Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lady Elaryindril & Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback: Book III, Part 1

the Quarterback

Volume One of the Kingdom of AtoL Serie
by Marty Reeder

Book III:
The Wraith Lord

Part 1

For a full minute, Lady Elayrindril and Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback looked at the ominous walls of the Wraith Lord’s domain without speaking. The hope sparked in them since Cyrus’s talk began to give in to some preliminary tuggings of despair.

“So,” Elaryindril finally spoke out. “The dark recess in the walls is where I’m assuming the entrance is. On top of the fortress, you can see the countless small forms of the Night Shriekers, the ones that attacked our friend Dëwht-åh-mæhrø, making him vulnerable to the Caped Horned Beasts. Where are they, you ask? See those black shadows on the landscape leading to the fort, wandering back and forth. My guess is that those are the beasts--probably a few dozen of them. They look to be as big as a full grown centaur--” she caught herself, “--er, or horse or cow or something like that. As their name indicates, they likely have horns and are intended to trap anyone attempting to enter the Wraith Lord’s domain. Don’t forget that there are also a smattering of the Wraith Lord’s guards wandering about here somewhere, hoping to capture anything or anyone that doesn’t belong. Finally, the longer we sit here and stare, the more time the wärgs have of arriving and completing this trap of death.” Lady Elaryindril eyed Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback carefully during the whole of her description. “So, Chosen One. What’s the plan?”

Cyrus scouted out the wandering silhouetted forms in front of them momentarily before nodding slowly. “Okay. You didn’t happen to bring a gun, did you?”

Elaryindril shook her head firmly.

Cyrus shrugged. “That’s too bad. I think that would’ve made things easier.” His lip curled as he gauged her reaction out of the corner of his eyes.

Elaryindril pouted. “Are you really being frivolous at a time like this?! You’re the one who convinced me to take this seriously, and now you’re joking about this impossible situation?”

Cyrus held his hands up. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned playing football games, it doesn’t help to freak out about your opponent. That just gives them a bigger advantage than they already have.”

Lady Elaryindril rolled her eyes. “Very well, you are officially not freaked out. Now what?”

Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback reasserted his eyes on the field in front of them. “The building is really only forty yards or so away. If the beasts can be distracted for fifteen seconds, that should be enough time to reach the building.”

“You think you can run forty yards that fast?” Elaryindril eyed him.

Cyrus chortled. “Oh, I can totally run it faster than that. I was figuring for someone not used to running and carrying a heavy book.”

“You want me to run to the entrance?”

“Only after I’ve distracted the Caped Horned Beasts and Night Shriekers.”

“And how do you think you can manage that?”

Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback reached down to the hard, black ground and scraped a pattern. “Here, it’s like a football play. Here is the end zone … the fortress … and here are the Caped Horned Beasts between, with the Night Shriekers playing prevent at the end zone.” Elaryindril did her best to follow the markings with the foreign terms, which made less sense to her than Dwarf Ruïns from the Nether Volcanic Regions of Gîlgæmär. Cyrus continued, oblivious to her obliviousness. “If I can sell them on this being a running play, the Caped Horned Beasts will collapse in on me. By getting them to commit too strongly and quickly, I’ll be able to flank them, which will cause the secondary (the Night Shriekers) to make their move. Neither of them will realize that this was not a running play at all and that I’m actually opening a path for a long strike to my wide receiver, you, in the end zone.”

Elaryindril silently eyed the scrapings on the ground for a moment longer. “Well, it certainly looks like you know what you’re talking about.”

Cyrus reviewed the play on the ground and nodded. “It’s like the play we ran against the Plain City Miners. They never saw it coming.”

Elaryindril paused a moment before saying, “Did you also forget the guards in your play against the Plain City Miners? Or did that game somehow neglect to have any?”

Cyrus bit his lip. “The guards. Right. I guess I haven’t seen any yet, so I figured they’d be out of the picture.” The quarterback scrubbed his chin thoughtfully.

Elaryindril located the end zone on the ground scrawlings and made some x’s. “It is highly likely that the entrance will have two or three guards. According to The Siege of Frükdhâken every fortress in those stories is designed with several entrances, so I imagine other guards will be dispersed around the three other sides, besides a picket line of guards serving as feelers for the outer defenses. Your daring escapade against the Caped Horned Beasts will get you past the guards’ outer defenses quickly enough that they won’t be able to stop you, but even if I could get to the entrance--”

“You’d be in triple coverage,” Cyrus finished for her.

“Right …” Elaryindril nodded, not exactly sure what he meant.

“So we’ve got to find out a way to clear out the end zone of guards as well as Night Shriekers,” Cyrus eyed the x’s on the ground critically. “You think if I’m yelling out taunts while I’m dodging Caped Horned Beasts, it might draw them out? Sometimes trash talking will get in your opponent’s head and--”

Elaryindril shook her head. “I don’t think that calling the Wraith Lord a ‘belly itcher’ is going to have an impact on the guards’ duty to protect their posts.”

“‘Belly itcher’ is baseball,” Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback corrected, “not football.”

Lady Elaryindril waved her hand. “Fine. Still, though, you have a good point. There might be something that could affect them emotionally …” Elaryindril looked at Cyrus thoughtfully. “You may have given me an idea, hero boy. I’m going to need your football.”

“Now?” Cyrus asked, “Don’t you want me to throw it to you as you run into the end zone?”

“Don’t push your luck, Ball Lancer.” Elaryindril put her hand out and Cyrus passed her the football. After cradling it awkwardly in her arm, she looked at Cyrus and said, “One thing you haven’t addressed is what you are going to do after I’ve gained access to the entrance. You will have successfully distracted the whole of the creature foes away from me, but what are you going to do?”

Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback smiled. He reached out and helped Elaryindril readjust her grip on the football, sliding her elbow next to her side and slipping her hand over the nose of the football. “I ain’t no Cyrano poet type, Elaryindril,” he said, “but if there’s one thing you can be sure about, it’s that I’ll meet you at that entrance within one minute of the snap of the football. You just watch. I’ll make up for all the football games you’ve never saw with this one, magical play.”

Elaryindril noticed that Cyrus’s hand lingered on her arm. She caught her breath. “Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback, I can’t tell if your confidence is reckless arrogance, or absolute stupidity.” Then her voice softened, “But if your trembling hand is any indication of how you really feel, then maybe it’s just a mask of bravery.”

Cyrus pulled his hand back. “I liked the reckless arrogance option.”

Lady Elaryindril smiled and, with a little bit of reticence, set her book down on the ground. Cyrus watched curiously. “You’re not taking your book with you?”

“I’m not sure I can run with both. Besides, I don’t really need it.”

Cyrus was not convinced by her poor showing of indifference. He reached down and lifted the book off the ground, aptly cradling it in one arm. “I’ll take it.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback,” Lady Elaryindril protested. “You’re already doing the hardest part of this whole adventure. I’m not going to endanger you further by making you carry my book around.”

“I’m not doing it for you,” Cyrus shrugged. “I’m just used to running with something, that’s all.” He avoided eye contact with Elaryindril and gazed over the field of play. “Now, we’d better set this play into action before the play clock runs out … or before those wär-go thingies show up.”

End Part 1 of Book III: The Wraith Lord of Lady Elaryindril and Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback: Volume One of the Kingdom of AtoL Serie