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.”
“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.