Hey, everyone. I’m a little bit later in getting to this story than I wanted to be, but between the new job and being sick, I just didn’t have the time or energy to do any writing on it for a few days. But, I got back to it and we have a new part for you to read on this here Christmas Eve. Hopefully, you enjoy this little present, because it’s all I can get for you all. And, no matter which, if any, holidays you celebrate, I sincerely hope that enjoy them.
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Plex didn’t have to look around to know the source of the voice was Coach Sprout. Before he could ask what the gnome was talking about, he felt the little man’s hand on his back trying to push him onto the field. “Go in and block that extra point,” Sprout implored.
He slowly started walking out onto the field, seeing that their coach had also been shoving on Glavven’s backside too. Plex’s eyes flicked up towards the dragon. It had raised up to full height and was watching the duo walk off the sideline with a mixture of anger and amusement. The duo quickened their pace to get into position before the ball was hiked.
It was quick thinking on the gnome’s part, Plex knew, that had prevented Glavven from being inside Lavalandinarial’s mouth right now. Had they remained on the sideline, the dragon would’ve come down and picked the minotaur up and swallowed him whole. By sending them out onto the field, Sprout had, at the very least, delayed it. While it was true that the dragon could do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, it was much less likely that she would act openly while there was action out on the field. It was obvious that she wanted to have a hand in the outcome of the games, but it was also obvious that she didn’t want it to be known that she did. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been so subtle in her magic.
The duo was still running up to the line of scrimmage when the ball was hiked. Plex stopped, thinking that they were too late to even make an attempt to block it. Glavven didn’t stop, though. The furious minotaur bellowed out a roar of rage and charged the line. He watched as the minotaur blew through the entire line, pushing away teammates and the opposition alike on his way toward the kick. It was an impressive display of power, made even more impressive because Glavven was doing it with an injured knee.
Boot hit ball and the kick went streaming at the uprights. Glavven planted on his good leg, let out another bellow, and jumped with all of his might. Plex found himself holding his breath through the display, but that changed when he gasped in shock. Glavven had done it. The tips of his outstretched left hand grazed the ball. It wasn’t enough to block the ball completely, but it did change the ball’s trajectory.
The entire stadium watched as the ball veered wildly to the right. By the time it got to the end zone, it was almost twenty yards wide of the uprights. The kick was no good.
All around him, his teammates jumped up and down in celebration. Plex wanted to join them, but he instead looked up at the dragon. All traces of anger were gone. It was smiling that cocky, superior smile. He dropped his head and started to shake it. This should’ve been a moment of celebration, but he couldn’t. He knew what was coming next.
With the blocked kick, the score was now forty-two to thirty-nine, a three point difference. If the other team recovered their soon to be attempted onside kick, they couldn’t win the game with a field goal. They could tie it, though, and he knew that was the dragon’s plan. Lavalandinarial was going to find a way to make the game go into overtime.
Plex turned around jogged back to the touchline. “Coach, leave me for the return. In fact, put in all of our players with the best hands. We need to make sure whoever the ball hits they can grab it and hold onto it.”
The gnome studied his quarterback and nodded once and began issuing instructions. The line that got sent out was nothing like the normal kick return unit. The special teams coach put up some fuss that his guys should be trusted with the task but Sprout quickly silenced that outburst with a look where his eyes first trained on the special teams coach and then flicked towards the dragon.
This kicking team lined up and for the first time ever, because this hadn’t even been a scenario in any of the practices, Plex found himself on the field facing the entire kicking line. Without his own row of offensive linemen protecting him, Plex was surprised how scary it was staring into the eyes of minotaurs, orcs, goblins and dwarves. They would be coming full force and the ball would be bouncing around chaotically.
Plex was near the center of the field so it was unlikely the ball would come to him. Looking left and right he saw looks of determination in all of his teammates. They knew what was coming and what was expected of them. To a man, they were set on making sure they did not let their team down.
The whistle blew and the kicker did a short run up before side footing the ball. It smashed into the ground at his feet and began to bounce and spin wildly. Plex watched it, like he would have from the sideline, until the movement of his teammates reminded him that he needed to act.
The field became a blur as everyone rushed for the ball. As fast as he was, Plex didn’t think he’d get there first but he was certainly going to try. The kicking line came in at crushing speeds. The teams on the sidelines were shouting. The spectators were on their feet yelling. And Lavalandinarial had once again lifted her head up to gaze intently upon the action. Plex saw all of this and none of it at the same time.
His pace outstripped most of his teammates. The ball, nearly within reach, still danced and spun and then it disappeared under a dwarf from his team and a minotaur from the kicking team. Without thinking about it, Plex threw himself on top of the minotaur, his eyes darting around looking for the ball, ready to grab it should it pop free.
And then someone else smashed into his back. And then more weight was added. And then more until it felt like everyone from both teams was piled on top of him. It burned to breath. His senses were assaulted by the smells and feel of so many players. He pushed as much of it aside as he could and scrambled to keep his arms free and ready to haul in the ball should he see it. All around him, arms writhed intent upon the same.
Then a series of short whistle blasts pierced through the pile and slowly, the weight was removed one player at a time while the Honor Guard worked on trying to figure out who had ended up with possession of the ball.
Sitting in the middle of this massive pile of people was starting to make him a little claustrophobic. Sure, there were some big piles on offensive plays, but nothing like having almost two full teams of players on top of him. It was almost enough to make him panic, but he controlled his anxiety and breathed in as deeply as he could, slowly and calmly. Plex kept reminding himself that this was just a part of the game and it would be over soon.
Eventually, the last bit of weight lifted off of him and he was able to stand up. His whole body ached, though whether that was from just the pile or the whole game he wasn’t sure. Thoughts of pain were pushed to the side momentarily as he looked at the remaining two players on the pile. Only the dwarf and minotaur remained. Plex peered intently as the Honor Guard surrounded the pair, blocking the majority of his view. One of the Honor Guard that were on the opposite side of the pile from him, a fellow elf, glanced up at Lavalandinarial. Plex followed his gaze and turned his head in time to see the dragon’s eyes flick over the sideline of Gilania’s team.
When Plex looked back at the pile, he saw one of the Honor Guard pull the ball from the dwarf and punch him in the stomach. As the dwarf doubled over, the elf bent with him, whispering harshly in the dwarf’s ear. No doubt, they were threatening him to keep quiet about what really happened on the bottom of the pile. Nodding his head vigorously, the dwarf appeared stunned when he was punched in the stomach again after the elf helped him up.
With a wave of his hand, the Honor Guard called the healer over from Plex’s sideline. Anger was building from within him and it took all he had to keep himself quiet. This was becoming ridiculous. If he wasn’t so sure that the dragon would eat him if he tried to do it, he would’ve walked off the field and quit right then and there. Football was pure. It was a game of skill, athletic ability. It was a game of strategy that was dependent on how well you blended all of that together.
What it certainly wasn’t, and should never be, was scripted.
The outcome of a game should never be determined by anyone other than the players on the field. Even if that someone else was the most powerful being in the world.