Episode 7

The Story So Far:

Mytilan’s Crown Princess Jasmine taunts her sister Jacyntha with a letter the latter has received. When finally given the letter, Jacyntha sees it is written by the young woman she met after the previous year’s final, Thalia Espinas. Thalia informs Jacyntha that the Quarrels – the team that beat the Militantes in the final – were resoundingly defeated in the Twin Seas Super Cup, a competition between only league winners. The Hammarskjöld Nordhammers, the team of the Militantes’ former coach, the deceased Karsgaard Neuvil, lifted the cup in his honour. Jacyntha resolves that next year, the Militantes will do the same.

The second pre-season game against the Salamanders starts well. The Militantes go up 3 – 0 before Umberto – possibly at Queen Beatriz’ behest – pulls off most veterans and instructs the aspiring new recruits to try risky plays. The Salamanders score two late touchdowns and lose 3-2. During the post-game ceremony, Beatriz proclaims the Salamanders as series winners on the strength of scoring more away touchdowns. Later that day, she successfully launches negotiations on establishing a mutually recognized border with the Exotherms.

Team owner, Cassandra Thordwall, proclaims herself happy with the Militantes’ pre-season and says, “There’s just one more piece to add and we’re ready to go.”


“You can’t keep running.”

Umberto nodded. “I know.”

Cassandra Thordwall threw her feet onto a stool in her cabin … well, Horatio’s cabin, now. In his place, she’d not have let a former captain of the Menace set up in the captain’s quarters. But Horatio wasn’t Pillaging Peggy, he was either more gracious or confident in his standing than she would have been. He had let her take her former cabin. She was happy to accept his magnanimity for the voyage back to Guayamartí and stretch out, leaning back in the armchair. She lifted her mug to her head coach. “Sköl,” she said.

Salud,” Umberto replied, lifting his own cup and settling on another stool. He took a swallow and his face spasmed eight different ways at once. Thordwall’s own reaction to the chicha had probably been similar. “¡Dios mío! That’s awful!”

Thordwall chuckled. “Señor is too accustomed to Montezino Superiore, perhaps? Hey, you haven’t mentioned your girlfriend in a while. What was her name? Marta?”


“So, are you two still a thing?”

“I broke it off after that night Dred paid me a visit. She doesn’t need getting her throat slit because she’s out for a nice evening with her novio and it happens to be the wrong place and the wrong time.”

“Broke it off? As in forever?” Thordwall asked. “That’d be a pity. I liked having a source in the Giamucci household. Eguardo’s been straighter with me since last autumn, but straighter ain’t straight.”

“As in … I broke it off until I get Dred sorted out.”

“Ah yes, back to the nub of things. So what are you going to do? You can’t keep running and you can’t kill her.”

“You don’t think I could take her down?”

Thordwall chuckled and took another sip of chicha. “The SSFL doesn’t just have two more teams this season, Umberto, it’s got a commissioner with the power to kick a team out of the league for doing things like assassinating the opposition’s star players.”

A caravelle ship, The Menace sails between cliffs. Art by Sébastien Meunier.

The Menace must have emerged from the lee of Wind Passage and entered Bestedar Bay, because the ship lurched as it traversed the shear line, the boundary of two contrary currents that sometimes birthed whirlpools. The waters would soon become choppier, with rollers coming in off the Primactor Strait on their way to the rocky shores of the Dhyra Islands. But she and Umberto were old sea dogs and they didn’t spill a drop of their drinks, even if her head coach looked like he regretted not pitching the chicha out the cabin’s porthole.

“So what’s it going to be?” she pressed. “I can’t have my head coach keep jumping on the next ship to leave port because he’s worried about getting a dagger in the back.”

“Dunno, boss. Any suggestions?”

“Hire yourself a you. Better yet, hire a whole team of you. But keep away from Yekko though, or I’ll gut you myself. I need her.”

“Ha!” Umberto rolled his eyes. “You hardly ever needed my expertise. When was the last time I actually saved you from an assassin? That day we met Karsgaard? You never needed me to protect you from homicidal witches, you needed me to talk you out of your daftest ideas. Has Yekko figured out how to talk you out of getting yourself killed?”

Thordwall chuckled, shaking her head. “Not yet. But she’s bright; I have hope.” Then she turned serious and leaned forward. “I’ll not deny Dred Curseweaver’s a serious problem. But you’ve received serious training from people seriously skilled at such things. I’m sure you can figure out how to stay alive. But I’ve got to ask: can you figure out how to stay alive and still coach my Militantes?”

