Plex kept shaking his head, trying to clear the cobwebs. His mind remained clouded. It felt as if he had drank an entire barrel of ale. The drunken feeling wasn’t the worst of it, though. It also felt like he was suffering the hangover of such a drinking binge. He had felt both of those things separately, but this was the first time he had ever felt them both together.
Was he the first person to ever feel them both at the same time? It seemed like those two things would be impossible to feel at the same time. After all, drunkenness and hungover would not happen to one person all at once. Those two particular feelings generally didn’t happen to one person on the same day, let alone at the same time.
A wave of warmth washed over him as he wondered why those strange thoughts were bouncing around in his mind. Plex’s vision cleared. In front of him was the team healer. Or, at least, he assumed it was. While he could see better than he had been able to, he still was fuzzy. On top of that, there was still something that dominated his vision.
No matter the fuzziness, no matter the pain in his head, the only thing he saw were the eyes of Lavalandinarial.
The dragon’s eyes burned through him like the fiery breath of the great beast would. Plex shivered. He wanted nothing to do with Lavalandinarial, but he suspected that his condition was the dragon’s doing. He wasn’t sure how the dragon could have done it. Plex wasn’t that knowledgeable about magic and assumed that was likely what he had been hit with. There was no way he fell like that on his own.
Another wave of warmth flowed over him. His vision cleared a little more, but he was struck by a powerful lightheadedness. Plex felt himself falling backwards. Strong hands caught him and gently placed him on the ground. He found himself looking straight up in the air. Still, he saw nothing besides Lavalandinarial’s eyes. Suddenly, the rest of the dragon’s face appeared before him. Her mouth curled into a sneer just before all of the bad feelings left his head as if they were never there.
Plex opened his eyes and was greeted by the worried face of Coach Sprout. “What just happened?”
“I don’t know, Coach,” he answered honestly. “Everything went crazy there for a moment.”
Coach Sprout’s eyes flicked to the dragon before returning to Plex. “Are you okay now?”
“I think so.”
“Good. We’re going to need you.”
Plex looked up at the scoreboard and saw that it hadn’t changed. It still said that his team was winning thirty-five to thirty-three. He remembered a touchdown being scored. He heard the crowd cheering afterward. Had that just been in his head? And how did the other team get the ball?
Coach Sprout, seeing the confused look on his face, explained. “Your backup threw an interception.”
Gilania’s team had the ball at midfield and was steadily moving it. Kalant was on the field, harassing the quarterback and making sure they didn’t have time to pick out receivers far down field but they were picking up enough yards everything three downs to get the first and continue to move the chains. Plex was glad to see that the dwarf had found a role he could thrive in. However, on their current drive, Plex didn’t see how they were stoppable. Soon enough they would have another six points on the board and gain the lead.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to steady his mind and calm his nerves. Though everything seemed to be back to normal he couldn’t shake the feeling that something had been very wrong just moments before. He had not been in control of his mind or body and that was deeply unsettling.
When he opened his eyes again he tried to see the field anew. He studied the way the offense was setting up to try and find a weakness that could be exploited. While he watched, Gilania’s team moved the ball another twenty yards with a series of small gain, quickly churned, running plays. They were in field goal range now so now was the time to stop them, at least, or get a turnover if they could.
“It would be risky,” Plex suddenly said, catching Coach Sprout by surprise.
“What?” The gnome looked up nervously. His gaze only strayed for a moment before returning to the field.
“We could set up like we think they are going to pass, they will likely try to run the ball instead, and then we have our whole line rush in to either clog the running lanes or sack the quarterback. If we are lucky, we can get a fumble and recover it.”
“If we aren’t lucky, the quarterback will get a pass off downfield to any of the wide open receivers and they’ll get a touchdown.”
“If we don’t try something off script, they are going to get a touchdown anyway.”
Coach Sprout glanced up to Plex again but this time held the elf’s gaze. “Worth the risk,” he said and then went to confer with one of his assistant coaches.
Plex didn’t bother trying to eavesdrop. Whatever they did to draw up the play, they would have to get it out to the team quickly to disrupt the current run. Gilania’s team was still advancing down the field and all the while the time clock was running lower and lower. From what Plex could remember, this was the longest position either team had managed all game.
At the next available down, a second down after having picked up three yards on the first play, a likely enough situation for a pass, the defensive line shuffled out and extra back field players came on. This was it. Coach Sprout was using his idea now.
The offense saw the change and to Plex it sounded like they were calling for a change to the play they were going to run. He hoped that meant they were going to try to run the ball only and hadn’t suspected the attack they were about to receive.
One of the new defenders bent down and whispered something in Kalant’s ear. Whatever was said made the dwarf go red. Plex could tell the dwarf was angry at what he was told. He wondered what it could be. Kalant was still in the game, so it couldn’t be that he was angry at being taken out.
There was no further time to ponder it as the opposing quarterback had shuffled his players into the formation that he wanted and was set to receive the snap. After barking out his cadence, the ball came into his hand. He turned to hand the ball off to his running back, but he couldn’t. The running back had already been hit by the new defender that had spoken to Kalant.
The quarterback twisted away from them and was immediately face to face with another defender. To his credit, the quarterback maintained his composure and sidestepped the tackle attempt. It only bought him a moment of freedom as he was about to get hit by another blitzer. Plex watched in surprise as the quarterback threw the ball just as he was hit hard by one of Plex’s teammates.
As soon as the ball left the quarterback’s hand, Plex wondered who it was going to. None of the receivers had run routes. They had started blocking as soon as the ball was hiked. Plus, it was in the middle of the field, and the receivers were on the outside. Then, it hit him and he wanted to smack himself for missing something so obvious.
The ball was going to the tight end.
Lined up next to the offensive line, the tight end had also been blocking, but he was still able to catch a pass. Except for the cornerbacks, who were lined up outside with the receivers, it looked like the rest of his team’s defense had run past the tight end. If they caught it, the play would result in a touchdown. Plex cursed, knowing his plan might have just cost his team the game.
The ball floated in the air for a second before falling back down to the ground. Something was coming streaking in from the secondary at the tight end. It was Kalant. He had dropped into coverage instead of rushing the quarterback. Plex chuckled as he finally understood why the dwarf had been angry before the play started. Kalant hated dropping back into coverage.
Both Kalant and the ball arrived at the exact same time. The tight end, an ogre, was a foot taller than the dwarf and probably outweighed him by quite a bit, but Kalant was almost nothing but muscle and was moving at full speed. Kalant lowered his shoulder and drove it directly into the small of the ogre’s back. The hit knocked the tight end forward and the ball jumped up off of his fingers.
The entire arena watched as the ball fell down in slow motion. It was in the middle of one of the offensive linemen and a blitzing defender that had turned around in time to see the hit. Both of them had a chance for it. They lunged for the ball as Plex tried to will his player into catching it.