Episode 8

The Story So Far:

Whilst sailing on her former pirate ship, the Menace, back from Mytilan to Guayamartí, Cassandra Thordwall tells her head coach, Umberto de la Calle, that he can’t keep running away from Dred Curseweaver. She tells him she can’t have him paying so much attention to the threat of Curseweaver killing him that he can’t coach the Militantes properly. When he asks for suggestions, she tells him, “As it happens, Umberto my man, I’ve got an idea.”

Up on deck, Jacyntha talks with the newest Militante, Moreaka, a former member of Queen Beatriz’ Queensguard. When Moreaka hears what awaits her in the world of footy, she wonders how she managed to get herself into a situation that includes Vomiting Trolls, Havoc Warriors, and Goblins. Just then they are interrupted by the proletariat-defending captain of the team, Anahuark, who says all footy players are just cogs in the great wheel.


“This is the signing that carries us over the finish line.”

In her notebook, Thalia Espinas jotted down the words spoken by the owner of the Mytilan Militantes, Cassandra Thordwall, who stood on the bar of the Luffing Lateen speaking to a packed house. She could only guess because Thalia didn’t come down to this part of Guayamartí often, but she had the distinct impression the owner of the Lateen, Samuel Gosling, was unused to hosting such formal events. The place had a more ribald character than most places where footy ceremonies usually occurred … though Thalia had to admit she didn’t frequent such events often either. She had just turned seventeen, after all.

Thordwall continued her speech. “The player I speak of brings a veteran presence to the team. Yes, yes, I am as aware as you that we reached the finals last year. But remember! Every single one of the players who took us there was playing their inaugural season. Those talented players, with so much potential, have but one year of experience under their armour straps. So, the addition of veteran leadership into the changing room and onto the practice pitch will help nurture the considerable potential we’re so lucky to enjoy.”

She gestured to Master Gosling and his own team of cup bearers. “So please help me welcome the newest Militante by taking up a goblet of Salvador de las Palmas – which Sam assures me is the best vintage in town – and raising it in honour of …”

Thalia’s hand paused, waiting, like everyone else, for the name. Everyone had known a new player would be revealed but no one knew who it would be. Indeed, Mistress Thordwall had already surprised everyone by saying it was a veteran. Over the rainy, damp months of winter, Thalia had read as much as she could get her hands on about footy and she wasn’t aware of a prominent Xonyxa who could boast of several seasons of play. The attendees took up the goblets of wine being carried around on trays borne by the cup-bearers.

When everyone held a goblet to the rafters, Thordwall smiled. “Please join me in welcoming the newest Militante into the fold! I give you, ANNE D’ARC!”

The attendees broke into wild applause. There was some whooping coming from the back.


Anne D'Arc

From the double doors leading to the kitchens emerged the star Chivalron player, formerly of Duc Tancred de Baston’s Guayamartí Imperials. She was tall, over six feet in height, and with the muscles that came from sparring with a two-handed sword since childhood, she struck an impressive figure. Her face was steely, like the breastplate she was wearing, and her short-cropped dark hair gave her a menacing look. She didn’t smile but she did nod to Mistress Thordwall, to Head Coach Umberto de la Calle, and to a few of the other invitees.

Nykal Menses, a Barrio resident Thalia had first met outside the Eztadio de Sanger before the Blue Blood Cup and who she now counted amongst her friends, said to her, “It’s not a man. I thought it might have been.”

Thalia nodded.

Cassandra Thordwall waved for the din to die down. When it did, she said, “Welcome, Anne! Bienvenue! Would you like to say a few words?”

The newest Militante did not deign to clamber up onto the Lateen’s bar, though given her height, she hardly needed to in order to be seen. Still glowering, she said in a booming voice, “Merci, madame la propriétaire, though I would thank you to mindeth my title, consorore. It giveth me great joy to swear the oath of allegiance to a club that hath the ambitions of this one.”

Nykal huffed.

Thalia whispered, “What?”

“Look at her!” he whispered back. “ ‘Great pleasure’ ? She looks like she’s having a tooth pulled.”

The audience waited for more but nothing was forthcoming. Someone called out, “Would the Militantes have won with you in their line-up last season?”

Anne d’Arc frowned. “Bien sûr.”

Thalia wrote: “Of course.” 

Emboldened by the first person to call out a question, others joined in. “What was the missing ingredient to the title-winning team?”

“Ruthlessness. On the field of battle, one shows mercy once the foe asks for quarter, never before. It is the same on the football pitch.”

