Fantasy Football Part 18

I had this whole funny into typed out. I swear I did. Why would I lie? Why are you questioning me…?

Anyway, for reasons related to shenanigans that intro was lost. Let’s have a minute of silence in its honor.

Okay. On with the football!

….

The running back raced down the field.  Plex was certain he was going to score but then Kalant, who Plex hadn’t even realized was on the field, streaked across the field and smashed into the running back.  The two players crashed to the turf. For a moment it looked like the ball was going to pop loose but the runner managed to hang onto it. Still, the other team had made it down to the ten yard line, had a new set of downs, and with two full minutes left in the game, along with both teams having most of their timeouts left, the game could easily be turned on its head.

Plex suddenly understood why the dragon had been so excited about this game.  He glanced towards the beast and Lavalandinarial seemed to have taken a renewed interest in the game.  Its eyes were wide and they gleamed with a fierce intensity. It was actually rather horrible to look at and Plex quickly turned away.  

The two minute warning sounded and the magic time glass stopped its slow drain of sand.  Coach Sprout called the defensive line over to the side of the field and issued a quick series of instructions.  Plex wasn’t close enough to hear what was being said even with his good elven hearing. There was too much noise in the stadium for him to focus in on the conversation.  He considered moving closer but Coach wrapped up his instructions before Plex could get started in that direction and the defense jogged back onto the field.

“I guess I’ll see what his plan is anyway,” Plex mumbled to himself.

“What was that?”

Startled, Plex turned to see that the minotaur, Glavven, was standing next to him.  The quarterback had been so focused on trying to hear Coach Sprout that he’d missed the giant running back finishing up a session with the healer and moving over.

“I was curious what the coach was saying but couldn’t hear.  So, I was saying ‘I guess I’ll see what his plan is anyway.’”

“Ah.”

The two players watched in silence as the teams moved into position to restart the game.  It looked like the other team was setting up for another passing play. That made sense to Plex.  While there were still two minutes left in the game, they needed more than one touchdown to get the victory and time was against them.  

“We have not played well enough.”

The minotaur’s statement so startled Plex that he turned to face Glavven and missed the snap.  Plex whipped his head back towards the field as the quarterback dropped into the pocket. There was decent pass coverage and the other quarterback had to throw the ball away before getting sacked to stop the clock again. 

Without taking his eyes off the action, Plex asked, “What do you mean?”

“We have far superior players.  We should have handled this team easily.  We need to improve to ensure that we play better in our next match.”

“We need to win this one first,” Plex retorted.

“We will.”

Plex wasn’t about to refute Glavven’s confident statement. There was still a chance that the other team could tie the game up and they needed all the confidence that they could hold onto. If you went into any game, no matter what it was, thinking that you were going to lose, you were going to lose. He was glad for Glavven’s bold words and knew that he had to project the same level of confidence as well. As the quarterback, the team looked to him for leadership and he wasn’t going to let them down. 

His eyes went back to the field and his heart nearly jumped up out of his throat on the very next play. The quarterback for Gilania’s team made a horrible decision and threw it to a wide receiver who was too well covered. A collective gasp came from the crowd as the defensive back jumped in front of the receiver. It was one of the easiest interceptions a defender could make.

The only problem was that the defensive back didn’t make it. 

His hands closed less than a breath before the ball got there. It bounced off his fingers and fell harmlessly to the ground. All around him, the sideline became a chorus of groans and curses. None of them could believe that the defensive back missed a catch that was so easy. Plex didn’t believe it either. While the goblin defensive back looked at his hands in confusion, Plex knew that it wasn’t his teammate’s fault. The dragon had done something to prevent the interception. He just didn’t know what.

As the teams lined up for the next play, Plex tried to keep his anger in check. Lavalandinarial had already shown that she was capable of seeing into his mind. Any angry thoughts that might pop into his head would be all the excuse the dragon would need to swallow him whole. Plex pushed out all the thoughts he was having about the dragon and focused solely on the football. His attention needed to be on the game anyway. 

