Fantasy Football Part 34

And on and on we go. Will this game never end? Oh… The game ended and now we are into a battle with a dragon?!? A dragon!!! Well, this should be interesting!

…..

The dragon bellowed, a sound of rage and contempt, so loudly that Plex felt like his ears were going to explode.  There was little he could do to shield himself from the sound.  He knew it was as much her screaming into their minds as she was audibly.  

She filled the sky above them.  Lavalandinarial was enormous and seeing her airborne was a terrifying sight that one could never get used to.  Plex knew he needed to move, needed to get away, to save his ears as well as the rest of him but he couldn’t break free from the sight.

Then a hand tugging him downward managed to shake up the trance her arrival had left him in.  Looking down, Plex saw that Frukeld was trying to tell him something.  The dwarf’s words were lost in the bellow of the beast but Plex could read lips well enough and Frukeld was repeating the same thing over and over, “Distract her.”

Plex realized several things at once.  The dragon had made a mistake by not immediately attacking them.  She was wasting time by hitting them with her auditory assault.  She was underestimating those who had decided to stand against her.  He also realized that he knew just what to do get her attention.

“Lavalandinarial,” he snarled.  He knew only she would be able to hear him as her scream continued.  “You think your mewling can do us harm?  You thought you’d just have some fun with your food, playing with us a little before you gulp us down?  You are going to choke on us and those left, those who you couldn’t fit in your ugly maw will dance on your corpse.”

Her reply exploded into his head.  He had tried to brace for it, knowing she would lash out at him.  He hadn’t managed well enough and he was forced to take a knee to keep from falling over entirely.  Plex felt the steadying hand of Frukeld on his shoulder and that helped him fight off the worst of the pain.

“Elf!”  Her roar continued unabated.  Her words were for Plex alone.  “I’m so glad to see you again.  You’ll be the first appetizer in my meal tonight.  Yes, I am going to dine well.  I think it is you who underestimates me if you think I’ll fall to this pitiful group who would dare stand against me.”

Not quite sure how he found the strength to do so, Plex began to laugh.  It hurt every muscle in his body to do so for it was jarring against the enormity of her voice in his head.  Yet, laugh he did and it felt good to do so.  It felt cleansing.  And with each laugh, his strength returned more.

He returned to his feet and said, “You foolish old beast.  It is well past time for you to go away.  You aren’t needed here anymore.  You never were.  And soon the races of this world will fell you from the sky and drive you into the ground.”

While he spoke, Frukeld’s hand slipped off Plex’s shoulder.  The elf hoped that the dwarf had a good plan and was going to set it into motion. Plex also hoped whatever the plan was it would do some damage to the beast before she stopped her posturing and started attacking for real.

Plex heard the rush of air and turned his gaze skyward. Up above him, the dragon was right where she was moments ago. That could only mean one thing. “She’s about to breathe fire,” he hollered as he grabbed Frukeld and tried to push him toward the closest cover.

Frukeld stood his ground against Plex’s best efforts. Despite the danger he was in, the only thing going through his mind was how stout the old dwarf was. He looked back up just as the fire left Lavalandinarial’s mouth. Flames of enormous power roared down on him from above. His life flashed before his eyes as he waited for death to take him.

The flames never reached him.

Five paces above his head, the fire disappeared. Plex couldn’t describe what he was feeling. The absolute terror of the dragon’s flames turning into sheer joy as they went away before his eyes. It was the single most intense moment of his life. Especially when he wasn’t sure how long the miracle of his saving would last.

When Lavalandinarial saw that her breath had no effect, she screamed in rage. Then those screams of rage turned into screams of pain. From the same spot the flames disappeared, they came back. This time, they flew back at the dragon. The giant beast was soon engulfed by the fire. Her wailing intensified so much that Plex felt like his ears would start bleeding. It wasn’t until he felt a tugging on his arm that he realized someone was trying to talk to him.

