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ANSWERS “Ah, hello, hello, hello!” you must be the Union crony. Interesting.” “How kind of you to treat me so. Have you my payment?” The captain of the Fool's guild stood and revealed a pouch of money in his oversized sleeve. “I have. Interesting.” “What is, good sir?” “A myriad of things, to be sure. First of all, 'myriad.' Interesting word. Second of all, you asked if I had your payment but you did not ask to have it given. And third, the coin in here is roughly worth the cheap end of a pig, and that's a fact! I had to round up three butchers and a banker to make sure.” The Union player approached him. “Good sir, I am here to play ball for you! Are my fees not reasonable?” “Ah, but a fee nonetheless, and for a service that was not requested! How can any fee be reasonable? I assume you are the newest girl to make a name for herself in the Union; is that why you've come to the Fool's guild? Do you wish to beat the Farmers? I'd be wary of that, they seem to be giving this an actual try.” “I will be giving this match an actual try, for what it's worth.” The captain pulled the coin pouch back into his sleeve with but a flick of his wrist. “Ah, and we shall see just what it's worth today. My name is Question, and I would have you for this match today. Prepare, child. You'll protect me until I have a better field position in mind.” “Yes, sir.” “So polite.” He recalled the letter she had sent the last week. “What's your question, child?” “Pardon?” she cocked her head with a confused smile. “Never mind.” Question held out a uniform for her. “You'll wear our colors, today. I don't want other guilds to know I have a Union player, and I really don't want them to know I can afford one. Especially since that's not actually true.” *** He actually rose to his feet when she entered. “Hello, hello, hello! My, don't you clean up nice!” “Clean?” She looked down at the pastiche of colors she now bore. “Sure, why not?” said Question, waving her down. “It's starting. Get ready! It's a decent court, but it's still mostly cobbles. The Merchants have decided to host a little tourney for betting purposes. It's 15-1 on us losing every round. I'm glad to say we've not failed the crowd yet!” She watched as he grabbed the ball from the center. They were to kick, and it seemed Question was the most able striker on his team. After returning, he ran back and... Slipped. She dashed forward as the match began in earnest. She felt her hidden dagger along her forearm, looking for the most obvious threat on the enemy side while she readied her blackjack from her waist. Meanwhile, Question stood up and she realized exactly what she had signed up for. “Hello, hello, hello, Farmers! How have you been today?” She remembered she was supposed to keep him alive, and she resisted the urge to club him herself. She tackled him to the ground as a pitchfork sailed over his head. “What the hell was that?” “Ah, do you mean my greeting?” “Just... all of it!” “You mean my kick that just crossed the line and allowed me to retrieve it myself?” He pulled the ball out of his sleeve and held it up for the crowd to see. “Idiot!” She pulled him to his feet as she fended off the pitchfork-wielder. He ignored the scuffle and slowly advanced down the pitch, motioning for her to follow him. “You see, girl, you're new here, and if you're in with my team then you're just plain new. Let me explain. I was aiming to distract that young man you're bludgeoning right now. Sure, I didn't distract him from killing me, but that's what I'm supposedly paying you for.” She shoved her opponent and moved to protect him from the scrum he was walking into. “Fine. Misguided tactics, I feel, but why the three 'hello's? Every time with you, I've noticed.” “Simple rule of audience engagement, miss! One, because you have to start with one, it'd be daft not to. Two, to get their notice. But three, three to get their focus. At three, you have unequivocally addressed the audience. They have heard you, and are certain. You understand just fine, I see!” “I really don't.” “But you have demonstrated a perfect understanding! You have bashed this man's head not once, not twice, but thrice! Once to start, twice to get his attention, and thrice to claim his focus!” “I beat him three times to get him to stop moving.” She tossed him aside as he fell limp. “What's the difference, I say! To get an audience to shut up and stop moving is paramount! Your method just seems a bit more permanent.” As they approached the goal two farmers broke off from the scrum to follow them, and she realized Question had not moved faster than a stroll since his bungled kick-off.“Now then, let's see, I've practiced this all week and...” Question kicked the ball straight into the back of her head. She fell to her knees, almost kissing the cobbles, but looked up through haze and stars just in time to see the ball bounce off the goal. Her head pounded through the cheers and cackling of the crowd. He grabbed her arm and ran to the sideline, away from the ball and their pursuers. “What's your question, child?” “What? Ah, that hurt, you inbred-!” “Let me rephrase, what did you say your name was again?” She understood at last, and held the back of her aching head in shame. “My name is Answer.” “What's your question, child?” She smiled. “It's, 'who am I performing for.'” “That's right.” Question winked at his new Answer. *** The Fool's guild lost 12 to 11 amidst thunderous laughter.