It was now third down and the opposing team ran the ball again in what would normally be a passing situation. It worked once more. Most of the defenders were caught off guard again. Kalant wasn’t. The dwarf flew like an arrow as the running back cut to the outside. Both running at full speed, the dwarf ducked down and put the full force of his momentum into his shoulder, which hit the running back squarely in the stomach. It was a collision that would have even knocked Glavven to the ground despite the minotaur being twice the dwarf’s height and weight. 

The other team’s running back, an orc, bounced right off him, though.

With Kalant’s tackle failing, there was nobody else to stop the orc from waltzing into the end zone. The arena was suddenly filled by the roar of the cheering crowd. While he didn’t want to admit it, Plex probably would have been cheering too if he was just a spectator. Games were more fun to watch when the score was close like this.

Glavven cursed then cursed again.  Then a string a words began to flow out of the minotaur in his native tongue.  It was angry and vulgar.

Plex, forcing his attention to stay on the field, took a minute to hear the outburst and by the time he had turned towards the minotaur the running back had worked himself into a fit.  He placed a hand on Glavven’s shoulder and asked, “What’s wrong?”

Spit flew from Glavven’s mouth as he answered, reverting back to common.  “This is not the first time something has kept us from our glory. Something is working against us.”  

Internally, Plex cursed.  He needed to get the minotaur calmed down before his outburst was noticed.  At least it seemed like Glavven hadn’t figured out who was interfering.

“Someone is cheating.  There is no honor in that.  It is disgraceful. It is unacceptable.”

With each pronouncement, Glavven’s voiced rose higher and higher.  The celebration from the touchdown was still loud enough that nobody was paying attention to Glavven but it was only a matter of time.  “We are going to win, remember. You told me that yourself just a few minutes ago.”

Glavven turned a darker shade of red and then spat a gob of snot to the ground at his feet.  “What will that victory mean? Nothing. It is nothing. This whole game, this battle, has been nothing.  We have earned nothing. We have been allowed to appear like we are the victors. That is all.”

“Glavven,” Plex took on an urging tone and squeezed the shoulder his hand was still on, “you need to calm down.  You can’t be seen having this outburst right now. Bottle it up and you can vent later.”

The minotaur carried on as if Plex hadn’t spoken at all.  

“There is no honor in this.  There is no pride. There is nothing.  We have fought for nothing. We are nothing!”

The players around Plex had started to hear Glavven.  He needed the running back to get control of himself now.  He slapped Glavven across the face. “Glavven, get control of yourself.  This outburst does nothing but help the other team.”

The minotaur didn’t seem to notice.  If he did, he certainly didn’t care. Plex slapped him again, desperate to get Glavven’s attention, to break his rant and potentially save his life.  “Glavven!”

Seething, the giant running back turned to look down on the elf.  His eyes, burning the same red as his body, narrowed and steaming snot dripped from his snout.  “This is not right.”

“No, it isn’t but if you don’t calm down you will die.”

Something had happened in the game.  The crowd erupted in another loud rapture of applause but Plex didn’t dare look away from Glavven.  Nothing could have happened that would have sealed the fate of either team, not in that one play.  

“This is not right,” Glavven repeated with slightly less venom.

The minotaur was correct, of course, but it didn’t matter.  In that moment all that mattered was keeping Glavven alive. Plex wasn’t sure what to say, though.  And, he heard the dragon’s wings stretching. The beast was moving and it might already be too late, anyway.

 

Echo, Part 22

Henry held Ana in his arms and was glad that she drifted off to sleep rather quickly.  She needed her rest.  Growing a child was hard work.  He, however, found it rather difficult to fall asleep.  His thoughts kept drifting to the car across the street and, his eyes kept opening and turning towards the window.  In the worst moments of the long night, his imagination had federal agents bursting through the glass, the shards scattering across the room and ripping the sheets on the bed.  He knew that wasn’t likely.  As he and Ana had discussed, if whoever was out there had wanted Henry and Ana in custody it would have been a simple thing.  The subterfuge meant they were waiting for something.