“We created a barrier that would bounce any attacks the dragon made back at her,” Frukeld said after Plex leaned down next to him in order to hear. “We’re hurting her with her own power.”

“Isn’t she immune to her own flames?” Plex yelled back.

“The parts of her body covered in scales can’t be hurt by the magic of her flames,” Frukeld admitted. Then he smiled, “But her wings have no scales.”

“She’s a firebreather. How is she not immune to it?”

“As I said, her scales are immune to any kind of fire. The leathery hide that makes up her wings is immune to any sort of natural flame. It is resistant to magical flames, but not completely immune. If the magic behind the fire is powerful enough, her wings can be hurt by them, and there are no more powerful magical flames than those from her breath. With her hatred of you, she probably put a little bit extra behind that blast too.”

The shrieking from above was becoming more intense. Just as the flames died down, a loud crashing sound cut through the dragon’s screams and the ground beneath their feet lurched. Lavalandinarial became silent, but her bellows were replaced by the shouts of hundreds of people. Two large fires sprung up from the direction of the people’s shouts. It took him a moment, but Plex finally figured out what they were.

They were Lavalandinarial’s wings.

Two thoughts struck Plex simultaneously.  We need to flee now while we have the chance.  We need to stay and finish her off now while we have the chance.

He was too stunned by how fundamentally she had been wounded by her own weapon to choose one over the other.  It seemed like he stood staring at the flaming hulks of her wings for an eternity while the air was still rent with the beast’s screaming and the ground swarmed with chaos.  While it felt like an eternity it was only the length of a blink and then Plex sprang into action.  

This was why Frukeld and the other revolutionairies had chosen him.  Plex was decisive when such a rush to action was needed.  He had proved that on the battlefield of the football game.  He had decided on his own to try and save his sister.  He had taken matters into his own hands to thwart the dragon.  He had done so willingly, without wasting time by conferring with others, without the threat of the consequences slowing him down, slowly down his decision, slowing down his action.

“How is she still in the air?”

Frukeld responded, “Her magic will hold her up for a few minutes and then she will either need to retreat or meet us on the ground.”

“Will your shield bounce her away?”  Before Frukeld could answer, Plex continued, “It doesn’t matter.  We need archers to target her eyes now.  Let’s hurt her more.  Let’s blind her so she can’t see us coming when she does come down.”

A bow was thrust into his hands and Plex eagerly took it.  He didn’t need to know where it came from.  He didn’t need to know that the quiver full of arrows that followed had been magically enchanted to pass through the barrier above him.  He just needed to test the weight of the string and find it to his liking and feel the swirling air to understand how it would change the path of his arrows and to take careful aim.

The first arrow nocked and held at the ready, Plex waited for his opening.  He pushed aside the smell of Lavalandinarial’s charring wings.  He pushed aside the ferocity of her agonized screams.  He pushed aside her voice that he could once again feel trying to crawl its way inside his head.  

Above him, she thrashed in the air, free of the worst of the fire since her wings had been lost but now in the throws of the pain that comes with losing a limb.  Her eyes were closed as she snarled and screamed and spat.  When they opened, they would present only the briefest of targets.  If he managed to get one, it would be the greatest shot of his life.

He couldn’t wait for them to open.  He would need to fire before they opened.  Plex closed his own eyes and waited.  Then he felt it, the slight shift in the dragon’s voice.  She hadn’t grown used to the pain but she was ready to do something about. 

Plex’s eyes flew, he tracked her movements for another moment and then let the arrow loose, nocked the second one and let it fly as well.  

Time seemed to slow as they raced upwards.  Her eyes opened, searching once again for the elf that had dared to stand against her openly, dared to allow these insurgents to hurt her, and she missed the first missile until it pierced the flesh of her left eye and buried itself all the way down to the fletching.  Her right eye closed instinctively, her scaled eyelids snapping the second arrow as it began to strike.  The damage had been down, though.  Her eyelids forced the arrowhead downward, scratching away most of the surface of her pupil.

