Fantasy Football part 12

Revis and I are back with the next installment of our ongoing saga of fantasy and football. Read on to find out what happens next!

…..

The ball jerked free of Glavven’s hands as the minotaur went to the ground clutching at his injured leg.  The defending player who had hit Glavven with the tackle fell on the loose ball and then was set upon by Plex’s teammates in a giant pile of writhing bodies, all of them struggling to gain possession of the football.  A series of whistles blew as the officiating honor guard went through the process of slowly pulling the pile apart.

Plex was watching that, hoping that one of his own teammates had managed to get the ball back while also watching Glavven still writhing in pain a short distance from the heap.  If his running back was as badly injured as it appeared, that would severely hinder their ability to score points on the run.  

While possession was still trying to be sorted out, one of the honor guard motioned for someone on the sideline to come onto the field.  Plex had seen the dwarf before but hadn’t seen them take part in the any of practices so had assumed they were part of the staff that helped keep the team running off the field.  Then as the dwarf bent down next to Glavven, Plex saw the symbol woven into their version of the uniforms they all wore.  

“A healer!”  

That was great news.  Each team had a healer.  He remembered that now. It had been a cursory announcement made at the beginning of all of this madness, when the teams had first been formed by race and begun to assemble.  The elven healer had never bothered to show up for any of practices because the likelihood of any of them getting injured was so small and then Plex had promptly forgotten about them altogether.

“That’s right,” a voice said at his elbow. Turning, Plex saw that Coach Sprout had moved up next to him.  “And a very good one at that, based on our scouting report.”

Of course the gnome had scouted the healers.  The coach had probably scouted everyone’s extended families just to see understand where they came from.

“Hopefully, he can get Glavven patched up quickly.”

“I’m not worried about Glavven’s bones.  It will be his head that will be the problem after this.  Major injuries can take more of a mental toll than a physical one.  Glavven might play more timidly because he won’t want to get hurt again.  Or, he might throw himself into every challenge to try and prove his might and end up hurting himself more.  We are going to have to watch him.”

“’We’?”

“Yes.  While I will still call the plays, if you see something about him on the field that makes him a liability then I want you to do a throwing play instead and if none of the receivers are open, then just throw the ball downfield to nothing and we will take the penalty.”

Plex understood what he was being told but it ended up not mattering in the short term as the final players were pulled off the ball to reveal that the other team had gotten possession back after Glavven fumbled. He cursed. This close to their end zone, the other team was almost guaranteed a field goal attempt. Unless their defense moved the other team backwards, or created a turnover of their own, they would lose the lead here.

After the defense ran out onto the field, most of the rest of the team went over to the bench to check on Glavven. Plex wanted to as well, but saw no reason to join the crowd around the wounded minotaur. The healer was already having to tell players to back away. He didn’t want to add to that mess. So, he turned his attention to the action on the field.

Kalant expertly snuffed out another run on first down, tackling the other team’s ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage for a two yard loss. The dwarf ran off the field before the next play, replaced by a gnome named Daisy. On the next play, the other team threw it at their tight end, who was guarded by the diminutive defender. Daisy was in perfect position. She had played it just like she was supposed to. 

Unfortunately, the tight end was almost twice as tall as she was.

It was an easy catch for the other team. Fortunately, another defender tackled the pass catcher before he could advance the ball any more, but they gained ten yards. With only two yards needed to get the first down, Plex was expecting to see the dwarf go back into the game. He was surprised when it didn’t happen. Taking a quick look around to make sure none of his teammates could overhear, he bent down to Coach Sprout, who was still right next to him, and asked, “Why didn’t you put the dwarf back in?”

“Normally, I would,” Sprout answered, “because this is generally a running situation. However, this close to the end zone, the other team may decide to risk taking a shot at passing for a touchdown here. From their standpoint, it makes sense to do just that. Even if it’s incomplete, they still get their field goal attempt. Daisy is better in coverage than Kalant is.”

“Not if she’s matched up with the tight end. All they’d have to do is throw the ball high again and they’ve got a touchdown.”

“At least she’d be in the vicinity. That’s better odds than when Kalant blows his assignment and isn’t near the receiver.”

“Yeah, but you need him in there to rush the line to get the running back if it’s a rush.”

“And if it’s a pass?”

“I don’t know. He’d go past the line and hit the quarterback?”

