Grey spots swam in front of Sofonisba’s eyes and she couldn’t catch her breath. I WILL not throw up. I will NOT throw up. I will not... she clenched her teeth hard against her rebellious stomach and went after Amitza who had just checked her hard enough to spin her around, snatching after the disc that had been knocked out of her hands. I WILL do this. I will.
She and Alaria were still on their skates, still fighting to keep up with the Pelutas line. Sulatesha was being examined by Akminchaer’s apprentice, newly arrived from Haiu Menshir. She looked as wide-eyed and shaken as Sula did. Melforasha lay flat under the first line of benches, just behind the box, spread-eagle. She’d miscalculated a flip turn and knocked the wind out of herself a moment ago.
Jorasa took the pass from Amitza and Sofonisba could see her teeth flash through the bars of her helmet as she grinned, dug into her skates and prepared to zoom past her and try for another goal.
From somewhere Sofonisba drew an extra flash of speed, spun into a check worthy of Elsha as a Thumper. She couldn’t see what happened to the Captain as she fell past, tried to tuck and roll, get her breath back. Everything flashed black, just for an instant, and then she saw the disc loose, rolling past. She snagged it just as Ilesias’s whistle blew for end of game.
“That was an excellent check,” Jorasa said, a little breathlessly.
Sofonisba sat down right where she was but wouldn’t unbend enough to sprawl, even though Alaria lay right down in the middle of the bowl. The Mahid watching whistled their applause. “One check. I’m not good enough for the team,” Sofonisba said, more bitterly than she intended.
“You went from not skating at all to laying a solid hit on me in a very short time. I think you all have potential.” Jorasa got up, dusted herself off and coasted off to return the disc to Ilesias and to consult with him.
“Potential. Huh.” Sofonisba managed to get up on her shaking legs and wobble over to Alaria. “Come on. The captain says we have potential.” Jorasa nodded sharply at something Ilesias said and then pushed off to soar up over the lip and around to her coach, to consult with him.
The dowager Imperatrix and her wild-haired, wildly-clothed old guest had come in sometime during the testing game. How much had they seen?
She gave Alaria a hand up. She was shaking all over and covered in sweat, but managed to build up enough speed to make it out of the bowl by herself and not need to be hauled out by net. I am not stopping even if they say I’m not good enough.
“Mahid!” Coach Arenas called them all to attention. They had changed so much in the past year that they were actually speaking to one another, a whispered rustle of brand-new opinion. But they were all still Mahid enough that silence fell almost immediately. Sofonisba pulled her helmet off, slowly. She was too tired to do anything fast.
“You two,” he indicated Mel and Sula. “You aren’t ready for my team. However. I declare that we have a need for a minor-league training team. You two are the first of the S-level. I will be recruiting girls for two S-lines. You will be playing against the Solas and Fessas S-levels. The Onyxine Razors will have the best feeder lines in the City or my name isn’t Arenas.” He turned to consult with Ilesias and Jorasa again. Borasa murmured something from the bench.
“Sofonisba Mahid. Alaria Mahid. You are going to be sitting on this bench for a very long time before I let you in as subs for injuries. Your training is going to be full-day from this day forward and you two are going to eat, sleep and breath faibalitz.”
Alaria grinned and pumped both fists in the air, and Sofonisba stood up, then wavered and sat down again. Elsha had the basin under her face as the heaves caught up with her. “Not to worry,” she said. “Throw up, get it out of your system. And be positive about it!”
Sof wiped her mouth and looked up to Coach. “Thanks, Coach.” Out of the side of her mouth she said to Elsha “That sounds appallingly typical.”
The Thumper grinned at her and passed off the noisome bowl to a servant. “Oh, it is.”