Fantasy Football Part 23

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?”

“Your sister’s.”

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.

The Twelfth Knight: Part 4

Roscoe had patrolled these streets for years and thought he knew every inch of the city. As he followed the man after leaving the tavern, he found that he still had a lot to learn. There were times he would see a familiar landmark, and he would recognize the general area he was in, but it was at an angle that he had never looked at it before. He was confident in the tavern because he thought he would know where he was going. Now, he might be heading into the unknown.

That wasn’t a pleasant thought to him.

Still, Roscoe knew he had a job to do, so he trudged on. The menacing man didn’t say a word as they made their way from one back alley to the next. Roscoe wasn’t about to complain. There was something about the man that frightened him a little. While Roscoe was both taller and more physically imposing, there was something about the other man that was unnerving. As far as he was concerned, the less interaction he had with the man, the better off he would be.

A building came into sight that he recognized. It sat on the outskirts of town. The building was a storage facility for the man who made and repaired all of the wagon wheels for the castle and the surrounding town. Roscoe had known the wainwright for years and couldn’t believe that he was involved in something like this.

A shudder ran down his spine.

He had known the wainwright for years. If the wagon maker was involved in this, he would be in the building and would recognize him immediately. His plan to infiltrate the mercenary group of Merlinus might be over almost as quickly as it began. Then again, he still wasn’t sure if he was going to Merlinus’ group. It was possible that the group he was on the way to meet was being led by someone else.

Roscoe shook his head slightly. It was times like this that reminded him why he was still the Twelfth Knight of the Kingdom. If he was a better planner, he might’ve moved up by now. If he got out of this mess, he vowed to spend more time studying strategy instead of using all of his time practicing swordplay.

“What?”

Having been paying attention to his own inner monologue, it took Roscoe a few moments to recognize that the question had been directed at him. The menacing man had stopped and was staring right at him. “What?” Roscoe echoed back.

“Why were you shaking your head?”

He put on a look of defiance. “It’s none of your concern.”

“I’m about to introduce you to some very dangerous people,” the man said, slowly moving his hands toward the small of his own back. “People who could make both of us disappear very easily. You’re not worth dying for, so your business is now my business.”

His mind racing almost as fast as his heart, Roscoe somehow remained calm on the outside while he blurted out the first thing that popped into his head. “Look, I know you’re just being careful, but this maze you have us running is getting ridiculous. I just want to get where we’re going and get this over with.”

The man eyed him suspiciously. Roscoe couldn’t tell whether or not the man believed him, although his gut said that he didn’t. Still, all the man said was, “In this business, being careful rarely gets you killed, but being sloppy always does.”

The man walked him over to the door on the wainwright’s building and opened the door for him. He walked in, but not without keeping the man in his sight as he did so. There was almost no light in the area he was in. No windows could be seen. All he saw was a lantern hanging from a stack of wagon wheels off to his left. An indistinguishable figure stood at the edge of the light. Not knowing what else to do, Roscoe walked toward the lantern.

As he got closer, the figure at the edge of the light was revealed to be the wainwright, Worram. Fear covered Worram’s face. Obviously, the wainwright was being held here against his will. The amount of fear radiating from Worram was almost enough to make Roscoe run up to him with a comforting hand, but he caught himself before that happened. If he did that, they were both dead.

When Roscoe reached the light’s edge, more lanterns flickered on all at once. There were no people standing next to them, meaning that they were lit magically. It was a move that he knew was meant to put him off balance and, unfortunately for him, it was working. With magic in play, almost anything could happen. There were too many variables to even begin to formulate any kind of plan. All he could do was hope he could improvise a way out of this situation.

Worram looked at him and the recognition lit up his eyes. Roscoe winced, thinking that the wainwright would blow his cover, but Worram surprisingly stayed silent. Standing next to Worram, just inside of where the darkness was, an older man looked Roscoe over, sizing him up. Apparently satisfied, the older man began to speak.

“I hear you wish to join my crew,” the old man said.

“No,” Roscoe responded. “All I wanted was a job. Maybe if it goes well, we’ll talk about me joining permanently. Until then, I’ll stick with just one job.”

“Sorry. We don’t do just one job. You’re either all in or all out. And people who know about us have to be all in or they’ll become all dead.”

“Merlinus,” the menacing man said as he gestured for the older man to lean down.

Roscoe couldn’t believe his luck. The old man was Merlinus. He had done it. He’d found the mercenary leader that Revis and Matticus had been looking for.