Sprout’s eyes grew wide and he hurried over to the closest Honor Guard to call a timeout before the next play started. Plex didn’t think he’d get to them in time because both teams were lined up for the snap of the ball. The referee’s whistle blew just before the ball was hiked, stopping the play before it started. Sprout called the defense over to him and started speaking excitedly to them. They went back out onto the field a few moments later. This time, Kalant was with them.

The quarterback hiked the ball. As Sprout figured, it was a pass play. The tight end went out in a pattern, but the dwarf didn’t cover him. The safety did. Kalant was speeding like an arrow through the offensive line towards the quarteback.

Plex saw the quarterbacks’s eyes go wide ride before the dwarf slammed into him and they both went crashing into the ground.  The quarterback hadn’t had time to get rid of the ball and hadn’t thought to protect it by bringing it closer to his body. When Kalant hit him, the ball popped free and bounced in odd loops, tumbling end over end, away from the line of scrimmage and away from the end zone.

Kalant had seen the fumble and recovered faster than anyone else.  He sprang to his feet and picked up the ball in a smooth motion before pushing his legs into a full sprint.  The offense still seemed confused about what had happened and the dwarf had yards of open space all around him.  Time seemed to stand still for a minute with only Kalant moving down the green field. Then a few of the defensivemen recovered and began to give chase.

A particularly fast elf was closing the distance and it was going  to be close. The elf might just catch Kalant before the dwarf crossed into the end zone for a touchdown.  The thought triggered alarm bells in Plex’s mind. If Kalant got a touchdown that would drive the scores farther apart again and could potentially doom his sister.  

He clasped his hand behind his back to hide his agitation.  Coach Sprout had made his way back over to stand next to Plex and Plex didn’t want the gnome to see his concern.  As it was, the gnome was jumping up and down excitedly as Kalant drew closer to the end zone and Plex wasn’t sure how Coach Sprout could have done that and pay close enough attention to figure out that something was wrong but the gnome was crafty and it wasn’t worth the risk.

The defender lunged at Kalant and caught the dwarf’s trailing leg just before Kalant crossed the line.  The dwarf was strong though and kept his balance enough to ensure he stumbled over the line to get his team six points.  As he stood up he took the ball and threw it as hard as he could into the ground at his feet. The ball sprang up and away acrobatically.  Plex wasn’t sure what the point of that was but Kalant let out a scream of triumph before being swallowed by a throng of celebrating teammates.

Plex looked to the giant time glass.  There was still time. There was still plenty of time for the other team to score.  There was still time to make sure the game was close when it finished. There was still time to save his sister.

The elven quarterback breathed a sigh of relief and looked back to the field only to find Coach Sprout studying him again.  The gnome wore that infuriating, knowing, smile that Plex was growing to hate. Rather than look away, though, Plex stared at his coach.  

“Aren’t you happy we scored?  Aren’t you happy your idea worked so well?”

Plex didn’t respond.  There was no need to. Coach Sprout knew exactly how he was feeling in that moment.

Fantasy Football Part 8

Revis and I are back, once again, with more fantasy football action…  and now with actual game play.  Soooo, we’ve been writing for weeks and just now getting to the good part…  Yep, sounds like football to me.  What?  What?  You don’t agree?  Tell me about it in the comments.

Confused?  This link right HERE will take you back to the very first Fantasy Football post.

…..

A deathly silence fell upon the arena.  Even the spectators in the stands were too stunned and scared to mumble and grumble their displeasure with the dragon’s announcement.  They had come to see a game, mock battle that it may be, not a slaughter.  Would they have to watch as Lavalandinarial ate the team that lost by the most points?  The thought made more than one spectator blanch.  That might be their child, their sibling, their cousin, their friend.

Plex glanced towards his sister.  Even at that distance and with her face mostly covered by a helmet, he could see that she had gone even paler than normal.  He clenched his fists and jaw as he looked back to the dragon.

The beast, its wicked eyes gleaming, surveyed the field and the stands, daring any of them to speak against his proclamation.  None did, of course.  None wanted to become a pre-game snack for the massive creature.

Turning back towards his sister, Plex hoped to catch her eye and let her know that he would do whatever he could make the game close.  He couldn’t let her team win.  He just couldn’t.  He knew that about himself.  He needed to win but he wouldn’t let it be a demolition.  He wouldn’t sentence his sister to death.

