The Incidental Ball

In document Tanya Grotter and the Throne of the Ancient One (Page 127-174)

The next morning, beginning at six o’clock, Slander Slanderych was at the stadium, stretched by the three-dimensional incantation Normus spacus solextensionos. So many spectators had gathered that without the fifth dimension the stadium could in no way have managed.

Latest Magnews, Mag-TV, and the radio station Witchcraft-dame had set up their zoomers and transmitters in advance. Among others, the Shaman News reporter, covered with pimply green skin after Goreanna shot at him with the evil-eye rifle, was also kicking his heels. It was necessary to wet this skin all the time, and the reporter was casting yearning looks at the barrel with the mermaid.

Sitting in her barrel, Milyulya was sullenly drinking fish oil. All night she had been singing songs in the pond, had not had a good sleep, and was now in poor spirits. She was in such a temper that she did not allow the reporter into her barrel, and only agreed to sprinkle him by splashing her tail.

Puper fans, as usual, occupied the best stands, and stretched out a beaming banner:


Representatives of the publishing house rolled out a cart with the calendars and sold them to anyone who wanted one. Due to the well-known modesty of Puper, his image did not desire to remain in place and tried to slip away. So that this could not happen, they laminated the calendar. All the same, Puper succeeded in disappearing from a good third of the calendars. In some his nose remained, some a hand, some the stick from his broom.

They sold such calendars at a discount.

At nine, the spectators began to teleport or fly in on auxiliary means. Grail Gardarika barely managed to cope with their flow, at equal intervals letting into Buyan new portions of magicians.

Usynya, Gorynya, and Dubynya helped the cyclopes check the tickets. Taking into account that black magicians preferred to counterfeit rather than buy them, the cyclopes and the heroes, all dressed in anti-evil-eye vests, attentively examined each ticket in the light. The noble profile of Academician Sarnadapal had to light up on true tickets.

However, on the fake ones the same academician threatened the cyclopes with a fist or a grimace showing with all its might that it was placed here illegally.

For a while, the heroes and the cyclopes were looking at each other, but they soon found a common language. After only half an hour, the heroes alone were checking tickets, and the cyclopes could hardly manage to transfer into their guardroom hams, kegs of beer, sacks of flour, and other bribes taken from those without tickets. There, in the guardroom, they piled everything into two heaps — one for themselves, the other for the heroes.

Slander understood very well what was going on, but nevertheless there were too many entry gates into the stadium for him to follow all of them at once, and he was afraid to use the spell of magic self-cloning, fearing that one of his clones would flee to the mermaid and remain with her. Occasionally, however, he rushed to the guards and, small, angry, he would fly at them, exactly like a fighting rooster.

“What are we, beasts? A man came from afar for the match and we turn him away at the gate? Such would cause an international scandal!” timidly hiding their thievish eyes, the cyclopes said.

“Exactly! Our service is both dangerous and difficult! Every moment they can put an evil eye on us; scorch us with sorcery from any corner! And besides, why should we not take a ham? They don’t just give it, but give out of respect,” declared Gorynya, inclined towards social demagogy.

Dubynya also wanted to say something as weighty, but words, as always, could not be found. He only struck his chest with his fist and from time to time out of fullness of feelings, attempted to embrace the collocutor, but, meeting the icy view of Slander, hid his hands behind his back.

* * *

An unpleasant surprise awaited Sardanapal, and even the entire Tibidox. The chair of the board of referees Grafin Cagliostrov stated that this time he himself would be the chief judge of the match, and assigned the Persian magician Tistrya as his assistant. The said Tistrya was already twirling nearby with a cloying smile of regret spread across his face.

Both teams were already ready four hours prior to the match. Dragon handlers fussed in the hangars and sent for water sprites in the event of possible fire. Goyaryn and Keng-King roared in anticipation of battle. It could be heard how they struck the hangar walls with their tails.

