(If you're inspired to do any fan art of this scene, I'd be glad to post your pictures here.)
my version of Quidditch:
~ ~ ~
Shemkaya sat on a raised bench around the outside of the grassy field with Nimmaya and Kudiya. They were trying to explain the game to him.
"They're measuring off the goal posts," Nimmaya said. "They have to be equally spaced around the circle."
A man with a sledgehammer had just driven a long blue pole into the ground at the edge of the field. It stood about chest height. A girl ran up to the man and handed him something, then ran to the center of the field, unwinding a long string, and settling herself on a flat stone disk that lay on the grass. It was the other end of the string she'd handed him, and they were now pulling it taut between them. The man then took a green pole off the ground and walked a small distance along the edge of the field, holding the string tight and watching the girl the whole way. She was looking down, examining the stone disk beneath her. Her hand shot up into the air and the man stopped walking. He placed the green pole where he stood and drove it into the ground with his sledgehammer.
Kudiya flashed Shemkaya a sly smile and squinted his eyes. "So, if there are nine teams, how far apart would each goal have to be around the outside of the circle?"
Oh, no, a test. Shemkaya tried to figure out how to divide a pie into nine equal pieces. It would have been easier if there were eight teams, then they could just divide the pie in half four times. But with nine teams, it was more difficult.
Nimmaya blurted out, "Three hundred and sixty degrees to a circle, divided by nine, equals forty degrees each. That disk there has degree marks on it. See?" She smiled, pointing to the stone disk.
Kudiya frowned at her.
The smile left her face. "Oh, sorry," she said to Shemkaya. "I should have given you time to figure it out."
He was glad she hadn't. "That's fine," he said. "I may not have. Matematica is not my best subject."
Eventually, there was a circle of nine different colored poles spaced evenly around the outside of the circle, blue, green, red, purple, orange, black, white, yellow and silver. The girl rose and walked away, winding the string and leaving the stone disk in the center of the field.
"How can you have a goal with only one post?" asked Shemkaya.
"Watch," said Kudiya.
The man was standing holding onto the blue pole with his arms outstretched as wide as they could go. The sledgehammer was hanging from his belt. The girl ran up to him with an armful of colored poles and put another blue pole into his free hand. He poked it into the ground, let go of the first pole, took his sledgehammer from his belt, and drove the second blue pole into the ground. Aha, a goal opening as wide as his outstretched arms.
"I see," said Shemkaya.
Nimmaya and Kudiya smiled and nodded. They all watched the pair complete the circle.
Players started wandering around the field in their different colored silk tunics. It looked like a moving mosaic. There was no way this chaotic mess could ever turn into an actual game with rules.
Nimmaya explained that they would all be playing at once, trying to score goals on other teams while kicking the ball using only their feet. They would be eliminated if they used their hands or pushed other players or if the ball left the ground. There were no set positions at all and they could go anywhere on the field they wanted. Shemkaya nodded, but didn't really understand.
"It's called 'Scatterball', said Kudiya. "Iddn'Kubbrum invented it many years ago," "You can play it anywhere in the world, with any number of players and any number of teams."
Nimmaya jumped in. "The key is, that whenever a goal is scored, play freezes and everyone has to stop. Then they figure out which player to eliminate. It'll be a player from the team color who was scored upon, who is standing closest to their own goal."
Shemkaya nodded, but had no idea what she was talking about.
A bell clanged and all heads turned to it. A man was standing at the top of the tower with a trumpet lifted it to his mouth. "Let the games begin!" he called.
Acolytes jumped up from the benches, threw off their long outer robes, and ran out to the field in their baggy pants and tunics. Nimmaya yanked off her shiny orange robe and flung it across Shemkaya's legs. "Wish us luck!" she cried, running out. Kudiya followed her, calling back, "I hope you enjoy the game, Shemkaya!"
All players assembled at the base of the tower under the streamers, congregating under their team's color. Shemkaya estimated about two hundred players altogether between the nine teams. Nimmaya, Kudiya, Baraka and about twenty others from the Firelight Frozen in Amber League stood underneath their vertical orange ribbon. The other teams did the same. Somehow, the chaotic mess organized itself into teams.
