A Game of Hockey
By Ian Foster
Lord Ashley Morley sucked in a deep breath and surveyed the field. The boiled eggs and burned bacon on which he had broken his fast growled in his belly like an angry wolf, as it always did in the calm before battle. We are prepared for this, he thought. He knelt, brushed his finger tips across the turf and tasted the sand. As he surveyed his gathered bannermen he saw each honouring his own rituals. Yes, he decided, well prepared.
Two septons had been summoned to pray to the gods for them to uphold the side whose cause was just, as had been the tradition across the land since before the conquest. One, the elder and rounder of the two, was well known to Ashley, but the other was not. Rumour had it the man hailed from the Land of Nether across the narrow sea. I hope he can pray in the Common Tongue, or else that the gods understand his own. He knew that battle would be joined soon after the prayers were done, so he assembled his men. He had already given his orders and knew they were well understood. Command of his vanguard he had handed to Ser Douglas of the False Name, the centre would be martialled by his stalwart friend The Lord of Buckets and he himself would lead the reserve, whilst Smalldan Rayner held the rear guard. The advice of Maester Ian echoed in his ears, “this enemy will fight tooth and nail at first, but they will not stand their ground long against a sustained assault”.
"Do not take this foe lightly", he called, "These barbarians may not have our discipline in the field, but they are fierce fighters and will wound us if we let them. Strike early, and strike true, and the day will be ours!" As he turned to face the marauders from the Duchy of Hamble, he saw the two septons were nearing the end of their prayer. "For Yateley and North Hampshire!" he cried, and then battle was on them and the next hour or more became a blur of red and blue.
Much later, in the peace of his bedchamber, he found that details of the battle were jumbled and hazy in his memory. As planned, the Red Army's disciplined attack had torn through the Hamblese host like a fiery wind. Ser Douglas's vanguard had run amok from the first clash of sticks and the enemy never recovered. He remembered Ser Christian Hogglestone, Ser Douglas himself and the wildling freerider One Hand Willy had all struck notable early blows, and The Lord of Buckets had later added to the Hamblese woes several times. He also recalled Jaydeeaitch, the sellstick from across the M3, and Jolly Craig the pig farmer fighting back to back and old James Sealskin, on whose land the two armies had clashed, loudly debating the merits of the faith with the two septons. He swelled with pride at the memory of his own party of hedge knights, Iron Woolner, Beardless Darren Collins and Topknot Tom driving back foray after foray, and he still shivered with a thrill of fear at the image of the enormous mountain clansman, Makka son of Rojja, bellowing his fury to the world.
He thanked the gods that the Red Army had sustained few losses of its own. The Smalldan had taken a wound, but the maesters reported that they expected him to fully recover, and False Name had been downed for a time, but had been able to rejoin the fray before the end.
Many of his men would be celebrating late into the night, drinking and singing bawdy songs until the dawn. Some of these are green boys, he mused. They do not see that one battle does not win a war. We have months of struggle ahead of us and many enemies will be stronger than today, though few will be fiercer. We must needs fight with this same passion many times over before we are done. As he drifted into sleep, his last thoughts were on the preparations he must make ahead of the Red Army marching on Havant within the next few days. That will be a fight the singers will recount for years, he thought, and smiled.
Yateley Team: Rayner, Morley, Collins, Beetham, Maskell, Woolner, Bockett-Pugh, Sealey, Dale-Heaps, Pearcy, Wylie, Joyce, Hogg.
7th October: Havant 3rd XI, Away, Havant College, Push Back 14:00
14th October: Trojans 2nd XI, Home, Eversley Sports Association, Push Back 16:30