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.
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.”
“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.