Then he remembered that the assignment was only to find out if the rumors of Merlinus being in town were true. He wasn’t supposed to make contact. And here he was, in a storage facility with the mercenary leader and at least one of his henchmen. Who knew how many others were hidden in the building? All he could do now was keep himself in Merlinus’ good graces until he saw a chance to escape.

“So,” Merlinus began after the menacing man was finished whispering in his ear, “do you want to join my crew or not?”

“It doesn’t seem like I got much of a choice, does it?”

“Excellent,” Merlinus exclaimed happily. “In order to join my crew, you have to perform a task.”

“He already told me,” Roscoe said, pointing to the menacing man. “I’ve got to fight one of your other hopefuls.”

“Oh, no. I’ve got something different in mind for you. Call it a test of your commitment to our cause.”

“And what is this test?”

Merlinus smiled widely. With a flick of his hand, he pointed at Worram. “Kill him.”

Fantasy Football Part 21

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?

“Hurry up!”

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.”

“Your 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.

Fantasy Football Part 19

Hey, everyone. I’m a little bit later in getting to this story than I wanted to be, but between the new job and being sick, I just didn’t have the time or energy to do any writing on it for a few days. But, I got back to it and we have a new part for you to read on this here Christmas Eve. Hopefully, you enjoy this little present, because it’s all I can get for you all. And, no matter which, if any, holidays you celebrate, I sincerely hope that enjoy them.

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“Go in!”

Plex didn’t have to look around to know the source of the voice was Coach Sprout. Before he could ask what the gnome was talking about, he felt the little man’s hand on his back trying to push him onto the field. “Go in and block that extra point,” Sprout implored.

He slowly started walking out onto the field, seeing that their coach had also been shoving on Glavven’s backside too. Plex’s eyes flicked up towards the dragon. It had raised up to full height and was watching the duo walk off the sideline with a mixture of anger and amusement. The duo quickened their pace to get into position before the ball was hiked.

It was quick thinking on the gnome’s part, Plex knew, that had prevented Glavven from being inside Lavalandinarial’s mouth right now. Had they remained on the sideline, the dragon would’ve come down and picked the minotaur up and swallowed him whole. By sending them out onto the field, Sprout had, at the very least, delayed it. While it was true that the dragon could do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted, it was much less likely that she would act openly while there was action out on the field. It was obvious that she wanted to have a hand in the outcome of the games, but it was also obvious that she didn’t want it to be known that she did. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been so subtle in her magic.

The duo was still running up to the line of scrimmage when the ball was hiked. Plex stopped, thinking that they were too late to even make an attempt to block it. Glavven didn’t stop, though. The furious minotaur bellowed out a roar of rage and charged the line. He watched as the minotaur blew through the entire line, pushing away teammates and the opposition alike on his way toward the kick. It was an impressive display of power, made even more impressive because Glavven was doing it with an injured knee.
Boot hit ball and the kick went streaming at the uprights. Glavven planted on his good leg, let out another bellow, and jumped with all of his might. Plex found himself holding his breath through the display, but that changed when he gasped in shock. Glavven had done it. The tips of his outstretched left hand grazed the ball. It wasn’t enough to block the ball completely, but it did change the ball’s trajectory.

The entire stadium watched as the ball veered wildly to the right. By the time it got to the end zone, it was almost twenty yards wide of the uprights. The kick was no good.

All around him, his teammates jumped up and down in celebration. Plex wanted to join them, but he instead looked up at the dragon. All traces of anger were gone. It was smiling that cocky, superior smile. He dropped his head and started to shake it. This should’ve been a moment of celebration, but he couldn’t. He knew what was coming next.

With the blocked kick, the score was now forty-two to thirty-nine, a three point difference. If the other team recovered their soon to be attempted onside kick, they couldn’t win the game with a field goal. They could tie it, though, and he knew that was the dragon’s plan. Lavalandinarial was going to find a way to make the game go into overtime.

Plex turned around jogged back to the touchline. “Coach, leave me for the return. In fact, put in all of our players with the best hands. We need to make sure whoever the ball hits they can grab it and hold onto it.”

The gnome studied his quarterback and nodded once and began issuing instructions. The line that got sent out was nothing like the normal kick return unit. The special teams coach put up some fuss that his guys should be trusted with the task but Sprout quickly silenced that outburst with a look where his eyes first trained on the special teams coach and then flicked towards the dragon.

