Hey everyone! I just wanted to let you know that the third short story in my Declevon Blackmoon series, Blackmoon Spellsword, is now available to purchase on Kindle at Amazon. If you were a fan of the other two, or if you just want something new to read, please go check it out.
How many parts should a fantasy football story have? Trick question! As many as possible, of course. And here we are with another installment.
“Why aren’t you at the game?”
Plex realized it was a ridiculous question to ask, given the circumstances, but he couldn’t top himself from blurting it out.
“Nobody ever pays attention to the comings and goings of gnomes,” Vinyard replied, somewhat coolly. But then he smiled and added, “That does have its advantages from time to time.”
Apparently seeing that Plex wasn’t satisfied with his comment, Vinyard continued, “I’m not at the game because I was needed more here.”
Plex frowned. Once again he had been caught worrying about that stupid game. It was a game he hadn’t wanted to play in the first place and then had gotten so involved that he had let his emotions get the better of him. That outburst could have landed him in the dragon’s belly but instead he had found his way to meeting with some sort of underground resistance.
“Look, maybe you can go around unnoticed,” Plex stated, trying to get back to the thread of the conversation he’d been having with Frukeld, “but my presence at any of the other teams’ training facilities will most certainly be noticed. I’m not even sure I’ll be welcome back with my own team…”
“We will have to see about that, yes,” the aged dwarf interjected. “Depending on the outcome of the game, Lavalandinarial may not care to punish you further for your transgression against her.”
Vinyard snorted, “Depending on the outcome of the game, she may just eat the rest of our team anyway.”
Plex hadn’t forgotten about the dragon’s promise to eat the team that lost by the greatest margin after the first round of games were over but with everything else going on it hadn’t been at the forefront of his thoughts. The gnome’s comment made his stomach drop. He felt helpless and afraid for his team and for his sister’s team.
Frukeld said, “That’s it. That right there. I can see the turmoil you are in. The people you recruit will see that too. Use it. Use it to add fuel to the emotions they are fighting as well. Grief. Anger. Righteousness. Bring them to our cause and together we can bring down the beast. Together we can defeat her and keep anyone else from becoming her next snack.”
Plex still had more questions than answers. Could he trust Frukeld and Vinyard? Why were they fighting the dragon? Could they really defeat her? Would the world be better off without her? How was he going to convince anyone to join this crazy crusade when it likely would lead to their death?
That was it, though. Those who would join up would have come to the same conclusion. Living under Lavalandinarial’s rule death was always present. From the wars she waged on whims, to the death sports she started for her own personal entertainment. Death was never far away. Fighting her at least gave the various kingdoms an option to start something else, to hope for something better, to try to create something better.
“Okay,” Plex said, “I’m in. How are you going to get me in to meet with the teams?”
“We’re not,” Frukeld said, confusing Plex.
“How do you expect me to meet with them?”
Frukeld smiled. “Plex, the elven quarterback, won’t leave his team’s facilities. Vinyard, along with a few others we’ve already recruited, will testify to that fact, should it come to that.” The old dwarf motioned to Vinyard, who had moved to grab something from the magic using dwarf. “But,” he continued, “one of Lavalandinarial’s Honor Guard will be going from team facility to team facility to talk to players.”
Vinyard stepped before him, an Honor Guard uniform in his hands. Absentmindedly, Plex grabbed it from the gnome. As his fingers touched the fabric, terror shot through his system. He gasped, the air becoming harder and harder to breathe in. His head swirled around and he felt his rapid heartbeat pounding inside his skull.
Then, as quickly as it came, the feelings went away.
Plex looked down at the uniform in his hands with contempt. It almost felt like it did when the dragon had messed with his mind before. He briefly wondered if the uniform had some type of magic attached to it, if what he had felt was the result of a curse put on the clothing to keep those not in Lavalandinarial’s employ from wearing the garment. Or, maybe what was being asked of him had caused him to have a panic attack. Either explanation could’ve been true.