As that thought went through his head, his hands clenched tighter and he heard a pop in his jaw from grinding his teeth too hard.  This was unacceptable.  There had to be something that could be done.  If all the teams refused to play, the dragon would change its mind.  It couldn’t kill them all at once.  But it could kill most of them before it flew away.

The people in the stands wouldn’t be armed.  They weren’t organized for an attack.  The beast could easily roast them and use its magic to ensorcell them before they could come up with some sort of plan.  Lavalandinarial had been smart to keep that rule change to itself until this late stage.  It denied them all an opportunity to do anything about it.

A group of the dragon’s honor guard, dressed in black and white striped garb, stepped onto the field.  One of them whistled for attention and called the captains out.  It was time to get started.  Coach Sprout motioned for Plex to take the honor and he jogged onto the field to see what happened next.

For those in the stands who didn’t know what was happening or couldn’t see, the dragon narrated, “We will now do something called a coin toss to determine how the game will start. The team that wins the toss chooses which team will receive the opening kickoff. The team that loses the toss gets to decide which side of the field they want to start on.  From what I’ve been able to scry, it is mostly ceremonial but we will proceed anyway.”

One of the honor guard took a large gold coin out of his pocket and held it up for Plex and the captain from the other team.   One side had the head of Lavalandinarial on it.  The other had the very stadium they were playing in.  Both sides were magically enhanced to show movement.  The head of the dragon twisted around and its eyes darted around.  The banners representing the eight teams waved and the roaring sconces flickered on the stadium side.

“Which side do you think the coin will land on?”

The other team’s captain, a very beefy ogre, appeared to be confused by the question. “The stadium?” it finally said when it saw the troll Honor Guard becoming impatient.

Had the stakes not been so big, Plex would’ve found the ogre’s confusion funny. As it stood, he was doing his best to keep his mind on what was happening in front of him and not allow it to wander. If it wandered, it could negatively affect his play. That was something he couldn’t allow. If he was going to survive this, and keep his sister safe at the same time, he needed to be playing at his absolute best.

His eyes flicked to the spinning coin that was falling to the ground. The coin hit, bounced up, and fell back down. When it came to a rest, it was the arena that faced up. The rotund ogre grinned stupidly, happy that it had won the toss, but still not knowing what that meant. Plex thought the troll was going to smack the ogre. In fact, the trolls arm twitched in what Plex was sure would be a backhand strike, but it held it in check.

“Do you want your team to kick the ball first, or receive it?” the troll angrily demanded.

“We want ball,” the ogre said, taking a defensive step back.

Turning to Plex, the troll asked, “What end zone do you want to go towards?”

Plex closed his eyes for a moment and felt which way the wind was blowing. It was better to play with the wind at your back, he reminded himself. If you played into the wind, you couldn’t throw or kick the ball as far. “That one,” he said as he pointed to the end zone behind him.

The two captains were then forced into shaking each other’s hands by the Honor Guard before being allowed to go back to their sideline. Coach Sprout didn’t bother to give a rousing speech before the game started. He just ordered the kickoff team onto the field. Plex watched as his team’s orc kicker booted the ball down the field. This attempt was a lot better than the first couple of kicks he had seen the orc make. This kick had the ball go all the way into the end zone.

An elf caught the ball for the other team and began running up the field with it. Plex was surprised that the elf didn’t kneel down and take a touchback, where the ball would be automatically be placed on the 25 yard line. He hoped his team would make the elf’s decision to run the ball out be a mistake. It looked like his hope would come true when the elf ran into the first of Plex’s teammates at the 12 yard line.

Plex’s dwarven teammate had the elf in his sight and moved in for a vicious hit. The elf juked to his left, leaving the dwarf hugging air before falling face first into the turf. A minotaur had the next chance for a tackle, but he also missed. The elf cut to the right to avoid another tackle and before Plex knew what was happening, the elf had passed every member of his team. Plex could only watch helplessly as the elf crossed the goal line for a touchdown.

A tentative applause developed into a roar from the stadium as they realized that something good had happened on the field.  Plex looked around the stands.  He wasn’t sure what he was looking for but he felt like he needed to see something.  His eyes caught on a small group of dwarves that were still seated on the stone benches, arms across their chests.  While the rest of the gathered throng cheered the touchdown, these dwarves were not moved by what they had seen.  Either they had a relative on Plex’s team or they found the whole thing ridiculous.  Plex made a note to check on them again throughout the game.

Lavalandinarial spoke over the roar of the crowd, “Congratulations on scoring the first touchdown.  I’m very pleased with that.”

