Fantasy Football Part 33

Hey everyone! Hope everything is going well in your neck of the woods. Wait… do woods have necks? If so, what are they for? Are there heads of the woods? Arms? Legs?

Weird…. anyway, here’s more story.

“The dragon is coming?” Plex asked. “Now?”

“There are two people here who have resisted her dominating will,” the elf woman replied. “Do you really think she would let that stand?”

Plex cursed, but couldn’t refute her logic. Lavalandinarial kept people in line through fear and mind magic. If there were people that were resisting both of those things, she needed to take them out before they could rally others. He was a threat to her, and he knew what the dragon did to threats.
Suddenly, he felt very tired. Plex was having trouble remembering the last time he had been asleep. This day seemed to go on forever. A lot had happened to him in that short amount of time, as well. Given all that he had been through, it was tempting to lay down and rest.

He would never do that, though. If he laid down, he would die. His family would die. His friends would die. His kinsmen would die. And the dragon would win. That was something he couldn’t allow. She would have to kill him before he’d admit defeat at her hands. If he didn’t do something quick, that’s exactly what would happen too.

By this time, Gilania’s team had managed to kill most of the Honor Guards who were harassing them, though it had cost them dearly. Only about a dozen of them were left. To his relief, he saw that his sister was one of them. She was injured, though. Her right eye was covered in a bandage. Plex started to get up to check on her. Gilania waved him off.
“It’s above my eye, not in it,” she yelled.

Plex was going to ignore her and rush over there anyway, but the look she shot his direction told him that he’d receive a fist for his trouble if did.
He looked around at the rest of the scene. A few of her teammates held the remaining three Honor Guards at sword point while the rest fought over what to do with them. Most of them were calling for their heads while the others tried to hold them off. Plex lowered his gaze to the elf woman he had just help free from the dragon’s dominance. What if those three were just like her?

“There are others like you, right?” he asked her. “People forced into doing the dragon’s bidding through magic?”

“If I had to guess,” she answered, “I’d say it’s about half. Half of them join up because they agree with what the dragon is doing, and the other half are those who the dragon wants for their skills, but who won’t fight for her willingly.”

“Do you know which are which?”
She thought about it for a moment before nodding. “Out of the ones who were here with me? Yes. I know which ones joined willingly or not.”
Plex pointed to where the three were trying to back away from the closing mob. “Are any of them under her spell?”

It took a moment for her eyes to focus, but she eventually said, “Yes. One of them is under her spell,” and then she passed out.

“Great timing,” Plex grumbled. Then he yelled where the three guards were surrounded, “One of them can be turned to our cause, the other two need to be killed. We don’t have time right now to figure it out. The beast is coming here, now.”

Roars of outrage and fear rumbled among the remaining teammates. Plex knew how they felt. Every second they wasted she was drawing nearer and if they were still in this open field she could just breathe fire down upon them and they would be destroyed without a fight.

Remembering the fight that had been going on beyond the facility, Plex whistled to his queen again. This time his message was more urgent, retreat now, retreat for your lives. He had to hope she got it and fled without questioning or she had fled before when she had warned that it was a trap. He didn’t have time to go and check on her and the warriors she had brought. They were on their own.
Plex hefted the elf he had been fighting off the ground, her head lulled to her shoulder, until she was positioned mostly securely across his shoulders. She weighed more than he’d expected, probably mostly the armor she wore, but he could carry her for a time.

He moved towards the surrounded guards, unsure of how to proceed. He didn’t want to kill them all but he wasn’t sure how to find out who could be saved. He didn’t have time to talk one of them down as he had the guard he now carried.

Before he could reach them, however, her weight was lifted from his shoulders. Startled, he turned to see that Baclem, the troll, his former teammate, his new friend, had easily taken her from him and slung her across his own shoulders. Plex thanked Baclem with a nod and then turned back to the problem at hand.
It was too late. He couldn’t hear her coming but he could feel it. Something about the air changed. It suddenly seemed darker.

