I gave a nervous smile over to my left, Bloc gave me a little wink, captain of our team and a solid wall of flesh. Multiple scars lacerated his arms, a single patch covered one eye. An injury he rarely regaled about in the butcher's hall. I needed to play things cool, this was a big day. It would soon be time for my first ever debut. There were no second chances. Games this far out were scheduled to perfection. With the mountains and hills all around, games could only be played when the tide sucked back far enough to reveal a large flat space.. Many said this gave Fishermen the natural advantage!
My world of farmland, small villages, rough mountains rugged coastlines. Games brought us loners together, villages uniting and competing. This wasn't the glitz and glamour of the big leagues, weapons were dulled, spearing wasn't allowed, we had work to return to. Still stepping up and representing your guild was great. My chest swelled with pride as I calmed my nerves. Yes this was going to be my day.
I looked around Bloc, Bones, Grandmother, Skinner. My four team mates ready to hit the beach. I knew each Fisherman too. Cap’I’tan, Whale, Storm and the Oar twins (Barb & Bait). A team of mixed speed and brutality. Unlike the big leagues we had no time to train animals to chase balls on command, so it’s five a side. Peaking between the gaps in the wooden shack, I could see the crowds gathering on the surrounding cliff faces.
Bloc stood up and looked about. He was not one for many words as he growled. 'Let's get this done'. Everyone knew we were bottom of the league this season and the Fishermen had excelled with the oar twins. Both so fast and working in tandem with each other, striking and moving. I grasped the dulled axe, slipped a long gutting knife into my belt and fell in behind my team. Most of the broad built butchers made me look even smaller then I was. As we reached the pitch a roar went up from the crowd. They had come to see knuckles bruised, we delivered on that.
We gathered round one of the goals. Sunk deep into the sand after the civil war that nearly tore our world apart. Two rocks to mark the goals for Guildball, to unite the villages, to restore pride in our hearts. Pride I would deliver on today. Grandmother turned round. "Be ready to bloody their noses. Skinner and Slicer (That's me) you get that damn ball as quick as you can. Bones, well you do what you gotta do!" We all knew that this was personnel for him, the 'whale' had beaten two rolls of pork belly out of him last match. This was something he hadn't taken kindly too, both players had said a few choice words before the game and neither sported anything but their knuckles. At least Skinner was as quick as any fish, he had a series of small knives aimed to distract his opponents. He would be good to play off.
Storm had the ball and was drifting along to the sea end of the pitch, typical! Skinner and I were shadowing him from our side. Then suddenly it all began. Storm ran forwards and punted the ball out wide, Skinner was right up on it. In the centre Whale and Bones were running straight at each other, while Grandmother and Bloc were trying to pin down one of the oar twins and Captain. The crowd let lose a big cheer as the two big guys clashed right at the centre spot, fists swinging. Then another cry went up. I looked back to Skinner, there was the other Oar twin, sweeping his legs away and tidily gathering the ball. What was going on I hadn't even moved and that was my player! Shit!
My legs started pumping, Skinner was being soundly thrashed. His wails were being drowned out by the crowd’s roars as Bones connected with another right hook. I pulled back my hatchet and swung hard and down, at the last moment I remembered to spin it to the back end, using it more like a bludgeon then an axe. Storm had been far too preoccupied laying into Skinner and the blow to the back of his head dropped him to one knee, in a fluid motion my legs turned into a half kick to put him face down in the sand. ‘Oar boy' stepped back and blocked the flurry of blows from me so I hurled the hatchet straight at him. A move that caught him by surprise as he dodged. Just what I needed as I took the ball out from him, then I was off!
He was in hot pursuit until Skinner flung a half dozen knives at him. Although they weren't sharp they were still putting him off his stride. I was gaining distance on him and running straight for the Fishermen's goal. The sand was sucking at my feet as I closed in, like the beach was willing me to slow down! The crowd behind the goal were screaming and shouting. It all came to this moment. Time itself slowed down, the world grew quite. I had hit this in practice one hundred times before. My foot connected solidly on the centre of the ball. It flew forwards and hit the Fishermen goal square on. I had scored. I couldn't believe it!
I turned and cheered, arms raised in triumph. Thankfully this reminded me of the Oar twin in hot pursuit, I barely got my knife up to block his overhead slam. His breathing was heavy and a sneer was etched across his face. "You forgot one big thing little girl"
"Oh yeah what's that"
"There's two of me!"
I tried turning but it was already too late, blackness enveloped me as an oar slammed into the back of my head.