Plex smiled.  His aim had been true.  The beast was now wingless and blind.  

 

Fantasy Football Part 32

And we’re back! Did you miss us? Of course you did. That was a silly question. Nothing silly about this story anymore. The battle has begun…

…..

Plex whistled to his Queen, a signal that meant it was a trap and retreat should be strongly considered, not caring that the momentary lapse in his concentration on the battle would give his opponent an opening to exploit.  He had to save her and as many of his people as possible.  As he whistled, he wondered if Vinyard had known and if that was why the gnome hadn’t wanted him to come.  But surely if Vinyard had known then he would have tried harder to talk Plex out of coming to save his sister?  

He laughed at himself.  Vinyard had told him this would likely turn out poorly.  Plex realized that Vinyard let him come because the gnome knew there was nothing he could say that Plex would have listened to.  Even if the gnome had said it was a trap that wouldn’t have deterred him.  He had set out to save his sister and perhaps there was still a chance to do that.

“What are you smiling about?”  The guard hissed as she lashed out with her sword.

“My own foolishness,” Plex replied, dodging the attack.  He wanted to search the field for his sister but didn’t dare give his opponent another opening.  She hadn’t take advantage of the first one.  He doubted she would make that mistake a second time.  “All of our foolishness, actually.”

Plex moved left with his feet but swung his sword across from the right in an upward motion.  She did not move with him and easily blocked the stroke.  Then she shifted her own weighted and brought her sword down towards Plex’s arm.  He disengaged and moved back a step, narrowly avoiding injury.

“Why are we all fools?”  

The sadness and anger still remained.  Plex was sure she knew what he meant but went ahead and said it anyway.  If he could throw her off balance mentally it might give him an opening physically.  The two were often linked.

“We are all fools for having allowed ourselves to be tricked by Lavalandinarial.  She isn’t the strongest.  She has just made us think she is.”

“You’re wrong on that.”  

She swiped towards his left leg and then brought the swing up sharply towards his ribs.  Plex had already been in motion though and easily moved beyond the strike.

“No,” he responded firmly, for he suddenly realized it was true.  She wasn’t as strong as she’d made them all believe for so long.  “She’s clever, I’ll give her that.  But, I withstood her magic today.  If I can, others can as well.  And we could overthrow her.”  

“That’s not possible.”

She faltered.  It was hardly more than a hesitation in her movement but Plex’s sharp eyes picked up.  He had once again hit upon something, a weakness in her armor.  He made as if he was going to spear her with his sword and she moved to block.  Plex shifted into a spin and used the momentum to strike her sword near the hilt and then follow through with a flick of his own wrists.  The move worked and the sword flew from her hands.

Then, to his surprise, he found himself not following up with an attack of his own. Instead, he stayed his hand and looked at her. “Yes,” he said. “It is possible.”

She appeared like she was on the verge of saying something before her face contorted in anger. A snarl escaped from her lips as she took a menacing step forward. Plex couldn’t believe his eyes. He held a weapon. She was unarmed. Yet, she still advanced on him anyway. Why would she do that?

The answer came to him almost instantly. It was so obvious. Magic. It had to be magic. Somehow, Lavalandinarial was controlling her Honor Guard magically. 

Plex stepped backwards in order to avoid her attempt to grapple with him. He couldn’t kill her, he knew. She wasn’t in control of her actions. It wasn’t right to kill someone because they were forced into doing something that they didn’t want to do. Besides, he had an idea. If he was able to snap her out of the hold Lavalandinarial had on her, maybe he could do it for others as well.  Having some of the dragon’s Honor Guard leave her side to join his would help their rebellion out tremendously. Not only would they thin the dragon’s numbers, but they’d also gain skilled fighters.