This kicking team lined up and for the first time ever, because this hadn’t even been a scenario in any of the practices, Plex found himself on the field facing the entire kicking line. Without his own row of offensive linemen protecting him, Plex was surprised how scary it was staring into the eyes of minotaurs, orcs, goblins and dwarves. They would be coming full force and the ball would be bouncing around chaotically.

Plex was near the center of the field so it was unlikely the ball would come to him. Looking left and right he saw looks of determination in all of his teammates. They knew what was coming and what was expected of them. To a man, they were set on making sure they did not let their team down.

The whistle blew and the kicker did a short run up before side footing the ball. It smashed into the ground at his feet and began to bounce and spin wildly. Plex watched it, like he would have from the sideline, until the movement of his teammates reminded him that he needed to act.
The field became a blur as everyone rushed for the ball. As fast as he was, Plex didn’t think he’d get there first but he was certainly going to try. The kicking line came in at crushing speeds. The teams on the sidelines were shouting. The spectators were on their feet yelling. And Lavalandinarial had once again lifted her head up to gaze intently upon the action. Plex saw all of this and none of it at the same time.

His pace outstripped most of his teammates. The ball, nearly within reach, still danced and spun and then it disappeared under a dwarf from his team and a minotaur from the kicking team. Without thinking about it, Plex threw himself on top of the minotaur, his eyes darting around looking for the ball, ready to grab it should it pop free.

And then someone else smashed into his back. And then more weight was added. And then more until it felt like everyone from both teams was piled on top of him. It burned to breath. His senses were assaulted by the smells and feel of so many players. He pushed as much of it aside as he could and scrambled to keep his arms free and ready to haul in the ball should he see it. All around him, arms writhed intent upon the same.

Then a series of short whistle blasts pierced through the pile and slowly, the weight was removed one player at a time while the Honor Guard worked on trying to figure out who had ended up with possession of the ball.
Sitting in the middle of this massive pile of people was starting to make him a little claustrophobic. Sure, there were some big piles on offensive plays, but nothing like having almost two full teams of players on top of him. It was almost enough to make him panic, but he controlled his anxiety and breathed in as deeply as he could, slowly and calmly. Plex kept reminding himself that this was just a part of the game and it would be over soon.

Eventually, the last bit of weight lifted off of him and he was able to stand up. His whole body ached, though whether that was from just the pile or the whole game he wasn’t sure. Thoughts of pain were pushed to the side momentarily as he looked at the remaining two players on the pile. Only the dwarf and minotaur remained. Plex peered intently as the Honor Guard surrounded the pair, blocking the majority of his view. One of the Honor Guard that were on the opposite side of the pile from him, a fellow elf, glanced up at Lavalandinarial. Plex followed his gaze and turned his head in time to see the dragon’s eyes flick over the sideline of Gilania’s team.

When Plex looked back at the pile, he saw one of the Honor Guard pull the ball from the dwarf and punch him in the stomach. As the dwarf doubled over, the elf bent with him, whispering harshly in the dwarf’s ear. No doubt, they were threatening him to keep quiet about what really happened on the bottom of the pile. Nodding his head vigorously, the dwarf appeared stunned when he was punched in the stomach again after the elf helped him up.

With a wave of his hand, the Honor Guard called the healer over from Plex’s sideline. Anger was building from within him and it took all he had to keep himself quiet. This was becoming ridiculous. If he wasn’t so sure that the dragon would eat him if he tried to do it, he would’ve walked off the field and quit right then and there. Football was pure. It was a game of skill, athletic ability. It was a game of strategy that was dependent on how well you blended all of that together.

What it certainly wasn’t, and should never be, was scripted.

The outcome of a game should never be determined by anyone other than the players on the field. Even if that someone else was the most powerful being in the world.

Fantasy Football 13

It’s that time again. It’s time for the next installment of the blog hopping story by Matticus and I. We hope that you’re enjoying the ride so far. If you need to catch up, the rest of the parts can be found here.

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Coach Sprout called for the offense to gather around him. They were going for a two point conversion. The score was currently thirty-three to twenty-six in favor of Plex’s team. That was a seven point difference. If they kicked the extra point, and made it an eight point difference, that would still allow the opposing team to tie the game with one touchdown, provided the other team scored a two point conversion afterward. If Plex’s team scored on their own two pointer right now, they would force Gilania’s team to score twice in order to take the lead.

