Hey everyone. That dastardly thing known as “real life” has bombarded both Matt and I with its evil, preventing us from working on this story as much as we’d like to. We have, however, finished with this installment and are ready to share it with all of our wonderful readers. We hope you enjoy it!
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Plex followed the dwarf to the end of the alleyway. Another dwarf stepped out of the shadows. The new dwarf waggled his fingers in Plex’s direction and mumbled some words under his breath. After a moment of this, Plex’s skin began to give off a faint pinkish glow. Before he could ask what was happening, the glow disappeared.
“Follow us,” the two dwarves said in unison.
He wanted to stop and demand to know what had just happened, but he knew that it would do more harm than good at that point. Not only would it give the dwarves an excuse to leave him behind, but it also increased the chances of someone spotting them. If one of the Honor Guard saw him huddled in a dark alley with a couple of dwarves, it would probably be the death of all three of them. Reluctantly, he silently trod after them.
The duo of dwarves ducked into the cellar door of the house at the end of the alley. Once he made it to the bottom of the stairs, he was led to a wall on the opposite side of the cellar. The dwarf who had used magic before recited another spell. A section of the wall in front of them swung in, revealing a long, narrow hallway. Without thinking, Plex followed them past the doorway and further into the unknown. It wasn’t until he heard the wall close up behind him that he questioned whether it was smart to continue chasing after these dwarves.
After all, he thought to himself, it was entirely possible that these were members of Lavalandinarial’s Honor Guard that he was walking behind. There were certainly magic users who weren’t controlled by the dragon, but the majority of them, whether willingly or not, worked for her. This could all just be a trap, an easy way to make him disappear, and his anger at Lavalandinarial had made him walk right into it.
Had she counted on that? Had she set this all up knowing that he would be so blinded by rage that he’d walk straight into the obvious trap?
It wasn’t until the dwarf gruffly barked at him that he realized that his steps had slowed while his thoughts were bouncing crazily in his mind. Plex quickened his pace. If this was a trap, he was already too far into it to go back now. He had to see this through, no matter how it played out. Besides, it was almost a certainty that the dragon was going to kill him. If this wasn’t a trap, it was the only chance he had at escaping death.
The hallway finally ended at another wall. While the wizard dwarf spoke more words of magic, Plex took the time to take in his surroundings. The first thing he noticed is that the hallway was perfectly lit. That wouldn’t normally be something that people would question, but he didn’t see any torches or magical lanterns. Somehow the hallway was perfectly lit for no apparent reason. It unnerved him, but he couldn’t figure out why.
A scraping sound announced the opening of the wall. The dwarf who had originally spoken to him stepped aside and motioned for Plex to enter the room. “Frukeld is waiting for you,” he said.
A flicker of a memory flew across Plex’s mind. He had heard that name somewhere before. He couldn’t immediately place it, though, and didn’t have time to dwell on it. The dwarves flanking the opening did not look to be in the mood to give him time to second guess his presence. He couldn’t blame them. If they were planning something against the dragon, they were risking as much trusting him as he was trusting them.
Stepping through the opening in the wall, Plex was once again put off guard by the perfect light that seemed to come from nowhere. It had to be an enchantment but, if so, it was one he had never encountered before. This Frukeld, or those who worked for him, had unlocked sorcery that the greatest elves had not.
“Thank you for coming.”
The greeting was spoken by a very old dwarf. Not only did Frukeld’s beard touch the floor, even though it was tucked into the belt circling his wide belly, but the dwarf’s elongated eyebrows came close to doing the same. Wrinkles rolled through the few empty spaces where his face wasn’t covered in hair. And white tufts sprang from his ears. Plex was sure he had never been in the presence of someone older. He bowed low, for that alone, in a show of respect.
As he stood back up, Plex asked, “Why am I here?”
“Better with us than in the beast’s belly.”
The comment was made seriously but mischief sparkled behind the dwarf’s eyes and that set Plex at ease. He was among friends even if he wasn’t sure why he was there.
Chuckling briefly, Plex replied, “Any place is better than that monster’s gut. So that isn’t saying much. Yet, I feel like you think I can help you out with something and that will somehow help me out of the predicament my anger put me in.”
“Yes, exactly,” Frukeld said. “Exactly.”
“So what can I do for you?”
Frukeld smiled and his wrinkles thinned out, making the dwarf suddenly seem much younger. “We were you today. You are a leader. That alone made us take notice of you but then you showed that you didn’t appreciate Lavalandinarial interfering in the game and, most interesting of all, you were able to fight off her magic.”
“And if I ever dare to stand up to her again, we both know what will happen.”
Laughing, his beard and wrinkles bouncing wildly, Frukeld said, “We aren’t asking you to take up a lance and charge straight at her. No, that would truly be a waste. But we do need help organizing those of us who might be willing to do just that, or a version of charging at her that would be more successful.
“Your natural charisma and your leadership qualities will serve us well in that regard. Your defiance will inspire many who were already on the fence about the beast and that inspiration will lead towards loyalty.”
“I’m not a fighter,” Plex interjected.
“We aren’t asking you to be one. Though, in truth, I suspect you are one whether you think you are or not.”
Plex wasn’t sure whether or not to take that as a compliment. In his experience, nothing good had ever come from fighting. Every battle, every fight, he’d been in, or seen, had done nothing more than lead to unnecessary bloodshed and death. There was no good reason for it, and the gain never came close to being worth the cost.
Then again, every fight he’d been close to had been either at the dragon’s command, or because the contestants wanted to move up in the dragon’s hierarchy. Perhaps being a fighter against the dragon would be a good thing.
“I’ve been in my share of fights,” Plex admitted, “but I’m no warrior. I’m no great strategist, either. Not on the battlefield, anyway. The only time I excel in that type of thinking is on the football field.”
“A battlefield and a football field are more similar than most people think. That’s a discussion for another time, though. As I said before, we’re not asking you to be a fighter. Not yet, at least. We’re not asking you to lead our troupe into battle either. Right now, what we’re asking of you is to be our recruiter.”
“We have a number of magic users among us. We don’t have the magical firepower to take on the dragon yet, but we hope to soon. What we don’t have, are many able warriors. That’s because most of the best warriors of each race are on one of the football teams. We think this is done purposefully, to keep them occupied so that they don’t rise up against Lavalandinarial.”
“I don’t think so. After watching them, I think it’s just because they’re the best players..”
“Perhaps. Or it could be a combination of the two. Regardless, while having magic users is crucial to taking down the dragon, so is having capable fighters on our side. We’d like to get close to them, to try to sway them to our cause, but we can’t get close enough to them. Lavalandinarial has increased the security, both physical and magical, around the sites that house the football teams. If we tried to infiltrate those sites, all we’d probably accomplish is announcing our presence to the dragon. You, on the other hand, can get close to them.”
Plex laughed. “I can get close to my own team, but there’s no way I’d get close to any of the other teams. They’d never let an opposing player in their facilities. They’d be too worried about me seeing their plays and formations. It’d be impossible for a player to get into another team’s facilities.”
“No, it’s not.”
Plex jumped. It wasn’t Frukeld who had said that. His eyes darted back and forth, searching for the source of the new voice. It was familiar to him. He knew he’d heard it before, but he couldn’t place it.
From behind the old dwarf, a figure stepped out. Now, Plex knew why the voice sounded familiar. It belonged to someone he recognized. He briefly wondered how he hadn’t seen him before, but he’d been victim to this person’s sneaky tactics before.
It was Vinyard, his team’s gnomish punter.