Seems like maybe we are getting back into a routine for writing. Maybe the world around us is starting to return to some semblance of normal? We shall see. In the meantime, read and enjoy if you would.
While they ran, the gnome Vinyard, somehow leading the charge despite his small size, a barrage of thoughts assaulted Plex. He cursed the healer for not working on Glavven first. He cursed himself for not being faster, being more aware, so he could have avoided the thrown spears on his own. He cursed the dragon again and again for her part in all of this, in all these years of needless slaughter and bloodshed, in her name, or her honor. Curse her honor. Curse the day she was born.
Then his thoughts would circle back to what Baclem had just told him: Glavven was dead. Dead? How could that be? Dead? It was impossible. Dead? The minotaur hadn’t seem that injured. Glavven was the strongest person on the team. He could not be slayed so easily. There must have been a mistake. Dead? It was all his fault. Plex had failed him, failed his team.
No. No he hadn’t. This was all the dragon’s doing. Glavven was dead, despite how unreal that sounded and felt, because the beast meddled in their lives for fun. She played with them and tossed them away as she saw fit. She was the monster behind every bad thing that had befallen the races since she seized control.
How had the healers failed to notice Glavven’s more serious wound? They were supposed to be best among each of the races. The dragon had demanded the best. Nothing else would do for her new sport. How could they have failed to save the minotaur? It didn’t make sense. None of it made sense.
Round and round his thoughts me. Never sticking to any one thought or longer than it took his feet to fall and lift from the pavement as they made their flight through the deserted streets and alleys.
His strength returned in his arm more and more as they ran, the continuing effects of whatever the healer had done for him, but Plex was still certain he would have stumbled and fallen more than once if not for the steadying hand of Baclem. First a minotaur and then a troll, Plex was racking up quite the debt list to races elves usually had little to nothing to do with.
He wondered if football had somehow made him soft, despite the workouts and conditioning, the instincts and reactions that mattered most had failed him when called upon. Or, perhaps the odds were just insurmountable against them? Lavalandinarial and her honor guard were too strongly entrenched to be overthrown.
Plex shook the thought away. It was defeatist and unproductive. It was exactly what the dragon wanted him, and everyone else, to think.
They slowed and stopped. Vinyard motioned for them to gather together and be quiet.
“We are nearly there but you must be as quiet as possible and follow my lead.”
Baclem’s grip tightened on Plex. He tried to let the troll know that he was okay now and no longer needed assistance but they were moving again before Plex could get his message across.
They stepped out of the shadowy alleyway and into a lit square. The sudden glaring contrast hurt Plex’s eyes and he shielded them with his free hand. Before he could see clearly, a shout of alarm went up from behind their group.
It was more Honor Guards. Somehow, they had found them. Then again, Plex cursed, they were the best from each of the races, so he shouldn’t have been surprised that they caught up to them. That didn’t mean he had to like it, though. It also meant that they were going to have to resort to drastic measures to lose the pursuit.
Plex pulled himself free from Baclem’s grip. Any trace of his injury, or the subsequent healing, was gone. He had replaced it with rage. Rage at Glavven’s death. Rage at the state of his world. Rage at Lavalandinarial and her dominance over everything. Rage at the amount of senseless death he had seen at the hands of the dragon.
He started running back towards the shouted alarm. The weight of a sword held down his right hand and he couldn’t remember how it got there. Did he pick it up before he began running away? He shook that thought from his head. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Baclem running beside him, his own sword in his hand. It seemed that the troll was intending to help him with his attack on the Honor Guard.
Behind him, he heard Vinyard hollering for him to stop. He knew that Vinyard and his people thought that he was important to the mission, but at that moment, he didn’t care. Not only did he feel like he needed to get revenge for Glavven’s death, but there were others who needed to be saved. Plex wasn’t going to let anyone else fall to the dragon’s whims. Not if he could help it.
He finally came upon someone being accosted by the Honor Guard. An older dwarf, who he remembered as one of the defensive coaches, was surrounded by two of his kinsmen bearing the colors of the dragon. Plex immediately set upon the dwarf closest to him. Baclem circled around towards the other.
Plex knew that the Honor Guard couldn’t have heard him approach over the commotion going on around them, so it must’ve been the dwarf’s warrior instincts that warned him that he was coming. It didn’t matter. Plex’s superior speed, coupled with his unbridled rage, allowed him to deliver a killing blow to the Honor Guard before the dwarf could put up his defenses. Hot blood shot out of the dwarf’s throat as the blade dug all the way through his neck.
Baclem wasn’t as lucky. Because he was going after an opponent who was further away, the Honor Guard that he was fighting had more time to react. The troll moved in and swung his sword from the side. After disengaging from the dwarven coach, the Honor Guard put his sword in line to block. The dwarf then stepped to the side and let the troll’s weapon go past unobstructed. Now off balance, Baclem left himself exposed to attack.
Plex shouted a warning and moved to help but he knew he was going to be too late. The honor guard spun his blade with precision and skill, flowing into the space left open by Baclem’s unobstructed swing. The strike surely would have delivered a mortal blow if the coach the Honor Guard had been accosting hadn’t stuck a foot out and tripped him. The blade slashed harmlessly and the troll brought his outstretched elbow up into a crouching blow with the guards chin.
The guard’s head whipped back and his weapon dropped from nerveless fingers. Rather than deliver the killing blow himself though he was in a good position to do so, Plex grabbed the dwarven coaches shoulder and shouted, “Let’s go.”
Baclem had followed the elbow with a smooth attack of his own, bring his hands together overhead on the hilt of his sword and sweeping the blow down straight onto the guard’s head. Plex had already turned and began to run back to the rest of the team, pulling the coach with him, when he heard the crunch of metal on metal and then sickening thud of the blade embedding in the guard’s skull.
A moment later Baclem was once again at his side. Some of Plex’s rage had cooled but it wasn’t gone completely and when another shout of alarm rose behind him, he was tempted to turn and face whoever was there. He felt as though he could and would stand against the dragon herself in that moment. But, enough of his anger had been unleashed that he could let logic carry the moment.
Vinyard was still waiting for them as they returned to where they had been. The gnome wore a look of frustrated annoyance and as Plex passed, Vinyard seethed, “You need to stop running off.”
Plex wasn’t sure why they thought he was such a big deal. They could find others to lead if he should fall. They could find other entries into the teams. He was not indispensable. But, he kept his retort from reaching his lips. While he was replaceable, they had also pinned a lot of their hopes and plans on him and had set those in motion. It would be hard to change things now that the play had already started. Besides, now that he was really allowing himself to feel the anger he had been harboring for the beast and her minions, Plex was beginning to think he was going to like leading the line against her, calling the plays, running the offense.
He’d been picked to be a quarterback just because he could throw the ball. He was a leader whether he liked to admit it or not. That Baclem would follow him towards the sound of fighting was proof enough of that.
Somehow Vinyard had gotten ahead of them again and was ushering the team into a dark alley. The heavy booted footsteps of men at arms rang out behind them. Plex felt like they were too close to lose and they would have to stand and fight again but once he entered the alley the sound of their approach disappeared entirely.
Vinyard stood at the cusp of the alley, just inside the shadows of the surrounding. He wore a mischievous smile and when Plex caught his eyes, the gnome just held a finger over his lips to indicate silence was still needed. A moment later a troop of Honor Guard, fully armed and armored, passed the alley without even a sideways glance. There is magic at play here, Plex thought.