A ghost story part 3

Yep, Revis and I are back again on this story already. Sometimes the words come easily. Hopefully you continue to enjoy our little tale of fright and intrigue.

…..

The book, a dark purple with silver markings he didn’t recognize running up the spine, sparked as he touched it.  The tiny electric flare seemed to hang in the air far longer than any normal static-electricity and then it disappeared with a loud pop.  Jake flinched at the sound but didn’t stop what he was doing. He had nearly been killed now twice and he needed to know what was going on so he could keep whatever was attacking him from finishing the job. 

Pulling the book completely off the shelf, Jake began to flip through the pages.  There were all kinds of macabre pictures, from headless people riding horses, to unrecognizable horrors under beds, to barely scene phantoms in the shadowy recesses of closets.

A shiver ran up his spine as he flipped through the book.  At the same time, a sense of frustration began to build up.  The pictures were horrifying, yes, but they didn’t give him any information on their own.  Not that he immediately understood anyway.  He didn’t know what he was looking at or why.  And the markings that covered the pages that didn’t have pictures were in a language he didn’t know.

What am I supposed to do with this?

Jake started to put the book back on the shelf when movement from the corner of his eye caused him to stop.  He turned towards the open room but there was nothing there. A week ago he would’ve moved on without thinking any more about it. Today was a new day, however. Just because he didn’t see anything now didn’t mean there wasn’t anything there. After all, he didn’t see what was causing the pressure that cut off the air to his still sore throat. 

The last time he was in trouble he got out of it by waving a book around in front of him. While he wasn’t necessarily in trouble at the moment, the movement was more than enough to make him feel like trouble was coming. With that in mind, he shook the dark purple tome all around. Nothing happened. Not physically, at least. The foreboding feeling he was getting went away after continuing to move the book around for a few moments. He waited for a minute to see if it would come back, but it didn’t. 

Jake kept his hand on the book while his mind went back to trying to figure out a way to read it. Immediately, an idea struck him. He sat down at his desk and turned on his laptop. There were a number of programs online that were designed to translate things. He’d never used any of them on anything more than a word or phrase, and that was after typing the words into a text box on the screen. Using one to translate something written in a book was something new.

He took pictures of the first few pages of text with his webcam and loaded them into the first translation program he found.

The thinking icon spun for longer than it should have, even given the large amount of data he was trying to translate, and Jake began to frown.  He knew it hadn’t worked before the page refreshed with the red letters across the top saying no translation had been found.

I can’t give up though.  There has to be something here.

Setting aside the purple book, Jake picked up Unprepared and flipped through it again.  Nothing jumped out at him so he closed it and turned to the back cover.  The picture looked exactly like the man who had been standing in his room.  Then, for the first time, Jake noticed that under the author’s name were the dates, “June 1st, 1953 – June 7th, 2020.”

“Wait?  He’s dead?”

He felt foolish saying it.  He hadn’t really stopped to consider how the man had been in his room and then disappeared.  The how of what was going on had seemed less important than the what or the why.

Was that his ghost?

He didn’t want to voice that question.  Somehow saying the word “ghost” out loud seemed like a bad idea.  But, he hadn’t gotten a new idea.  Turning to his laptop again, he opened a search engine and typed in “Marten Revulus,” the author’s name.

He had a sense of trepidation that only grew as the search results popped up immediately with one missing person account after another. Jake looked through them until he found the newest link, dated almost a year ago. His trepidation faded as he read. It was replaced by interest. The story of Marten Revulus was not as boring as he first thought it would be. 

Ten years prior to the article’s publication, Marten had been reported missing by his wife, who had come home to find him gone and a pile of glass in his garage where his car should have been. One theory was that Marten had walked in on someone trying to steal his car and the carjacker took care of him in order to keep him quiet. Another was that his wife had paid someone to kill him while she was away. No evidence to support these claims ever surfaced and, by all accounts, Mr. and Mrs. Revulus had a loving and strong relationship. The rest of the theories got crazier from there.

Years passed with no new leads and the story was mostly forgotten until Marten’s wife petitioned to have him declared legally dead, a petition that the judge granted the day before the article. There was no specific reason given for the timing of the wife’s petition. All the article said was that she needed to do it for “legal reasons”. More than likely, Jake thought, it had more to do with finances than legalities. 