The dragon’s voice seemed to have a calming effect on the crowd and everyone settled down.  The other team sent their kicking team on for a point after attempt.  Their kicker sent it wide left.  It wasn’t due to anything other than the kicker sending it that way.

The dragon seemed to huff in amusement at the mistake and a small tendril of smoke rose from its left nostril.  Plex couldn’t seem to move his focus away from the mighty beast and time slipped as the teams swapped out and their opponents sent their weak kick-off tumbling end over end just beyond the thirty yard line.

Their minotaur running back, rushing forward from the goal line where’d he been waiting, picked up the ball and pushed forward.  The minotaur brushed off two attempted tackles by an ogre and an orc before finally being tackled by a lunging troll.  The impact of the two of them crashing into the turf finally brought Plex out of his distracted reverie.

The return had been a good one and the ball was now at their opponents’ 30 yard line, well within field goal range.  Plex was happy about that.  They were only two field goals away from tying up the game if it came to that but he was confident he’d be able to get a touchdown shortly.  He had never failed to get one in practice.  This should be no different.

With a shake of his head, Plex put on his helmet and started to run out onto the field.  Coach Sprout called out, “Look to me for which play to run.”  Plex nodded in understanding and joined his huddled offensive.  Their coach mouthed the play, Plex relayed that to his teammates and they broke to form their attacking line.

Everything faded away.  His sister.  The dragon.  The crowd.  Plex’s vision narrowed to focus on the center, the line moving into position around him and the eyes of the defensive line that flicked back and forth trying to read the play that was about to be run against them.

When his team was set, Plex yelled, “Hike!”  The ball was in his hands.  He rolled backwards to give himself some space.  He faked a throw downfield and then handed off the ball to his runningback.  The minotaur quickly made it back to the line of scrimmage and then pushed forward, shrugging off one tackle after another until only a troll stood between him and the goalline.

The minotaur stiffed armed the troll just as the defender lunged forward, the effect sent the minotaur hurtling over the top of the troll and into the end zone for a touchdown.  Plex lifted his hands in triumph.  The minotaur hurled the ball at the ground where it popped with a hissing snap that was lost beneath the appreciative roar of the crowd.

Fantasy Football Part 6

And we, they, are back. Again. With the fantasy and the football together at last in the only way that really makes sense to me.

…..

Plex jumped to his feet, adrenaline coursing through him and pain forgotten.  His instincts and reflexes, finely honed with the extra training he’d been doing in recent weeks, burned and he nearly gave in to them but he managed to hold off before swinging at the dwarf.  Instead, he turned and began to walk away.

“Don’t turn your back on me, elf,” Kalant growled.

Plex tensed, expecting another attack and not wanting to get hit a second time without being ready for the impact.  Nothing happened, though, so he turned to face Kalant. The dwarf looked ready to strike again. He was crouched down, preparing to spring forward and use his mass to take down Plex as he had before.

Plex wasn’t sure what he should do to diffuse the situation but was certain that if he turned away again the dwarf would attack.  So, instead, he said, “We shouldn’t be fighting each other. Hurting ourselves just benefits the other teams and will make it harder for us to win the prize at the end of all of this.”

“I don’t care about that.”

Confused, Plex asked, “You don’t care?  Why are you here then?”

The dwarf didn’t answer and Plex sensed that if he pressed Kalant would attack him just to not have to answer.  Changing tactics slightly, Plex said, “I don’t think the dragon will appreciate you sabotaging his game.”

Kalant blanched.  Regardless of why he had joined and why he had taken being beaten on the field so hard, the dwarf did not want to get on the bad side of Lavalandinarial.  Plex didn’t like using the dragon as a threat but he needed to do something to keep the dwarf from hurting him or, more likely, from having to hurt the dwarf to defend himself.

“Don’t you dare,” the dwarf’s voice quivered slightly as he spoke, “mention that beast to me.”

Plex realized that it wasn’t fear causing the tremor.  There was an immense amount of anger radiating from Kalant.  The elf wondered if that had something to do with Kalant’s reasons for joining a team, for taking part in the dragon’s games.  He would need to bring it up with Coach Sprout. If Kalant had his own motives that could make him a liability and the coach would need to take that into account when picking teams and working through game day strategy.

To try and keep the peace in their current standoff, Plex raised his hands and said, “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to embarrass you today. I’m not sure why you are here but the plays today had nothing to do with you and everything to do with making sure we can win this thing.”