Plex thought back to what had caused the momentary breaks in the dragon’s hold. The most obvious one, and the one most likely to work, was what he said about Lavalandinarial killing one of her family members. “Who was it?” Plex asked. “Who did the dragon kill? Your mother? Your father? A sibling?”

No answer came. There was no outward sign of emotion either. It wasn’t any of the things he mentioned. If it was, he would have been able to tell. Two other options immediately popped into his head. Plex went with the least horrible of the two to start with. “Your husband or lover?”

This time, she hesitated. Plex was thankful for that. While losing a lover was really bad, his next guess, losing a child, was the worst thing he could imagine. Still, this woman had lost, and he needed to break her free from the dragon’s grip. He asked the question again. She pulled her hands back from trying to grab him and held them in front of her face. Her eyes went back and forth over them as if seeing them for the first time. 

Plex took that break in his confrontation to view the fighting around him. He was surprised that none of the other Honor Guards had descended upon him yet. His survey of the battlefield told him why. Gilania and a few of her teammates had rallied the rest of their team and were savagely fending them off. The remainder of Lavalandinarial’s forces gathered together to take them on. They must’ve seen the Gilania’s team as a bigger threat than him on his own. 

Plex turned his attention back to the female elf, who was still staring at her hands. “The dragon killed your lover, didn’t she?” he asked again. 

She continued to stare at her hands and Plex nearly asked a third time.  Then with a sudden flick of her eyes she was staring at him, a fire burning behind her pupils.  He knew he still had a battle to fight before she spoke.

“You may have been able to stand against my will, puny little elf.  My faithful guards can not.”

“We’ll see,” Plex said as casually as he could.  He wanted to project confidence but hearing the dragon’s voice coming from the elf he had been fighting was more than a little troubling.  He realized almost immediately, though, that the dragon must have stepped forward because she wasn’t certain if her guard would remain faithful or not.  Smiling, Plex added, “I stood up to you.  Now I know it is possible and those who will follow me will know it too.  Soon, you’ll find it harder and harder to force your will upon any of us.”

The dragon laughed, the sound was unnatural and horrifying coming from the elf she had taken over. “I do not think you’d be able to stand against me a second time.  Perhaps we will find out once you are captured and brought before me.”

“I think you are going to be disappointed.”

Plex needed to bend the conversation back to the guard’s lost love, to get her to fight against the dragon and regain control of her body.  Then he saw that she already was fighting.  Her hands were clenching and unclenching as if the dragon were trying to force her to do something, to reengage most likely, and the elven guard was refusing.

Lavalandinarial had begun laughing again.  Plex noticed a hint of unease in the vicious snarling guffaws of the beast.  She was having to exert more of her will to keep control of the elf she’d taken over.  Lowering his sword, Plex leaned forward  and in a near whisper urged the elf to defy the will of the dragon.

“Fight her.  Banish her from your mind and body. If you can push her out now, and I believe you can, then think what all of us can do if we stand against her together. No more dead fathers and mothers. No more dead brothers and sisters. No more dead lovers.”

The dragon stopped laughing, the sound cutting off in a harsh scream of anger and frustration.  Then, from that scream, the elf’s own voice came piercing forward until it was her voice alone screaming.  

“Keep to it.  Push her out.  Fight her off.  For your sake.  For the sake of the whole world.  For your lover and them alone if that’s what matters most.  You can do it.  Banish that foul worm now and forever!”

The elf’s scream died away, she swayed uneasily on her feet, blinking her eyes and looking like she was going to fall over.  Plex steadied her with his free hand and she turned towards him.  For a moment the fire was still there and then it was gone and the elf was entirely herself again.

She smiled at Plex.  It was a heartbreaking smile of thanks and sadness.  Then she said, “He was to be my husband.  We had loved each other for many long years but fate had kept us apart.  Then, finally, our chance to wed had come upon us.  Lavalandinarial made me kill him the night before our wedding to prove my loyalty.”

Her eyes closed and she would have sunken to the ground if not for Plex holding her upright.  Her smile faded as she opened her eyes just wide enough to connect with Plex once more.  “Flee while you can.  She is coming.”