“For the one of you that is working for the beast against your own will, know this: you can break free. I have won out against her magic once. So has this elf my friend now carries. If we can do it, so can you. Fight her and then come find us.”

Then with a frowning look to the sky, Plex said, “Knock them all unconscious and let’s get out of here.”

Three sickening thuds were followed by the sound of three bodes falling to the soft turf almost as one. Plex didn’t look. He didn’t want to know if they’d been hit to hard to survive. He needed to ensure these players, these newfound warriors, survived first and foremost. He wasn’t sure if he could lead them to safety but he was going to try.

“Follow me,” he said simply and then he turned to leave back the way he’d come.

Gilania called, “This way is faster.”

When he turned back, she was pointing towards a door on the far side of the practice field. Shrugging, he motioned for her to lead on.
She walked with a confidence that amazed him. He knew that she had spent little time in the city before coming here to play football, yet she was navigating the streets as if she had lived in it her entire life. Plex might’ve said something to her about it, but he was busy keeping an eye out for Honor Guards. Besides, he didn’t want to break her concentration. If she started paying attention to him, she might accidentally take a wrong turn and get them cornered.

Plodding up next to him, Baclem said something that the majority of the others were probably thinking, “We’d move a lot quicker if we didn’t have to drag our enemies along with us.”

“Not all of them are our enemies,” he responded. After explaining what the dragon had done to some of them as fast as he could, he added, “I don’t know about you, but I know I wouldn’t want to be killed for something that was beyond my control.”

The troll was silent for a moment. “You said she remembers killing her beloved, right? If I had to live with that memory, I’d see death as a blessing.”

As much as he wanted to, Plex couldn’t refute that logic. “Living with the memory of something like that would be hard. It’d be damn near impossible. Still, I’d want to take down the person who gave me that memory before I left this world.”

Their conversation was cut short by a whistle from his sister. Plex ran forward to Gilania’s position. Standing in front of her was an old dwarf. She seemed unsure of what to do, though she had a sword brandished in front of her. “Hold,” Plex cried to her. “I know this dwarf. He’s here to help.”

Frukeld nodded his thanks to Plex. “It seems that everyone in your family is skilled,” Frukeld said as a greeting.

“Only because you’ve never met our younger brother,” they replied in unison, drawing a chuckle from the old dwarf.

“Be that as it may,” Frukeld commented, “now is not the time for this discussion. In fact, time is something we’re out of right now.”

“What do you mean?” Gilania asked.

“Lavalandinarial will be here any moment.”

Plex opened his mouth to argue, then closed it right back up. He could feel the dragon drawing near them. The awe that her presence generated was building up in his stomach. She wasn’t there yet, but she was close.

“You fool,” Gilania spat at the dwarf. “If the dragon is almost here, why would you stop us? We could’ve escaped.”

“No,” Frukeld answered calmly. “She would have easily caught up with you and you would have died.” The corners of the old dwarf’s lips curled up into a smile. “Besides, we’ve got a surprise waiting right here for the big bitch.”

Just then, Plex’s stomach twisted up in knots. He knew what that meant before he looked up and saw her.

Lavalandinarial was here.

Fantasy Football Part 32

Be sure to check out the latest installment of the Fantasy Football series over at the Matticus Kingdom.

The Matticus Kingdom

And we’re back! Did you miss us? Of course you did. That was a silly question. Nothing silly about this story anymore. The battle has begun…

…..

Plex whistled to his Queen, a signal that meant it was a trap and retreat should be strongly considered, not caring that the momentary lapse in his concentration on the battle would give his opponent an opening to exploit.  He had to save her and as many of his people as possible.  As he whistled, he wondered if Vinyard had known and if that was why the gnome hadn’t wanted him to come.  But surely if Vinyard had known then he would have tried harder to talk Plex out of coming to save his sister?  