Bab-Yagun jumped onto his vacuum and, straightening his silver mouthpiece, soared up above the field. “Hello, everyone! With you again is me, the never-give-up Bab-Yagun! This time I will not talk about me being loved by and irritating to many! I will also not begin to present the Tibidox team! I will say only that Zhora Zhikin, Kuzya Tuzikov, Rita On-The-Sly, Damien Goryanov, Coffinia Cryptova, Seven-Stump-Holes, Liza Zalizina, Katya Lotkova, Tanya Grotter, and I, the playing commentator Yagun, are all in excellent form and certain of our victory.”

Grafin Cagliostrov grinned and exchanged significant glances with the Persian magician Tistrya. “They are certain of their victory,” he said. “Let them dream. Till the

first penalty flag!” Tistrya said and smirked so evilly that even Cagliostrov himself became a little dismayed.

Yagun stepped on the gas. In the bright sunlight, the scales, departing from the pipe of his vacuum, sparkled. “My granny mama! How glad I am that this match finally takes place! Two long years of waiting! Last time victory was so close, so real, but they stole it, in the most literal sense they carried it off from under our noses! A special merci is necessary, probably, to our new chief judge Grafin Cagliostrov! Who does not know this, evil eyes to that stand!”

“YAGUN!” Slander sternly shouted.

“Well now, again Yagun! Okay, let us return to our rams, that is, I beg forgiveness, to the imported, so to speak, guests from a foreign land,” continued Yagun. “They go out onto the field and look around, determining on what side is the sun and if the wind interferes. For the poor wretches, forced to fly on sticks with bunches of branches, such trifles are very relevant. The slightest gust and — tsk-tsk! I recall, once at training Kuzya Tuzikov on a broom was carried away into the ocean. Fortunately, and for someone also unfortunately, he swims like a fish…”

“Yagun, don’t be distracted!” Medusa warned him sternly.

“I cannot but be distracted! I think when I speak, to think silently is impossible for me…” Yagun said, justifying himself. “Number one — captain Glint, forward. Well, what can one say here? A weighty man, the well-fed foreign analog of our Zhora Zhikin!

True, not quite understandable why he makes the youth team. I will not be surprised if I find out that Glint already has adult children. Number two — O-Phe-Li-A, defence. A fairy, a beauty, for sure an excellent student. Interesting, did she bring with her the silver flute? Last time with its help, O-Phe-Li-A skilfully set fire to both teams… Sheik Spirya

— number three. Attacking halfback with Slavic roots and doubles as an Arab sheik.

Already flew seven times past Coffinia as if by chance, although the rest of the team is still on the ground. The fellow is lucky that Gunya Glomov is not part of the Tibidox team. But the match will not go on forever. Who else is there? Prince Omelet. Twin brooms. Pro on bewitched passes! Here is someone I will be curious to contend with!”

Prince Omelet and Bab-Yagun exchanged glances with sympathy far from mutual.

“Number five — Gulkind-Nose, dragon guard. A sensible young fellow moreover with a commercial bent. He will go far! He brought with him from England a pile of soccer shirts with the portrait of Gury Puper and plugged them at nightmarish prices yesterday in the Hall of Two Elements. I like how Katya Lotkova dealt with him. ‘I implore you, fellow! I will get a live Puper cheaper!’ she said.” Lotkova smiled and threatened Yagun with a finger.

“But why did I say that? By the way, my granny also purchased one soccer shirt, as she claims, to frighten away evil spirits… Number seven — Schulson, nicknamed Admiral.

They say he can throw the ball across the entire field and still catch it himself. But these are all silly gossips. I noticed no such thing last time, although he plays rather well. Oh, here we have reached number eight (my number, by the way, is also eight)… Gury Pup…

Oh, the stadium is already roaring! I think there is no need for any more presentation!

Have you noticed that today he has a new broom? A solid piece! Am ready to argue, the yard-keeper of the house on Rublev Road, personally driving off cats from the king of vampires’ car, would give his best shovel for it!”

No one heard Yagun. Everything was drowned out by the applause and shouts of welcome. Gury Puper, pale but determined, straightened the glasses on his nose and sat on the broom. It seemed to Tanya that he glanced with yearning in her direction.

Immediately one of the magnotists fussily ran up to Puper and started to twirl a crystal ball in front of his eyes.

