“Coach Arenen. Welcome. This lowly one is most honoured. There is a chair of honour. May this one offer kaf? Cakes?” The training school was almost deserted after the classes, just before everything was closed up for the evening. Lirasas Arenen nodded and settled slowly into the offered chair.
“I thank that one. Just kaf thank you. I must say I’ve been very impressed with the current solas league teams.”
Feniras Trenas solas, poured for his guest and then settled down in the chair opposite. It would never do for a solas to sit behind his desk when an Aitzas came calling, even if he suspected the Aitzas in question had a request to make. “That is gratifying to hear, Coach. Might this one inquire how it is, coming out of retirement?”
“Excellent! How is the youngest draft pick of that one’s doing? He is a very strong centre player.”
Feniras sipped his kaf. “Nothing like the honourable coach in the flower of that one’s career, but he is coming along well. He needs more work defensively but that will come in time.” He paused for a moment as if to gather his thoughts, or his words, to phrase the next question. “How is it, coaching... the Mahid...” he let the sentence fade, as if he could not comfortably say ‘girls’ to finish off.
“It is enlightening,” was all Lirasas answered. He set his cup down. “Perhaps I should come to the point, Feniras. My team is challenging that one’s.”
The coach of the Flying Dulis was hardly surprised. “These ones are, of course, flattered, Coach Arenen. It is clear that the honourable coach believes his Phoenixes are capable of meeting wheel to wheel with the Dulis. Since the season is in full swing, it will be a concession to play such a game. Exhibition this one assumes?”
“It would be most efficacious if such a game were played in the famous steel bowl, rather than the solas league’s stone one.”
“In front of a very exclusive audience, of course.” Feniras nodded thoughtfully.
Lirasas nodded as well. “A very equitable answer. I anticipated and have reserved several days for that one’s team to become used to the faster steel. I look forward to the game.”
Jorasa stood next to the bench, looking through the bars of her helmet, breathing deep. She had a light film of sweat on her skin after her warm-up laps. It was a failing but she could not sit. Their opponents were just finishing. Borasa and Eforasa finished their laps and soared conservatively up the rim to settle on the edge and sit down in their places. They had a pelutas line and one alternate player. It was a wonder that they had an alternate at all. Elsha, after her birthing and widowing, had thrown herself into training with the team.
“They are bigger... perhaps better than we are,” Borasa said quietly, her mouth hidden by her helmet.
“Not by much,” Elsha answered her. She was astonishingly thin, her face actually hollow but the Haian said her health was good. The choir began.
“You have three advantages,” the coach spoke from behind the bench. “One and two, they will underestimate you because of your sex and your heights, and three, even with their adjustments, they are bone-used to playing on stone, not steel.”
“Yes, coach,” their voices whispered down the bench. The referee took the disc out of its box and intoned the prayer... odd because he included both castes. The watchers -- every seat was full -- murmured at his words.
“May Aras and Selinae bless the faibalitzkabas and the disc itself,” he said formally not stumbling over the Goddess’s name. Tesha grinned under her helmet. No one was use to hearing Selinae invoked here.
“Play your hearts out Serinas and Seras. This is where you start,” coach said. The red-shirt called the captains to the centre, Jorasa facing the very tall solas captain, Apanas. He smiled down at her. It was not a pleasant smile.