by Richard Rowell; Co-owner of Brand Shamans & Write W.A.V.E. Media
"Seven Pitch" is a sports fantasy set in the CRONOKAI Universe. Here is the first full chapter.
Catch the other parts here.
Learn more about Seven Pitch here.
My name is Samantha Spence, and I am an aspiring sportswriter. It has become my honor to tell a story very near and dear to me. Not only is this a story of my life passion of sport, but a turning point in our world’s history.
We Felona are proud creatures who take our heritage seriously. Long ago, we were subservient to a cruel humanoid master race called the Archontes. As their favorite felines, they forced us to fight for sport and serve as prized possessions. But this couldn't last forever.
A mighty rebellion occurred and we annihilated our cruel lords. But then, no one could decide what direction our new society should go. Our people split into thirteen different factions called Prides. There was a lot of bloody fighting between us. It seemed no one would ever get along.
But yet, there was hope. One thing all Felona agreed on was our serious dedication to family and honor. But we needed something that would tie us all together. It’s why we take our favorite pastime, a quaint little sport called Seven-Pitch.
Or as the elite call it, P7TCH.
It evolved over many years from the ballgames that the ancient Archontes used to play. At some point long ago, some genius got the idea to hit a ball with a wooden stick and devise a track to run around. Later, it would become the method of scoring points. Many others thought this was a cool idea and it took off.
Later on, some self-proclaimed marketing genius dubbed the game “Seven-Pitch.” This name came from the rule that a “count” included four possible “balls” and three possible “strikes.” It made sense, and it stuck.
Long after the Archontes were completely destroyed, kittens would still play Seven-Pitch. It was an artifact of our miserable past. But perhaps, there was wisdom in our children still playing this game.
It then occurred to our clever founding queens that we could turn our in-bred ferocity and competitiveness towards a more constructive goal. Seven-Pitch would become our global game.
As kittens, Seven-Pitch is anyone’s game. But once you come of age in our world, like it was in the early day of free Felona society, it’s a Queen’s game. A lot of things in life are a Queen’s game for Felona. Only twice in our recorded history have we had a King rule over us. Neither of those times did things go well.
Our Warrior Princesses have been keeping the peace even before the Thirteen Prides united. Most of our greatest heroes were mollies and queens. So it's not unusual for girls from the Service to have long Seven-Pitch careers afterwards. They are huge role models to all young Felona.
The tomcats have always loved the Seven-Pitch girls. They often the prettiest and strongest eligible bachelorettes around. Also, most of them earn unsightly amounts of income due to their innumerable endorsement deals and considerable cuts from ticket and merchandise sales
So it stood to reason, why should Seven-Pitch be played by anything other than All-World female athletes? Well, traditions are meant to be broken, it would seem.
And this is where our story begins:
A young tomcat by the name of Tora Sheridan would change Seven-Pitch forever. I am fortunate enough to have known his story from the very beginning.
Tora made a promise to me when we were very young:
“Sammy, one day, I will be the greatest Seven-Pitch hurler there has ever been!” the sweet Tigris kitten told me.
I remember not taking him very seriously at the time. I'm sure I just nodded my head.
“Mom and Dad told me I’ll get there one day!” he announced.
Of course, I knew better. I heard his parents arguing one time before he got home over that very notion. But the Sheridans were good enough to know better than to crush their only kitten’s dream.
Evaine Sheridan had been a Seven-Pitch hurler in her youth. Actually, she’d been an incredible one. Sadly, she had hurt her arm pretty badly in a rather gruesome accident.
While she mostly recovered, her arm strength never came back. She joined the Warrior Princess Corps due to pressure from her parents. When she came out of the service, her old high school sweetheart, Cain, was still around to marry her.
Cain was little more than a sales clerk for, interestingly enough, sports equipment. Of course, most of what he sold was Seven-Pitch related. The game was his passion, and he sold more Seven-Pitch equipment to kittens and amateurs than perhaps anyone ever has in the history of our world. He also fancied himself a sportswriter. Although he never made a living at it, he was published occasionally. In fact, Cain himself was the one who dared me to become a sportswriter.