“Number nine. Bad-Fat-Pet — attacking halfback. Our forward Seven-Stump-Holes is convinced for some reason that in translation this sounds like ‘likable skinny otter’. I will not dissuade him. I notice only that Bad’s broom flies both forward and backward and has a bailout.” Bab-Yagun cleared his throat.

“And finally number ten… Before continuing, I warn that I am in a shielding vest!

Number ten — Carolyn Curlo! I said that my vest will crackle, but it will be nothing to me! Oh, my granny mama, the vacuum is conking out! Hey, likable otter, lend me your parachuuuuuute!”

BANG! They dug the playing commentator out of the sand, shook him down and, after checking whether he had broken anything, again with great care placed him on the vacuum.

“Did you see that craftiness?” taking off, Yagun yelled, offended. “She simply muffled the vacuum, and that’s all she did! Probably if someone from the Tibidox team were to use evil eye on the field, he would already have gotten a penalty flag long ago! Indeed now Grafin Cagliostrov and the magician Tistrya do nothing! Do you know what they just said to me? Allegedly, they had not yet let out the signal spark to start the match, and so she can do anything she wants with my vacuum! Okay, they persuaded me, good friends! Next time I will take Goreanna’s evil-eye rifle, I will set off for the change room of the Invisibles, and turn them all into polecats! Moreover, I will also do this before the signal spark!”

Yagun did not have time to finish talking, when Grafin Cagliostrov and Tistrya showed him the penalty flag. The thunderstruck commentator almost fell off the vacuum again.

“For what?” he yelled.

“For the threat!” Tistrya wickedly explained, stroking the goblet similar to a Tula samovar.

“It was a joke!” Sardanapal tried to step in.

“That’s not important. It could influence the psychological state of the Invisibles team and inflict moral injury on them! Say thanks that we did not remove this magfioso element from the field altogether!” Grafin Cagliostrov said.

To suppress any dispute, he raised his hand with the ring and released the signal spark.

Eighteen players — taking into account that Bab-Yagun and Sheik Spirya were already in the air — pronounced Speedus envenomus all at once, secured themselves with Oyoyoys, and took off.

Dragon handlers threw open the hangar gates. Goyaryn and Keng-King took off almost simultaneously and, still from a distance, as if exchanging greetings, breathed jets of fire at each other. Meanwhile, the umpires, having made their way onto the field under the protective dome, let out the balls, and rushed fleeing. Goyaryn and Keng-King, not on any joint agreement, immediately rushed in eager rivalry for — no, not the balls and even not the players, but the umpires… For some unknown reason all dragons of the world cannot stand them. The umpires were on alert this time. One had time to slip away, and

the other became a lizard in time and burrowed into the sand. Katya Lotkova and O-Phe-Li-A already hurried to the dragons, calming them.

“What disappointment! They have not eaten the umpires for the time being! Have they really gotten too nimble? Doesn’t matter — the game is long! Anything can still happen!”

Bab-Yagun calmed everyone, almost getting yet another penalty flag for such careless words.

The beginning of the game this time turned out not so much swift as tactical. While the Invisibles were reorganizing, the players of the composite Tibidox team managed to take possession of three of the five released balls; however, all their opportunities at King were futile so far. The defence of the Invisibles were well coordinated, and Keng-King blazed with well-aimed and almost continuous jets of fire, reaching the most distant corners of the field.

The immobilize ball slipped away for the time being, but Admiral Schulson intercepted the sneeze ball and passed it to his captain Glint. Glint on his broom glided at a not great height and picked the moment when he could attack Goyaryn. Thus far, Gury Puper did not demonstrate his usual miracles. He was playing sleepily and even as if without desire.

On the other hand, when Tanya or Coffinia showed up beside him, Puper noticeably revived and began to trace prodigious figures on the broom.

“I hope Gury did not forget the existence of the braking spells Bangus parachutis and Bangus parachutis forte. I have never seen anyone doing a cobra with such speed!” Bab-Yagun remarked.