Plex’s emotions were still mixed. He wanted to win the game. His survival was dependent upon winning the game. Yet, winning the game meant possibly dooming his sister to death. He wanted to keep the score close in order to make certain that he remained safe, but winning had to be his highest priority. He had to get his team the two points right now and hope that Gilania’s team added to their score before the game was over.

He looked over at the bench and saw that Glavven was still being worked on by the healer. There was no way the minotaur would be able to go in for this play. The two point conversion would rest squarely on his shoulders.

Sprout told them the play he wanted them to run and Plex led them out to the field. He got his players lined up the way they should be. Plex surveyed the defense and had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do. The quarterback called out the snap count as he stood in the shotgun formation. His hands wrapped around the ball after it hit his hands. Two steps back and Plex looked to his right at his elven receiver.
He wanted to give his receiver a chance to redeem himself after falling down on the interception. The confidence that would build up in the elf would serve them well in any future games. Unfortunately, Foyarlen, the elven receiver was being defended well. Plex wasn’t going to force the ball in there just to make Foyarlen feel better.

He had to step to his left to avoid a pass rusher. Another was coming from behind him, but he felt that more than saw it. Plex took two steps forward, keeping his eyes upfield at his other receivers. Baclem, the troll, was covered as well. Traag, his ogre tight end, managed to get a step on his defender on a crossing route. Plex threw it just before a large defensive lineman hit his back.

His eyes stayed on target as he fell to the ground. The ball was on target, though he led the ogre a little bit more than he would have liked to ensure that the defensive back couldn’t get his hands on the ball. Traag reached out and the ball hit him right on the hands. It popped up and Plex’s heart jumped into his throat. The ball fell down and the ogre’s hands looked like they were about to wrap around it.

Then, his view was blocked by one of his offensive linemen stepping in front of him. Plex braced for impact just before slamming into the ground. The weight of the tackler forced the air from his lungs but Plex stayed calm and was breathing normally again before he’d jumped up to see how the play turned out. He saw Traag dancing in the end zone, the football waving above the ogre’s head held tightly in one hand.

Plex moved into the end zone and congratulated Traag on the catch before moving off the field so the game could continue. While the teams were setting up for the new kick off, Foyarlen came to stand next to Plex.

“I would have caught it.”

The statement came in elven and Plex, having gotten used to the common tongue that was used among the team, was momentarily confused by it. “What?”

“It didn’t look like I was open, I understand, but if you had led me like you led the ogre, I would have caught it.”

Plex caught glances from the nearest teammates. He assumed they were wondering why the team of them were talking in elven. Plex switched back to common. He didn’t need any other drama with his team. Worrying about his sister, his own skin, the coach, and Kalant was more than enough already.

“Traag got a step on his defender so that was the safer play.”

Foyarlen continued in elven, “Throw it to me next time. I will catch it.”

Plex sighed. “I’ll throw it wherever I think we have the best chance of being successful as a team. You tell me you would have caught it. That’s fine. Next time, get a step on your defender and then we’ll see.”

“You’ll throw it to me.”

It was more statement than question and Plex didn’t feel like continuing the conversation anymore so he ignored his fellow elf. Foyarlen refused to be put off, though. The receiver stepped between Plex and the field, turning his back on the action, on his team, just as the ball was kicked. Plex tried to look around the receiver but Foyarlen moved in his way again.

“You’ll throw it to me.”

There was a hint of desperation in his compatriot’s voice. Plex didn’t like the sound of it. It seemed like Foyarlen had something more, something personal, at stake than advancing to the next round. They were already winning so it wasn’t a need to ensure they weren’t the dragon’s next snack. Plex searched Foyarlen’s eyes for some hint as to what else could be going on but the receiver kept any further emotions hidden.

“Foyarlen. Get over here.”

Coach Sprout pointed at the receiver and then pointed at the patch of ground at the gnome’s feet. Foyarlen said one more time, under his breath, “Throw it to me.” Then the receiver walked over to see what their coach wanted.

On the field, their defense had stopped the return well and the teams were setting up for the first down. Plex glanced toward the giant time glass. Only a minute or so remained in the third quarter. The game was going fast. It was much faster than he was comfortable with. It felt like he had no control over the outcome and all his concerns were slipping beyond his grasp.

That was the way of things under the rule of Lavalandinarial. Everyone was subject to the dragon’s whims. Not much that the dragon did made sense. People had been killed for following Lavalandinarial’s orders because the dragon changed her mind after the fact. Personally, Plex thought there was a method to the madness, that the dragon was purposefully keeping everyone off balance. Just like the dragon pitting the races against one another, there was a reason behind it.

