Hey everyone! A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (yet still kinda close), Matticus and I did a story called Revis and Matticus Save the Kingdom. We both wrote on each part and then rotated on whose blog the next part would be published on. Well, we’re doing a new one. This is just the first part of our new blog hopping story. The next part will be published over at The Matticus Kingdom.
We hope you’ll enjoy it.
The ball felt good leaving his hand. He watched as it flew through the air in a nice, tight spiral. Accuracy was the only question now. It was aimed correctly, but did he judge the distance correctly?
His receiver’s hands wrapped around the ball mid-flight. It was placed perfectly. Two feet touched down, in bounds, as the receiver fell out of the back of the endzone. He pumped his fist. Touchdown!
The whistle blew and it was followed quickly by his coach saying, “Good job, Marapleksian.” After a pause, the coach turned to the sideline and hollered, “Backups, it’s your turn.”
He ran off the field, shaking his head at his coach’s insistence on using his whole name. Everybody else just called him Plex. Even his traditionalist parents had relented and began calling him the shortened middle part of his name. They didn’t like it, but hearing his friends call him that for 123 years finally wore them down.
Plex took his leather helmet off and rubbed the short blonde hair on the back of his head. It still felt weird to him. He had worn his hair long for over a century, but learned quickly that when playing this new sport, his hair could be used to pull him to the ground in a tackle. When the elders first told him about the game, he was skeptical. Supposedly, the dragon had found it while scrying on a different realm. It was about strategy, physical strength, and endurance. While all of those things were important in the game, so were speed, agility, and accuracy, three things he excelled at.
He took a drink from the water bucket and thought about how strange this whole situation was. A year ago, nobody had heard of this game, this “football”. Now, each of the eight races, like his elves, had teams. All of them were vying to win the tournament the dragon had set up. Lavalandinarial, the ancient dragon overlord who ruled this world, had promised a large portion of its treasure, both in gold and magical items, to the winning team. Every race wanted that treasure to climb higher up the ladder in the societal pecking order. As it was, his elven brethren had only the minotaur to pass before they became the dragon’s favored race.
“You realize that if you get hurt,” a voice said, breaking him out of his thoughts, “we’re in big trouble.”
Plex watched as his backup, Jaliant, threw a pass well over his receiver’s reach. “It’s an oddly shaped ball,” he replied without looking at the speaker. “It takes time and practice to get good at throwing it and Jaliant hasn’t had much of either. He only became my backup a few weeks ago when Capupan was injured.”
His sister, Gilania, slapped his shoulder. “When you were only a few weeks in, you were much better than that.”
“You worry about you and your defensive backs. I’ll worry about the quarterbacks.” He paused. “Wait. What is that?”
A contingent of the dragon’s Honor Guard, a group of the best fighters from every race, walked onto the elves’ practice field. Their leader, a larger than normal ogre, called out, “I need all players lined up in front of me.”
“This isn’t fair,” the coach protested. “This is the allotted practice time given to us by Lavalandinarial.”
The ogre snorted a short laugh. “You will do as you’re instructed or Lavalandinarial will feed you to her hatchlings.”
“This is outrageous,’ the coach continued. “This is a violation of the agreement we signed, the contract, and I will make sure Lavalandinarial is aware of your actions.”
The ogre laughed again. “Who do you think sent us?”
Plex and Gilania made their way onto the field to stand with the rest of their teammates. Their coach was still grumbling but with the Honor Guard there was little any of them could do to protest the treatment further. Plex doubted that Lavalandinarial had any hatchlings, but there were stories from his childhood that made him not want to find out that he was wrong. The stories could have just been told to keep unruly children in line but there is always some truth to every such story or they wouldn’t have been believable in the first place.
Once the team was lined up, the ogre grunted and then said, “Lavalandinarial has decided to change the format of the tournament. The races will no longer have their own teams.”
A chorus of confused questions and angry outbursts drowned out what the ogre said next. Plex kept his own emotions in check. The dragon had a reputation for being deceptive. He had wanted nothing to do with the beast’s game but had finally agreed to join the team when the Queen had asked him personally. The elves, as a people, could do with the spoils of the victory, both financially and for their pride. The years since their failed Orc War had not been kind to the elves.
