I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost written final fantasy… A lot. So it goes.
But here we are, back again with another bit of this story. Read on and enjoy!
Without another word Plex and Vinyard sprinted towards their facility. The smell of the smoke grew stronger the closer they got and Plex began to catch glimpses of flames reaching for the sky between the buildings. The sound of the blaze began to roar and Plex was momentarily thrown by the otherwise stillness of the night. Either the fire had grown to such an inferno that nothing could be heard over it or there was nobody even trying to fight it.
Eventually Plex had to use a piece of his shirt to cover his nose and filter air through. The smoke was thick. It burned his eyes, making them water, and he wasn’t sure how much closer he would be able to get to the fire. Then he and Vinyard rounded a corner and came into view of their training facility, or what was left of it.
Skidding to a halt, Plex’s hand momentarily came away from his face, dropping in shock, until he got a full swallow of air clogged with the burning smoke. He coughed and hacked and raised the fabric up to his nose again. The flames danced and leaped to the sky but did not touch any of the buildings on either side of the training facility. It was a magical beast called upon for one purpose: the absolute destruction of their team.
Vinyard tugged sharply on Plex’s elbow and the elf allowed the gnome to lead him a short distance away into the shadowy recesses of a nearby alley. “I need to go see what happened if I can.”
“I’ll come with you.”
The gnome shook his head, “You can’t be seen. Too much is riding on you now. Plus, you’re no good to me. You’re too tall. I can maneuver under the smoke better than you and as a ground dweller I’m more adapted to heat. Stay here. Stay hidden. I’ll be back shortly.”
Plex opened his mouth to object but Vinyard had already turned and sprinted towards the fire. The diminutive figure was certainly better suited for running towards a fire than the elf but Plex still couldn’t imagine how much help Vinyard could be or how long he’d be able to withstand the heat and bad air. From where he was, yards and yards away, it was hard to tell exactly given the dancing splashes of light crashing against the darkness, Plex was still uncomfortably warm. His skin felt like it was cooking. And the fabric of shirt was not doing much to help get clean air into his lungs.
A small change to the roaring of the flames, a sort of hollowing lull, caught Plex’s attention a moment before a whole section of the building crashed in upon itself. Plex frowned. If anyone had been left in that part of the facility they were now dead. His frowned deepened as he wondered where everyone was. Why weren’t some of the team trying to fight the fire? Had the facility been empty before the fire started? Had they all been killed first and then fire started to cover it up?
Then, through the commotion of the flames, his keen ears picked up the sound of angry voices. It was hard to pinpoint where they were coming from. Plex looked around, but didn’t see anything. He closed his eyes and let his hearing guide him. The voices were moving away from him. Without thinking, he followed his senses.
Turning around, he sprinted down the alleyway. When he came to the main street, he closed his eyes again. His hearing told him to turn left. With as much speed as he could muster, he took off after the sound. The noises were leading him towards the dragon’s castle. Plex wasn’t sure why he felt the need to chase these voices. After all, Lavalandinarial ordered her Honor Guard to harass people at any hour of the day. These angry voices could belong to anyone who had done something to upset the dragon.
Something told him it wasn’t just anyone. Deep inside, he knew it was his teammates.
When he finally caught up to them, he saw that he was right. A dozen of his teammates were being led by an equal number of Honor Guards with their weapons drawn. Among those being led away, he recognized his two running backs, Glavven and Meel. He saw a few defenders whose names he couldn’t remember at the moment. The rest of them were partially blocked from his view, so he couldn’t tell who they were. No gnome was in the group, so he knew his coach wasn’t among them.
Plex felt his heart drop. While he knew that all of this was Lavalandinarial’s fault, he couldn’t help but blame himself for his teammates being in that position. If he hadn’t interfered with the dragon’s plan during the game, none of this would be happening. Then he reminded himself that it was possible that the dragon might have done this regardless of what he had done during the game. Either way, he couldn’t let his teammates suffer at the dragon’s whim. He needed to help them.
He just needed to figure out how.
Plex considered himself a good fighter, but there was no way he’d survive taking on a dozen Honor Guards by himself. To try that was suicide. He’d need help. The only one of the group that he was certain would help him was Glavven. The minotaur had been outraged at the dragon during the game. That feeling of anger had probably only gotten stronger after being taken prisoner by the Honor Guards. No matter how good the Honor Guards were, it would take more than a few of them to take down a berserk minotaur.
Attacking them openly was out of the question. They’d overwhelm him quickly, especially since he didn’t have a weapon. What he did have was access to a number of bricks. The street underneath him was made from them. Plex found a couple of loose ones and quickly dug them out of the ground. They were a lot heavier than the footballs, but he was confident that he would put it right where it needed to be. The elf reared back and let fly at the guard closest to Glavven.
His aim was true, but the Honor Guard closest to Meel stepped in front of it and promptly got his face smashed by the flying brick. The guard’s head twisted back and a spray of blood flew in an arc from his nose. He fell to his knees, clutching his face, and howling in pain.
Meel stooped as if to check on the guard but picked up the piece of brick instead. When a second guard leveled a sword on him shouting, “What happened?” Meel swung his hand up, the brick clutched firmly in his fist, and landed a vicious blow underneath the guard’s chin.
Time seemed to slow as the guard’s head snapped backwards and his whole body lifted from the ground. Plex saw eyes go wide from teammates and guards alike. These too seemed to expand, in surprise and anger and anticipation, slowly. Then Meel brought his hand back down in a swift strike that sent the guard crunching downward and time returned to normal.
The remaining guards began to shout frantically for the rest of the team to get on their knees with their hands in the air and those closest to Meel rushed towards him, intent on slaying him then and there. Plex could not and would not let that happen. In a quick barrage of missiles he threw his remaining bricks at the onrushers. His aim remained true.
The rest of his team, suddenly realizing that they were not in this fight alone, lashed out against the guards as well. Plex pried two more bricks from the street and left his vantage point hoping that his appearance would draw the attention of a few of the guards and buy his team a moment to organize before being slaughtered by the heavily armored and armed guards.
As he made eye contact with first one guard and then another, Plex launched his missiles. They should have had time to deflect his attacks but their reactions were too slow. Perhaps they were so used to being blindly followed that they had grown soft. Perhaps it was just the confusion of the fight. Whatever the case, neither blocked the attack and the bricks tore into their faces one after the other.
While watching the flight of his missiles, from the corner of his eye Plex saw Glavven lift two other guards from their feet and toss them bodily into the ground. The sound their bodies made when they hit the street was unnatural and made Plex cringe. He couldn’t dwell on it though. This was war, real war. The fake battle of the football field had been replaced by the life or death struggle to depose the dragon.
Sprinting forward lightly on the balls of his feet, Plex grabbed the sword the first guard he had hit had dropped when he began to clutch his face. Plex whirled and sliced the guard’s exposed throat. Then tossed that sword to Meel and darted to pick up the next dropped weapon. Somewhere close by he heard the unmistakable roar of a minotaur’s death roar. Plex hoped that meant Glavven had made a kill rather than one of the honor guards but he didn’t have time to check. Before he could reach the next fallen sword, two guards, and elf and dwarf, jumped in front of him with spears raised and ready to throw.