Ana stirred next to him and Henry turned towards her. Her breathing was slow and regular, her chest rising and falling in a rhythmic pattern that was enchanting.  He blinked several times as his eyelids grew heavier and when he opened his eyes again sunlight was peeking through the blinds to splash in long rectangles on the far wall of the room.  Ana still slept and Henry carefully got up to not disturb her.  Stepping over to the window he peered through the blinds to see that the car had left at some point in the night.  Or, at least, it wasn’t parked in the same spot.

Without disturbing the blinds, Henry twisted his head to look up and down the street as far as he could.  The car was nowhere to be seen.  That didn’t mean it wasn’t out there still.  That didn’t mean it hadn’t been relieved by a different crew in a different car.  That didn’t mean that if they left the house during the day they would be followed wherever they went.  The car wasn’t where it had been.  That’s all he really knew for sure.

He went through the house, checking doors and windows to make sure they were still closed and locked.  It wasn’t too far off from his normal routine, if anyone happened to be watching or listening to his movements.  He checked the doors and windows every day.  Just because they’d had two years of quiet didn’t mean everything was as it seemed.

Nothing looked out of the ordinary and the remaining windows that looked out on the street showed no sign of the car or any other cars that looked out of place.  Not many people parked on the street on his block so he thought he’d recognize if any weren’t the normal ones.  He didn’t want to be overly confident about it but he was fairly certain he did recognize the few cars out there.

He made his way into the kitchen, placed a cast iron skillet on the range and lit a fire under it to let it warm up while he pulled food from the fridge for an omelet.  Ana wondered in shortly thereafter and got the coffee started.  They worked in silence, enjoying the quiet and the company without having to disturb either with words.  While coffee wasn’t something Ana drank much of anymore, she took great pleasure in making it each morning.  She loved the smell to start each day.

When they sat down to their plates of food, Ana asked, “How’s the weather today?”

Henry smirked.  “Sunny for the moment.  Haven’t heard the forecast for the day so I’m not sure what it’s going to look like later.”

“Got a busy day at work?”

“Yeah, couple meetings I’m presenting in and a few projects I need to put some time in.  I could meet for lunch, though, if you felt like getting out later.”

“That sounds good.”

Henry was impressed with their own cleverness.  The weather question had actually been about the situation out front, of course, and everything after that had been setting up a way to meet outside later so they could talk about anything that’d seen that morning.  They hadn’t planned the conversation, it had just happened.  Perhaps those first days when they’d been on the run had left more of a lasting impact on how they thought and reacted to things than they’d known.

Another comfortable silence settled in while they finished their breakfast and sipped on coffee.  Henry read the newspaper and Ana was halfway into a thriller she’d read several times before.  Once he’d finished the article he’d been reading, he got up, collected their dishes, kissed the top of her head, put the dishes in the sink and went to get ready for work.

Ana was still at the table buried in her book when he was ready to go.  “Text me later if you want to do lunch.”

Without looking up she said, “Good plan.”

He smirked again and went out the front door.  He tried to scan the street without breaking stride, without making it obvious that he was looking around more than he might on a normal day.  He wasn’t sure how well he did.  It felt awkward and he eventually stopped looking around to just focus on getting to his car.  As far as he knew, it was just a normal day.

The morning passed quickly.  The work helped him push aside his worries for a few hours.  Then the call came in from the front security desk that Ana was there and he locked his computer to take his wife out to lunch.  She didn’t normally meet him at the office when they dined together but it made sense that she would today.  They could walk down the block to the slew of restaurants there.  The walk would give them time to talk without having to worry about a car being bugged.  And since they hadn’t talked about where they would eat, it was unlikely a team could have been put in place to monitor them.  They would still have to be mindful, though, because if they weren’t being watched their conversation could easily be picked up.

Ana picked a small Italian restaurant they hadn’t eaten in before and they got a table away from the windows and doors, in a dark corner where they could see the rest of the dining area and watch as people came in.  They settled in and ordered two items off the lunch special, a plate of gnocchi and a large piece of vegetarian lasagna.  The pictures on the menu made both look very appetizing.