The ogre and the rest of the Honor Guard shouted for silence and the team quieted.
“As I was saying, Lavalandinarial has decided it is in the best interest of the tournament to mix up the teams. The coaches and captains are being summoned to a meeting right now to discuss the implementation. Please follow us. The rest of you are free to do as you please for the moment. Your new team assignments will be socialized after the draft.”
Gilania whispered, “What’s a ‘draft’?”
Plex ignored her. As captain he would have to go face the dragon and that wasn’t something he was particularly interested in doing. “Why are the captains needed?”
The ogre glared at the elf. Plex wasn’t afraid of the ogre. Though the ogre and the rest of the Honor Guard were in their ceremonial armor and carrying weapons, Plex had been working out with his team now for several weeks and was in the best shape of his life. He was fairly certain he would survive any encounter that came to a fight. That wouldn’t necessarily sit well with Lavalandinarial, though, so Plex hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
“I deliver the messages, elf. It is not my place to question why Lavalandinarial wants the captains and the coaches present. I could speculate but what would be the point. You have been summoned so you shall go.”
Plex stared down the ogre for a moment longer, to show he wasn’t afraid, and then stepped forward to stand next to the coaches. Gilania squeezed his shoulder for luck as he left her side.
“Alright, let’s go then,” the elven head coach said with a glare that rivaled the ogres.
The Honor Guard turned and led the way off the field. Plex steeled himself for the coming encounter. He had never been in the presence of the dragon before but had heard it would likely be the most terrifying experience of his life.
He followed the Honor Guard through the streets of Dyunlinmoe, the elven city that bordered the dragon’s lair. Each of the eight races had their own lands situated in one of the directions on a map. The elven land was northwest of the lair. The ogre lands were next to them on the northern side, while the goblins were on the western front. All of the lands converged into one point, Lavalandinarial’s lair.
The dragon’s lair had evolved over the years, the story is told. Once, when the dragon was young, its lair was a simple cave. Then, as it grew in both power and stature, the cave wasn’t good enough, so it took slaves from among the races to build it a home out of the mountain that housed the cave. Now, the lair is the largest city in the world, completely carved out of the mountain by the dragon’s slaves.
Plex had only been inside the city a few times in his life. Those had been forced upon him after he agreed to play football. The dragon’s advisors looked over each of the players presented by the various races and those advisors had the final say over whether or not a person was allowed to play for their race’s team. Though, what criteria he was judged by, he didn’t know.
After living most of his life in the forests outside of Dyunlinmoe, the big city streets were confusing and the tall buildings felt oppressive to him. The entire walk to their destination, he kept his head down and tried not to look up too much. It seemed to make the trip easier on him. Doing it that way, he also lessened the odds of making eye contact with a member of one of the other races. Not that he had anything against any of them personally, but, just like him, their main concern was bringing glory and power to their own people.
When they finally stopped, he saw that the stood on the floor of the arena. It was once where they held the gladiatorial games, but it had been modified to house a football field. The last time he had come into this town, this is where they brought him. He’d had to throw passes for the dragon’s advisors. A couple of them, particularly the gnome advisor, appeared to be impressed with his prowess.
He was instructed to wait on the field. The Honor Guard led his coach away. Plex looked around and saw the captains for the other races’ teams. They too were standing around and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Most of the day passed while he just stood there. Finally, something happened. The rest of the players were herded into the arena with them.
At first, it was chaos. People of every race walking around confused, trying to figure out what was going on and where they were supposed to be. Through it all, he managed to find Gilania and keep her close to him. Just when some semblance of order was being restored, the ground shook beneath their feet. Every eye turned towards the north end of the arena, a large level area built specifically for the dragon to use while watching the spectacle below.
There sat Lavalandinarial.
“Welcome, football players,” the massive dragon said. “The reason I brought you here was for a draft. Back on the world where this sport originates, the draft is a major event. So, I was hoping to recreate that feeling here. After some thought, though, I realized your coaches would likely just pick the players they already have. So, I discarded the idea.
“Instead, I decided that the teams will now be chosen randomly, with each team being composed of an equal number of players from each race. Since most of you have fought against people from the other races, I’d say that this tournament just became much more interesting.
“Good luck, my pets.”