Everyone knew this was a not-so-oblique reference to how the Militantes’ thrower, Jacyntha Strong, had given the winning touchdown away to Pierce Rosethorn, allowing the Quarrels to win their third title in eight years.

“No one really talks like that!” Nykal said under his breath.

“I don’t think it’s an affectation,” Thalia replied. “I’ve met a few Chivalrons before and they all speak like that, even Duc Tancred de Baston.”

“You’ve met the duke?”

She nodded.

Someone else called out a question, “Have you already met your sisters? They must be so excited to have you as a teammate.”

Anne d’Arc looked askance at the person who had posed the question. “They beith not my sisters. I have no blood ties with any of them. And I was not recruited by Madame Thordwall to be a simple teammate, but rather, for mine leadership, experience, knowledge. And yes, I am very sure they are excited to have me as their championne, their new captain … a capitaine who wilt turn the page on their past disappointment.”

Thalia Espinas jotted down the consorore’s words. Then she glanced around at the other Militantes, all Xonyxas from that strange land in the N’Itgat Jungle. None of them looked happy. Indeed, the one she knew best, Jacyntha Strong, the team’s erstwhile captain and she who had agreed that Thalia could document the team’s second season, looked on with a furrowed brow. The woman who had captained the team in the Blue Blood Cup Final, Anahuark, looked as though she’d bitten into a rotten apple.

Thalia scribbled down a comment after the Anne d’Arc quote; Is this going to work?


“If thou wouldst foul, thou wouldst as easily polish my boots!”

Anahuark arched her eyebrows clear off the top of her head. The first training session with Anne d’Arc had finished. The other Militantes had all changed and departed the training ground. But Ana had stayed behind to practise route-running with Jacyntha, and Anne d’Arc had taken up the longsword that was never far from her person and she had gone through a routine of battle moves. Now they were changing out of their practice uniforms and donning civilian clothes, in the Xonyxas’ case, or martial gear, in the case of Anne. Now, after Anne’s statement, Jacyntha laid her hand on her fellow Xonyxa’s arm, forestalling anything rash. Anahuark had been a soldier and could hold her own in a tight spot, but Anne d’Arc had been an actual knight before becoming a footy player.

Well, a consorore, which evidently meant she-knight.

“What do you mean by that?” Anahuark asked.

Anne d’Arc sneered. “Dost thou not know?”

“Educate me,” Ana said to Anne.

“A distinct impossibility,” the consorore retorted. “Thou art obviously a commoner.”

“Well perhaps my noble sister would fulfil her sworn oath to be generous to the poor and to those who need help. Help this poor ignorant Xonyxa savage from the jungle! Help her understand why she should clean your boots.”

Anne d’Arc smiled for the first time since entering the groundskeeper’s cottage beside their training pitch early that morning. “Someone must. It is commoner’s work: just like committing fouls. You have a reputation for it. But such tactics lieth beneath the dignity of your betters. One wouldst have thought even the name wouldst be encouragement enough not to engage in such tactics. To foul is most foul indeed: a vile practice and I shall not countenance its use.”

“Last time I checked,” Ana snapped, “Umberto de la Calle is our coach, not Consorore Anne d’Arc.”

“A commoner with a typical commoner’s name. Not even a former trooper like you Xonyxas, but a garde-de-corps.”

“That’s quite enough,” Jacyntha said by way of ending the spat. “Umberto is a talented mentor who has taught us a great many skills, skills we used to get to the final.”

Anne d’Arc’s features froze. She bowed her head, took up the sack in which she stored her gear, and departed. “Until the morrow,” she said.

“Your Highness,” Anahuark called after the Chivalron. “Methinks thou didst forget her title!”

Anne d’Arc’s voice floated back to them, “Jacyntha didst renounce her title, I am reliably informed.”

Anahuark snorted and grabbed her own sack. “That woman is quite the pretentious shit. She doesn’t bicker with you or Karolyse only because the two of you have a regal bloodline.”

“Perhaps,” Jacyntha admitted. “But that doesn’t change the fact she’s a damned good footy player. She catches as well as you do, passes as well as me, and hits as well as Karolyse. We’re lucky to have her.”

“We’ll see about that,” Anahuark said. “The season starts tomorrow. I, for one, will be interested in seeing how her arrogance plays out against the Wharf Rats.”

Jacyntha said, chuckling. “It’ll be fun.”

In the event, it wasn’t.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Shopping Basket