“Sofonisba, I don’t know if I can do this!” Sulatesha said, tangling her laces, throwing her fingers over her mouth as she rocked back and forth on the bench in the team’s changeroom.
“Shush! You want to sit in the solar and do nothing but embroider? You don’t need to be on the team to be a guard for the Imperatrix, but you have to be able to keep up with her!”
Alaria zipped over and untangled the mess. “Hush! Take a deep breath! You’re Mahid! You’re the best at catching and you have your trick.”
Sulatesha wiped her face and bent to help Alaria. “I’ll do my best, I’m just so bad at skating!”
Melforasha stamped her skates, checked her elbow and knee padding. “Do your best. It’s not as if First Amitzas or Joras will be there. Senior Ilesias doesn’t know as much as Joras did.”
“The team is going to be there! Jorasa and the Coach,” But the note of panic was gone from her voice and she wasn’t sounding so breathless.
“Jorasa needs every Mahid woman for her team... she’s not happy recruiting from private Aitza or the girls from the um...”
“Pornographic league? You mean the okas girls who play bare hands.”
“How they get permission to run late-night games in the solas bowls I’ll never know...” Melforasha sniffed.
“Ready, Mahid? Let’s go skate!” Sofonisba spun in place, heels together, to test her lacing then led the way out the door.
The peep holes over the steel bowl had mostly been closed, but there were still two yet undiscovered and the Senior floor-polisher first class had pride of place, while the Head of the House-Donkey stables had the other. “If the Razor Fans played to an open bowl they could charge as much as if they were Bare-Handers...”
“They wouldn’t do that, Milfas, they’re trying for the real leagues, the Muunas Eye Cup, the City Cup... you know.”
“Here they come...”
Most of the Razors were in the Prime seats, with Coach Arenas next to Jorasa. The Dowager Imperatrix wasn’t present, though she had repeatedly shown support for the Razors. Obviously she was still with the Imperial guests arriving for the Bodyguard Challenges. First Amitzas was in his bed and Ilesias did his best to look as senior as possible on the other end of the row of seats. The other Mahid women sat higher up the rake of the stands, sitting quietly.
Sofonisba led her four in laps around the bowl, doing her best to make it look effortless. She could hear both Sulatesha and Melforasa struggling behind her.
“Line... IN,” she snapped and soared down the wall of the bowl, feeling the others fan out behind her in a classic formation they’d read about, lacking a tail player. “Pattern ONE!”
They criss-crossed, Sofonisba firing through their formation even as Alaria and Melforasha crossed in front of her, the formation flipped and she called “Pattern EIGHT!”
That was more complicated and both Melforasha and Sulatesha fell. “Pause round!” Sofonisba called, Alaria stopping next to her while the other two sorted themselves out. Coach leaned over and Jorasa whispered in his ear.
Ilesias got up from where he’d laced his own skates on and soared down to the centre, disc in his hands. “Demonstrate your passing. The pelutas line, except for the Captain, will be playing against you. No goal sweep.” He blew the whistle and passed the disc to Alaria, who caught it neatly, took her eight strides, snapped a pass back to Melforasa, who caught it, but barely. Sofonisba sighed to herself and skated up to begin the passing patterns, until the first lineup came back from the change room, padded up.
“Pass ten! Pass ten!” She yelled as she skated back, sweeping around Ilesias as referee.