Fantasy Football Part 10

Can you believe we keep coming back with more of these?  And, I might be a bit biased but I think they are getting better as we go along.  So, check out the next installment below and show Revis and I some love with some comments.


As the other team’s point after attempt was converted successfully, Plex berated his receiver, “What happened?  That pass was perfect!”

The elf bowed his head in shame and responded quietly, “I don’t know.  I was focusing on where the ball was going to be and my legs got tangled.”

Plex wanted to vent his frustration further but quickly calmed.  If he hadn’t botched their previous drive himself, they wouldn’t be in this mess.  And, how could his sister have so willingly driven up the score.  Wasn’t she worried about him, her brother, getting eaten by the dragon?

Plex patted his receiver comfortingly on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry.  Next time out, you’ll catch a touchdown pass.  I’m sure of it.  You’ve got good hands and you are faster than almost everyone else out here.  I’ll make sure it happens.”

The elf nodded but said nothing in response.  Plex looked across the field to try and pick out his sister.  He expected to find her in some level of distress at least.  Her team was on a path to send him to his doom.  What he saw shocked him, though.  She was still celebrating with her new teammates.  They were boisterous and carefree.

Looking away, Plex saw Coach Sprout watching him closely.  The gnome had that infuriating knowing smile on his face.  The quarterback started to make his way towards the coach but got blocked on his way by the teams swapping out.

Plex caught sight of Glavven and said, “Now.  Do it now.  Ram it down their throats.  Give this run everything you got and let’s return the kick-off for a touchdown.  You’ve got this.”

The minotaur snorted, his nostrils flaring a darker shade of red than normal, and then the hulking running back turned and jogged into position.  Coach Sprout forgotten for the moment, Plex watched the coming play with an intense need.  It burned red hot in his belly.  He couldn’t remember ever needing something so badly before.

Glavven pulled the ball out of the air on the five yard line and began running diagonally towards the far sideline.  Their team was doing a great job of keeping the defense off him but then an orc broke free.  Plex held his breath but then let it out in a large puff of excitement as Glavven straight armed the orc aside and sprinted on.

The minotaur spun away from another attempted tackle and then jumped over a lunging defensiveman.  And then he was clear.  Plex leapt into the air and nearly sprinted down the length of the sideline to celebrate with the runningback.  The horde of his teammates wildly celebrating, in his way, was all that kept him from doing so.  The whistle blew for the end of the first half just before Glavven crossed into the endzone.

The score now stood at 23 to 20.  Coach Spout yelled for Plex to get in there and go for the additional points.  If he could score that would put them back at only a point away.  That would be good enough.  He would take a defeat of only one point.  But he knew that there was still a full half to play and given how freely both teams were scoring, he wasn’t sure if he could stick to his plan to not score on every drive.

He jogged onto the field and got his team in a huddle. Coach Sprout called a running play, but he could tell that Glavven was winded. The minotaur was taking deep, hurried breaths. “This play’s for you,” Plex said to his running back. “You going to be able to do this?”

“I’ve got enough left in me for a few yards,” Glavven managed between gulps of air.

Plex wanted to believe him, but he had been told that minotaurs were a prideful race. It was entirely possible that Glavven would claim to be okay even if he wasn’t. Converting on this two point attempt would give them a good momentum boost and lift his team’s confidence going into halftime. He didn’t want to risk blowing that because his running back was in worse shape than he let on.

A glance at Coach Sprout told him that the gnome was getting impatient about the delay. Plex was still uneasy, but he knew that he had to run the play as called. If he changed it up, all he’d do is anger both Glavven and Coach Sprout. There was still a half of football to play. It was too early to do his own thing right now.

His team got up on the line. Plex waited until the last possible second to call for the ball. The ball hit his hands and he hoped that Glavven had caught his breath. He turned and handed the ball to the big minotaur. Gilania’s team had expected this and had stacked the line of scrimmage. Glavven ran into a wall of bodies and Plex lost visual on him. The Honor Guard referees ran in to clear the pile and when they uncovered Glavven, the ball was laying on the goal line.

Plex and his teammates erupted into cheers, because that meant that the try was successful. The other team burst out in protest, claiming that Glavven reached it out after he was already down. The referees appeared to be confused. Not knowing what else to do, the head referee, the troll, looked to the dragon for guidance.

Everyone else in the arena did the same. Soon every eye was on Lavalandinarial, waiting for him to pass judgment on the play. The dragon was enjoying all of the attention, Plex knew. Lavalandinarial purposefully took its time to render the verdict. With a slow, lazy motion, the dragon gave a thumbs down. Gilania’s team jumped up in excitement while Plex and his teammates had to hold Glavven back.