“You want me to put that on?” Plex asked. Frukeld nodded, causing the elf to raise his voice when he added, “Are you insane?”
“You’ve already agreed to help us,” the old dwarf shrugged. “Why balk now when all we’re doing is giving you a disguise?”
“That’s not just a disguise,” Plex spat out. “That’s a symbol of the dragon’s power. It’s a representation of her rule, her law. Do you remember what happened to the last person who got caught wearing that uniform without being one of her people? The orc launderer who thought it would be funny to take one of the uniforms he was washing?”
Frukeld lowered his eyes to the ground briefly before looking back up. “Yes, I do. The dragon took the orc to each of the race’s lands where she burned the poor orc until it was almost dead, then healed it so she could do it over again at the next one.”
“And I’ll share that fate if I got caught in it.” Plex stopped. “Actually, mine would probably be worse because the damned dragon is already angry at me to begin with.”
“So, don’t get caught in it,” Vinyard chimed in.
“Thanks for the helpful tip,” Plex shot back.
“This is how the dragon keeps winning,” the gnome chuckled sadly. “That fear you’re feeling? The one that’s keeping you from simply putting on a uniform? That’s how Lavalandinarial keeps us all in check. She uses that fear like she would her foot, crushing us all underneath it. It has us pinned down, unable to move. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of living in fear. I’m tired of being afraid all the time.”
“I don’t see you rushing to put it on.”
“First of all, I’m a gnome. That uniform is far too large for me. Second, you’re not the only one taking a risk by doing this. Do you honestly believe that I’ll escape the dragon’s wrath if she catches me helping you? Hell, she could have me tortured and killed if they notice me gone from the sideline, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take if it means the possibility of living a life without being under the dragon’s heel.”
“I don’t like it,” Plex stated flatly. “I wouldn’t trust anyone wearing this uniform. Why would anyone else? That would be just like the dragon to try and trick people into betraying their hidden desires to dethrone her.”
“There’s that fear again,” Vinyard replied with a sad smile and small shake of his diminutive head.
“I’m not afraid. I’m logical. I try to avoid doing foolish things when some clear moments to think could come up with a better alternative.”
The gnome said nothing further but the sad smile remained.
Plex glared at Vinyard and then shifted his head to look at Frukeld. “Sure. You’ve been at this game longer than I have. You’ve already had the moments to think this through clearly. Obviously, right? That’s how you already have the uniform. You’ve thought through all the best ways to build your army and this is the conclusion you’ve come to. This is a suicide mission.”
“Only if you fail,” Frukeld said.
Plex was furious again and practically screamed, “How can I not fail?
“You are painting a target on my back by wearing this uniform. Even if I make it in to see each of the teams, they will report back to the dragon that they met one of her honor guard and she will know there was an imposter. She will know something is going on.
“She will find me and destroy me! She will destroy you all!”
“And if she does,” Frukeld said through clenched teeth, “then those who survive will raise up stronger and they will be the ones to destroy her.”
“Or the kingdoms will spend another thousand years under her rule.”
Vinyard said quietly to Frukeld, “Perhaps he is not the leader we were looking for.”
The dwarf strummed his fingers together in front of his face, apparently in deep thought, while his eyes seemed to pierce through Plex. Plex held the dwarf’s gaze. He wasn’t sure why he was so opposed to this course of action but he would not be bullied into changing his mind. As he had said before, he was logical and would take the necessary time to think things through.
The weight of the uniform in his hand seemed to grow. He wanted to toss it aside and yet he did not. He could not let it drop to the floor. The idea of letting it get tarnished, an insult to the dragon herself to sully the uniforms of her honor guards, was something he found difficult to do.
Perhaps I am afraid, the elf mused.