A tall woman in brown robes walked among them arranging them into neat rows, counting and eliminating a few of the youngest players where a team had too many. When she had finished she waved up to the trumpeter in the tower.
The bell sounded again.
The man with the trumpet lifted it to his mouth and shouted in a booming voice that reverberated across the field, "Ruby Egg of the Blood-Phoenix League!". The bell started clanging again as all the red players ran out in line formation toward the circle. Shemkaya clapped with all the rest of the spectators on the benches, some of them whistling and shouting, "Go green! Go green", "Black is back", "Bluebirds fly" "Dread the red".
The man trumpeted and shouted again. "Dancing Jade Tree - Pillar of Life League!" and all the green players ran out to the circle to the sound of the bell and energetic clapping and shouting from the crowd.
One by one, the teams ran out to the field to the shouted introduction. "Bluebirds Swimming in Sapphire League!" and the blues ran out. "Topaz Eye of the Sun-Lion League!" and the yellows ran out. "Throat of Evening Amethyst League!" and the purples ran out. "Firelight Frozen in Amber League!" and Nimmaya, Kudiya and Baraka and all their teammates ran out. "Blackstone Hooves of Crushing Earth League!" and the blacks ran out, massing in the center of the field which was beginning to look like an artist had spilled his paints there. Then came the shout, "Diamond Thrones of the Star-Kengis League!" for the whites and "Ocean of Quicksilver Spirit-Fish League!" for the silver players who interspersed themselves amongst all the other players on the field while the crowd clapped and shouted and whistled. Shemkaya found himself on his feet, clapping, swept up in the fervor.
Most of the people left on the benches were the younger acolytes and the adults. Nabu'Tara sat a little way off to the side and one row down from him. His profile highlighted his long hooked nose. One of the youngest acolytes, a girl of only five or six years old, sat beside the old man holding onto his sleeve and resting her head against his arm. If a little girl like that liked him, he couldn't be that mean.
Nabu'Tara turned and looked at him, frowned and got up, bringing the girl with him. They sat down beside Shemkaya. "They should not have left you sitting alone. It was poor manners on their part," Nabu'Tara said.
Nabu'Tara was not mad at him. His face had looked angry, but it had only been concern. "I took no offense under the circumstances," said Shemkaya.
"Mmph," was all Nabu'Tara said as a reply. He was a strange bird. Almost likeable.
The tall woman walked out onto the field with a leather ball just like the one that had hit him in the head the day before. She placed it on the stone disk in the center of the circle and left the field.
The man with the trumpet shouted again. "All teams to their goals!" The colors separated as the players ran to their own goal posts and massed between them.
The man shouted again. "At the next sound of the bell, the game begins!"
The audience went quiet. The players were still, their silken tunics shifting silently in the faint breeze. The ball sat at the center of the field. Overhead, the wings of a gull brushed as it flew by.
The bell clanged and the teams exploded into action. Players rushed to the center, each trying to get to the ball first. It was kicked here and there, not held by anyone for more than a sandgrain before being kicked away.
Nimmaya had the ball for a moment, but a purple team member took it away from her. The play was hard to follow until someone from the yellow team kicked the ball through the green goal posts and the bell sounded. The field froze. Everything went silent again, suddenly motionless.
Nimmaya had said that a player who moved would be eliminated from the game. The tall woman walked amongst the players near the green goal looking for the green player who was closest to their own goalposts. She found one, placed a hand above his head, and looked up at the man with the trumpet. "Yes!" he shouted, confirming her selection, and the green player walked off the field toward the benches.
The woman placed the ball back into the center of the field. As soon as she left the circle, the bell rang and there was chaos again. Yet, there was a kind of strategy to it. If players stayed near the center of the circle, they'd be closer to the ball when play resumed, but also unable to protect their goal. On the other hand, if a player stayed near their goal to protect it, they'd be first eliminated if a goal was scored. Yet staying halfway between these didn't help you score a goal or protect your own. It was hard to decide which strategy was best.
Each time the bell rang to resume play, a goal was scored within minutes. The field soon thinned of players as they were sent to the benches one by one.