Kalant growled something under his breath.  Plex tensed again, expecting the dwarf to launch into another attack but then Kalant spun on his heel and walked away.

Plex watched him leave the field and then went to find Coach Sprout.  He felt bad, like a snitch, for running to the coach. But he was thinking of the whole team.  The team came before any one individual. As he searched, he sort of laughed at himself. He had gone from not even wanting to play to now caring about winning in a very short time and he wasn’t quite sure why that was.

“That looked like it hurt,” a high pitched voice said from his side.

The proclamation was immediately followed by the sound of someone kicking the ball. Plex had a little trouble following the ball’s path as it fell in front of the now setting sun. It hadn’t gone very high, he noticed, but it landed at the five yard line along the left sideline. After a short bounce, it rolled out of bounds at the two yard line. If that had been during a game, whoever just punted the ball would have pinned the opposing team back deep in their territory. 

Plex turned towards the punter and was a little surprised when he saw a gnome standing there. The gnome held another ball in his hands. It looked ridiculously large in the small humanoid’s hands. “Physical strength isn’t everything,” the gnome huffed as if he was reading Plex’s thoughts. “If your technique is good enough, it can help make up for some of that deficiency.”

The gnome exploded into motion. He dropped the ball down, taking a couple steps forward. His right foot shot upward. It hit the ball when it was halfway between the height of gnome’s waist and knee. The ball went into the air. It didn’t reach the height that his old elven teammate was able to punt it, but the gnome had placed it in the exact same spot he did the first time. The ball bounced slightly differently, going out at the one yard line.

Plex was sure his jaw had dropped when he watched it. Elves were known for their grace and fluidity of motion. The gnome’s kicking technique was as graceful as anything he had ever seen performed by his kinsman. It was almost like the gnome was dancing.

“Impressive,” Plex said honestly. “Your kicks are almost as accurate as my throws, if not more so.”

The gnome acknowledged the compliment with a nod of his head. “What’s the deal with you and the dwarf?”

Absentmindedly rubbing his chest, Plex answered, “He’s upset because he thinks I purposefully embarrassed him at practice.”

“Did you?”

“Of course not! All I did was throw it to the open receiver, just like I would do in a real game.”

The gnome considered that for a moment. “I get that, but I think you should take it easy on him.”

“I can’t! If I practice differently than I would play in the games, it will disrupt any cohesion I might build with the rest of the offense, and that might cost us the game.”

“No, you misunderstand. I don’t think you should take it easy on him in practice. What I meant was that I think you should take it easy on him as far as him tackling you just now.”

“Why should I?”

“For one, Lavalandinarial has already had some players from other teams killed for fighting with their teammates. Whose to say he won’t kill both of you just for the fun of it? Plus, if you knew what that dwarf had had to go through lately, you’d know why he’s acting like that.”

“How do you know either of those things?”

“One of the few advantages of my size is that I’m constantly overlooked, so I hear a lot of secrets because people don’t know I’m there. My name is Vinyard, by the way.”

Plex offered his hand and said, “I’m Plex.”

“I know,” the gnome said dryly, but shook the offered hand all the same.

Plex turned back the direction he had been headed and frowned.  After a moment of thought, he asked, “Can you tell me if Kalant’s problems will impact our chances of winning?”

Vinyard replied, “From what I’ve heard, it shouldn’t.”

Plex studied Vinyard and decided that the gnome had no reason to lie.  It seemed unlikely that he would be in league with whatever Kalant had going on behind the scenes.  And, perhaps it would be wiser to wait and see before potentially upending the team by running to the coach.  The dragon was notoriously fickle. Vinyard was right that if the beast caught wind of any dissent in the team it might just remove all involved.  

“Thank you,” Plex said.

Vinyard shrugged, “We’re all just trying to win here.  Some of us have more reasons than the offered prize. Some of us fight for pride, for the honor of battle, for the riches of course, and some of us volunteered to play this game for reasons all our own.”

That made sense to Plex.  He had joined because his queen had asked him too.  Others had volunteered and it was fitting that each person who did that would have very personal reasons for doing so.  “Thank you,” Plex said again. “I’m going to get some rest.”

“Good idea,” Vinyard replied dryly again.