For a few moments they chatted about the day so far, what they had done, the random things they had heard and seen, all the normal gossip of a few hours spent apart.  Then, after their water glasses had been topped off, Ana leaned across the table and whispered, “Did you see anything else this morning?”

Henry shook his head.

Ana pressed on, “And any thoughts about what we should do next?”

Again Henry shook his head.  He frowned, opened his mouth, shut his mouth, and frowned again.  He had no idea what they should do.  He didn’t even have half-ideas.  The few thoughts bouncing around the back of his mind were barely more than whispers of their own.  He couldn’t hear them well enough to give them voice.

“I had a thought,” Ana said, leaning even closer to Henry as if she was going to peck him on the cheek.

“What was that?”

Before she could answer, two men wearing dark suits walked into the restaurant.  Despite the low-light, neither took off their sunglasses.  Henry and Ana watched from the corners of their eyes as the two took a table nearby.  A wire dangled behind the left ear of both men.  The men appeared to be looking at the menu but neither did more than hold the open binder in front of them.

Ana turned her attention back to Henry.  Fear flared in her eyes.

Echo, Part 21

Ana stirred behind him.  Her hand found his without getting out of the bed and she asked, “What is it?”

Henry didn’t immediately answer.  He was about to but then thought better of it.  If those men were out there to spy on Henry and Ana then it would be a mistake to be vocal about their presence.  It was better that they were out in the open.  If they knew that they had been seen perhaps they would leave only to be replaced something more hidden, something unseen.

Ana sat up and said, “What’s the matter?”

“Can’t sleep.  Going to go get a drink of water,” Henry mumbled.

He didn’t let go of her hand though and tugged on it gently, indicating that she should come with him.  With only the slightest hesitation she responded, “I’ll get a glass too.”

Together, hand in hand, they walked the dark hallway from their bedroom to the kitchen.

“While we’re up, I’ll just watch these dishes,” Henry said, turning the faucet on full blast.  He clanked the plates and forks in the sink together noisily and Ana stepped close to him.

“The car is back,” he whispered.  “Two men, I think, sitting in the front seat just across the street.  They were doing something.  Some sort of device was glowing in there with them.”

She whispered back, “Are you sure it’s the same car?”

He nodded that he was.

Ana frowned and bit her lip in thought.

Henry dumped some soap onto the sponge and actually began to wash the dishes.  His hands were already wet so he figured he might as well.  Plus that would give him something to do while Ana thought things over.  The sink emptied quickly, though, and then he forced to turn off the faucet.

Ana, poured two glasses of water and handed him one, “Thanks for doing the dishes.”

“One less thing to do in the morning.”

“Anything else got you up?”

She practically purred the question and leaned further into him, tucking one of his legs between her own.

“Now that you mention it…”

“I was thinking about jumping in the shower, care to join me?”

Henry didn’t bother answering, he downed the rest of the water and placed the empty glass on the counter, and then followed Ana into the bathroom.  She turned the water on and quickly disrobed.  Henry stripped off his own clothes and joined her in the tub.  They stood facing each other beneath the showerhead, their eyes locked.

“What should we do?”

Ana’s whispered question was fervent, impoloring.  Her eyes flicked back and forth between his own, searching for comfort, for an answer, for anything that could alleviate the fear he knew she was feeling.  This wasn’t just about Henry and Ana anymore.  They had to protect their new lives so they could protect their child.

“We could run,” Henry answered but he shook his head as he said it.  “No, we can’t.  We should pretend we don’t see them.  We should watch them while they are watching us and see if we can figure out who they are and what they want.  And then maybe we can make a better decision about what to do.”

“How are we going to do that?”

Henry stuck his head under the flow of water and let it soak him.  The sensation was relaxing, calming, and he desperately needed that.  His heart was racing.  His mind was reeling.  After he had collected himself a bit, he moved out of the stream and looked back to his wife.

“We could reach out to the system, see what they know, see if they can help monitor things for us?”

“Not my first choice.”

“We could go back to the people we got our credentials from and see what they have that might work for us?”

“We couldn’t trust that they wouldn’t go running to the system to tell them what we are up to.”