The reason was simple: Lavalandinarial was strengthening her reign.

Chaos and division benefitted the dragon greatly. Lavalandinarial knew that if the people of this world rose up together, there was a chance that they could defeat her. It wasn’t much of a chance, he knew. Lavalandinarial possessed most of the magic out there, on top of being a towering dragon, but there was still a chance. One that Plex was sure that the dragon wasn’t willing to take.

Off to the side, he heard voices raised high enough to be heard over the sounds of the crowd. It was Foyarlen and Coach Sprout. They were having a heated exchange further up the sideline. He didn’t hear the start of the conversation, but he could now.

“You can’t put me on the bench,” Foyarlen hollered. “I have to play.”

“The last time I checked,” Coach Sprout countered, “I was the head coach of this team and it was my decision on who plays and who doesn’t. Not yours.”

In a fit of rage, Foyarlen lunged at the gnome, his hands reaching for the diminutive Sprout’s throat. The coach stepped back to try to avoid it, but elf was just too quick. Plex looked on in shock, not knowing what to do. He was familiar with Foyarlen because of their time on the elven team together. They didn’t really talk about anything outside of football, though. Still, he had always seemed like an even keeled fellow to Plex and Foyarlen’s behavior over the past few minutes contradicted that image. Plex unfroze from his shock and moved to intervene.

His momentary pause might have cost Foyarlen his life.

Before Plex could get to the struggling pair, a dwarven member of Lavalandinarial’s Honor Guard broke into the fight and pulled the elf off Coach Sprout. Foyarlen threw a punch at the dwarf, but he missed high when the dwarf ducked underneath it. Two quick punches, one from each hand, flew from the dwarf. One hit Foyarlen in the gut and the other clipped his chin as he hunched over from the first blow. Foyarlen fell onto his back. The dwarf grabbed him by the hair and dragged him along the sideline until they were in front of the dragon.

With a wicked smile playing across her face, Lavalandinarial reached down casually, plucked Foyarlen up, and dropped the screaming elf into her mouth.

The crowd erupted into cheers, which both confused and angered Plex. He didn’t think it was right to cheer for someone’s death. Then he realized they weren’t cheering for that. They were cheering for the touchdown the opposing team just scored.

Fantasy Football Part 11

Plex could feel the anger rising up inside him. He couldn’t believe that his coach had just threatened to tattle on him to the dragon, especially since he had no proof that Plex had done anything wrong. Coach Sprout was completely right, he knew, but there was no way to prove that he had botched that play on purpose. All the gnome had was suspicions, and he wasn’t about to let himself go down for them. Despite how his sister had acted, Plex’s priorities were his own welfare, and that of his family.

He wasn’t going to let anyone threaten that. Not his coach, or his teammates. It hurt him, because he had done his best to do everything he could for his team, except for that one play. Still, he found himself looking directly at the gnome with venom in his eyes and dripping from his words.
“Go ahead,” Plex spat. “Go run to the dragon and tell it that you think I am purposefully doing bad. There can’t possibly be another explanation for it. It’s not like a handoff has ever been fumbled between a quarterback and running back before. This is the first time ever. And let’s not forget when I made my receiver trip after throwing the ball, because I have complete control over that.”

Coach Sprout was about to offer a rebuttal, but Plex cut him off. “I know you outrank me, and I shouldn’t be doing this, but I’m going to stop you right there. This is what’s going to happen: I’m going to go out there, run your plays, and I’m going to guide our team to victory. After that, I’m going to go to the dragon myself and ask it to put me on a team where my head coach doesn’t question my integrity.”

Plex turned and walked back to his teammates. He found himself shaking as he did. If Coach Sprout noticed, he hoped the gnome thought it was anger causing him to shake. The truth was that it was his nerves. He’d never done anything like that before. He’d never gone against authority. He’d never tried to turn an argument around on a person when he was the one at fault. It was so out of character for him that he wondered what he was capable of if there was an even bigger threat to himself or his family.

The rest of his teammates had gathered on the sideline and Plex did his best to give them a rousing speech. They all went along with it, cheering as he talked. He saw Coach Sprout off to the side eyeing him intently. Plex finished his speech just as the players were called back onto the field. He gave Glavven a pat on the back and a few words of encouragement as the minotaur ran out to receive the kickoff.

