Here is the second installment of Revis and I back to our old tricks, blog hopping a story for your enjoyment, amusement, what have you. The first part can be found here.
Each of the initial teams – dwarves, elves, ogres, orcs, gnomes, goblins, trolls, and minotaurs – were broken apart based on position. Then each position was lined up based on starting place within the team. Then each player and coach was told to select a piece of paper out of an enchanted goblet that contained their new team assignments.
The field descended into chaos. The coaches tried to bark out orders to regain some control but the players didn’t know who they should be listening to: their old coaches or the new ones they were being assigned. Small skirmishes broke out here and there as the different races passed each other. Near the fifty yard line a contingent of gnomes had to be rescued by Lavalandinarial’s Honor Guard from a troll who hadn’t seen them as it trudged away from its old team.
Plex pulled his assignment out of the goblet and turned towards the far end line where his new team was congregating. As his eyes swept the field he caught sight of the dragon. The beast watched with rapt attention. Lavalandinarial’s expression could only be described as hungry and the elf wouldn’t have been surprised to see the dragon lick its lips. Plex shuddered.
“Who’d you get?”
Plex turned back to his sister and answered, “The Axes. You?”
“Whipstaffs,” Gilania answered. Then she added, “These team names aren’t very original.”
Plex sighed. “Maybe we can change them.”
“Yeah. I doubt it, too. Well, good luck.”
He hugged his sister and then began to carefully pick his way across the field. Contingents of the Honor Guard were roving around keeping the peace as best they could before converging on trouble spots before any of the players or coaches could be too badly hurt. His graceful movements made it more a mild nuisance than a chore to keep himself apart from the frays.
As he walked, his thoughts drifted to his Queen. She had implored him personally to take up the challenge and join the elven team. He had wanted no part of this silly game before her request. He wondered how she would take the news that the teams had been split up. He wondered if it was too late for him to quit.
“Probably,” he muttered.
He came to a stop underneath the strangely curved poles that jutted out of the ground at the edge of the field. They were important for point after attempts and field goals, both ways for a team to gain some need points in smaller increments. They weren’t all that important to Plex, though. As a quarterback he might be required to hold the football for the kicker making those attempts but the uprights certainly weren’t anywhere near his top priority.
An ogre settled into place on Plex’s right and a dwarf stood on his left. A moment later a gnome called out for attention. Plex, with his enhanced elven hearing, heard the diminutive yell but it seemed like few of his new teammates had because they continued to grumble and chat amongst themselves. After a second failed attempt to get the team’s attention, Plex whistled loudly and then pointed towards the gnome as all eyes turned towards him.
“Thank you,” the gnome started. “I’m your new head coach. You can call me Coach Sprout. And to answer your first question, no, I had no idea that we would be splitting up teams today. And to answer your second question, no, I don’t know what that means for the promised cache of treasures. Perhaps the winning team will get to split it amongst themselves.”
One of Plex’s teammates snorted. He, along with most of his team, turned to the source of the interruption. It was a minotaur. The beast was easily the biggest player, of any race, on the team, and he was using his size the intimidate the small coach. “The day I take orders from an insignificant speck like you is the day that Lavalandinarial’s breath runs cold,” he announced.
The gnomes were the most diminutive of the eight races. Because of that, the other races generally looked upon them with disdain. Few gnomes made names for themselves and even fewer still rose high enough to win Lavalandinarial’s attention. Only a handful of gnomes proved themselves worthy of serving on the dragon’s Honor Guard, easily having the fewest number of representatives.
Plex had been isolated from the other races for most of his life, so he didn’t know much about them other than what the elders taught him when he was younger. He knew that the ogres, goblins, trolls, and orcs generally had a foul disposition and temperament. He knew that the minotaurs considered themselves to be superior to everyone, save the dragon. The dwarves were a hard working group that had a very tight knit community. Of the gnomes, he knew even less. Like the other races, the elves paid almost no attention to the little people.
One thing he did know, however, was that while the elves discounted the gnomes’ physical prowess, they did respect their mental acuity. The elves considered the gnomes to be the smartest of the races. Perhaps having one as a coach won’t be so bad after all, Plex thought. Of course, if the minotaur was successful in his coup, he’d never have the chance to find out.
