And, after a slight delay of game, we’re back. Read on to see what happens next with our favorite elven quarterback and the rest of his team.
The roar of the crowed was being slowly replaced by a confused hush as a rush of whispers sped around the stadium. It seemed to Plex that the switch the Honor Guard had made at the behest of the dragon had not gone unnoticed and word was spreading that the dragon was interfering with the game.
Plex scanned the crowd and found the pocket of dwarves he had noticed at the beginning of the game, the ones who hadn’t be cheering, who hadn’t looked like they were interested in the game at all. He finally spotted them and they were huddled together in a spirited conversation with much gesturing and pointing amongst themselves. The elf wondered what they were up to but couldn’t imagine they would do anything now in the final seconds of the game.
Lavalandinarial shifted her weight on her stage. The platform creaked and all eyes moved to rest with the beast. She had once again adopted an expression of indifference but Plex was certain that was far from the truth. The dragon very much cared.
She let out a sigh and a puff of smoke billowed from her mouth. The crowd quieted and shifted uneasily in their seats. A small smile, barely discernible, twisted the dragon’s lips. At first Plex had assumed she would be upset that her interference hadn’t gone unnoticed but now he realized that she was still enjoying this spectacle.
The whole thing, the teams, the game, the crowd, all of it was for her amusement and her amusement alone.
Plex’s anger reached a new level.
Needing to do something to calm down he turned his attention back to the field where the healer was still working with the dwarf who had been robbed of the ball and then punched twice by the Honor Guard. The dwarf shouldn’t have been that injured but his face was white as if he were in a great deal of pain and on the verge of going into shock.
“It isn’t pain,” Plex muttered.
“No,” Coach Sprout said, suddenly at Plex’s side. “It’s fear. He doesn’t need to worry, though. She won’t need to eat him to keep him quiet. She obviously doesn’t care who knows she is cheating.”
Some of Plex’s rage had been tempered by Sprout’s arrival at his elbow startling him. He could still feel it burning slow and low in his gut. It wasn’t just the charade of it, the destruction of the game and the waste of time and lives it had already cost. The anger was churning hotter and hotter because there was nothing he could do about any of it.
Looking briefly down to his coach and then back to the field, where the healer was finally getting the dwarf to his feet and the Honor Guard was signaling for the teams to take their places to resume play, Plex asked, “What do we do now?”
Sprout didn’t answer and, surprised, Plex looked back to his Coach. The gnome had always had an answer before. Plex couldn’t believe that Sprout wouldn’t have some sort of plan. “Well, Coach?” he prompted the still silent gnome.
With a sigh, Coach Sprout looked up at Plex with defeat on his face. “Now, we try our best, despite knowing that it might all be for nothing if the dragon decides she wants the other team to win.”
Anger began building up in Plex once again. He watched as his defense did their best to stop the offense of the other team. While he couldn’t be sure, he thought he saw a couple of instances where magic had moved a ball out of a defender’s reach or into an offensive player’s hands. Each time he saw it, he became more and more angry.
The whistle blew as the other team called their final time out. Plex looked up and saw that there was only time for one more play. Gilania’s team sent out their kicker to attempt a mid-range field goal. If it was good, the game would go into overtime and only the dragon knew what would happen if the game made it to overtime. Without realizing it, Plex found himself running out onto the field to try to block the kick. He heard Coach Sprout yelling at him to get back to the sideline, but he ignored it. Finally, the gnome called for another player to run off.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his teammate exit the field just as the other team got set up for the try. Plex kept going over everything that had happened in the game up until this point and felt his face turn red in anger. He focused all of his energy on that rage. It built up inside of him until he felt like he was going to burst.
A primal scream erupted from his throat as the ball was snapped back to the holder. Plex took two steps forward and jumped over both his teammates and those trying to block them. He couldn’t remember ever jumping that high before, but didn’t take the time to dwell on it. All he could focus on was using his rage to block the kick. Just as the kicker’s foot touched the ball, Plex felt something trying to touch his mind. It was the same sensation he had felt earlier in the game, right before the dragon had used its magic to mess with his head. “Not this time,” he roared as he flooded his thoughts with his anger.
Somehow, some way, it worked. His rage had allowed him to fight through the mental intrusion. Whatever magic the dragon was using still hurt him, but it wasn’t debilitating like it had been last time. Plex leapt again. The ball hit his swinging arms and went flying back the way it had come from. It landed on the ground ten yards behind the kicker and rolled towards the sideline. Before anyone from either team could get to it, the ball rolled out of bounds.
Stunned silence filled the stadium. All eyes slowly made their way up to the dragon’s platform, where a low growl was beginning to form.
The honor guard blew their whistles and then huddled together in deep discussion. Plex trotted to the sideline with the rest of his teammates, away their decision. Almost absentmindedly, one of the honor guard threw a flag without care of where it landed.
Plex’s head throbbed in time to the blood flowing through his veins. Pulse, pulse, pulsing with his still boiling anger. The momentary outlet of athleticism had done little to assuage his rage. The dawning realization that his attempt to stand up to the dragon’s interference would not be allowed to stand made him even angrier.
His teeth ground together. His fists clenched. The muscles in his lengths twisted tightened until he lost feeling in his feet. His vision shrunk to where he could only see the huddled honor guard circled by a blurry red.
The head of the honor guard walked over to Coach Sprout and told the gnome something. The coach nodded his head once and then started calling out instructions. There was a ringing in his ears that kept Plex from hearing what was being said so he trotted over to stand next to the Sprout. Before he’d made it to the gnome, Plex noticed that his sister’s team was setting up to retake the kick, and a few yards closer at that.
Before Plex could ask what happened, his coach said, “We were called for a penalty. Too many players on the field or something like that. Also, it has been suggested that I bench you for the remainder of the game for insubordination. Given the alternative to benching, I feel like we have little choice. I’m not going to leave you out here, though. You are too exposed. Head back to our camp.”
Plex opened his mouth to protest but all his anger left him and he felt suddenly deflated. The game was out of his hands. The game always had been. His own indifference, how he had felt before his queen asked him to join the elven team, returned and, with a shrug of his shoulders, he turned his back on the field and walked away.
He heard murmurs running around the stands and wondered how much of it was directed at him. He wanted to look back to see if Lavalandinarial was watching him but didn’t want to give the beast the satisfaction of seeing his face in defeat, in retreat. So, Plex kept his head down and left the stadium.
He hadn’t gone very far when the stadium erupted in a new wave of cheers. He assumed that his sister’s team had converted the field goal to tie-up the game. A part of him hoped they would go on to win. His refusal to be ruled by the dragon had likely sealed his death anyway. It would be better if his sister won and then could live on.
Lost in these dark thoughs, Plex nearly missed his whispered name. Whipping his head to the side he saw a dwarf motioning to him from a dark alleyway behind the business that had sprung up around the stadium. The elf didn’t hesitate. He wanted to know what the dwarves were up to. And, if he was powerless on the field, perhaps he could find his power again off of it. He quickly stepped into the shadows to join the dwarf.