How did all of that fit in with what  happened to him? It didn’t, as far as he could tell. What would the ghost of Marten Revulus want with him? He was barely older than a toddler when Revulus disappeared. Plus, there was no way to be sure that the man was even dead. How could there be a ghost of someone who was still alive?

How could there be a ghost of someone who is still alive?  Now that’s a funny thought.  Like something out of one of those space wizard movies…

Jake shook his head, half smiling.  Nope.  Too ridiculous.

He went back to scanning articles, trying to make some sense of who the author was, why he had disappeared and what it all had to do with him here and now.  The sound of the front door opening, his mom getting home from work, startled him from his research and he realized how late it was.  He turned off the computer screen and jumped into bed.  He’d be in for it if she knew he’d spent the night online instead of sleeping.  

Eyes closed and doing his best to slow his breathing, he listened as she came up the stairs, stopped at his doorway for a moment, and then carried on to her room.  He opened his eyes again and stared at the ceiling.  It was useless to try and get to sleep now.  His alarm was going to go off in about an hour and if he dozed it would leave him groggier than if he just stayed up.  Plus, his throat was still sore.  He didn’t exactly feel like he could fall asleep again.

A moment later he was sitting upright in bed.  The front door had just opened again.  A new set of footsteps was coming up the stairs, coming down the hall, nearing his room. Before he could even start to contemplate what this second occurrence was, it happened a third time. Then, a fourth. It was followed quickly by a fifth.

His mind was racing. He wanted to get out of bed, rush to the doorway, and investigate the noises. At the same time, he also wanted to stay in bed. Not only were the sound of the footsteps confusing, but they were ratcheting up the fear he was feeling. Jake was already scared after the two times he almost suffocated in the last half a day, but adding these noises on top of that was beginning to fray his nerves. Each footstep made him wince just a little, especially when they didn’t stop at his doorway like they had been. Whatever was making them was coming into his room.

Jake closed his eyes. When the footsteps sounded like they were next to his bed, he peeked through his eyelids, hoping that whatever was there wouldn’t notice. It didn’t work. His mother stood over him and she didn’t look happy. “Have you been up all night?” she asked angrily. 

“No,” he answered honestly. “I slept.”

She looked him over, trying to decide if he was telling the truth. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, she instructed, “Go back to sleep.”

“But…”

“No buts. Go back to sleep.”

She didn’t give him a chance to argue before she turned around to walk out of the room. Jake had words that he wanted to get out, but they had nothing to do with arguing with her. The words he wanted to get out were a warning to her about the spectral hands that were trailing in her wake, closing in to grab her.

A Ghost Story, part 1

Revis and I are at it once again. We are just starting the story so no promises on frequency or timing of posts. But, hey, at least we are writing again? Hopefully it’s even entertaining. Anyway, we hope you enjoy it because we will have a blast writing it.

……….

The first time he saw a ghost it was nothing like what he’d seen in scary movies or read about in the horror books he owned. The room didn’t suddenly get colder. He couldn’t see his breath. His teeth didn’t start to chatter. The hairs on his neck and arms didn’t stand on end and no strange sensation ran up and down his spine either. There were no shadowy faces or rattling chains, no unexplained thumps in the night or half-glimpsed movements from the corners of his eyes.

All of that would come later. Yes, all of it.

But, that first time, there was nothing sinister or scary about the experience. Perhaps, he should have been scared. It happened so quickly that it was over before he had time to process what he was seeing. Plus, the first ghost he saw, he only saw an empty hand. There really isn’t much scary about that. And he wasn’t the type to scare easily anyway.

He had been sitting on his bed, reading a magazine he liked, when he looked up casusally as he turned pages, to see a hand, as if from another dimension reaching through the thin fabric between the worlds, pluck a book off his shelf, set it on the ground, flip to a specific page, and then withdraw, as if nothing untoward had happened at all. It had happened so fast, too, that he hardly would have believed he had witnessed it if not for the book, one of his favorites, turned to a page with only four words on it, “And so it begins.”

But it didn’t. Not for a while, at least. Weeks passed before the next occurrence. 

