed her brow and shook her head. “No way!”

“Well the cup final was the same thing: here, have a trophy even though you don’t deserve it. I’m not sorry at all for what I did.” She took a breath. “What I am sorry for, is not tackling Rosethorn. But what I’m particularly sorry for is that pass in the second half.”

Jacyntha knew she hadn’t guessed wrong when her words clearly didn’t take Ell by surprise.

She continued. “If my pass had been better, you’d have caught it. I was too jumped up in excitement and put too much vavoom on the ball. You never got another chance to impact the outcome. I imagine you’ve done a lot of thinking about what might have been had you just caught that ball. Yes, maybe Rosethorn would have scored that third touchdown, but maybe we’d have had the time to score and take the game to overtime. Maybe you’d have been a champion … and the star of the match to boot. I’m sorry for the pass.”

Ell nodded.

“And for not having driven my shoulder pad into Pierce Fucking Rosethorn’s gut on that attempt at a tackle.”

Ell chuckled. She looked up and asked, “Vavoom?”

Jacyntha shrugged. “Yes, vavoom. I put too much on the throw.”

Ellpay gave her a smirk. “I like it. Vavoom. But you gotta put some ass into it. VaVOOM! And shake your head, girl!”

“VaVOOM!” Jacyntha mimicked.”

“Yeah!” Ell trotted away, her head bouncing to the beat of VaVOOM.

So wrapped up in Ell’s theatrics, she didn’t notice Karolyse approach. Jacyntha’s cousin said, “Good job, ’Cyntha. She hadn’t been right.”

Jacyntha nodded.

“But something else isn’t right either,” her cousin said.

“What’s that?”

“These sessions. Where’s Umberto?”

Jacyntha jutted her chin towards the Goblin. “You know Grimmy wouldn’t let his players engage in off-season training sessions. Not without a contract. These are sessions we’ve paid to be part of and they’ve got nothing to do with our employer … well, not beyond making sure our employer doesn’t want to cut us before the regular season starts.”

“Yeah, I know this isn’t a Militante thing, cus. But remember, Grimmy represents Umberto too. You know as well as I do he loves us almost as much as he loves footy. He could have shown up here as a client of Grimmy. But he hasn’t.”

Jacyntha gestured to the iron-grey clouds and the sleet being carried on the brisk wind. “I could think of plenty of places I’d rather be.”

Karolyse nodded. “Sure, but then, what about that creepy witch who’s been asking questions?”

“What creepy witch?”

“Dred Curseweaver. You mean she hasn’t cornered you yet?”

“Dred Curseweaver? The Duskdaggers’ witch-bitch?”

Karolyse nodded. “Oh! Of course! You weren’t there on that awful night: your mother had kidnapped you! Well, I got accosted by that hag down at the Lateen the other night. I asked around. Most of the other girls have too at one time or another over the past week.”


“She wants to know how her sister died. She asked questions about us, our military training, what happened when coach Karsgaard was killed.” It was Jacyntha’s turn to nod, encouraging Karolyse to continue. “The witch even asked me about whether I held aspirations to the throne!” Jacyntha’s eyes went wide. “Yeah, I know. Like I said, creepy.”

“Well, do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Hold aspirations to the throne?”

Karolyse shook her head. “Of course not, I’m your mother’s most faithful servant. And Jasmine’s welcome to that horrible job when the time comes. And I’d never do anything to hurt you.”

Her cousin glanced over her shoulders before adding, “But the worst of the whole thing down in the Lateen … she wanted to know if Umberto enjoys killing.”


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