Fantasy Football Part 30

Back again with more. More fantasy? More football? Well, no, not really. More awesome writing from Revis and your favorite jester? Absolutely. Enjoy!

….

There were too many to attack outright, it would be suicide.  While his sister was one of the shortlist of people he would give up his life to save, it didn’t make sense to rush the guards without knowing if it would in fact save Gilania.  

Plex swore again.  He needed to think fast.  He needed to do something more than sit there and watch his sister’s team get captured or slaughtered.  

It didn’t make sense.  Her team had won.  Lavalandinarial would want them to play in the next round of her games.  Something else was going on here.  It couldn’t be that the honor guard was going to take them all into custody.  Perhaps they were just there to intimidate, to ferret out the few bad apples they suspected and scare the rest back into obedience.  

And to set a trap for me, Plex realized.  If I go dashing in guards will come out of hiding from behind me and grab me before I can do anything.  

Now that he’d had the thought, Plex could hear and smell the guards in hiding that he should have noticed before.  They were very well concealed but he could her them shuffling in place and smell the sweat on their brows.  Plex moved further into the shadow he was crouched in just as the first of the swordsmen reached the entrance to the practice field.

There was nothing Plex could do but watch as the guards began their task of searching the field and the facility and turning everything inside out.  He needed to get out of there.  Vinyard had been right.  But he wasn’t sure he could leave without being spotted.  Plex needed the hidden guards to make the first move.  

He fervently hoped that Baclem wouldn’t hear the commotion and come bumbling in.  If they moved to intercept the troll, Plex would have to intercede.  Baclem was there to help.  It wasn’t help that Plex had asked for but that didn’t matter.  Often that was the kind of help that needed to be honored the most.  So far, though, Baclem had either learned to be much quieter or had listened and was staying where Plex had left him.

A small gust of breeze suddenly shifted through the alley and the smell of the guards became much stronger.  They’d snuck up behind him.  Plex rolled backwards, towards the source of the smell, hoping to catch them off-guard, and swung out with his sword at the same time.

A spear smashed into the ground where h’d been crouched and his sword sliced the arm off of the elf who had wielded the spear, even as Plex collided with the guard.  Then all became a jumbled mess of flailing limbs and screaming for a moment.  Plex tried to silence the injuried elf as quickly as possible but it took longer than he would have liked before he could steady himself and plunge his sword through the wounded guardsman’s neck, cutting the cry instantly.

Back on his feet again, Plex could hear steps running towards him from the direction of Gilania’s training facility.  The rest of the guards were coming.  He needed to flee or he would surely be captured and taken before the dragon.  Sprinting back towards where he’d left Baclem, he came up short, as two more guards stepped in front of him. One was an orc, the other an ogre. Individually, he had no doubt that he could best either of them quickly. Together, he might triumph, but not quickly enough to avoid the rest of the guards coming his way.

Before Plex could make a move against either of them, the orc went flying away. Baclem turned and grabbed onto the ogre’s sword before it had a chance to bring the weapon against him. Plex leapt forward to help the troll out. While the two larger creatures wrestled over the ogre’s sword, Plex shoved his blade up underneath the ogre’s armpit, where the armor didn’t cover. The ogre howled in pain and dropped to the ground. 

Baclem moved in to finish it off, but Plex grabbed his wrist and shouted, “No time!”

Plex hated having to do it but he ran away from Gilania and her team. There were a lot of Lavalandinarial’s guards around. Too many for him to get to the practice facility. At least, not from the direction that he was going at the moment. He was going to have to circle the area and see if he could find an opening. 

After a few twists and turns, Baclem began to realize what they were doing. “It’s too dangerous,” the troll whispered. “We stay, we die.”

“Damn it, man,” Plex whispered back harshly. “My sister is in there! I can’t just leave her to the dragon’s minions. I have to help.”