Henry shrugged.  He had considered that but, as far as he could tell, there was no clean way to do any of this.  No part of this was clean anyway.  They were being watched.  That wasn’t paranoia.  That was a fact.  And that was dirty.

“You don’t think they’ll do anything tonight do you?”

“No, if they wanted to do more than watch and listen they would have already made their move without risking being seen.  They’d have shown up lights blaring and handcuffs at the ready.”

“That’s what I was thinking to.  So, we don’t have to figure this out right now.  Let’s see what the morning brings.”

Henry nodded and then reached for the faucet handle.  Ana stopped him.
She smiled and winked.  “Ready to get out so soon?”

“Now that you mention it…”

Echo, Part 19

– Two Years Later –

She lounged on the patio, one leg stretched over to rest on top of the table and the other leg tucked underneath.  She held a book in her hands, with it gently resting on the small bump forming at her belly button.  He was fascinated by how quickly that bump would change in the coming months.  It had already been half the time and she was only just beginning to show.  The life within her would grow so much more before she came to term.  Or, perhaps it wasn’t any faster in these final months, it just seemed that way because the child had started so incomprehensibly small?  A smile tugged at his lips while he studied her and she, perhaps sensing his gaze, peered over the top of the book.  Her eyes met his and they burned with intensity.  Mischief.  Love.  Hope.  There were many facets to Veronica and Charles loved them all.

She wasn’t really Veronica anymore though, just as he wasn’t Charles.  The people they had been before were long gone in more than just name.  Veronica was now Ana.  Charles was now Henry.  They were friends with their neighbors.  They both had jobs.  They were a part of this new community they had been moved to.  Their lives had become even more tangled.  Their new identifications had stood up to the scrutiny of getting married, a civil ceremony six months before, and with each passing day Charles and Veronica were further and further lost and Henry and Ana were more and more solid.

When he’d asked her if she would marry him, Ana had said, “As Veronica I would have said no.  She distrusted such things.  She was known.  As Ana, however, in this new beginning we have together, I will say yes.  My distrust in the world has not changed but I do trust you and that’s reason enough.”

Henry had been surprised and happy that she’d agreed and had booked them an appointment at the court house two weeks later.  They hadn’t discussed doing it any other way.  While they had their new friends, having only that small group at a wedding just would have led to questions of where their families were and where the rest of their friends were.  Those were easy questions to deflect away from in normal conversations but at a wedding they would need answers.  Besides, while they were friendly with their neighbors and coworkers they weren’t so close that they’d want to share their special moment with them.  There was something poetic about two former loners not sharing their wedding as well.  It suited them.

The pregnancy had been decided on, though.  No accident there.  Once they were married their conversations had turned towards children quickly.  At first they had agreed that it would be a mistake to bring a child into their messed up lives.  It wouldn’t have a name that wasn’t real.  It’s parents were living a lie.  It would be at a disadvantage to every other child.  That view softened though as their conversations continued.  Henry and Ana had seen some of the worst society could throw at them and had come through it and their child would benefit from their experience.  And it would be loved.  Perhaps that was the only thing that really mattered.  So, they had changed from their initial positions and decided to get pregnant.

Now halfway through term, they were slowly changing things around in their home to prepare it for one more life.  It would be a challenge but they knew they had years to figure it all out.  When they child was small it wouldn’t care that its parents were living under false names.  Since their marriage hadn’t raised any flags they had little concern that having a child would be a problem either.  Their neighbors and coworkers were all excited for them.  Everything seemed like it was falling into place and would be okay.

It had been so long since they had heard from the system that they had half-forgotten about it.  It would have been impossible to completely push it from their minds of course.  Their two years of bliss together could not overwrite the years they had lived before or the harrowing weeks of their journey to freedom.

