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 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.

ducky

Ducks don’t roar…
Do they?

The days have become very loud in the kingdom. The little prince and the littler prince have started playing a game where they roar at each other. They are fierce and fearsome. They are wild and chaotic.

So, you know, they are basically just normal kiddos.

Then, when they get tired of roaring at each other, they join forces and roar at anyone else they encounter in their jumping, rolling and frolicking tornado of noise and destruction swirling through the kingdom. Sometimes they are monsters. Sometimes they turn their toys into the monsters. Sometimes they have rubber duckies fiercely roaring…

Ducks don’t roar?
Well, as it turns out, sometimes they do.

one moment

Adulting is hard.

Parenting is harder.

But then there are moments where everything comes together…

Picture, if you will, a simple car ride up the street to run an errand, four-year-old ensconced in his chair in the back, and a familiar tune begins to play through the speakers.  My voice comes in to join the singer’s, as is my way, and a small voice from the backseat chimes in.  And there it is.  I’m singing in the car with the little prince.

I didn’t ask him to sing.  I didn’t force him to learn the words.  It was a familiar song, yes, one I’ve played a lot, one that I’ve sung to a lot, one he has sung to before on his own at home.  He memorized the words on his own, though, and in that moment he chose to sing with me rather than just listen, rather than telling me stop singing so he could sing, rather than telling me to stop so we could just hear the true artist.  He joined his voice, small as it was, so we would be singing together.

I don’t know that I could adequately explain why that meant so much to me, both in general and on that day and I doubt he had any idea, but I nearly cried.  I grew up singing in the car.  Some of my earliest memories are of my dad thumping a steady rock beat out on the center console while the whole car exploded with our (often terrible) singing.  Leaving that image as is, perhaps it is best to only add that music has always played a major role in who I am, from casual listener, to instrumental student, to DJ…  Music has defined many of the milestones of my revolutions around the sun.

Adulting is hard and parenting is harder and that’s okay because I’m occasionally given moments of such joy that I know all the struggles are worthwhile.  Singing in the car with the little prince was one of those moments.  I can’t wait to do that again.  I can’t wait to see what the next moment will be too.

The song ended and I turned in my seat to say over my shoulder, my voice catching a bit in my throat and my eyes straining to hold back the tears while a smile lit my face, “I love you, kiddo.”

“Why?”

Adulting is hard.

Parenting is harder.

it was cold

img_20150513_1822043_rewind

We wrote three words to describe the trip when we got home.  A week in the mountains, seven days in one of my favorite places in the world, all those hours basking in the cleansing glory of nature, and all we had to say was: it was cold.

We wore jackets all day long.  When it sleeted when hid in our tents and bundled into our sleeping bags.  We ate dinners huddled close together around the table, leaching warmth from each other.  We stayed in bed late and returned to bed early.  It wasn’t that we were ill-prepared for the low temperatures, it was that we weren’t expecting it to be so cold for so long.

There is an energy sapping strength to the cold.  It drains away your joy.  It funnels away your focus and motivation.  It removes all else so all you can think about, all you can see is it.

I didn’t remember the deer who walked through our camp until I stumbled upon this picture looking for photos to share for NanoPoblano.  We had never seen deer just walk through camp before.  They came in because the camp was much quieter than normal.  The camp was quieter because we were the only ones there.  We were the only ones there because it was so cold everybody else had either packed up and left or had decided not to come in at all.

Perhaps we should amend our notes from this year?

It was cold, and while that has certain perks they aren’t worth it.

I read the above to the Queen and she amended: It was cold, and while that has certain perks they aren’t worth it “unless we pack our snowboard gear.  Nobody told me to pack snowboard gear!”

Whoops.  My bad.