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.

***** ***** *****

“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 Part 17

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful day. I also hope you enjoy the latest chapter of the blog hopping story written by Matticus and myself.

***** ***** *****

Coach Sprout called the rest of the offense over and told them the play that they were going to run. This time around, they’d have both of their running backs on the field at the same time. It was just one more little thing that Sprout was doing to try to confuse the defense. They’d have to prepare for the possibility of either of them getting the ball, and that’s even if it was a running play to begin with.
The Honor Guard blew their whistles, indicating that the timeout was over. Plex led his team out onto the field and quickly got them lined up. He wanted to hike the ball as soon as possible so the defenders didn’t get much of a chance to react to how they had set up their formation. Another whistle blew and time began to count down once more towards the end of the game. Plex took just a moment to look over the defense before calling for the ball to be hiked.

On his right, Glavven ran forward and held his hands up to receive the football. Plex didn’t give it to him. Instead, he handed it to Meel, who was following behind. Glavven ran into a pair of defenders as if he had the ball. That took them both out of the play and left an opening for the smaller Meel to get through. Meel ducked under one defensive lineman’s arm as he ran untouched into the hole.

There was a lot of open field in front of him. In fact, the only defender standing between Meel and the goal line was Gilania. For what seemed like the hundredth time during the game, Plex found himself torn. He was torn between his desire to see his sister do well and his need for his team to win. Plex knew his team needed these points to put the game almost completely out of reach.

He just hoped it didn’t come at his sister’s expense.

Meel cut left for a step and quickly cut back right with the next, hoping to juke his way past her. Gilania didn’t fall for it. She stayed in position between him and the end zone. With only a few yards left until he reached her, Meel lowered his shoulder. There weren’t many people that Meel would be able to run over, but with the momentum that he had, Gilania might be one of them. She braced for the impact.

The two of them hit in a collision that could be heard throughout the entire arena. Gilania started falling backwards, but she had her arms wrapped tightly around Meel. She was pulling him down with her. His momentum was still carrying him toward the goal line. There was a chance he would cross it before he hit the ground. It would be close.

Two more steps put them at the five yard line. Meel was going down quickly. He wrestled the ball out from between them and reached it out towards the goal line. He gave one last heave with his legs and fell forward.
Plex’s view was obscured by the crash of players who had finally caught up to the play, jumping on top of Meel and Gilania either in attempt to keep the player from crossing the line or trying to help him in his effort. The whole mess crunched together in a writhing pile of arms and legs.

Whistles blew. The honor guard rushed forward to help untangle players and try to determine where the ball ended up. Plex moved forward a few yards hoping to get glimpse of how Meel and Gilania had done. Had Meel gotten the ball across the line? Had Gilania stopped him? Had she been hurt at the bottom of the pile?

The process of getting to the bottom seemed to take much longer than it should. There seemed to be a struggle going on still. Plex saw that Meel still had a hold of the ball, and it looked like it was on the line so it should be a touchdown but Gilania had somehow gotten one of her hands on the ball too and was trying to push it backwards. From his angle Plex couldn’t be sure what the referees were going to decide. He didn’t want to get any closer though.

A moment later it was just down to Meel and Gilania. One of the honor guard pulled the ball free while Meel and Gilania came up pushing and shoving. Plex couldn’t hear what was being said clearly but was close enough to know that words were being exchanged.

Another series of whistles and one of the honor guard stepped between the two players. The guard flicked his head towards the dragon and Meel and Gilania immediately settled down. Only then did Plex realize he’d been clenching his fists and he forced his hands to relax, though his heart still raced.

With the playes all separated, the honor guard got together for a moment and then they placed the football on the goal line and signaled a touchdown. While Meel celebrated with his teammates, Gilania uttered curses in elven, just loud enough for Plex and some of the players around her to hear. Her own teammates escorted her off the field before she got into trouble.

Plex shook his head. What was she thinking? But the answer was obvious. Plex glanced first at the game clock and then at Lavalandinarial. The dragon seemed bored. A small tendril of smoke drifted up from one nostril. Its mouth was closed in neither a smile or a snarl and its eyelids were half closed. Was the beast losing interest in the game?
As they made their way to the sideline, Plex congratulated Meel on the touchdown and Glavven for creating the hole. Glavven was worse for the wear. The play had caused his injury to flare up and the healer was working with him again.

“You okay?”

Glavven nodded that he was but said nothing in response. The minotaur’s jaws were clenched tightly. His teammate was too proud to answer for fear the pain he was in would be obvious in his voice.

Plex moved away and scanned the far sideline for his sister. Gilania was being talked to by her coach. She seemed upset and it hurt Plex to see her that way. There was nothing he could do to help, though.

A few seconds later and the point after attempt was converted. Gilania’s team was far behind now, exactly what Plex hadn’t wanted, and the two minute warning was less than a minute away. Plex could only hope that Gilania’s team was able to move down the field and cut into the lead. He just hoped that they would do it as time expired so there would be no chance for a miracle play. Then again, with how sporadic the dragon was, maybe that was her plan all along. Maybe she wanted the game to appear out of reach before she helped the losing team come back.

Plex looked up at the dragon. Lavalandinarial was staring right back at him, mimicking Coach Sprout’s knowing smile. Had she been able to read his mind? Did she know what he had been thinking? She had to. Otherwise, there was no reason for her to look at him like that.