So, of course, with parents like that, it was hard to turn a little tomcat down.
“It’s just a game,” Cain would tell Evaine in that sweetly accented voice of his. She would heartily disagree, of course.
“They don’t let tommies play seven-pitch. That’s just the way it is. He’d be crushed out there. And you know it.”
Yet, the day would come at seven years old to join his first team, and the coach would let him on – to be the glorified bat boy.
But, oh, would he end up proving them wrong… And a little encouragement didn’t hurt.
To be fair, I never thought much of Seven-Pitch until I was a teenager. It was then that I learned of the exploits of Clair Sureclaw, the greatest “southpaw” who ever lived. She was not only an amazing hurler, but an even more amazing Felona. She was a Warrior Princess in my eyes, even though she never spent a day in the Queen’s service.
It seemed strange to me at first, having a hero that just played a silly game where she threw a ball and opposing mollies tried to hit it squarely and hard enough to get on the track.
Tora didn't just admire her, though. He pretty much wanted to be her. But that wouldn't be obvious for some time.
Being eight years younger than me, Tora adopted me as his “big sister” when he was very little. Our moms were really good friends. If mine was still around, they would still be today.
It took me a while to warm to the silly sport of Seven-Pitch. Of course, it’s been immensely popular for generations. But in those early years, I didn’t want to have anything to do with anything popular.
“But everyone loves seven-pitch,” Tora told me. “And right here in our hometown, we have the greatest hurler of all-time, Clair!”
I really couldn’t argue with him. I knew nothing about the sport, then, but just seeing all of his memorabilia of her - posters, cards, everything - it was not hard to see why he loved her so much. Clair has always been gorgeous - a lovely golden ocelot with thick long black hair and piercing green eyes. She was a born athlete and built like a super-model, and had more charisma than any sports personality since.
“I watch every one of her games,” Tora said. “And every one of her interviews.”
“Uh-huh,” I said. I was only thirteen myself then, and figured this was just another one of those phases little tomcats go through. Every boy I knew was going through a Seven-Pitch phase at one time or another. The girls were beautiful and strong and often single. It was easy for tommies to dream of marrying one, or several, of them.
But having had the “benefit” of experience, I’d seen what happens between five and thirteen. Most boys moved onto more sensible things like hunting, fishing, and other useful, productive activities.
Let the hard-working princesses do the playing, his mom would always say. He was certainly more than happy to watch.
Once he turned five, all he ever talked about was Seven-Pitch. That’s why I learned so much. But it wasn’t until I actually seriously began to watch the game that I became particularly intrigued by it. Clair was so fearless, so dominant, and so competitive. She was only in her sixth season at that point and her best years were still ahead of her.
It took me awhile, but eventually, after Cain’s suggestion that I pursue sports writing as a career, I got Tora to finally convince me to pursue it. His feeling was that I should be a sportswriter so I could always interview Clair. He said it would be the best job in the world outside of actually playing Seven-Pitch. Still, I thought he was crazy. But I decided to humor both he and his dad. I didn’t see the harm in it.
Then one day, there would be a rather simple meeting that changed both his and my own lives forever. Clair Sureclaw was at a local restaurant doing some charity event. The Sheridans were going and invited me along.
Evaine always adored me. I suppose I was the daughter she never had. I was never an athlete, though. So, I’m glad she never pressured me to become a hurler, or any sort of player at all. I would’ve been lousy anyway.
The place was packed. We stood in line for hours because Tora refused to leave until he got Clair’s autograph.
“But, son,” his father said, “Don’t you already have her autograph?”
“But I didn’t see her sign it!” he protested.
I actually nodded. It was hard not to agree with that logic. Especially once we got up to the table where Clair and her publicists were sitting.