At the very beginning of the game, it was possible for Tanya to intercept the pepper ball, but so far she had not hurried to breakthrough with it to Keng-King, especially as the rules allowed them to keep a ball for as long as they desired. Since the pepper ball gives five points, it would make sense to throw it only when a player ends up near Keng’s throat. Up to now Tanya was moving around quickly above the field, deftly manoeuvring, and disrupting the plans of Bad-Fat-Pet and Carolyn Curlo sticking with her. Carolyn Curlo, with her witch’s eyes, already several times dropped quick glances aimed at Tanya, but Tanya was in a safety vest, and her double bass dealt with evil eyes much more effectively than vacuums.

Grafin Cagliostrov and Tistrya persistently did not notice the violation of rules by the Invisibles, although O-Phe-Li-A already played on the flute with all her might, directing the fire of their dragon, and Admiral Schulson roughly pressed on Zhora Zhikin’s broom.

On the other hand, when Seven-Stump-Holes slightly cut Glint off, he instantly earned a penalty flag. Furthermore, Stump was forced to return the recaptured sneeze ball to the Invisibles.

“Here’s what’s called the vital balance of justice! They have Puper not in the best form.

On the other hand the judges play up to them, and they can cheat as much as desired!”

Tanya thought. She waved her hand at Bad-Fat-Pet and made a beautiful barrel, in the next moment leaving the clinging Invisibles player without the pepper ball.

Bab-Yagun caught a pass from Rita On-The-Sly and, after placing a spell on it, sent it across the entire field to Liza Zalizina. He calculated that the Invisibles would want to intercept it and would be knocked down from their brooms. The rules of dragonball did not prohibit this. However, the Invisibles, obviously, had heard much about the improbable ability of Yagun to change the spell several times during the flight of the ball.

For this very reason, none of them rushed to it with the only exception of Prince Omelet, probably also a telepath.

“What a pity! Omelet rushes to my ball, but does not manage! Liza Zalizina gets the pass! I will not be revealing a big secret if I say that she saw my secret sign… Zalizina attacks Keng-King with the stun ball! Excellent, simply excellent! The cuckoo is guiding the clock on autopilot! Not the most convenient form of transport, but then what speed!

Here, true, you cannot tell time with it. The hands were lost already during the match with the babai… Keng-King meets Liza with fire. Short, powerful fiery spittle! The dragon economizes breath, without wasting it on long jets. It would not know how to hit upon the idea by itself! One more merci to O-Phe-Li-A and her silver flute. Keng-King’s spittle is not burning the vampire bile yet, but Liza is forced to gain altitude. While Zalizina is attracting Keng-King’s attention to herself, Seven-Stump-Holes gets into attack position. O-Phe-Li-A hurriedly begins to play the flute, but Keng-King was too absorbed in its attempt to set Liza on fire. A throw! Excellent, Holes has the ball! He deftly beats Sheik Spirya and faces Gulkind-Nose directly. Gulkind-Nose fusses and with signs proposes to Stump to exchange the ball for a soccer shirt with Puper on it! But Seven-Stump-Holes is clearly not a Pupermaniac! He draws back his arm, and… the stun ball flies right into the dragon’s mouth. A flash! The ball snaps into action, Keng grows stupid before our eyes! O-Phe-Li-A and Gulkind-Nose flee, fearing to be swallowed! One point to Tibidox! But what’s this? Why doesn’t it count? Oh no, I don’t believe my eyes!

Grafin Cagliostrov and Tistrya declared offside, moreover only the moment before Keng swallowed the ball! How do you like that?”

The Tibidox fans began to moan. It was clear to all that their team had been written off.

“Why, why?” Tararakh yelled. The hot-tempered pithecanthropus tore off to the judicial stand. Sardanapal and Medusa tried to hold him, but could only slow down the speed of his advance. To be sure — how could they deal with a strong man who walked alone to a cave lion?

Grafin Cagliostrov and Tistrya exchanged glances. Even they themselves could not

Grafin Cagliostrov and Tistrya exchanged glances. Even they themselves could not

In document Tanya Grotter and the Throne of the Ancient One (Page 127-174)