Henry and Ana had initially made a habit of taking turns going to sit in the car for a few minutes at a time once a day.  That became once a week and then only as they thought of it and then not at all.  They still used the car to get around town, run errands, go to the movie theatre, and so on.  They no longer sat in it while at home to see if the system had any news for them.  Henry hadn’t asked Ana but he no longer cared to get his old life back.  He wouldn’t turn down the chance to drop the charade and become Charles again but he wouldn’t pick up stakes and move back to his old home and he was sure she felt much the same.  Thinking of the future, once the baby came Henry doubted he would even care about getting his old name back.  Once he held his son or daughter in his arms, Charles would cease to exist entirely.  There would only be Henry, Ana and the baby.

Fantasy Football Part 14

The time has come once again for Fantasy Football!  Like, legit fantasy football, with elves and dwarves and a particularly nasty dragon, all courtesy of the imagination of Revis and myself.  Not sure what I’m talking about?  Part 1 is here.

Let’s see, some quick math, at around 1,500 words per post and 14 posts (so far), that’s just shy of 20,000 fantastically footbally words already!  That’s a lot.  And we aren’t done yet.  Dive on in to the next installment.  And the leave us a note to let us know what you think should happen next.

……

Plex had missed the play, his attention fully on watching the fate of Foyarlen instead, but not wanting to see Lavandinarial lick her lips he forced himself to focus on the game again.  The opposing team, somewhat surprising, set up for a point after kick rather than go for two points.  Plex figured since it was a two possession game they likely wanted to go for the sure thing rather than risk being even more points behind.

The kick was good and the teams shuffled around for the kick-off.  His players seemed somewhat subdued.  Some of them had seen what happened to Foyarlen and they had spread the word in furtive whispers.  Plex saw heads casting glances towards the dragon as helmets were dragged on and they jogged onto the field.

Plex didn’t know what the elf’s problem had been and why he started to act so aggressive but he was angrier with the dragon.  This was her show, of course, her game to play as she pleased but the fact that the beast could pick them off as she pleased at any time suddenly made the threat of them all getting eaten if they lost less important.  The threat was already there, win or lose.

Giliana stretched on the opposite sideline.  He smiled, a sad sort of twist of his lips, as he realized why she had shown no hesitation earlier in the game.  She had always been smarter than him.  She had already realized the danger.  And now that Plex knew it too, he felt his stomach drop when he remembered the play he had purposefully botched.  If Lavalandrial had suspected anything she could have killed him then.  Knowing the whims of the dragon, the beast might have chosen to accuse the whole team of cheating and award the other team victory, dooming Plex and all his teammates to a grisly fate.

He couldn’t help the shiver that ran up his spine.  He wanted to look over at the dragon and see where her focus was but he kept his eyes on the game.

Their back-up running back was doing a fine job of returning the kick.  Less straight forward than the injured minotaur, the back-up was strategically hiding behind larger blockers and then darting forward in spurts to pick up yards.  He was then finally tackled right around the halfway line.

Plex took a steadying breath and sprinted onto the field.  He looked to Coach Sprout for the play but the gnome did not immediately relay it.  The gnome was conferring with one of the other coaches and Plex was worried that they were going to run out of time.  But then the time glass reached its end and the honor guard announced the end of the third quarter.

While the teams changed sides of the field, Plex ran over to Coach Sprout.  “What’s the problem?”

“We are drawing up a trick play.”

Plex wanted to ask if that was wise.  They still had the lead.  They had control of the ball.  They could do run plays to waste time and see out the game for a victory.  It seemed like a mistake to take a risk.  But then he thought about Foyarlen and he kept his tongue in check.

The Honor Guard whistled, signaling the start of the final quarter. Coach Sprout and his fellow coaches were still talking animatedly about the play they were trying to create. From the looks of it, not all of the other coaches agreed with what Sprout was trying to do. They were smart enough not to make a scene of it, though. Seeing another member of their team, coach or player, get eaten by Lavalandinarial would be catastrophic for their morale.

“Coach,” Plex urged. “I need a play. If I don’t run one soon, we’ll get a penalty.”

“Run a toss play to the far side of the field with Meel,” a frustrated Sprout replied. “When the play is over, come back over here and we’ll have the next one ready.”