“Us being killed is helpful to her?”

Plex resisted the urge to punch the troll. He knew Baclem was right. If they stayed and tried to find a way into the practice facility, they would almost certainly be captured or killed. But, he also knew that if he ran away and left Gilania to her fate, he’d never be able to live with himself. He’d spend the rest of his days wallowing in guilt and shame. When your race lives for hundreds of years, that’s a daunting penance to look forward to. 

He also bit back the scathing retort that almost flew from his lips. Instead, he said, “I appreciate everything that you’ve done for me, Baclem, but I can’t run away from my sister when she needs me. If you don’t want to do this, you’re free to leave now. I need to do this, though.”

Baclem shook his head. “I don’t know how your race got so high in the dragon’s hierarchy when you make such dumb decisions.”

“I wish you luck, Baclem.”

“I didn’t say I was leaving. I’m still going with you. That doesn’t make it less of a stupid decision. It just means I’m dumb too.”

Plex smiled. He wasn’t sure what he had ever done to deserve this loyalty, but he vowed right then to make sure that he earned the honor Baclem was giving him. With a clap on the troll’s shoulder, he said, “At least we’re stupid together. Now, let’s find a way into the facility.”

Sprinting through the streets, Plex kept his speed in check to ensure that Baclem would be able to keep up with him.  The elf was pleasantly surprised that the troll wasn’t slowing them down all that much but still mortified by the sounds that emanated from Baclem.  The troll heaved in heavy, rasping breaths, and his feet thundered on the ground.  They were going to have a hard time losing their pursuers if they couldn’t get some distance from them but the sound of pursuit never seemed to grow any further off.

It made sense, of course.  Lavalandinarial’s guards would be fit enough to trail them for days on end.  While they were weighed down by their armor, some of them would be as fleet-footed as Plex himself.  If he could go his top speed, he might be able to lose them.  With his speed checked, however, Plex realized that they were never going to be able to slip away simply by hoofing it.

Plex wracked his brain for a solution, something the guards wouldn’t be expecting, something that would let them slip away while still staying close enough to the facility so he could get in and find his sister or rescue her should she and her team be taken captive by the guards  like his own team had been.  Nothing came to him immediately.  A hint of panic crept up the back of his spine. 

They couldn’t run forever.  His sister didn’t have forever, anyway.  The guards had already begun to enter the training facility.  Even though it felt forever ago, Plex knew that not that much time had yet elapsed.  Still, the longer it took him to come up with something the more likely it seemed this fool’s errand would end in capture or death.

An image of the alleyway his team had briefly hidden in while being led away from danger by Vinyard flashed in Plex’s mind.  While that particular hiding spot had been magically enhanced, Plex was sure of that, the idea of hiding to let their pursuers pass them was a good one.  It was risky, yes.  If they were discovered they would have to fight against extreme odds.  However, if they weren’t discovered it would buy them some time to scope out the facility without as many guards standing in their way.

Plex changed direction, needing it to seem like he and Baclem were trying to leave the area rather than circle the facility.  He wanted the pursuers to think they had decided to flee.  Then his eyes began to sweep left to right.  He was looking for guards still, yes.  He was also looking for an opportunity to hide.  

An open door, an expecially dark alleyway, a roof they could climb onto quickly.  They passed each of this in quick succession and each may have worked but they were still too close to the facility.  The timing wasn’t right yet.

They went another two blocks and then Plex saw another low roof they could easily scramble onto.  He nudged Baclem and indicated the troll should follow his lead and then, with a tall leap, Plex grabbed the edge of the roof and pulled himself up.  A second later Baclem was beside him.  They moved backwards out of sight, and waited.

The sound of their pursuers got louder and louder.  Plex hoped that they hadn’t been seen and that they hadn’t made so much noise scrambling up that whoever was within the building came out to see what was going on.  Then again, the guards were making so much noise on their own, whoever was inside might stay inside just to not have to deal with them.  One way or another, Plex and Baclem would know soon enough.