He laughed at himself.  Vinyard had told him this would likely turn out poorly.  Plex realized that Vinyard let him come because the gnome knew there was nothing…

View original post 1,528 more words

Show and Tell

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted something that wasn’t either part of my Twelfth Knight or Fantasy Football series. Things have been crazy here lately, as I’m sure they have been wherever you are. Most of my time has been spent either at work or at home with my girls. Because of this, I really haven’t been paying much attention to my online friends, with the exception of my writing partner, Matticus.

For that, I’m sorry. I really haven’t meant to close myself off from everyone, but that’s just how things have had to go lately. I hope you won’t hold it against me and, if you want to get in touch with me, just shoot me an email.

To try to get back into the swing of things on here, I’ll relate something that I’ve been holding on to for a little over a month. It happened during Baby E’s last week of school.

Her class ended the school year doing all their work online. For one of their final assignments, her teacher organized a virtual show and tell. In the days leading up to it, whenever I’d ask her what she was going to show, Baby E would shrug her shoulders and say she didn’t know. I would tell her it didn’t matter what she chose. She just had to pick something that she liked.

When I got home from work that day, Mrs. Revis had a big smile on her face when she told me about the show and tell. First of all, she told me that it was a big mess. Kids were talking over each other most of the time in the virtual classroom. Most of them wouldn’t sit still, so they weren’t in the camera shot for a big chunk of the time. After that, she told me what some of the other kids showed.

It was mostly stuff I expected: favorite toys, pets, and a couple even showed off their baby siblings. Then I asked what Baby E showed. My wife’s smile grew. “Your books,” she answered.

I was floored. I couldn’t believe it. Especially when my wife said that Baby E was showing them off with pride. I’m trying to think of a better feeling a father to have than having his child be as openly proud of them like that, but I can’t think of anything. It was the best thing. I honestly don’t know what else I can add to that to convey the swelling my heart did that night.

I hope everyone can have a moment like that at least once in their lives.

Fantasy Football Part 31

Here it is everyone! The next installment of Matticus and I’s story, Fantasy Football is out. We hope you’re all as excited to read it as we were to write it. So, without further ado…

They waited until they no longer heard any more Honor Guards walking around. There may have been some more sneaking about, but they didn’t have time for caution. Plex had to get into the practice facility to find his sister. Without another thought, he nimbly dropped down from the roof he was hiding on and took off running.

He made it a few blocks before he heard the first call of alarm. Turning to look behind him, he saw that Baclem was still with him. Beyond Baclem, a few of the dragon’s people were on their tails. Not many, just yet, but he knew more were coming. Plex just hoped that he didn’t find the way completely blocked when he got there. If there was even the tiniest of openings, he had a chance.

His lungs burned from exertion. His legs started feeling weak. It had been a very long day and he didn’t have much energy left. Plex knew he couldn’t stop. Stopping meant his death, and his sister’s, at Lavalandinarial’s hands. That wasn’t an option. He began pulling from reserves that he didn’t know he had. As far as he was concerned, nothing was going to get in his way.

But then he came within sight of the facility, and he saw the number of guards between them and the entrance. His heart dropped. There were dozens. He had no chance of getting past all of them. Not with only him and Baclem. It was impossible.

Still, he kept going.

Baclem shouted for him to stop. Plex never slowed. He raised his sword out in front of him like it was a jouster’s lance, screamed at the top of his lungs, and awaited the impact he’d get from running into the closest Honor Guard, an orc. Ten paces separated him and the orc. Then five. Plex positioned his blade for a killing strike.

Suddenly, the orc vanished. When he came upon where the orc was, he tripped.
Plex landed hard on the ground. What little breath he had was knocked from his chest. The sword fell from his hand and rattled across the cobblestones away from him. He crawled forward trying to reach it. A glance back showed him what he had tripped over. It was the orc, who lay dead with an arrow sticking out of its eye. His gaze went to Baclem, who was looking at the rooftops behind them.
The entire area around him erupted into screams and shouted orders. A hailstorm of arrows rained down among the Honor Guard. Two other guards fell down beside him. Plex rolled out of the way of the falling bodies and focused his vision on the rooftops where Baclem had been looking. His heart, which had dropped moments ago, was lifted back up.
The elven queen, along with a handful of her best archers, stood there loosing arrows among the Honor Guard. She saw him looking at her and she smiled. “Go get them,” she cried out to him.