On television, Clair was intimidating, nearly two meters tall and built very strongly. She had a presence on the mound like no one else. But in person, while pretty as ever, she looked more like an ordinary Felona girl than a superstar. Her smile was soft and pleasant, and genuine in a way you rarely see with celebrities of her ilk.
And I never expected her to call on me first.
“What’s your name, hon?” the famous hurler asked. Her voice was so kind and gentle, not at all that of the Clair we knew best shouting and cursing at players out on the field.
I suddenly felt incredibly nervous. “Sam, Samantha, Spence.”
“Well, Sam, Samantha, Spence,” she smiled. “Which do you prefer?”
“Clair! Sign my pitch!” Tora screamed holding his Seven-Pitch ball proudly above his head. His parents scolded him. Clair looked at him blankly, then looked to me again,
“Your brother?” she asked with amusement.
“No, ma’am,” I said with a little bow.
“Ma’am?” Clair asked. She then giggled like a schoolgirl, “Oh, Sam, please call me Clair.” She turned back to Tora, “Who should I sign it to?”
“Uhh,” Tora froze.
“Tora,” I said with a smile, “Tora Sheridan.”
Clair then looked past us at Tora’s mother. She laughed. “This one yours, Evaine?”
"Yes, Clair. That’s right.”
“Wait,” I asked Evaine, “You know each other?”
“She helped me get my start,” Clair said with a big smile. “Without Evaine, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.”
I was floored by this. One of her publicists, a male coon smiled broadly, too. “You can quote her on that!” he said with enthusiastic thumbs-up.
Clair gently removed the pitch from Tora’s trembling hands and signed it: “With Love to Tora, Clair. <3”
That was how she usually signed everything, I learned later. I then realized I hadn’t brought anything to sign. But apparently Clair read my mind. From under the table, she produced a pitch. But when she signed this pitch, it was different.
“To Sam, Samantha Spence, with love and hopes for your dreams - Clair <3”
I couldn’t believe she actually wrote that much. The people behind us were getting impatient. But Clair seemed unfazed as she handed it to me after writing all of that.
“You have a bright future, hon,” Clair told me. I could tell she had more to say, but her publicist gave her the look that told her the line needed to keep moving. “Now run along!” she said with a few gentle flicks of her throwing paw. Her smile grew only wider and she kept that enthusiasm for the next in line.
From that day on, Clair Sureclaw became my favorite person in the world.
“You know, Tora,” I started to say. But his mom cut me off.
“That was disrespectful what you did back there!” Evaine hissed at Tora.
Cain tried to cut in, but Evaine glared at him.
“She’s a lot nicer than I expected,” I said to them all.
“She’s too kind,” Evaine said with a huff. “Rude children shouldn’t be rewarded.”
“But mom, I was nervous!” he protested.
Evaine went to scold him further, but I stopped her in her tracks. “She knows he’s just a kid. She cut him some slack.”
“Well, she shouldn’t have!” Evaine growled and quickened her pace.
“What’s eating her?” I asked Cain.
“Long story,” Cain said, crossing his arms. “Let’s just say she taught Clair everything she knew about the Pitch.”
"She’s jealous?” Tora asked.
I always knew that kid was too smart for his own good. But Cain responded to his son quite truthfully,
“Yes. If your mother hadn’t hurt her arm so badly, she might have become just what Clair has. But now, we’ll never know, I guess.” Cain shrugged.
While he didn’t outwardly show it, I could hear the sadness for his wife in his voice as he continued. “Her dreams were crushed the day Clair took the hill in her first ever pro start and threw that perfect game. Clair even hit the game-winning round-tripper.”
I could totally picture that and it made me sad, too. Evaine Sheridan watched the little girl she’d coached become the greatest name in Seven-Pitch history.
“I’m gonna make her dream come true,” Tora said. “I’m gonna be a hurler when I grow up. Just like Clair.”
His dad and I looked at one another. We just shrugged. But we should’ve been scared.
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