“That was a pretty good show you put on back there,” Sprout said after all the other players left the immediate vicinity, “but I don’t think for one moment that the fumble was accidental. You’re also free to go to the dragon, if you want to, but we both know that Lavalandinarial will probably just eat us both if one of us goes to complain. I’m willing to look past this incident if you are, but, if I think you’re not giving me your all, I’ll still pull you from the game.”

Plex looked down to see the gnome extend his hand and ask, “Deal?”

The elf shook the hand and then turned away from the gnome. He had nothing further to say.

On the field, Glavven had just received the ball around the ten yard line and was making a run for an opening on the far side of the field. He received help from two well-timed blocks and then he straight-armed an orc and was clear, with nothing but open grass ahead of him.

His legs churned and ate up the open field. An elf trailed a few yards back and was gaining on him but it didn’t look like he’d be able to bring down the running back before Glaveen crossed the goal line. And then, on the ten yard line, Glavven tripped.

It looked like his foot had hit a rock because his legs were nowhere near each other. Glavven went soaring forward and landed with a hard thud on the turf near the six yard line. For a moment it looked as if the ball was going to pop free of his hands but the strong minatuar held on tightly. The elf then tapped him on the shoulder as he caught up and passed, still in full sprint, to ensure the runner was down.

A funny feeling, a sort of queasiness, stirred in Plex’s stomach. He glanced towards Lavalandinarial. A small tendril of smoke rose from one of the massive beasts’ nostrils and a hint of a smile twisted its jaws. Was the dragon using its magical powers to interfere with the game?

He didn’t have time to ponder just then. Running onto the field he got the play from Coach Sprout and relayed that to his teammates. Glavven had remained on but wasn’t going to be used for the touchdown attempt. The minataur was still breathing heavily from the long run, anyway. It was probably best to give him a break. Though, they were going to use the runningback as a decoy.
When everyone was in position, Plex called out a short count and then hiked the ball. Glavven was running right behind him. He faked a hand off to the minataur and then continued to spin around and throw the ball out wide the opposite direction as the runner. The wide receiver caught the ball and easily charged in the final couple yards for a touchdown.

Rather than celebrate with the receiver, Plex clapped Glavven on the back as they made their way to the sidelines. The runner had done most of the work to get them in scoring. While Coach Sprout had called for a good play for the touchdown itself, Plex would have done the same thing. It was easy enough to catch the defense off their guard with a throw after using Glavven so many times in a row.

On the sideline again, Plex cheered as the point after attempt was made successfully. He wasn’t sure why the coach hadn’t asked him to go for two but he didn’t want to ask. He’d had enough of the coach for the time being. Instead, his attention was pulled towards the dragon.

The entire game had been played so far with the sound of Lavalandinarial’s breathing in the background. As the game had gone on, the crowd had become more interested in it and had began to cheer loudly at the end of almost every play. Once he realized that, he looked up at the dragon. He had very little experience with dragons, but if their facial expressions matched humanoid facial expressions, Lavalandinarial was happy.

Usually, Plex would take that as a good sign. After all, people had a tendency to die around the dragon when it was unhappy. It was what was making the dragon happy that was giving him pause, though, because it wasn’t what was happening on the field that was lifting the dragon’s spirits. It was the crowd.
In addition to returning the kickoff, the other team had run at least two plays and Lavalandinarial hadn’t turned her gaze to the field once. The entire time, the dragon’s eyes watched the crowd, soaking in their reaction to the game being played. It didn’t make sense. Why would the dragon care more about the reaction to the game than the actual game itself? Or, was his inexperience with the dragon making him misinterpret the entire situation?

Lavalandinarial’s eyes started sweeping his way and Plex turned his head quickly back to the field. He didn’t know if the dragon would have noticed him looking, but it was best to not tempt catching her attention. Plex looked at the position of the other team and saw them on his team’s side of the field. They were just in range of where their kicker, who had recovered after his first disastrous attempt, had made the rest of his kicks. Gilania’s team was still driving the ball, though.

It was third down and they had two yards to go. Plex was surprised to see Kalant run from the sideline to replace someone on his team’s defense. Coach Sprout must think that the other team will call a running play, he thought. That’s the only reason he would put the dwarf in the game. He glanced over at his diminutive coach. “I guess we’ll see if he’s as smart as he thinks he is,” he muttered to himself.