Nimmaya and Baraka were eliminated quite early but Kudiya was doing well, playing a more defensive game on some plays and an offensive game on others. Either way, whenever the field froze at the ring of the bell, he was not the one eliminated. Nimmaya sat on the bench in front of Nabu'Tara wiping sweat from her forehead with a cloth. Baraka went to the concession and brought them all back a jug of water and some goblets.
Soon there were more players sitting on the benches than remaining in the field, and the green team had only one player left. At this point, the long green streamer hanging down the side of the tower was rolled up halfway by a man standing below it pulling on some ropes. When the last green player was eliminated, the streamer was rolled up completely and the Dancing Jade Tree League was out of the game. Only eight teams were left.
In no time, the yellow, blue, red and silver teams were also eliminated, and their streamers were rolled up. Only the orange, purple, black and white teams were left, and only their streamers remained unfurled on the board.
A sharp pain stabbed Shemkaya's temple. It wasn't a ball hitting him again. This was inside his head. It made him sick to his stomach. He staggered off the benches and around the side into some shade under the seats. Sitting down and holding his head, he willed the pain to go away. Nimmaya was at his side in an instant.
"What's the matter, Shemkaya?" she asked.
"I'm sorry, I just . . . my head hurt suddenly," The world was spinning around. He couldn't focus on anything. He fell to his side and lay curled up on the grass with his head on his arm. Nimmaya took his cloth from his robe pocket and left. In a few instants she was back and a wet cloth touched his temple. It was cool, but didn't help the pain.
The shade deepened. It was Nabu'Tara blocking the sun. He bent down and studied Shemkaya with a frown. "Go and get the Practitioner," he said to Nimmaya. "He is sitting with the Blood-Phoenix League."
Nimmaya ran off and Practitioner Sabium soon appeared saying, "Which side is the pain on? The same as where you got hit earlier?"
"No it's inside."
"Hmm," said the Practitioner. "That is unusual. What does it feel like?"
"It was stabbing at first and now it makes me dizzy and sick."
"Hmm," the Practitioner said. He took Nabu'Tara away a few steps, and the two older men consulted in hushed voices. Shemkaya couldn't hear what they said. They returned and knelt down on either side of his head, clasping their hands above his face, and bowing toward each other so that their foreheads touched. They intoned a low chanting hum that felt like a bee buzzing inside his skull. As they shifted their tone, it moved around, like cool water inside his skull. It eased the pain and steadied his stomach.
No one else was paying any attention to them. The shouting, screaming and clapping from the crowd drowned out their chanting. It wasn't long before Shemkaya felt well enough to sit up. He hated having made such a fuss.
Nabu'Tara frowned at him. "How are you now?"
He was getting used to Nabu'Tara's frown. It was concern, not anger.
"Better, thank you, maza'im. I think I can go and sit down now."
The Practitioner and Nabu'Tara exchanged concerned glances. The Practitioner nodded his head in assent, and they all went back to their seats.
Baraka said, "That must have been a worse blow than we thought yesterday." Shemkaya nodded. He didn't want to talk about it.
The game was almost over. Only one white player from the Diamond Thrones of the Star-Kengis League and one orange player from the Firelight Frozen in Amber League were left in the field. It was Kudiya who had held out until the end. Fantastic. The bell rang for play and it wasn't long before Kudiya scored on the white goal, ending the game in favor of the Firelight Frozen in Amber League. The crowd rose from their seats, cheering wildly. Nimmaya jumped up, screaming, ran out to Kudiya and hugged him just before he was lifted into the air by the other players who jostled him above their heads like a log floating on water.
Having his new friend win the game eased Shemkaya's pain completely, but he didn't object when the Practitioner suggested that he go and lie down in his room instead of celebrating with the other acolytes. The Practitioner had, however, allowed the other players to visit him and so, back at the Firelight Frozen in Amber League dormitory, Nimmaya and Kudiya sat at the foot of his bed as he lay there with his door open and visitors streaming through his room. They were from many different leagues, all beaming and clapping Kudiya on the back, and discussing the finer points of the game. They largely ignored Shemkaya, but a dull ache was developing again in his head. When Nabu'Tara came in and cleared them all out, Shemkaya snuggled down under the covers and stretched his legs. He heard Nabu'Tara leave a tray of food on the dresser, but he didn't feel like eating. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.