Plex scrambled to his feet and ran into the opening his queen just made for him. He scooped up the sword he’d dropped and then left the chaos behind him as he entered the dark hallways of the training facility.
All chance for a quiet start to their revolution had just vanished, in a hail of arrows. Plex didn’t know how his Queen had gotten word of the situation or if her saving him was in the best interest of that revolution but he was thankful for the chance to find out. He needed to find his sister and save her and as much of her team as he could first. Then he’d deal with the fall out.

It would be great, he knew that. Lavalandindarial would be furious. Her wrath would be swift and far reaching. A thought caught in his mind and nearly made him stumble. His life had just been saved, true, but the cost would be the death of countless others.

Plex clenched his fists, steadied his feet, and carried on. “I’ll make it worthwhile.”

The sound of thundering feet made Plex glance behind him. He knew what he’d see but he still smiled when he saw Baclem struggling to catch up.
Plex slowed enough to let the troll get beside him and then together they raced through the hallways of the facility, checking behind open and closed doors alike, looking for any sign of Gilania’s team. There was none, though. Every room and hallways was empty.

Finally, they came upon the doorway that led to the practice field. Plex’s elven hearing picked up the sound of whispers and the slight movement that came with shifting weights from one foot to the other. There was a lot of too. He guessed, before opening the door, that everyone had been rounded up and moved out to the field.

Plex put his hand on the door, motioned for Baclem to be ready for a fight, and then whistled for his sister. He no longer doubted that she’d be able to hear him. She had heard him before. She would hear him now, especially since she’d be listening for the call. Then Plex took three deep, calming breaths, looked again to Baclem to make sure the troll was ready and shoved the door open.
He moved to the side of the door after pushing it and was rewarded for his caution as three arrows screamed through the space he’d have been in if he’d followed the flow of the door. He hoped that the equipment he’d hidden behind was still where it had been and then rolled through the doorway, his eyes sweeping the field as he did so.

The team was there, surrounded by a handful of guards. There were far fewer of them then had been outside and none of them had been armed with bows. Lavalandinarial’s Honor Guards must have thought they’d capture any attempted rescuers outside before they could get this far.

That was good.

A moment later, Plex was safely behind the stacked equipment that was where he’d remembered it being. That was also good. A glance back to the door showed that Baclem hadn’t followed. Plex wasn’t sure if that was good or bad but decided the troll had proved himself self-sufficient already this evening more than once.

Calling over his shoulder to the team on the field, Plex said, “Fight! Fight for your lives. They are planning on taking you before the dragon and if they do that you will all surely die.”

Without waiting for any kind of response, Plex hurled himself out from behind his momentary protection. His sword was raised and he was screaming a war cry. He met the first Honor Guard head on. Their blades locked. Plex stepped back and launched into a combination stroke that started off coming in from the side, then changing to go down at the knees.

The troll he was fighting was good. A lot better than the Honor Guards they’d come across so far. It blocked the side swipe and backed up in time to dodge the attack aimed at its knees. Plex came on in a fury, going into attack after attack, hoping to overwhelm the troll with his speed. At first, it didn’t look like it would work. The troll kept pace with him. Then, to Plex’s great relief, he managed to sneak his blade through the troll’s defenses to cut a line across the left side of its face. As it reacted to the cut, Plex finished it off by neatly cutting through the front half of its throat.

He turned around and found a second Honor Guard waiting for him. This time, it was a fellow elf. Plex inwardly cursed. It was highly unlikely that the tactics he used against the troll would work against an elf. The other elf was probably just as quick as Plex was. While he made a few rudimentary attacks to gauge his opponent, he tried to think of a way to end this fight quickly. “You don’t have to fight me,” he said, hoping to reason with the elf.