The ball was snapped. The quarterback handed the ball to the running back, confirming Sprout’s theory. Before the back got two steps forward, Kalant had put his shoulder into the side of the ogre’s knee. Despite being taller, and heavier, the running back fell to the ground without even making it back to the line of scrimmage. His team’s defense had stopped them from getting a first down.

A field goal was kicked on the next play, going through the uprights, and turning it back into a one point game at twenty-seven to twenty-six in favor of Plex’s team. As the defense ran off the field, he cheered for them and offered encouragement to those who came close to him. With that done, he watched as his squad set up to receive the oncoming kickoff. Glavven fielded it at the two yard line and ran up the middle of the field. He slipped past one tackler, but it put him in line with the next one, a fellow minotaur.

The other minotaur hit Glavven low, just as Kalant had done to their running back. Unlike Kalant’s tackle, which came in from the side, this tackle came from head-on. The other minotaur’s thick horned skull hit Glavven’s kneecap while his leg was planted. That was followed by a sickening pop and the sight of his running back’s knee bending in a way it was never meant to bend.

Fantasy Football Part 9

Here it is, everyone! The moment that you’ve all been waiting for! It’s the next installment of the story that Matticus and I are writing. I hope you’re all enjoying it so far!

Plex felt a little better when he saw his big running back pound it into the end zone. He ran back to the sideline and drank from a bucket by the bench. The crowd erupted when his kicker made the extra point, giving his team a one point lead with a score of seven to six. After congratulating his running back, who made an excellent play, he praised his offensive line who kept the defenders at bay during the run.

As much as he wanted to watch the game while the defense was on the field, Plex focused on talking amongst his offensive teammates and coaches. His attention needed to be on perfecting their gameplan, not worrying about what the defense was doing on the field. Whenever the crowd erupted, he wondered whether they were cheering for a good offensive or defensive play. It didn’t matter, though. His job was to try to score every time he touched the ball.

Then he remembered the dragon’s proclamation.

If he scored on every possession, and the other team didn’t, he’d be sentencing his sister to death. He refused to be responsible for that. He would certainly try to win the game, but he had to keep the score close. The margin of victory, if the game ended now, would be one point. That would be optimal. Plex vowed to keep that the margin for the rest of the game. All he would do from now on was match the other team score for score. It was the best way to ensure Gilania’s safety.

His discussion with his offensive teammates was interrupted when he heard Coach Sprout calling his name. As he made his way over to the coach’s position, he looked up at the board erected to keep track of the score. Gilania’s team now had a two point lead. That meant that they had kicked a field goal. Considering the problems their kicker had already gone through during the game, that was surprising. It also meant that he had to do whatever he could to ensure that his team scored, but only a field goal, on this drive.

The first play that Coach Sprout called was another running play. This time, the defense was able to take the minotaur down after a six yard gain. With the play starting at their own thirty-one yard line, Plex dropped back to pass. Looking to his left, he saw his primary receiver covered. Across the middle, his tight end was similarly covered. His eyes moved to the right, where he saw his other receiver, Baclem the troll, had a step on the defender.

Plex let go of the ball just as a goblin defender hit the back of his knee. There was nothing he could do to stop his fall. He wanted more than anything to see how his pass had worked out, but he couldn’t see as he was falling to the turf. As he hit the ground, the sound of a roaring crowd assaulted his ears. The crowd wouldn’t have reacted like that, he knew, unless it was a touchdown or an interception. He quickly got to his feet to see which one it was.

Baclem was dancing in the end zone. Somehow the troll had gotten past all the defenders to score, putting them up thirteen to nine, with the extra point attempt still left to go.

As the ball sailed through the uprights, giving his team a five point lead, Plex’s heart dropped into his stomach. A quick glance towards the large hourglass, which marked the time left in each of the four quarters of the game, showed the first quarter was nearly over and that did nothing to settle his emotions. While there was still a lot of game to be played, time was not going to be his friend in this test of skills and mental strength.
The only thing he could do was go back to talking with his teammates. He needed to continue to build those relationships. He would need their help if he was going to be successful in keeping the score close. Whether they became aware of what he was doing or not, he would need to understand, understand their movements, understand their likely choices.

While he chatted, his team kicked off and the other team managed to break through the first set of players before being taken down near the fifty yard line. They would be well positioned for a field goal, at least, if they could move the ball forward a little bit. That made Plex happy. That would help eat into the lead. And, if they scored a touchdown, then Plex would do his best to get his own team into field goal range.