That was enough time for him to convince himself that he had been asleep and dreamt the whole thing. The book was back in its customary spot on the shelf the following morning and he didn’t remember putting it back. Therefore, he couldn’t have seen what he had seen. It had to have been a dream.

“Dinner’s ready!”

He jumped at the sound of his mother calling up the stairs to him. Looking down, he saw that his mind had wandered and he’d made no progress on the English paper he’d been working on. It stared up from his desk, mocking him for mentally going back to the night of the book. Cursing himself for not staying focused, he got up from his desk and started walking to the door so he could go downstairs and eat.

His eyes caught movement out of the corner of his eye while he was going through the doorway. With a quick step backwards, he looked around his room until he found what he’d seen moving. It was another book. He stepped back inside and picked it up from where it sat on his pillow. It wasn’t opened to a specific page, but the title caused a chill to pass through him as he read it off the book’s spine: Unprepared. 

“Jake?  Let’s go.”

The slight elevation in his mother’s tone, the pitch that meant he only had a few seconds to make his appearance for dinner or he’d be in for it, kicked him into gear.  Dinner was served at 5 o’clock sharp and any tardiness had to be rigorously explained.  He put the book back on the shelf, ignoring the gooseflesh that suddenly rushed up his arms, and hightailed it to the table.

His mother’s piercing gaze caught him as he took his seat.  “What were you doing?”

“Trying to finish up my English paper.”

The half-smirk, raised eyebrow, look she gave his answer meant she didn’t fully believe him but wasn’t going to push it further.  He would have to give it to her to look over before he went to bed later but that was fine, he really needed to spend time on it anyway.

While eating he tried to bend his thoughts to how he wanted to reword the paper but he found his mind drifting over and over to the questions that had swarmed his mind when he had picked up “Unprepared.”

Had the first incident with a book really not been a dream? If so, what did it mean?  And if this was some sort of message, that he was unprepared, then what was he unprepared for?  What did he need to be doing?

By the time dinner was done, he had no answers. It didn’t help that his mom kept talking to him during the meal, interrupting his thoughts. She always did that when she knew his mind was elsewhere. It was her way of getting the most out of their limited time together. Between his schedule of studying for his final exams and getting ready for graduation, and her working the night shift, they didn’t see each other much outside of their dinners together. Besides, he reminded himself, there was far more annoying parental behavior that she could be engaging in than trying to have a conversation with him.

Once he’d finished dinner, he went back upstairs to his room to finish his paper. With the strangeness happening there earlier, Jake didn’t think he’d be able to concentrate on his work. To his surprise, however, the words came flowing to him when he sat back down Iat his desk. His thoughts became clearer the longer he worked on it and when he was finished, he was surprised by how good he thought it was. English was his worst subject, but he was pretty sure he nailed this assignment. 

“I thought I’d find you up here furiously pounding on your laptop.”

Jake turned to see his mother standing in the doorway in her work clothes. “Mr. Johnson doesn’t want us to type out every assignment,” he explained. “He thinks it’s important for us to know and use cursive.”

She shrugged and walked next to him. His mother looked over his shoulder at what he’d written. Almost immediately, her face turned red and angry. “Is this some kind of joke?” she demanded. 

He was about to ask her what she was talking about when his eyes drifted down to his paper. His face turned to one of confusion. The words on the page weren’t what he’d written. 

“Mom, I… I…,” Jake struggled to understand what he was looking at, let alone come up with a reasonable explanation.  He started to sweat and felt like he couldn’t breathe.  He forced his mouth open to say something, anything, but nothing came.  He sat there with his mouth agape.  He could feel his mother’s wrath swelling.  It was like a physical presence in the room pressing against him.

Suddenly, making him jump a bit, a knock on the front door came to his rescue. 

His mother fixed him with a stern glance and then said as she was leaving the room, “I don’t know what you are playing at young man but, when I get back up here, you better have your real paper ready to show me.”

“My real paper?” Jake whispered glancing down at the jumble of words, doodles, and unrecognizable scientific calculations.  “What happened to what I wrote?”

Jake reached up to scratch at an itch on his head when he realized the physical presence he felt before must not have been coming from his mom.  It was still there in the room with him.  The feeling, the pressure, was growing.

He faced the empty room behind him and stammered, “Hel… hello?”