“The dragon commands,” a distinctly female voice hissed, “so it shall be done.”

Plex found himself caught off guard by the femininity in the angry voice. He didn’t know why. There were females of every race in Lavalandinarial’s Honor Guard. He was also well aware that females could be just as deadly in combat as males, if not more. Why did this shake him so? Maybe he just thought that he would never hear a female elf so vehemently defending the dragon. No matter the reason, he needed to get his head back into the fight. She had used his hesitation to draw blood with a small cut on his shoulder.

This is why I prefer my bow, he thought to himself as he got back into the proper defensive position. “Why should we listen to the dragon?” Plex asked. “All she does is create pain and suffering.”

“Strength should be followed and she is the strongest.”

Plex sidestepped another attack, but made no move to attack her in response. “Crazy shouldn’t be followed, and she is the craziest.”

“Lavalandinarial’s will must be followed.”

“Even if it means killing your own kind? Your friends? Your family?”

The angry facade slipped for a moment and Plex knew he’d hit upon something. “She’s already made you do it, hasn’t she?” he deduced. “She made you kill someone you love. Who was it? A parent? A sibling?”

“It doesn’t matter now,” she said in a tone that was as angry as it was sad. “You can’t win here. You’re not facing her raw recruits anymore. You’re facing her seasoned veterans. She’s accomplished her goal.”
Before he could ask what that meant, the sounds of fighting from outside the facility became louder than those inside the facility. He knew what the female elf was talking about now. Lavalandinarial had used her worst fighters to give him and the rest of the rebels the confidence to come out of the shadows. She had baited them.
And Plex had put a lot of people in danger because he fell for it.

The Twelfth Knight Epilogue

He woke up with a start. Roscoe looked all around, not really knowing what was happening. The last thing he remembered was being in Worram’s warehouse and he had just been saved by Conroe. Now, he was laying in his bed. Was it all just a dream? He looked down at his abdomen and saw two new scars where he had been stabbed. No, it wasn’t a dream. So, what happened?

“You passed out,” said a voice from the doorway to his chambers.

His cousin had just walked in carrying a tray with a pitcher of water and a loaf of bread. Conroe set it down on Roscoe’s bed and took a step back.

“Sorry,” Conroe said with a shrug. “You appeared to be confused, so I answered the question that was probably rattling around in your head.”

“I saw you get stabbed,” was the only thing that came to Roscoe’s mind to say.

“I did, and it hurt too. If I had been wearing normal clothes, it probably would have been fatal, but my armor deflected the blade enough that it didn’t hit any vital organs.”

“How did you recover so quickly?”

“I used the same wand of healing that I used on you after you saved Worram. Do you not remember that?”

“I do not recall…” Roscoe’s mind wandered for a few moments before he finally asked, “Wait, how did you know where I was, or that I was in trouble?”

“We were following you. Revis has taken notice of how hard you’ve been training and wanted to know if you were ready to move up in rank so he came up with this test to see how well you’d do in a real life situation.”

Roscoe gestured to his wounds, “Obviously not very well.”

“I beg to differ,” said a new voice.

Both men looked to see Revis standing in the doorway. “You performed the task you were given, although I specifically said to not engage with Merlinus.”

“I know, sir,” Roscoe interrupted, “but if I didn’t, Worram would have been killed.”

“I know. He told me. He also told me that you were ready to sacrifice your life to save his. This was corroborated by Conroe and the other Knights present. As far as I’m concerned the safety of the Kingdom’s citizens is the most important part of a Knight’s job. For you to risk giving up your life to ensure the safety of one of our citizens means that you you passed this test with flying colors.”

“But Merlinus got away…”

Revis glanced down at his weapon. “No, he didn’t.”

Roscoe couldn’t get his mind to wrap around it all. “So, what happens now?”

