Friday, September 12, 2014

Lady Elaryindril & Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback: Book III, Part 2

Lady Elaryindril and Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback_ Book III, Part 2 - Marty Reeder.jpg

the Quarterback

Volume One of the Kingdom of AtoL Serie
by Marty Reeder

Book III:
The Wraith Lord

Part 2

The 6’5” Sophomore from Crater High School, Number 34, Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback, stepped through the swirling mists dominating the field of play between him and the end zone. If he had been nervous in the huddle with Elaryindril, it did not show now. He paused for a moment as the wandering shadows of beasts ambled back and forth in front of him. He gathered his breath, then he crouched down, putting one of his hands on his knees. His other hand gripped Elaryindril’s large fantasy volume neatly tucked into his side.

“Red, 32! Red, 32! Black 6! Hut, hut, hike!” Cyrus’s clarion call into the darkened mists immediately caused the Caped Horned Beasts to turn towards him. For a split second, they calibrated, and then as soon as Cyrus screamed “hike,” they collectively charged towards the sound. The thunder that resulted might have made some people jump for cover. But not Cyrus. Instead, he did something so unexpected that even the Caped Horned Beasts had not ever seen anything like it. Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback sprinted straight for the converging herd.

Upon closer inspection the stampeding black forms showed blunt bodies, powered by four muscle bound legs leading to hoofed feet. At the front of this massive body could be found a wide animal head bordered by a curly mane and topped by two fierce looking, black horns. Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback came close enough to the forerunners of the herd to distinguish these characteristics, before he made a sudden feint to the left and then bolted to the right.

In their eagerness to be among the first to gore the intruder, the Caped Horned Beasts were thrown off by Cyrus’s athletic maneuver. The leaders tumbled to a stop, but not before their rushing companions collided into them, creating mass confusion and disarray.

Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback, by this time, had breached the right wing of the defense. He had a clear shot to the fortress entrance if he wanted it. Yet he knew that this complicated play was just beginning.

As if to confirm that thought, rising off the top of the fortress like a disturbed hornet’s nest, the black flapping shapes of the Night Shriekers zeroed in on Cyrus’s form. Cyrus nodded, satisfied and cried out, “Blitz!”

He felt this call would be the appropriate signal for Elaryindril to make her move to the fortress, since it meant that the defense had now put all their men towards the line of scrimmage, opening up the back field. In the corner of his eye, he saw the lithe girl spring apprehensively for the entrance.

By this time the swarming Night Shriekers found themselves diving towards Cyrano. He got a close enough view of the individual creatures to recognize they were smaller than a football, had leather wings with a spidery frame, immense ears, and open mouths displaying dozens of razor sharp teeth. That view was close enough for Cyrus.

At the last moment, Cyrus dove to the side, just as hundreds of the Night Shriekers shot past the spot he had been standing at only moments before. He wasted no time in diving the other direction as soon as he landed, in order to dodge the tail end of the flock of Night Shriekers who had adjusted for his first move.

As soon as he stood up from his second dive, he noticed that the Caped Horned Beasts had shuffled so as to face Cyrus and block his access to the fortress. Behind him, the Night Shriekers boomeranged around for another offensive. Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback noted that both enemies this time around spread out, using their superiority in numbers to limit the quick movements that had been his staple so far. They learn fast, he noted.

With only a couple of seconds before the trap would complete itself, Cyrus took a deep breath. Though he was not exactly sure of his next move, he had anticipated this kind of daunting challenge. Inside, the reality of his situation slammed into him, and Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback felt a spike of adrenaline. His reaction was not what one would expect. “I love this,” he whispered to himself fiercely.

Just as the sound of the thundering hooves of the Caped Horned Beasts in front of him began to mix with the flapping wings of the Night Shriekers behind him, Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback shot forward. The first Caped Horned Beast had bowed its head in anticipation of a violent goring, but Cyrus simply used the lowered head as an excuse to spring over the beast. His athletic muscles snapped him into the air and he used the hand not holding the book to guide him over the massive beast’s body.

The second his agile legs found footing on the other side, he immediately had to deal with the Caped Horned Beast following the leader. This time Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback dropped to the ground, feet forward, using his momentum to slide through a gap under the iron legs of the beast.