The ghostly hand appeared directly in front of his face. Jake jerked away from it, burying himself deeper into his desk chair. Helplessly, he watched as the hand drifted down to grab ahold of his wrist. He struggled against it, but the hand was too strong. After he stopped struggling, the ghost hand began to move his wrist. 

Jake’s hand moved over the paper, causing the pen he was holding to write. Had he been holding it the whole time? Where did the new notebook come from? Was there anything else he hadn’t noticed? Why hadn’t he cried out for help? Those questions flew from his mind as he began reading what the ghost hand was forcing him to write.

“You…were…warned,” he read aloud as the words appeared. “You… did… nothing… to… prepare… for… the… beginning. Now… it… is… time… for… your… end.”

While he was still more afraid than he’d ever been in his life, Jake overcame it enough that it was no longer paralyzing him. He hollered for his mother as he got up and ran for the door. Unfortunately for him, the ghost still gripped him by the wrist. He came to an abrupt halt within a few steps. Suddenly, the ghost hand yanked on his arm, sending a wave of pain throughout his body and making him wonder if it popped out of the socket. 

He felt the ghost hand let go of his wrist. His relief was short-lived, however, when he felt it grab onto his throat. Even though it wasn’t squeezing yet, Jake was starting to have trouble taking a breath.

Fantasy Football Part 36

Here we go again. You know the drill by now. Revis and I bring the words, you do the reading. It truly is that simple. And we thank you for your part in this play.

…..

Plex hurdled forward, weaving his way through the players and warriors. He heard some of them cheering him on.  That encouragement pushed him ahead with an extra burst of speed.  Glancing he back he saw that his sister was only a few feet behind him.  That was fine.  Perhaps she would be useful and at least he didn’t have to worry about her being heard.  Her feet were as soft and quiet as his own, if not more.

If the worst should happen, and the dragon hear him, then maybe she could find the weapon instead.  If the beast heard both of them, then it wouldn’t matter.  They would be dead and this opportunity to slay the beast would be lost.  The world would be thrown into another thousand years of her dark rule.  Perhaps it was better he and his sister should die side by side rather than survive only to face her wrath, her revenge.

Shaking his head, he pushed those thoughts aside.  They served no purpose but distraction.  He motioned to Gilania that she should create some space between them so they weren’t an easy target that could be taken in one strike.  She nodded and adjusted her gait slightly.  It wasn’t enough to be obvious immediately but as they moved forward she did become further apart from her brother.

Ahead, the dragon continued to thrash around.  Water poured from her mouth as the ice spell that had clogged her throat continued to melt away.  It wouldn’t be much longer before she’d be free of it and able to unleash more of her fiery breath upon her tormentors.  Plex needed to attack before that could happen.  It was the only way.

As he neared the beginning of the dragon’s pervious destruction, Plex slowed his pace and began to search for the football. He wanted to laugh but couldn’t. He didn’t dare make a sound.  It seemed ludicrous to slay a dragon with a game ball even if the ball was just a disguise to hide the true weapon.  Then again, Plex mused, of course it’s a football.  

They probably had been planning to launch the attack against the beast during a game.  Plex’s meddling, his unwillingness to accept what was and wasn’t, had scattered their plans to the winds.  Now they were all scrambling to take advantage of the moment.  Perhaps it wasn’t going as planned, but this still felt right.  

He would get the ball back in his hands for one final throw.  He could be the hero on a far bigger stage than the arena Lavandinarial had created for her entertainment.  With one throw, he could change the course of the world for the better.  First, though, he had to find the weapon.

Moving stealthily to the very edge of the carnage, Plex’s hope began to fade.  He couldn’t see the football anywhere.  There was nobody in hiding, clutching the weapon, waiting to hand it off to him.  A desperate despair gripped his heart. Plex couldn’t let that despair overcome him. Too much was riding on him. He needed to shoulder the weight of this burden and keep going.

Plex swept his eyes back and forth along the ground, searching for any signs that someone had once been there. Frukeld said that one of his people had it, so it would be near a person’s remains. As disheartening as that thought was, he continued looking for the weapon. Moment after moment passed and all he saw were blackened bits strewn across the ground. None of them held any shape that was even remotely recognizable. They all just looked like lumps.