“Once you’re ready, you’ll rejoin the Knights. When you do, it will be as the 10th Knight.”

“The 10th Knight?”

“The current 10th Knight will be retiring soon, and you’re better suited for the position than the 11th Knight.”

Roscoe’s mind swirled for a moment before it was filled with resolve. “If it’s all the same to you, sir, I think I’d rather stay where I’m at.”

“Are you sure?” Conroe asked. “This is a great opportunity.”

“I’m sure,” Roscoe replied. “If there’s one thing this experience has taught me, it’s that I still have a lot to learn. I won’t be able to do that with the responsibilities of the 10th Knight.”

“If that’s what you want,” Revis said,”then that’s what you’ll get.”

“It is. Besides, I’ve gotten used to being the 12th Knight, and I’m not ready to give that up just yet.”

The Twelfth Knight Part 7

The next few moments were a blur to Roscoe. After seeing his cousin fall to the ground with a sword wound in his back, his vision turned red as he set his sights on the man who stabbed Conroe. He had been scared of the man before, but all of that melted away when he thought about what had just happened. Roscoe also felt the grogginess left over from his healing lift off of his shoulders as well. As soon as he felt well enough to fight, the crimson took over his eyes.

He became unaware of what he was doing. There was a vague sensation of his body moving, but he wasn’t sure what it was doing. The only thought that was in his head was the image of Conroe laying bleeding on the floor. It festered there until he was sure that he was about to explode. Right before he burst, a pain in his side snapped him out of the phase he was in.

When he came to, he was squared off against the man. The man had a small cut above one eye. Roscoe, on the other hand, had a deep gash right above his waist on his left side. He took a step back to be better able to analyze his situation and his wound screamed in protest. Roscoe did his best to keep from showing the pain, but he knew he was unsuccessful when the man put on a big grin right after.

The man moved forward quicker than Roscoe thought was possible. There were a number of different angles that he could expect the attack to come from. Letting his instincts take over, he positioned his blade to intercept in the spot he thought was the most likely. Another round of pain told him that he failed. A new wound appeared just above the previous one. It was the place he had anticipated the attack to come from, but he hadn’t been quick enough to fully parry it.

Instead of stepping away from the blade, however, he stepped toward it. The man’s eyes went wide as Roscoe willingly impaled himself further. Then those eyes went even wider when the man finally realized why Roscoe had done it. Before the man could pull away, Roscoe launched a haymaker at his chin. Satisfaction coursed through him when he felt his fist connect solidly with the man’s face.

The two men stumbled away from each other, Roscoe getting the worst of that round. Blood began dripping from the man’s nose, but it was nothing compared to the two wounds Roscoe carried in his side. Still, it had felt good and, if nothing else, he’d given the man something to remember him by. He couldn’t survive another fight like that and both combatants knew it. Despite this, the man looked more angry at being hit than happy about winning the fight.

“Don’t even think about it,” came a voice from behind the man.

Looking past his opponent, Roscoe saw three more Knights of the Kingdom standing there. He knew all of them, but couldn’t think of their names for some reason. Must be the wounds, he thought to himself as he felt his legs start to feel weak. What were their names again? That question stayed with him as he began to fade.

No, he chided himself. He had to stay awake. He had to stay focused on what was happening around him. Roscoe used the image of Conroe being stabbed to fuel the anger he needed to fight the growing urge to just lay down. His eyes zeroed in on the man in front of him, now angrier than ever.

“You’re not taking me alive,” the man seethed. “I’m going to kill as many of you as I can before I go.” With a finger pointed at Roscoe, he added, “Starting with you.”

Roscoe moved to put his sword in front of him to attempt a defense, but it wasn’t in his hands anymore. He must’ve dropped it when he got stabbed, otherwise it would’ve been in his hand when he punched the man. With no weapon to defend himself, he watched his doom coming at him. Roscoe tried to leap out of the man’s path, but his legs wouldn’t cooperate. All he could do was watch.