The opposing team ran two running plays back to back, advancing for one yard and then six yards, leaving them only three yards short of a first down, before the whistle blew for the end of the first quarter. The teams shuffled around and, after a short pause, while the ball was placed in the right spot, the whistle blew again and the game started back up.

They ran a third running play, which surprised Plex. They only needed three yards but they hadn’t shown much success with the run except for the opening kick-off where they ran back for a touchdown. Their runner was stopped after only a yard gained and Plex was surprised for the second time in quick succession when they didn’t send on their kicking team.
Plex wanted to get back to talking to his teammates but he couldn’t take his eyes off the action. The other team was making a mistake and the hush in the crowd made it seem like even they knew it was a mistake. The ball was snapped and the quarterback was immediately tackled by a rushing gnome. Plex hadn’t even seen Coach Sprout make that formation change, but the diminutive rusher slipped through the defense and wrapped up the quarterbacks legs, giving them a loss of four yards.

Half the crowd cheered. Half the crowd booed. Plex wasn’t sure why they were doing either, honestly. Maybe they were cheering for the gnome? Maybe they were booing the gnome? It didn’t really matter. He had a job to do.

Pulling on his helmet, he trotted onto the field with the rest of his offensive line and then, once huddled, looked to the sideline to see what play Coach Sprout wanted them to run. It was a running play. That was good because it was less likely they would pick up a ton of yards but once the ball left his hands he would no longer be in control of what happened with the play. He relayed the play to his teammates and they broke to get into position.

Plex barked out the cadence. His center hiked him the ball, he caught it, and handed it to the minotaur. As he watched the running back run for a short gain, his mind wandered back to how he was going to handle the rest of the game. It would be easy to keep the score close. That wasn’t the problem. No, the problem was that anything he did in this game to keep the score close could have serious consequences in their next games.
If he played badly, it would cause his team to lose faith in him, which could affect their play in the future. He could also twist it just a bit and make it look like some of his teammates were playing badly. A fumbled handoff to the running back, or a pass that is close enough for his receiver to touch, but not catch easily. If he did that, it would have a negative effect on his teammates’ confidence, which would also affect their play in the future.

The safest play would be to do a combination of both. As long as they won, he didn’t think that a few bad plays here and there would cause too much of a problem. Once the game was over, he’d blame it on the time constraints causing a lack of chemistry. It was a plausible excuse, one that they would latch onto. All he had to worry about now was pulling it off.

Coach Sprout called the next play, another run. Plex again took the snap and held the ball out for the running back to grab. Just before the minotaur touched it, Plex let go of the ball. It hit the outside of his running back’s hand and bounced forward towards the line of scrimmage. A mad scramble ensued after shouts of, “Fumble!” filled the air around him. The Honor Guard referees picked their way through the pile and found the person who picked up the ball.

A large ogre defensive lineman emerged from the crowd with the ball in his hands. Plex wanted to smile at his plan’s success, but forced it down. Instead he shot his running back an accusatory look. The minotaur, Glavven, was clearly confused. He had no idea how he had muffed the exchange. Plex softened his expression as they walked to the sideline. “Don’t worry,” he said to Glavven. “It’s just one play. We’ll get it back and you’ll ram it down their throats again.”

Glavven nodded resolutely and the two of them walked over to Coach Sprout. Plex was expecting to be yelled at, but Sprout just gave them words of encouragement and ordered them to work on their exchanges while the defense was out on the field. The two of them did as instructed, stopping only when the crowd erupted in cheers. Looking over, they saw that the other team had scored another touchdown, this time with a pass. After the extra point made the score sixteen to fourteen in favor of Gilania’s team, Glavven ran out onto the field to catch the kickoff.

The minotaur returned it to their thirty-five yard line and Plex ran out onto the field. Sprout called a pass play, knowing they had to hurry if they wanted to score before halftime. Plex’s plan was looking good. If he drove them down to kick a field goal, they’d be back up by one point again. All he had to do was drive them into field goal range before stalling the drive out.

His elven receiver broke across the field right after he received the hiked ball. Plex let it fly. As soon as the ball left his hand, his receiver stumbled and fell. Everything went quiet for the briefest moment as he watched his pass, which would have been perfect, fly right into his sister’s waiting hands. He broke free from his stupor and ran to tackle her, but she had picked up a line of blockers. Before he knew it, he had been knocked onto his backside and Gilania was in the endzone.