Plex started to walk away but then stopped and turned back to the kicker.  Vinyard had taken out another ball from a bag of them nearby. He dropped the ball and swung his leg into it.  Just as before, his movements were graceful, poetic even, and, as before, the ball carried down the field to land where the first two had.  

Shaking his head, Plex quietly mused to himself, “Vinyard is a better kicker than the elven team had,” as he left the field.

The whole experience had proved very enlightening so far.  When the dragon had first announced his ideas and demanded that each race provide a team, he had been skeptical and had wanted no part.  As each day progressed he seemed to learn more about his fellow races, though. He was getting a better understanding of his world and that was fascinating at his age.  He had already thought himself very learned. He had been wrong and rather than be upset by how little he had known, he was enjoying the broadening of his knowledge.

He decided he would sit with different groups for each meal in the coming days and try to learn more about each of them.  Not only would that help him get to have better chemistry with his teammates on the field it would also enrich his own mind.  

The smell of food reached him and he smiled.  Whatever the cooks had thrown together smelled amazing.  He headed towards the food tent with a spring in his step and a smile on his face.  He was curious who he would sit with and what he would learn.

Fantasy Football Part 4

Revis and I are back with the next installment in our fantastical fantasy football story.  We hope you enjoy.  I mean, how could you not?  Isn’t Fantasy Football all the rage these days?

Not sure what’s going on?  This LINK will take you back to the beginning. 

…..

The players devoured their stew, with much grumbling, but as Plex had noted earlier while they were complaining about the smell in line, their joint complaint actually seemed to bring them closer.  It was outrageous that the dragon had changed up the teams and then even more outrageous that the beast wasn’t giving the new teams ample time to train together.  Plus, those teams playing in the first game were at even more of a disadvantage because they wouldn’t have as much time to practice as the other four teams.  Perhaps the dragon would rectify that for the remaining games but given Lavalandinarial’s behavior so far the only thing that seemed certain was that the beast would make things continually more difficult.

When the sounds of eating begin to diminish and the conversations grew louder, Coach Sprout stood on one of the tables and called for attention through his cone shaped amplifying device.

“How was lunch?”

There were grunts of acknowledgment and a smattering of appreciative replies but the team didn’t really to commit to any type of response.  The coach nodded in a knowing manner and said, “I know it wasn’t exactly what you each would picked for yourselves but my resources have informed me that these meals will put you at an advantage over the other teams.  They have everything your bodies need to perform at the highest levels.  I think we should test that out, though, so we can all see together if it is true.

“Like the exercises from this morning, this will not be a one-time fix.  It will be a slow process that will continue build through the coming days so by the time we reach our final games you will be fitter and healthier.  Having seen what you are already capable of, I am, and I’m sure you are as well, excited to see what you will be able to do in those final games.

“So, let’s get back out to the training field and do another round of stretching and then we will split into first and second strings again and do a practice game.  It won’t be as effective as a practice game against one of the other teams but it is the best we can do.

“Any questions?”

Plex scanned the team and saw most of them doing the same, looking from one to the next to see how everyone else was going to react before they did anything themselves.  For his own part, Plex was impressed with the craftiness of the gnome.  The trick with the smell had been a good one to bring the team together.  Hopefully they could take that initial camaraderie back out onto the field and play even better.

Kalant stood up and asked, “Should we expect some more out of position placements in this afternoon’s scrimmages?”

Coach Sprout smiled, a simple upturn at the corner of his lips, as if he had anticipated the question and was pleased that he had known it was coming.  “I will not pull you from your positions intentionally, no.  I want this practice session to the best mimic of tomorrow’s game that it can be.  However, I would hope that, in time, you will see the opportunities to take advantage of the cross position training that we started this morning.”

With that, Coach Sprout jumped down from the table and led the team back to the field. The diminutive gnome showed them a series of stretches that were different than anything Plex had ever seen before. Looking around, he saw that he wasn’t the only one who wasn’t sure about this new routine. Still, nobody would speak out against the coach. Plex shuddered as an image of what happened to the minotaur who spoke out flashed into his head again.

Once the stretches were completed, he didn’t feel any more loose than he normally did. While he applauded the gnome’s attempt to build them up gradually, with the first game tomorrow, it might not be the best plan. Any thoughts he might’ve had after that were lost when Coach Sprout began breaking them up into the first and second string teams. To his surprise, he was named as the first string quarterback. Also to his surprise, his new friend Kalant was not named to the first string defense. He wanted to offer words of encouragement to the dejected dwarf, but he had to huddle up with Coach Sprout before he could.