And watch he did. He watched as a fourth Knight appear out of nowhere to plunge a sword underneath the man’s armpit a moment before the man’s blade entered Roscoe. The two combatants crashed to the ground in a crumpled heap to Roscoe’s side. He wanted to rush to the other Knight’s aid, but his body failed him again. As it turned out, the other Knight didn’t need any help. The man was dead.
Roscoe reached out his hand to thank the Knight for his assistance. “Thank you for saving me,” he said.

“I’ve been saving you since you were a toddler,” the Knight retorted.

His head spun when the Knight got to his feet, revealing the face of his cousin Conroe.

Fantasy Football Part 29

Hey everyone! Need an escape from the real world for a little while? I know I do. If so, feel free to read the next part of this story, written by Matticus and myself. It won’t magically make everything all better, but it will hopefully take your mind off of things for a few minutes.

After the squad of Honor Guards passed them, Plex was once again led through a series of alleyways and corridors. He didn’t even try to pay attention to where they were or where they were going. It didn’t matter at that point. They’d get him to where he needed to go.

His mind was focused on other things at that moment. He was going over everything that happened in the past couple of days, replaying the events and searching for something he may have missed. While his body was just going through the motions, Plex tried to take everything he remembered, everything he had learned, from that time to try to figure out what was going to happen next. There was just one problem with that, and it was a big one.

Nobody could predict what Lavalandinarial would do next.

The dragon was erratic. Quite often, her actions made no sense to anyone other than her. Trying to guess what Lavalandinarial would do next was a fool’s errand. Still, it was something that Plex thought needed to be done. If they waited until the dragon did something, then reacted to it, they would be starting from behind the entire time. They couldn’t afford to do that. No, they needed to take their best guess on what they thought Lavalandinarial was going to do and base their plan of attack on that. It may come back to bite them in the end, but it was better than waiting for the dragon to kill more innocent people.

The sound of heavy footsteps beside him pulled Plex out of his thoughts. Baclem, the troll, was plodding along to his right. “What happened?” Plex asked in hushed tones.

“The Honor Guards showed up and said there was a criminal on our team who was poisoning the minds of the rest of us.”

Guilt tore through Plex’s stomach. “Me?”

Baclem shook his head. “No. It was Coach Sprout.”

“Coach Sprout?”

“The Honor Guards slapped him in irons and started leading him away. A few of our teammates shouted at them that they were being unfair and the leader of the Honor Guards ordered the rest of them to kill us all and burn the facilities down.”

Plex was confused. Why was the dragon going after Sprout when he was the one she was angry with? Was this some ploy to use guilt against him? Did the dragon think he would rush off blindly to rescue the gnome? While he would feel incredibly guilty if something happened to Sprout, he wasn’t going to throw himself in the dragon’s mouth in order to save him. Not only had he only known his coach for a few days, there were only a few people who he was willing to give his life for, no matter how long he had known them. He was having trouble coming up with anyone other than the elven queen and his sister, Gilania.

“Gilania,” he whispered harshly, remembering that he was supposed to meet up with her and her team. Finally taking the time to look around and see where he was, Plex saw that he was heading away from her team’s facilities.

Vinyard was still leading them through the twists and turns. Plex sprinted to the front so he was right behind the gnome and when there was a moment, pausing to catch their breaths, Plex asked, “I need to get back to my sister’s training facility.”

Vinyard shook his head vigorously, “No, it’s too risky.”

Plex objected, “We can’t just brush her off. If we miss this opportunity, she and the teammates she’s talked into meeting us will be harder to convince to trust us. Showing up exhausted and injured from our recent fight might go a long way to convince them to join us now before the dragon can turn on them.”

“Or it will scare them into submission and they will capture you and hand you over to Lavalandinarial and that will be the end of you.”

“This is important,” Plex pressed.