He huffed. “I’ll make it work.”

She peered at him, her eyes pinning him to his stool. Finally, she gave a wry smile and said, “You’d better.”

“So, how many games do we play this season if there’s ten teams instead of eight?”

Thordwall leant forward. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing, Umberto de la Calle: changing the subject. I meant what I said.” Then she gave him a smile. “What can I do to help? I’m a supportive captain after all.”

“Horatio’s the captain of the Menace now.”

“Right you are. Old stomping grounds: old habits. I’m a supportive footy team owner, then. You’ve got to sort out this whole Dred business and I wonder if there isn’t a way to make it work for us.”

“Uh oh. You’ve got an idea.”

“As it happens, Umberto my man, I’ve got an idea.”


Moreaka heaved her guts up a second time.

Jacyntha patted the Militantes’ latest recruit on the back and offered her a flagon of water. The Queensguard veteran took a swig and sloshed it around her mouth before spitting it overboard. “Yesterday I thought the tales I’d heard were all exaggerated.”

“Yesterday we were still in Wind Passage,” Jacyntha said. Moreaka nodded, taking in a steadying deep breath of sea air. “Did you think it another proof of your rugged womanhood?” 

Moreaka deflated like a pierced boarskin.

Jacyntha patted the woman on the back again. “Don’t be too hard on yourself. Would the Queensguard ridicule a recruit for catching malaria while deployed on the border?” 

Moreaka huffed. “Probably.” Then her eyes went wide and she hurled bile over the rail a third time. Once another flagon of water had been offered, accepted, and spat into the sea again, Moreaka added, “I know, princess, it’s harsh. I can’t believe I’ve been reduced to a vomiting mess. If anyone were to attack us now, I’d be useless.”

“I wouldn’t say ‘useless’. I, for one, would think twice before approaching a vomiting banshee.” Moreaka wheezed and dragged a sleeve across her mouth. “You know,” Jacyntha continued, “there’s a troll who plays in the league who sometimes throws up on you, spewing chunky, acidic …”

Moreaka heaved again. Jacyntha saw the Militantes’ resident revolutionary and expert fouler, Anahuark, come up on the deck of the Menace. She saluted Horatio, Mistress Thordwall’s brother, before drawing closer.

Jacyntha handed Moreaka another flagon of water. “Anyway, this troll plays for the Mongrels. It anchors the line for the Orcs and can even throw a Goblin over your head. Hard to defend against that, though it doesn’t always work. Heavy armour protects you from the vomit, so Havoc Warriors and Dwarves usually come away with little more than a few acid burns.”

Moreaka shook her head, “Vomiting Trolls, Havoc Warriors, Orcs, Goblins! Princess, what have I gotten myself into?”

“What’s this?” Anahuark asked. “The mighty sister of the Queensguard balks before her enemies?”

“Go easy on her, Ana,” Jacyntha said. “Remember how we were last year making this same voyage? Just as green … both in terms of experience and in terms of falling victim to the seasick … just as trepidatious about the future, just as harrowed by our failing to make the Queensguard.”

“Speak for yourself, scion of the oppressor,” Anahuark retorted. “I never wanted to join the ranks of the Queensguard?”

Moreaka straightened, pushing back from the rail. She turned to Anahuark, “Why did you join the Militantes, then?”

The Militantes’ catcher replied, “I’d been kicked out of the soldiery for insubordination and was looking for work, wasn’t I? Footy seemed like a better option than gardening in the palace grounds.”

Jacyntha laughed. “There’s no way the steward would have let a rabid revolutionary work inside the palace grounds!”

Ana wiggled her eyebrows in agreement. “What I came to understand, Sister Moreaka, was that even as a footy player, adored by the masses, we’re still just cogs in the great wheel, alienated from the fruits of our labour. You fear the roiling arena of the Eztadio Sanger and its rival monsters, but you’ll come to understand the industry itself is the roiling arena and the real enemies are the owners of the means of production. Those Trolls, Havoc Warriors, Orcs, Goblins aren’t your enemies, they are your siblings. In fact, each and every player is your only true sister or brother.”

Jacyntha shook her head and gave a sardonic smile. “¡Viva la revolución!

“Capitalist pig,” Anahuark replied, mock punching Jacyntha’s biceps. 

Moreaka repeated herself: “What have I gotten myself into?”

Then she vomited over the rail a fifth time.


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