 

Fantasy Football Part 26

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.

Fantasy Football Part 24

Here we go again. Another piece of this fantasy football story… Getting more into the fantasy and less of the football, but so it goes. Enjoy!

…..

 

The crate smashed into the guard’s head.  The gnome hadn’t even managed to get his hands up to try and reduce the impact of the blow.  Crate and gnome crumpled to the ground. The trash that had been in the wooden box spread away from them in a clattering noise that grated on Plex’s nerves.  The initial crash and resulting echoes thundered up and down the dark alley, shattering the stillness of the night.

 

“Great,” Plex mumbled.  “Hopefully that doesn’t bring more of the beast’s guards running.”

 

The elf stepped through the scattered refuse to check on the downed gnome.  Weary of a trap, he prepared to spring away should the Honor Guard member only be pretending to be unconscious.  A quick shake of the gnome’s shoulder produced zero reponse, however, and then Plex noticed two small trickles of blood.  One coming out of the gnome’s left ear and one coming out of the gnome’s right nostril.

 

“Great,” Plex repeated with a low sigh.

 

“We’ll have to kill him.”

 

The sentence came from behind Plex.  The elf was so surprised that he whirled around in a defensive position expecting to be attacked.  His heart raced. His body tensed.  

 

Vinyard stepped closer and Plex, despite his still racing heart, managed to ease out of his stance.  His teammate had somehow managed to sneak up on him. That was something very few people could do with his enhanced hearing.  Perhaps, the elf thought with a frown, his approach had been covered by the sound of the wooden crate smashing into the Honor Guard.  

 

Keeping his voice steady, hoping to hide how frightened he had just been, Plex asked, “What did you say?”

 

Vinyard said again, “We’ll have to kill him now.  Hurry up and get it over with.”

 

“What?  I’m not going to kill him.  Why would I do that?”

 

“You have no choice,” Vinyard replied, a hint of exasperation in his voice.  “He is an Honor Guard member. If he is alive to tell his tale, the dragon might kill every elf in the city in her quest for vengeance.  An attack on one of her Honor Guard is an attack on her authority, an attack on her directly. You have to kill him, now.”

 

Plex hesitated.

 

Vinyard sighed and drew a small dagger from somewhere behind his back and stepped up to unconscious guard.  “Blood will be spilled in the coming days. The dragon will not be conquered without it. And your hands will get dirty in the process.  If you are lucky. If you are unlucky, you’ll be dead before you have the opportunity. I for one,” Vinyard stooped and slashed the guard’s throat, “very much hope to be alive when this is all over.  Blood on my hands is better than dead.”

 

Vinyard cleaned his dagger on the dead guard’s uniform and then returned it to where he’d pulled it from and began to walk away.  He called out over his shoulder, “Come along, elf. There is still much to do tonight and time is working against us.”

 

The casual way Vinyard killed the guard unnerved him. Plex would never have thought that his teammate was capable of such a thing before now. Then he remembered that he had only met the gnome a few days ago and didn’t really know him at all. He shook his head at the absurdity of the whole situation. Here he was, in a life and death struggle against the most powerful creature in the world and he had hesitated to kill someone.

 

Vinyard was right, he knew. After thinking about it for a moment, he had to admit that leaving the guard alive would’ve been a stupid move. Sure, the dragon would be angry when she found out one of her Honor Guard had been killed, but she’d have no description of the assailant now that the guard was dead. Of course, the dragon might just take out her rage on innocent people because she didn’t know who was behind the killing. 

 

He couldn’t think about that. Those were the kind of thoughts that pushed doubt into his head, and he knew he couldn’t afford to have any doubts. This was the right thing to do. It had to be done. He needed to pull himself out of the mindset of a football player and put it back into one of a warrior. 