Risking a glance upward, he saw that the dragon had almost dislodged the ice chunk from her mouth. Plex went back to searching in earnest. He had to find the weapon before the dragon was free. Everything depended on it, and everyone was depending on him. He wasn’t going to let anyone down, not if he could help it.

A whistle from where his sister had been searching caught his attention. Looking over at her, he saw her with the football in her hands. His heart moved out of the despair state that it was in and moved over to the joy side of the emotional spectrum. Then, it shifted back to where it had started because if he had heard it, so did the dragon. He started to shout out for her to run, but it was too late.

Gilania threw the football spear in his direction while the dragon’s tail whipped right at her. Plex found himself torn between catching the weapon and trying to help his sister. As much as he wanted to run to Gilania’s side, cold hard logic won out in his mind. If he didn’t catch the weapon and use it against the dragon, her sacrifice would be in vain. All he could hope is that she survived Lavalandinarial’s attack long enough for Frukeld’s healers to get to her.

His sister’s ability to throw the football wasn’t as good as his was, which is one of the reasons she played on the defensive side of the ball. Gilania had put enough power behind it, but her aim was off. Plex had to run after it. Using every ounce of speed he could muster, he chased the ball so he could catch it before it hit the ground. Lavalandinarial most likely heard him running, but he didn’t want to take the chance. 

Unfortunately for him, her aim was just a little too far off. The weapon slipped through Plex’s outstretched fingertips and hit the ground. When it landed, it made a sound that no real football would make. The sound of metal hitting rock echoed through his very being and Plex knew he had to move before the dragon reacted to the noise. 

Recovering quickly, Plex scooped up the spear posing as a football and set his feet. He saw the dragon’s tail swinging in his direction, charging like a blitzing linebacker. In his mind, Plex pictured the spot between Lavalandinarial’s eyes as one of his wide receivers. Time slowed down as he reared back and let it fly.

The ball spiraled away from his hand and then he lost its flight as the beast’s tail smashed the ground in front of him, sending shards of debris across his line of sight.  He felt splinters dig painfully into his hands and face but didn’t cry out.  He didn’t know why Lavalandinarial had missed.  Perhaps she hadn’t heard his final movement.  Perhaps he was just beyond her striking range.  In seconds, hopefully, she would never have a chance to hurt anyone again.

Plex tried to shift his gaze to where’d last seen his sister but he couldn’t spot her.  He hoped that was just the blood pouring down from a gash on his forehead he had just started to truly feel or from the bad angle he had to where she’d been.  He hoped.  That was all he could do in that moment.

And then the air was rent by a piercing scream that pushed Plex backwards.  He tripped over something and sprawled onto his back.  Only then did he see the football for what he had always been.

Sticking out of the dragon’s forehead, blood pouring from the wound, a silver spear sparkled in the light of the fires the beast had set around her.  She scratched at it with her massive claws but it was as though she had put the last of her strength into her scream. Her movements were disorganized and slow and did nothing to dislodge the weapon.

Plex was forced to wipe blood from his own face so he could keep his eyes on her.  He knew the wound on his face, and a few others that he could feel throbbing for attention, would need aid but he didn’t want to move.  He didn’t want to give her one last target.  He didn’t want to make the mistake of assuming it had been a mortal blow only to find she was faking it.  So, he remained on his back and watched.  

The mighty beast twisted in one final attempt to dislodge the spear from her forehead and then she slumped forward, landing with a resounding thud that rattled Plex’s teeth and caused a fresh wave of blood to course down his face.  He hastily wiped his vision clean again but otherwise remained still.  It could yet be a trap.

Then slowly a light began to build, seeming to come from the dragon herself, as if a dull fire was beginning to grow beneath her scales.  When a handful of her scales exploded outward, careening passed his face, Plex threw all other caution to the wind, found his feet and began to run.  

The fire wasn’t imagined.  Lavalandinarial was dead and her internal flames, no longer contained by her magic, her force of will, was consuming her from the inside out.  A cacophony of popping sounds resounded behind him.  Plex felt the woosh of scales flashing around him.  

Two fresh stabs of pain hit low on his back, his feet faltered, and he crashed to the ground.  He lay there in agony as hell rained down.

 

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.”