While Cyrus made his first couple of forays into the stampeding herd of Caped Horned Beasts, the Night Shriekers had made their diving attack from behind him. Once he jumped over the first beast, however, the leading Night Shriekers could not adjust their strike quickly enough, and they slammed into the unfortunate Caped Horned Beast leader. The others recalibrated course, but only in time to crash into the second Caped Horned Beast that Cyrus had slid under.

This created enough confusion that the already misty field was now further impaired in visibility by dust from stomping Caped Horned Beasts as well as haphazardly biting Night Shriekers flapping low to the ground. While that enabled Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback to be less of a target, it also made his movements through the herd difficult to systemize. Every step could be an opening towards the fortress or a blind move into a rogue Caped Horned Beast or Night Shrieker.

Cyrus dodged a few frenzied Caped Horned Beasts and ducked away from a careening Night Shrieker as he looked around to try and discern his next move. After getting slammed by a backwards moving Caped Horned Beast, a view opened up of the black fortress reaching above the gray dust. The path towards it lay obstructed by about five layers of disorganized beasts and the air above was infiltrated by a scattering of aimless Night Shriekers.

Behind him, Cyrus could hear the herd starting to regroup. A few of them must have realized his location and were refocusing for a final rush. Now or never, Cyrus thought.

With his path on the ground blocked, Cyrus knew that he would need to take a different route. He tightened his grip on Elaryindril’s book and once again charged forward. Upon reaching the first unsuspecting Caped Horned Beast, Cyrus lightly vaulted upwards, landing foot first on the back of the beast. Before the creature could even register what had happened, Cyrus left his back for the back of the beast beyond.

As he acrobatically leapfrogged from the back of one beast to another, Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback also had to dodge the prowling Night Shriekers meandering along his path, bending his body awkwardly or spinning dangerously as he leaped in the air. There was still one more Night Shrieker to dodge by the time he reached the final beast’s back, but Cyrus had run out of spring. The Night Shrieker swooped to latch onto his leg, so Cyrus simply tumbled off the Caped Horned Beast’s back head first, keeping his legs just out of the teeth of the shrieker. As his head about smacked the ground, Cyrus tucked his chin to his chest and managed to roll onto the dirt, bring his legs out in front of him, and come to a standing stop.

Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback shook the dust off his head and looked around. Amazingly, he was free of foes and nothing lay between him and the fortress but open ground. The Caped Horned Beasts and Night Shriekers also realized this and pounced after him.

Cyrus needed no further incentive to resume his race. His ever ready limbs sprang into effect ahead of his pursuers, and he zeroed in on the final twenty-five yards towards the end zone. Though the tumbling mass of the Caped Horned Beasts were grinding into top speed and the streaking wings of the Night Shriekers accelerated behind him, Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback knew that no one would catch him in the open field. Like a machine, he pumped his arms and legs faster and faster, his breathing rhythmically matching the increasing pace. Soon he not only held the creatures at bay, but in a beautiful display of sheer strength, he expanded his lead.

Cyrus’s eyes were so focused on the black void that was the entrance to the fortress, that he never saw the rogue Night Shrieker diving for his face until the last second. The lone animal had retreated back to the fortress in the confusion of the first failed attack, but now recognized--with a reckless glory--his duty to bring the intruder down at all costs.

The streaking form plunging into his upper periphery caused Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback to execute an improvised football tactic. He rushed the hand, which held the fantasy volume out in front of him, his fingers gripping the edge and palm facing the book forward, his elbow locked. The quarterback’s book-capped stiff arm caught the Night Shrieker completely off guard. The result had the Night Shrieker smash into the book’s leather binding mouth first and ricochet to the ground in an inglorious heap.

Before Cyrus could register what had just occurred, he saw a familiar arm beckon from the dark entrance. He rushed headlong towards it and dashed inside. Immediately, the blackness swallowed him and someone slammed the door shut behind him, cutting off the menacing sounds of his failed pursuers.

In the safety of the fortress, Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback finally brought his triumphant sprint to a halt. The only thing he lacked was a spike in the end zone, but he was pretty sure that Lady Elaryindril would disapprove to the abuse of her book.

End Part 2 of Book III: The Wraith Lord of Lady Elaryindril and Cyrus Knowles the Quarterback: Volume One of the Kingdom of AtoL Serie