 

Before Lavalandinarial had introduced the world to the game of football, he had been a highly regarded member of the elven army. He wasn’t one who planned the attacks, or anything like that, but he was one of those that they called upon to carry them out. Plex was fairly skilled in stealth tactics and most weaponry, though he was much better with ranged weapons than getting up close and personal. He had been focusing so much of his time on getting better at being a quarterback, his other skills had obviously began to atrophy.

 

It was time to change that. 

 

Plex followed in the gnome’s wake, sticking to the shadows and moving as quietly as he could. At one point, Vinyard looked back at him, causing a tiny smile to grace his features. If he had been so quiet that even the gnome had to turn around to make sure that he was still there, he was doing something right. 

 

They continued on until Plex began to recognize the area they were in. It wasn’t too far from the training facility that his own team had practiced on. He passed so close to it that he picked up on a few familiar voices. Plex briefly wondered if the gnome was leading him to their own facility first, but they walked right by it without slowing down. A little further up the street, he began to hear the sounds of football again. People were whistling, coaches were yelling, and players were grunting.

 

As they got closer, and the practice field came into view, Plex saw Gilania’s team on the field running drills. That seemed odd considering that they just finished a game. The only reason he could think of for them to be doing that was that they had won the game and they were preparing for the next one. His heart sank for a moment when he thought about his team losing. Then, he kind of chuckled, wondering if he even cared anymore. 

 

Vinyard, seeming to guess at Plex’s thoughts, whispered, “Your sister’s team won.  The dragon made sure of that. I think she might have been content to let it play out however it would once the game had gone into overtime but after you shrugged off her attempts to control you, she favored your sister’s team heavily.”  

 

Plex said nothing.

 

The elf was glad his sister’s team had won.  If all of this went wrong, at least he wouldn’t have to worry about her being eaten by the dragon on top of everything else.  Assuming Lavalandinarial even carried through with her promise, threat, to eat the team that lost by the largest margin after the first round.  She had never not kept her word in such regards before but these were strange times and if she had to put her energy and focus on curtailing an uprising she might pardon, as it were, the losing team in the hopes that they would show her loyalty in return.

 

It was twisted logic that made his head hurt.  He shook himself out of his thoughts to find Vinyard staring at him intently.  “What?”

 

“You are an interesting case, elf,” Vinyard responded, somewhat dryly.  “During the game I believe you attempted on at least occasion to influence the outcome in your sister’s favor but then you also resisted the dragon’s attempts to do the same.  I would have expected you to rejoice that your sister had won and would therefore be spared a gruesome fate as the beast’s meal but you took this news with barely a response at all.  You clumsily allow yourself to be spotted by an honor guard member but then sneak behind me so well that I lost sight of you.”

 

Plex shrugged.  “I am not who I used to be and never will be again.  And I am not who I will become.”

 

Vinyard frowned and it was hard for Plex to be certain but he thought the gnome had rolled his eyes as well. The gnome mumbled something that sounded like “whatever” and then knocked three times on a section of the training facility wall.

 

Plex was going to ask what he was doing but then saw a small section of the wall begin to move aside.  It was a false door. There’s no way Lavandinarial would have allowed the facility to be used by the team if she had known it had such secret entrances, which meant it had either been added recently with magic or the dragon hadn’t been aware of it.  

 

Before stooping to duck into the small entryway, Vinyard looked back to Plex and held a finger over his lips to caution quiet.  Then the gnome disappeared into the opening. Plex, considerably taller than the gnome, had to crawl through the small entrance and, even then, his shoulders scraped the wall on either side.

 

Once he was through, Vinyard motioned that Plex could stand again and the elf, relieved, quickly complied.  Then, following stealthily behind the gnome, Plex sensed more than saw or heard the doorway close in the wall while they left the small room they were in and ventured down a hallway.  At the end of the hall, Vinyard cracked open a door and peaked around the edge, then motnioned for Plex to follow again and went through. The door had led to the field where all of Giliana’s team was out working on drills.