Hey everyone! Need something to do while you’re stuck in quarantine? Read this story! It won’t make the world around you any better, but it’s something to help you pass the time!
Vinyard and Frukeld exchanged a questioning glance before looking back at Plex. “That was a very sudden change of heart,” the gnome said, his voice full of suspicion.
Frukeld held his hand up to stop any further comments from Vinyard. It appeared that the old dwarf was about to say something in Plex’s defense, but he began speaking first. “Maybe you were right about me being afraid,” Plex admitted. “Maybe I was so afraid of what the dragon could do to me that I didn’t stop to think about whether or not the dragon had any right to do those things in the first place.
“I only started playing football because my queen instructed me to,” the elf sighed. “She told me to do the best I could in order to make the elves look good, to move the elves forward. I know she meant that she wanted me to do well so that the elves could move up in the hierarchy set forth by Lavalandinarial, but, the more I think about it, the only way for the elves to move forward, to have a better life, is for the dragon to be gone. No elf will ever reach their full potential while living under the dragon’s rule.
“So, Vinyard, it wasn’t a ‘sudden change of heart’. It was a sudden realization that I wasn’t fulfilling the mission my queen gave me in the best way possible.”
“Well said,” the dwarf agreed. “That’s all we want. That’s what we’re fighting for. We want our lives to be ours. We want to be our own masters. We want the things that happen in our lives, for good or for ill, to be of our own making and not forced upon us by a bully.”
Vinyard nodded to Frukeld’s words. Plex thought the gnome was going to add to them, but instead told them, “I’ve got to get back to the arena before they notice I’m gone.”
“Go,” Frukeld ordered. “You know what you need to do?”
“I know,” Vinyard answered as he casually flipped his hand and walked out of the room.
Once he was gone, Frukeld chuckled. “The other races are too quick to dismiss the gnomes. They are far more formidable than we give them credit for.”
Plex thought of Coach Sprout and his gift of strategy. “I’m beginning to realize that.”
“Good. Having your eyes open is always the best way to see.” Plex rolled his eyes at the statement of the obvious. “But, like Vinyard, we have to get moving too. It’s not good to stay in one spot too long. It’s easier for the dragon and her magic users to track us if we linger.”
“I’ve cloaked us from her scrying magic for now,” the magic using dwarf stated, “but that won’t last. We need to get you to the meeting point.”
“The meeting point?” Plex asked.
“The spot where you’re going to meet up with Vinyard. Once he’s finished with the game, he’s going to sneak out of your facilities and meet up with you. From there, the two of you will move to your first stop.”
“And which team is that?”
Plex’s mind raced. He wanted to trust the dwarf but he couldn’t picture how starting with her team was the right call. If they had just won the game, they would be loath to do anything to jeapordize their current elevated position, among the teams, with the dragon. If they had just lost, they would be angry and afraid and very few good decisions are made while in such a state. They would be distrustful of him.
Plex knew if he were in that position he would think it was some sort of trap designed to test their loyalty. And, if it wasn’t a test, then they might try to use it as a bargaining chip. If they could turn over Plex and his cohorts to the dragon perhaps that would keep them from being eaten after the first round of games were over.
Plex opened his mouth to question this decision, to at least hear the logic behind it, but shook his head and said nothing. The dwarf had already started to move away and Plex needed to move quickly to stay with him.
What followed was a series of twists and turns through half-lit or completely dark passageways and back alleys that Plex, even with his heightened awareness and honed senses, would have been hardpressed to keep track off. He would never be able to find his way back to where they’d been. Not that it matter. He assumed that he would never have a need to return to that spot. If it was, as they said, that they needed to move often, they probably never reused the same meeting places again.
Giving up keeping track of his whereabouts as a lost cause, Plex went back to trying to puzzle out how he would approach his sister’s team, win or loss.
“I think you’ll find,” the dwarf stated, startling Plex out of his thoughts, “the team will be receptive to what you, what we, are offering regardless of the outcome of the game.”
“Were you reading my mind?”
The dwarf chuckled softly. “No. I do not possess the necessary skill in my craft to read minds. Nor would I ever do so without an invitation first. Minds are tricky places to go poking around in uninvited. Plus,” the dwarf added more as an aside, “I know of no magicians who could have cast such a complex spell while traversing the corridors we have walked.”
Plex snorted. It all made sense of course. It had just been uncanny that the dwarf had hit upon the very topic he had been dwelling on. “I hope you are right,” Plex replied a moment later, with a sigh.
“We spent long hours trying to decide where to start. In the end, while we all didn’t agree, the majority of us decided that if we could recruit you, your sister’s team was the best place to start. Of all the other angles you are probably trying to wrap your head around, it came down to the simplest one. She is your sister and can vouch for you.”
Before Plex could respond, Frukeld spun on his heel and walked away. “Wait here for Vinyard,” the dwarf called over his shoulder.
Plex found himself in a dark alley and ducked deeper into its shadows. He wasn’t sure how long he’d have to wait for the gnome, but he wasn’t about to do it out in the open. As time passed, he ran around in circles in his head about whether or not he was doing the right thing. His heart told him that trying to get rid of the dragon was the best thing to do, not only for the elves, but for all the races. His mind, on the other hand, was telling him that this course of action would likely lead to his death.
Then again, the dragon probably already wanted him dead, so what did he have to lose?
While his mind wandered, he paced back and forth. His eyes darted around, looking for any movement. Plex’s nerves were starting to creep up on him. Not only did he have to avoid the Honor Guard on the way to see Gilania’s team, but he had to try to convince a group of strangers to join him in a fight that might get them killed. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to convince his sister, let alone the rest of her teammates.
As he thought about what he was going to say, he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. Plex stopped his pacing and ducked down into the shadows. A lone figure was approaching from the other end of the alley. For the moment, all he saw was the figure’s outline. In the darkness, it was hard to make out any features on the person. The only thing he could say for sure was that it was someone of short stature. A moment later, it became clear that the person was a gnome.
Plex stepped out to greet Vinyard when an alarm began screaming in his head. It wasn’t until he had revealed himself to the gnome that he realized that Vinyard didn’t wear his hair the way that the shadowed gnome approaching him did. It wasn’t until he stepped out and got a better look at the figure that he saw the blood red colors of Lavalandinarial’s Honor Guard. It wasn’t until the figure yelled at him to stop moving that he grasped the scope of his mental error.
“Who are you?” the Honor Guard demanded. “And what are you doing in this alley?”
Plex opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. He knew there was nothing he could say to talk his way out of this mess. His eyes scanned the area around him. The only thing close to him was a wooden crate with some refuse in it. Without thinking, Plex leapt forward, grabbed it, and launched it at the gnome’s head. That’s when it dawned on him that he just attacked one of the dragon’s Honor Guard.
He hoped he lived to tell the story.