Without answering, Vinyard motioned for everyone to follow him again and sprinted off on another series of turns up and down the darkened alleys of the city. Plex held his anger in check. He understood that Vinyard was doing what the gnome needed to do to ensure the survival of the rest of the team. Plus, he still had time to make it back to his sister’s training field before she’d give up on him showing up. He could wait a bit longer and see if Vinyard could be convinced before he turned around and did what he wanted to do anyway.

The next time they stopped to ensure that everyone was still together, Plex found Vinyard studying him intently. The elf simply raised his eyebrows. The gnome continued to look for a moment longer and then turned away, seeming to study the darkness they were going to run into next. Then the gnome turned back to Plex and said, “You might be right. It could very well be foolish to miss this chance to bring your sister and some of her teammates over.”

That wasn’t exactly permission but Plex understood that if he let the gnome continue talking it was likely that Vinyard was getting there all the same.

“I think it is foolish. Perhaps what I think is irrelevant. We each have our part to play and you were picked to be a leader. I should trust that. Go then. Go and meet with your sister. I think it will end poorly for you and I am not often wrong about such things. I’m very good at calculating odds, which is why I made such a good kicker. I could run the calculations to make the kick precisely as needed.

“And now my math says you are going to get captured. Luckily, you’ve seen too little of our operations to do much more harm than losing you as a potential leader. So, yes, go on if it is my permission you are waiting for. I wish you good luck and I doubt I’ll see you again.”

Plex nodded in sort of thank you and then turned down the next alley, keeping to the shadows and doing his best in the darkness to pick up on another landmark he recognized. Shortly enough he found one and then changed his course to head back to Giliana.

He did his best to keep the smile off his face as he heard Baclem trying to keep up with him. It was humorous listening to the troll trying to move silently behind him. Also, he had to admit, it made him feel a swelling of pride that Baclem thought so much of him that he’d blindly follow Plex into possible danger without being asked, without asking if he could. Maybe it was things like this which had the dwarf, Frukeld, to deem him an important leader to his rebellion.

The duo made their way back to the practice facility of Gilania’s team. On more than one occasion, they had to stop and duck deep into the shadows to avoid Honor Guard patrols. The presence of Lavalandinarial’s guards became more frequent the longer they were out. Plex swore. They had to have found the guards that he and Baclem had helped kill. Moving through these patrols, especially with a stealth challenged troll was possible, but it wouldn’t be easy.

While they were hiding from one such patrol, Plex whispered some tips on how to move silently to Baclem. It wasn’t likely to sink in with words alone, but he hoped that hearing the words, and also seeing Plex putting them in action, would speed up the learning process. From everything he’d ever heard, or read, trolls weren’t the brightest or most graceful of the races. He hoped that Baclem proved those generalizations untrue.

Once the patrol passed by, Plex looked up at the sky. It was much later than he hoped it would be. Because of all the hiding they were having to do, it was taking them much too long to get to their destination. He hated being late for anything. Being late for this was driving him crazy. It was too important. They had to pick up the pace.

Plex hurried forward, barely making more noise than he had before. Baclem did his best, but it sounded like he was bumping into everything along the way. He winced every time the troll did it, waiting for Honor Guards to rain down on them at any moment. But, they never did. With each passing sound that Baclem made, a feeling of unease built up in his stomach. This wasn’t right.

The Honor Guards were made up of some of the best from all the races. Any one of them should have heard the troll coming from blocks away. Yet somehow, with all of the patrols that were out, they hadn’t done that. Why wouldn’t they….

Realization hit him like a kick to the face.

He told Baclem to stay behind while he scouted ahead. Once he was sure the troll would comply, he rushed forward as quietly as he could. It was only five blocks from where he left Baclem to the training facility. Once he was a block away, he began seeing them. Dozens of Honor Guards surrounded the facility. They wanted to not only get him, but to get Gilania’s team as well.

Plex let out the whistle he used to warn his sister of trouble. As soon as he did, the elven Honor Guards called the others to attention. He watched as they began moving forward towards the practice facility with their swords drawn, ready to kill everyone inside.