He tore his eyes away from Lavalandinarial and looked at the scoreboard. What he saw didn’t make sense. The score was forty-two to thirty-three, a nine point difference. A few moments ago, that seemed like an insurmountable lead. Plex knew that it wasn’t. Three minutes was more than enough time for Gilania’s team to easily drive the ball down the field, score a touchdown, kick the extra point, attempt and recover an onside kick, and get into a position to kick the winning field goal.

Walking up to Coach Sprout, he asked, “Why did we kick the extra point instead of going for two there?”

The gnome’s expression made it clear that he thought Plex’s question was dumb. Coach Sprout pointed to the scoreboard and was about to say something when his eyes followed his finger. Sprout’s jaw dropped. “I don’t know,” the gnome finally said. Confusion washed over his face. “I would have sworn we were winning by more than that.”

Plex was careful to keep the curses he wanted to yell out of his thoughts. The dragon could obviously read his mind and he didn’t want to give her any reason to hurt him again. Not that she needed a reason. Still, it was best to be as cautious as possible when it came to Lavalandinarial.

He watched helplessly as the game went on. His team did a good job covering the kickoff. They held Gilania’s team to a three yard gain on first down and an incompletion on second. With it being third and seven, with only seconds to go until the two minute warning, everyone in the stadium thought that it was going to be a passing play.

That’s why it worked so well when the other team ran the ball.

The quarterback dropped back like he was going to pass. The offensive line dropped back like they were pass blocking. The wide receivers ran their routes like normal. At first, it appeared as if the running back was staying in the backfield as an extra blocker. Then, he slid up next to the quarterback, grabbed the ball, and ran through a hole in the offensive line. There was plenty of room in front and Plex wondered if anyone would be able to stop the running back before he got to the end zone.

A New Place to Farm

He stopped his wagon for the soldiers guarding the border of this new kingdom. “State your name and business,” the first soldier said.  

“My name is Tomas,” he replied. “I heard you needed people to farm your land.” 

“You heard correctly, but why would you leave your home to come farm our lands?” 

“I don’t have a home anymore. All my land is underwater now that the dam broke during the flood. I managed to grab a few baskets of my crops and a handful of my chickens, but I lost everything else.” 

The first soldier walked around to the wagon and looked inside. When he walked back, he nodded at the other soldier to indicate that Tomas only had what he said he had. The second soldier finally spoke. “We need to ask you a few questions before we allow you to enter our fair kingdom. 

“I understand,” Tomas said. “Security is important. 

The first soldier shook his head. “Not security, no. Matters of security here tend to work themselves out with almost no help from us.” 

Tomas was confused by that answer, but he didn’t have time to question it before the second soldier added, “The questions we ask will be to determine if you are compatible with the people here and how well you blend in with our culture. 

He was still confused. Unsure, he weakly replied, “Okay…” 

“Question one: Can you sing?” 

“What?” 

“Can you sing?” 

Tomas couldn’t believe the question. “Are you joking?” 

The second soldier put his hand on his sword, indicating that it was no joke. Before the weapon was pulled, the first soldier jumped in. “Our princess likes to break out into song for no reason. Therefore, the citizens of our kingdom must be able to sing as well in order to harmonize with her. So, we’ll ask you one last time, can you sing?” 

This was ridiculous, he thought, but if this is what he had to do in order to start his life over, so be it. “I’m not the best singer in the world,” he said, “but I’m good enough to sing in the background. 

“Go ahead and sing something for us.” 

Tomas still felt like this was absurd, but went along with it anyway. Not that he really had much of a choice in the matter. He began singing a folk tune that had been sung in his lands for centuries. The two soldiers stopped him before he got to the third line. 

“That was terrible,” the first soldier said.  

“Completely horrible,” the second soldier agreed. “Can you dance? If you can’t sing, you’ve at least got to be able to dance behind her while she sings.” 

“No,” Tomas admitted. “I lost three of my toes fighting of some wolves that were attacking my sheep. I haven’t been able to walk straight since.” 

I’m sorry,” the first soldier said, “but if you can’t sing or dance, we can’t let you into our kingdom. 

“This is ridiculous,” Tomas protested. “I can farm. Surely, that must be more important to your kingdom than your princess’ songs.” 

Both soldiers drew their swords. “Nothing is more important than the musical numbers of our princess,” they said in unison. 

“But…” 

“Get out of here right now,” the first soldier ordered.  

Tomas hurried to do as he was instructed. After he got his wagon turned around, he heard the second soldier yell out, “And if we ever see you anywhere near the land of Disneya again, we’ll fuckin’ kill you!” 

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.

***** ***** *****

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.

The Twelfth Knight

Roscoe sat on his bed, absentmindedly running his whetstone down the length of his sword. It seemed like all he did lately. Well, that and all the training exercises. The last time he saw any real action was years ago, when a group of sparkly vampires had taken over the Kingdom. The First Knight had defeated the threat, and, along with the Jester, made everything right in the Kingdom again.

Nowadays, the only thing that happened in the Kingdom were bar fights, and the local constables handled those. The Queen and the Jester were beloved by the people, so there weren’t any internal issues of Kingdom security. No external threats had made themselves known either. Or, if there were, they never made it down to him.

Anything like that would go through the First Knight before anyone else. If he wanted the assignment, he’d take it. If not, he’d hand it off to the next knight in line, who would decide whether or not to take it. And so on.

With how boring things had been in the Kingdom lately, even the most mundane assignments were being grabbed up long before they could get to him. That left him nothing but time to train and sharpen his sword. He may not need the weapon now, but that would change someday. Someday, the Kingdom would need his sword and his skills as sharp as they could be.

He was Roscoe, and he was the Twelfth Knight of the Kingdom.

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.