“Don’t,” Plex yelled harshly as the entire offensive line worked to pull the enraged minotaur back to their sideline. He slapped Glavven softly across the face to get his attention. Once the angry eyes of Glavven were fixed on him, he continued. “Do you want to end up in the beast’s belly? Because if you do, we’ll let you go right now so you can be eaten.” That finally seemed to get through to the minotaur. “If you’d rather stay alive, I suggest you calm down and help us win this damned game.”

Glavven snorted but no longer pulled to get away from Plex.  The two of them turned away and followed the rest of the two teams off to their sides of the field.  Coach Sprout was having his assistants pass around a liquid that tasted sweet but was obviously mostly water.

When Plex raised an eyebrow questioningly, the Coach said, “The cooks have worked up this special brew that will replace a lot of the essential things your body burns during exercise.  So, it should keep you sharper in the second half than if you didn’t drink it.”

Plex turned back to Glavven to give the runningback another confidence boosting talk but he felt a tug on his elbow and looked down to see Coach Sprout still standing there.  “I need a word with you.”

The gnome walked away and Plex followed.  They weaved through the throng of teammates, until the hit a patch of open sideline and then carried on for a few more yards until they were nearly at the goal line.

“Take a knee.”

Plex did as instructed.  He was still much taller than the gnome but was as face to face as he could get without bending over further.  He wouldn’t do that unless asked.

At first Coach Sprout said nothing.  He just seemed to study the elf.  Plex met the coach’s gaze easily.  While he had initially been worried that he was in trouble and the coach was going to pull him from the game he decided that was unlikely.  If Coach had been upset with him he would have been pulled immediately after the offending play.  Or, rather, if Coach had trusted anyone other than Plex to drive the team to victory he would have already made the swap.

Finally, Coach Sprout said, “Don’t do it again.”

It was the elf’s turn to be silent.  He would not make a promise he wasn’t sure he could keep.  Elves could be every bit as prideful as minotaurs.  He would not tarnish his honor by agreeing with Coach now while he might still potentially need to miss some plays to save his sister’s life.

“I know your sister is on the other team.  I know you won’t want her to die.  And I know you certainly don’t want to be taken out of the game where you will no longer have control over the results.  So, I will say it once more.  Don’t do it again.”

Still Plex said nothing.  He wasn’t sure what he could say at that point.  His mind scrambled for some way to placate Coach Sprout while leaving open the possibility that he could intentionally keep his own team from scoring.

“You are not the only person with family on other teams.”

Plex cocked his head sideways and studied the gnome.  If Coach Sprout was referring to himself he made no additional indication, but still what the coach had said made sense.  He and Gilania would not be the only siblings that had been split when the dragon mixed the teams.

Coach Sprout sighed and looked away.  “Our defense is not strong enough to stop their offense.  We will work on that if we can advance to the next round.  I am certain that we can come back and win this game but that will only happen if you play to your best.  I think you will do that.  I think you have already started to realize that and so in the next half you will go out give your best.

“I need you to understand, though, that if you purposefully mess up one of the plays again trying to keep the score close, I will inform the dragon.”

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.”



His fingers had begun to sting but he hardly noticed them.  The burn of the string didn’t register.  His focus was on his form, on the nock, on the target.  His vision seemed to shrink as he steadied his breathing and prepared to release.  His anchor was good.  His positioning was good.  His grip on the bow was steady but loose.

With a fluttering whine and a thunk, the arrow buried into the paper.  Another bullseye, or near enough.

He smiled.  He was learning quickly and having fun.  The first was a surprise, the later not so much.  He had always enjoyed target practice.  He had always assumed he would enjoy working with a bow and arrows too, he had just never had the opportunity before.  Based on the few experiences he had in his younger days, he had assumed that it would take a long time for him to get good.  Whatever the reason, the calmness of his body inherent in no longer being a child or the humility to receive instruction that comes from experience and wisdom, he picked up the right form very quickly and his groupings continued to shrink.

One more skill that could be useful at some point but that he hoped he would never need.  With society crumbling with each passing day, though, he was actively pursuing all the skills he might need.  Given the number of people at the range learning with him, he was pleased at how many other people seemed ready to stand up and ensure their own future.  Then again, he was only guessing that’s why they were there.  Perhaps they had other reasons.

Again, he hoped he never had to find out what those were.