He let his own eyes slide away from the dwarf and gnome to rest on the uniform once more. If he could set aside his own concerns, the uniform would offer him a great opportunity to strike at the dragon. His Queen had requested he join the football team to help bring honor to the elves. If he could help orchestrate the downfall of Lavalandinarial that would bring even more honor, and a chance for the elven nation to rise out of the shadows and become prosperous again.
Plex, without further comment, pulled the uniform on. “I am the leader you’ve been looking for.”
More story, just in time for the big game. Click over. Read. Enjoy. Comment. Gi, fight, win! And who are you pulling for this weekend?
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!
—– —– —– —–
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…
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And, after a slight delay of game, we’re back. Read on to see what happens next with our favorite elven quarterback and the rest of his team.
The roar of the crowed was being slowly replaced by a confused hush as a rush of whispers sped around the stadium. It seemed to Plex that the switch the Honor Guard had made at the behest of the dragon had not gone unnoticed and word was spreading that the dragon was interfering with the game.
Plex scanned the crowd and found the pocket of dwarves he had noticed at the beginning of the game, the ones who hadn’t be cheering, who hadn’t looked like they were interested in the game at all. He finally spotted them and they were huddled together in a spirited conversation with much gesturing and pointing amongst themselves. The elf wondered what they were up to but couldn’t imagine they would do anything now in the final seconds of the game.
Lavalandinarial shifted her weight on her stage. The platform creaked and all eyes moved to rest with the beast. She had once again adopted an expression of indifference but Plex was certain that was far from the truth. The dragon very much cared.
She let out a sigh and a puff of smoke billowed from her mouth. The crowd quieted and shifted uneasily in their seats. A small smile, barely discernible, twisted the dragon’s lips. At first Plex had assumed she would be upset that her interference hadn’t gone unnoticed but now he realized that she was still enjoying this spectacle.
The whole thing, the teams, the game, the crowd, all of it was for her amusement and her amusement alone.
Plex’s anger reached a new level.
Needing to do something to calm down he turned his attention back to the field where the healer was still working with the dwarf who had been robbed of the ball and then punched twice by the Honor Guard. The dwarf shouldn’t have been that injured but his face was white as if he were in a great deal of pain and on the verge of going into shock.
“It isn’t pain,” Plex muttered.
“No,” Coach Sprout said, suddenly at Plex’s side. “It’s fear. He doesn’t need to worry, though. She won’t need to eat him to keep him quiet. She obviously doesn’t care who knows she is cheating.”
Some of Plex’s rage had been tempered by Sprout’s arrival at his elbow startling him. He could still feel it burning slow and low in his gut. It wasn’t just the charade of it, the destruction of the game and the waste of time and lives it had already cost. The anger was churning hotter and hotter because there was nothing he could do about any of it.
Looking briefly down to his coach and then back to the field, where the healer was finally getting the dwarf to his feet and the Honor Guard was signaling for the teams to take their places to resume play, Plex asked, “What do we do now?”
Sprout didn’t answer and, surprised, Plex looked back to his Coach. The gnome had always had an answer before. Plex couldn’t believe that Sprout wouldn’t have some sort of plan. “Well, Coach?” he prompted the still silent gnome.
With a sigh, Coach Sprout looked up at Plex with defeat on his face. “Now, we try our best, despite knowing that it might all be for nothing if the dragon decides she wants the other team to win.”
Anger began building up in Plex once again. He watched as his defense did their best to stop the offense of the other team. While he couldn’t be sure, he thought he saw a couple of instances where magic had moved a ball out of a defender’s reach or into an offensive player’s hands. Each time he saw it, he became more and more angry.
The whistle blew as the other team called their final time out. Plex looked up and saw that there was only time for one more play. Gilania’s team sent out their kicker to attempt a mid-range field goal. If it was good, the game would go into overtime and only the dragon knew what would happen if the game made it to overtime. Without realizing it, Plex found himself running out onto the field to try to block the kick. He heard Coach Sprout yelling at him to get back to the sideline, but he ignored it. Finally, the gnome called for another player to run off.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his teammate exit the field just as the other team got set up for the try. Plex kept going over everything that had happened in the game up until this point and felt his face turn red in anger. He focused all of his energy on that rage. It built up inside of him until he felt like he was going to burst.