“Why don’t you…”
Before he had a chance to finish telling the minotaur to back off, one of the Honor Guard blew into a whistle. Everyone in the vicinity stopped. Then, the ground shook. After that, the entire arena went quiet. Plex looked back and saw the dragon staring straight at his group. “Well,” Lavalandinarial purred, “it appears we have someone who doesn’t like their team assignment. Who is it?” All of the bluster had fled from the minotaur as it meekly raised its hand. The dragon asked, “What seems to be the problem here?”
“The problem,” the minotaur choked out, trying to regain his composure, “is that I am one of the most decorated warriors among the minotaur and that gnome doesn’t deserve to be in my presence, let alone be my coach.”
“If that’s the way you feel, you’re free to leave the arena.”
The minotaur smirked at the gnome and walked out of the crowd toward the exit. As soon as he was away from the rest of his team, the dragon roared to life. In a display of speed that shouldn’t be possible for something so big, Lavalandinarial swooped off her perch, picked the minotaur up, put it in her mouth, swallowed, and then landed back where she started. The entire arena was stunned. Finally, a voice from the other side of the arena spoke up.
“But you said he could leave the arena!”
All eyes turned to the coach of Gilania’s team, a minotaur. The dragon replied to him smoothly, “And he will leave the arena. Just not until I do.” Lavalandinarial paused. “Is there anyone else who has a problem with their team?” Hundreds of heads shook in unison. “Good. Now, the minotaurs will need to supply a player to replace the one who quit. Coaches, the teams are yours now.”
Couch Sprout looked distraught but before Plex could think of something encouraging to say the gnome said, “Well that was unfortunate. We had scouted that minotaur as likely the best running back in the whole league. His size and speed would have made him nearly impossible to take down once he got going. In practice his own teammates had difficulty stopping him. And I doubt they will send anyone nearly as good to replace him. Their best options are likely already on other teams.”
Plex found his voice, “Well, their best at other positions perhaps but since they only had to fill a few running back spots, perhaps they will send us someone nearly as good.”
“That is a good observation. Plex, right?”
The elf was confused. “How do you know my name?”
“We scouted all the teams. You are quite a good quarterback but I have a few things that I think will help you improve. We’ll get to that, though, in our first practice. Now, if you’ll let me, I’ll continue with my introduction?”
The gnome looked around the gathered team and when none of them seemed interested in speaking up he continued, “As I was saying, I’m your new head coach and you can call me Coach Sprout. I have no idea what this new format will mean for the promised prize but I will pass that along as soon as I do know. I expect each of you to be ready for twice a day practices starting tomorrow. And then each position will also have scheduled time with their specific coaches – offensive line, defensive line, and special teams – every day too.
“I know that may sound like a lot but we have analytics that show the repetitions will improve all of your accuracy and stamina. Now that we need to figure out how we can all best work together, I think it is even of more importance that we get as much time in as we can.
“Any questions so far?”
None seemed interested in saying anything yet. Plex wondered if the dragon was still on their minds or if they really didn’t have anything to ask or add to the conversations. Either way, it was likely for the best that they held their tongues for the time being. As the gnome had said, if he had scouting reports on all the teams, Coach Sprout likely already knew more about each player than they knew about the coach, and that was information that could be used not only to lift a player to a higher level but also to get them benched or kicked off the team altogether. Being fired by a gnome was a humiliation that few would like to feel firsthand.
“Great. Since there are no questions, I think it is important that we all get some much needed rest before our training begins tomorrow in earnest. I’ve taken the liberty of requisitioning an encampment for us just a short distance from the stadium. Let’s all jog there now. I’ll lead the way, so the pace won’t be that great. We’ll take turns leading the way back and forth. And don’t worry about any personal items that were left at your previous training facilities. I’ll make sure those are all transferred over immediately.”
With that, the gnome turned and headed towards the nearest exit at what must have been a sprint for him but was little more than a slow jog for Plex. The elf expected some of his teammates to grumble but the run over to their new homes was quiet. Looking around at his team while they jogged, Plex thought that the mixing of the races would definitely make the games more interesting than they would have been otherwise. Perhaps the dragon knew what he was doing.