The Battle of Prestwich Green
Count Voralys stared gloomily at his reflection in the full length mirror in his bedroom suite at New Sheffield House, his District residence. How the hell did he get into this mess? Why didn’t Gregor put a stop to it when he had the chance?
There was a giggle behind him. He sighed. “I cannot believe Count Vorsmythe sucked me in like this. He challenged me in the Council of Counts, can you believe? There was no way I could back out.”
His wife’s giggle turned into a rich chuckle. “The Bicentenary of the Battle of Prestwich Green is very important, both here and in Vorsmythe District. Of course they want their revenge. They’ve only been brooding about it for two hundred years. People have been talking to me about it all week. I think it’s wonderful you’re joining in. It’s brilliant for the tourists. The whole stadium is sold out.”
Ivan tried to straighten his helmet and centre the dark blue oak leaf badge. “You’re not the one taking part in the re-enactment though, are you? I’m the one putting his life on the line here. You know what Barrayarans are like. It’s all going to end in tears.”
Raine scrambled across the bed to kneel behind him and rest her chin on his shoulder. “You look very dashing. Surely you’ll be safe. What do you call those things?” She slid her hand down his arm.
“Forearm guards and gauntlets, I suppose. They’re more like gardening gloves on steroids.”
“I see.” Her arm slid around his waist, and up. “Ooh, what’s this?”
He hand wandered lower. “There’s another piece.”
He had to concentrate on what he was saying. “Thigh guard. Shin guards below that.They’re the second most important part of the outfit.”
Her hands wandered round a bit more. He could feel his eyes crossing. “That’s the most important guard of all. The armsmen have all stressed to make sure my box fits properly. When they’re not rolling around laughing, that is.”
“I should hope so. Don’t want to endanger the succession, do we?” Raine stopped teasing him and took her hands away. “So why don’t you have anything on your back?”
“Any attack is going to come from the front. The rules are very strict. Vorsmythe is even bringing the ancestral chain, he tells me, to make sure I don’t try and pull a fast one.”
He could see Raine’s reflection over his shoulder. She looked…perplexed.
“Chain? What’s he’s going to do with that?”
“Measure the ground, apparently. It has to be exactly a chain in length, and perfectly flat.”
“How long’s a chain?”
“Twenty point one one six eight metres. Exactly.”
“And you’re allowed to hit each other with these clubs?” She scrambled off the bed to pick up a hefty piece of wood propped against the wall and look at it curiously.
“It’s not a club. It’s apparently called a bat. I’m not allowed to hit anyone with it. I have to hit a ball with it, which has been propelled at high velocity, not get caught, run like hell and score a run.”
Raine looked at him like he was totally crazy. “What’s all the armour for, then?”
Ivan pulled the helmet off his head. “Vorsmythe tells me the aim of cricket is to kill the batter with the ball. I don’t know whether to believe him or not.”