A primal scream erupted from his throat as the ball was snapped back to the holder. Plex took two steps forward and jumped over both his teammates and those trying to block them. He couldn’t remember ever jumping that high before, but didn’t take the time to dwell on it. All he could focus on was using his rage to block the kick. Just as the kicker’s foot touched the ball, Plex felt something trying to touch his mind. It was the same sensation he had felt earlier in the game, right before the dragon had used its magic to mess with his head. “Not this time,” he roared as he flooded his thoughts with his anger.
Somehow, some way, it worked. His rage had allowed him to fight through the mental intrusion. Whatever magic the dragon was using still hurt him, but it wasn’t debilitating like it had been last time. Plex leapt again. The ball hit his swinging arms and went flying back the way it had come from. It landed on the ground ten yards behind the kicker and rolled towards the sideline. Before anyone from either team could get to it, the ball rolled out of bounds.
Stunned silence filled the stadium. All eyes slowly made their way up to the dragon’s platform, where a low growl was beginning to form.
The honor guard blew their whistles and then huddled together in deep discussion. Plex trotted to the sideline with the rest of his teammates, away their decision. Almost absentmindedly, one of the honor guard threw a flag without care of where it landed.
Plex’s head throbbed in time to the blood flowing through his veins. Pulse, pulse, pulsing with his still boiling anger. The momentary outlet of athleticism had done little to assuage his rage. The dawning realization that his attempt to stand up to the dragon’s interference would not be allowed to stand made him even angrier.
His teeth ground together. His fists clenched. The muscles in his lengths twisted tightened until he lost feeling in his feet. His vision shrunk to where he could only see the huddled honor guard circled by a blurry red.
The head of the honor guard walked over to Coach Sprout and told the gnome something. The coach nodded his head once and then started calling out instructions. There was a ringing in his ears that kept Plex from hearing what was being said so he trotted over to stand next to the Sprout. Before he’d made it to the gnome, Plex noticed that his sister’s team was setting up to retake the kick, and a few yards closer at that.
Before Plex could ask what happened, his coach said, “We were called for a penalty. Too many players on the field or something like that. Also, it has been suggested that I bench you for the remainder of the game for insubordination. Given the alternative to benching, I feel like we have little choice. I’m not going to leave you out here, though. You are too exposed. Head back to our camp.”
Plex opened his mouth to protest but all his anger left him and he felt suddenly deflated. The game was out of his hands. The game always had been. His own indifference, how he had felt before his queen asked him to join the elven team, returned and, with a shrug of his shoulders, he turned his back on the field and walked away.
He heard murmurs running around the stands and wondered how much of it was directed at him. He wanted to look back to see if Lavalandinarial was watching him but didn’t want to give the beast the satisfaction of seeing his face in defeat, in retreat. So, Plex kept his head down and left the stadium.
He hadn’t gone very far when the stadium erupted in a new wave of cheers. He assumed that his sister’s team had converted the field goal to tie-up the game. A part of him hoped they would go on to win. His refusal to be ruled by the dragon had likely sealed his death anyway. It would be better if his sister won and then could live on.
Lost in these dark thoughs, Plex nearly missed his whispered name. Whipping his head to the side he saw a dwarf motioning to him from a dark alleyway behind the business that had sprung up around the stadium. The elf didn’t hesitate. He wanted to know what the dwarves were up to. And, if he was powerless on the field, perhaps he could find his power again off of it. He quickly stepped into the shadows to join the dwarf.
And I’m a little late in reblogging this… But here you go. Better late than never as they say. There game is nearly up… Who will come out on top?
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.
***** ***** *****
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.
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