Plex darted back out to the field and got his team lined up into their correct positions. They barely got the ball hiked before time ran out. He turned to his left and tossed the ball behind him to Meel, their backup running back. The orc caught it and pivoted to rush straight ahead instead of towards the sideline like the play called for. Plex’s initial reaction was one of irritation at not following the play, but then he saw why the orc had done it.

Gilania had read the play perfectly and had blocked off Meel’s path to the outside. The orc was not as big as Glavven and wasn’t able to bowl his way over defenders like the minotaur. He was more agile, and he used that agility to try to make defenders miss when they went to tackle him. Meel cut completely back to the right and avoided a troll who was bearing down on him. A dwarf caught up with him, but not before Meel had turned what would have been a two yard loss into a three yard gain.

Plex ran over to the sideline and listened as Coach Sprout explained the play. The gnome seemed excited about it, but he wasn’t so sure. It wasn’t that different from plays they already had. Still, he wasn’t going to argue with his coach anymore. The consequences of such an action loomed large in the back of his mind, which was precisely what the dragon wanted. After hearing the full explanation, he ran back out to the field and told the rest of his team their assignments.

Meel lined up in the quarterback position while Plex was out at wide receiver. Right before the ball was hiked, he ran towards the orc. By the time Meel received the ball, Plex was almost right next to him. The orc handed the ball to him and Plex shifted his vision upfield. As he feared, the defense didn’t fall for the deception. His receivers were still covered. He had enough confidence in his arm that he knew he could fit a throw into one of them, but he saw a much safer option.

Because the defense had stayed with the receivers, he had room in front of him to run the ball. He would at least make it to the first down marker before he would encounter the first defensive player. Plex tucked the ball and ran forward.

He passed the first down marker before he realized that the defense had basically stopped to watch him run.  He’d gained another five yards before some of them woke up enough to charge toward him.  Plex began to angle his run towards the sideline, hoping he could step out of bounds before getting tackled.

Meel suddenly appeared ahead of him and blocked off a defensive player that gotten in a good position to take Plex down.  The elf side-stepped a lunging orc, spun around a dwarf, and then tip-toed along the sideline, barely staying in bounds.  But, there was nothing but open space ahead of him.  The only thing he had to worry about was another elf catching up to him.  None of the other players would be fast enough.

He glanced over his shoulder and saw two players trying to gain on him.  Their long, graceful strides meant they had to be elves.  Plex wondered if one of them was his sister.  He didn’t think she’d be on the field when he’d started the play but maybe she had been.  It didn’t matter either way, neither of the players would be able to get to him before he crossed into the end zone.

He ducked his head down and churned his legs even faster.  The feel of the air pushing against him was exhilarating.  But then his trailing foot caught on something as it tried to come forward.  It felt like a root, which he knew was impossible.  He tried to maintain his balance and he staggered a bit but then it was like the ground had been pulled from beneath his feet and there was nothing to get purchase on.  He was falling.

His momentum sent him sprawling and tumbling head over heels.  At some point the ball popped loose but he knew that didn’t matter because he had been officially down the first time he hit the ground.   He came to a rest around the ten yard line and just lay there for a few seconds taking stock of the various aches and pains that called out for his attention.

One of his teammates offered him a hand up and he took it.  Everything was eerily quiet, like the sound had been sucked out of the stadium, and he walked in a daze towards the rest of his team to set up the next play but then someone took him by the arm and escorted him off the field.  He was confused but went without argument.

Coach Sprout was in his face the next moment and was saying something but Plex couldn’t get ahold of the words.  It was like the coach was speaking a language he had learned long ago but no longer remembered.  Plex shook his head trying to clear the cobwebs but that didn’t help.  Coach looked mad.  He could tell that much.

Plex took a seat and stared out at the field.  Something odd was going on.  A play was happening but that couldn’t be because he wasn’t out there with his teammates.  He stood up to run back onto the field but someone pushed him back down.  He shook his head again and again that did nothing to help.

Looking up, Plex saw that the crowd appeared to be celebrating something.  He shifted his eyes towards the end zone but before he could figure out what had happened he locked gazes with the dragon.  It felt like his innards dropped to the field and were set ablaze.  Lavalandinarial’s eyes burned.