“Because we only have one day to learn plays,” the coach began, “our offense will be pretty basic. It will be the standard inside and outside runs for our running plays. Our passes will be mostly short routes, designed to get the ball out of our quarterback’s hands quickly and hope our receivers can break a tackle so they can turn a small gain into a big one. As the game progresses, and we see how well the offensive line is holding up, we may start taking a few chances down the field. But, we’ll have to wait and see how everything plays out.”

Coach Sprout left them to have a similar talk with the defense. While he was gone, Plex introduced himself to the people in the huddle with him. His offensive line was made up of members of the bigger races. There were two trolls, two ogres, and a minotaur. While it wouldn’t be impossible, it would be a little difficult to see over them downfield. His two main receivers were a fellow elf and a troll. A goblin served as the third receiver. There were two running backs, a minotaur and an orc, plus two tight ends, an ogre and a dwarf.

Since the coach was taking more time with his defensive talk than he had with them, Plex began leading the offense in drills on his own. He had the offensive line do running drills with the backs. Plex had his receivers run routes so he could work on their timing together. There were a few dropped passes at first, but he eventually got into a rhythm with them.

Coach Sprout had finished his talk with the defense, and had also had talks with the second string players too, before getting them set up for their scrimmage. The second string team kicked off first. An orc took a running start, swung its leg, and kicked the ball as hard as it could. The ball traveled five feet through the air before rolling until it came upon a first string player. Plex hoped the first string kicker was much better than that. Otherwise, he’d have to score touchdowns every time because field goals would be out of the question.

The Coach blew his whistle and brought the play to a halt.  The gnome conferred with the special teams coach, a smaller minotaur that still towered over the gnome.  Then the minotaur jogged onto the field and spoke with the kicker.  There was a brief exchange between player and coach and then kicker threw his hands up into the air in an show of exasperation.

The special teams coach left the field and Coach Sprout blew his whistle again.  Through his speaker cone he shouted, “Let’s do it again.  We won’t get a do-over in a game but as this is just practice I’m going to stop the play and ask for things to be redone from time to time.”

He blew his whistle and the second string kicking side lined up again.  The Coach blew again and the kicker ran up and crushed the football.  It sailed over the heads of the receiving team to bounce near the ten yard line.  There it bobbled up and around a little before settling near the one yard line.

A mad scramble ensued as the running back picked up the ball and tried to carry it forward.  A pair of trolls created a wall for the runner to gain a few yards but then a goblin pushed passed a smaller dwarf and dove at the runner’s legs to trip him up.  Plex went out onto the field with his offensive line to start his first down near the ten yard line.

He did a quick huddle and said, “Okay, let’s start with a running play to see if we can push forward a few more yards.”  He briefly described the play he wanted to run and his teammates nodded their understanding.

As they broke from the huddle, however, Coach Sprout blew his whistle again and this time ran onto the field himself.  “Wait, wait.  Here, let’s look at this for a moment.”

The gnome held a bundle of parchments in his hand.  The huddle formed again, with Coach Sprout in the middle right in front of Plex.  The coach quickly explained that he’d had an assistant draw up some of the plays they’d worked on and he was going to be calling the plays he wanted run for each down.  They would get a chance to study the plays later but for now he would just join the huddle to show them which one he wanted run.

Plex groaned internally.  If Coach Sprout halted play between every day this scrimmage was going to take forever.  Plus, it seemed overly complicated since there was no way they were going to have time to memorize them all by the call signs the coach had written across the top before tomorrow’s game.  He decided it was worth speaking up and asked, “Coach, are you sure this is a good use of time for today?”

“I understand your concern,” Coach Sprout responded, once again showing that little smile that Plex was certain meant the gnome had guessed the question and who would ask it ahead of time.  “I know this will be a struggle for tomorrow’s game but I’m not just interested in tomorrow’s game.  Like the exercises and everything else we are working on, I’m making sure we become better than our opponents over the course of all our games.  Our disorganization tomorrow may mean we lose but I assure you, if you will all trust me, that we will be victorious in the end.”

Plex nodded his understanding and Coach Sprout continued, “Okay, so for this first down let’s try to catch the defense off by setting up like we are going to do a throw but then doing a run.” He started to flip through the parchments.  “We ran this play earlier without much success but I think it will work better this time.”

Fantasy Football Part 2

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.”

“Doubt it.”

“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.