For the Glory of the Old Ones (part 3)
The necros gained the ball with a wight standing clear until he was protected by a backtracking wolf. The necros shambled forwards to get to grips with the stalwart brotherhood who braced themselves while Xholmundi broke behind the line to create a distraction. Seizing on a mistake by the necromantic players, Ankhaxl slid clear of his marker to lend an assist with Xholmundi, still unmarked, smashing the wight and gaining the ball just two turns in to the half. The necros backtracked and managed to knock Xholmundi down. The Slann tried every method available to them to get to the ball and eventually, Quet-ti managed to bring his guard skill to bear. Ankhaxl blitzed the remaining wight off the ball and scored making it 1-0 some 5 turns in.
After some messy blocking, the ball was stuck deep. The necros attempted to speed up their attack but they fumbled the ball and it stayed around the half way line until the end of a frenetic period of action. Xholmundi and the rest of the team gathered to discuss their next moves. "We must score fast" said Xholmundi. If we manage to do so then we shall force them to attack even harder which will hopefully lead to more mistakes." The others agreed and they set up for the second half.
They were warned prior to receiving the ball by the High Priest that any mistakes would be punished as signs of weakness. With that in mind, the Sun Gods set up for the kick. The kick fell next to Xholmundi and Xholtoc ran over to the ball and passed it to him in order to better himself. The others attempted moving into better positions but before they knew it the necro were upon them.
Surrounded on all sides, the Sun Gods frantically searched for a way out and found it. Mundiconqua managed to knock out a zombie and after a series of blocks, Xholtoc blitzed Xholmundi clear of attention and the two blitzers ran in to the backfield where they tried to prepare for the inevitable counter-attack. Sadly, Quet-ti attempted to join them and dodged away... As his brothers watched, he tripped and fell to the ground with a loud crack. Their indefatigable priest ran over and tried to save him from death, but he could only bring him back to a fraction of his former strength. Worse for all, he then lapsed again and died. A sad loss for the Sun Gods.
Revulsion curled their lips though as the broken body shambled to it's feet, almost as if some accursed force was reanimating him. Their worst fears were realised when he shuffled over to join his new team mates and silently awaited a chance to enter the field. With the necromantic players now more confident, Xholmundi rushed away to score the Sun Gods second. At the mid way point of the second half they felt confident the game was won but they now were down to 7 fit players with Boqkai and Tihex joining a growing injury list. Boqkai with a broken jaw and Tihex lying unconscious in a tent off to the side of the field.
Now the Sun Gods only had to try and stop the necros from scoring. Kicking the ball very deep the play began again. Mundiconqua saw that the necros had brought the reanimated Quet-ti on to the pitch to taunt the surviving Sun Gods. With a feral, primordial roar he rushed over and with a mighty sweep of his arm killed Quet-ti for the second time in the day! Jubilation turned to unfathomable sadness as Quet-ti shrugged off the blow and left the field under his own steam. There was to be no release for him this day.
The necros ball-handling let them down again and again which made the Sun Gods task easier. As the last turn clicked over Xholtoc tried to get the ball and score again but the crowd of ghouls surrounding it were too much.
He dropped the ball and after some attempts by the necros to damage the Sun Gods the match ended with a ghoul knocking itself down trying to knock Xholtoc away.
The players took a moment to remember Quet-ti as he was, watching him shuffle off with the rest of his new teammates into a guarded cage that served to hold the necros in detention until such time as they were needed again. The High Priest sadly stated that it was all part of the Old One's great plan, and the Sun Gods would simply have to remain strong and continue their training. He stated how pleased he was that they had completed their objective. This clearly accorded with the prophecy and meant that they were destined for great things.Xholtoc now knew the ways of dodging to a higher level than most and it was with this small shred of comfort that the Sun Gods returned to their quarters, their new teammate Goqhui hurrying to catch up with them.
Xholmundi and Xholtoc sat on the stair leading up the to the temple gazing at the stars.
Both in quiet contemplation, they considered the fate that had befallen their brothers of the short journey so far. As always, the felt secure in the guidance of Mazdamundi and yet they considered that it was seemingly an independent capricious fate that had taken their teammates from them. With a sigh, Xholmundi arose and began to walk along the path that led back to the quarters in the temple district.
Having covered a short distance, a messenger approached. "I bring a message from an Elven trading delegation" he said, and hurried off, one of a multitude that still thronged the city at this late hour. Intrigued, the brothers made their way to the mercantile quarter and waited by an ornate ithilmar gate. Ringing a slender bell that made a tinkling sound like gentle laughter they saw a light at the end of a pathway. With easy grace a group of Elves made their way down the path, unhurried and confident in their surroundings.
The leader of the Elves spoke from the other side of the still barred gate. "We have heard many things about you Xholmundi. You and your Sun Gods appear to be favoured by your Gods. We would be honoured to play a friendly game with you. But heed us well, we will not stay our hand and we would expect that you do not stay yours. What say you?"
Xholmundi agreed with alacrity. A game of the holy sport would surely take their minds off the lost. And so, the Sun Gods stood on the pitch that was lit by unknown means and prepared for the upcoming tussle. As usual, they kicked off and the ball was quickly in the hands of an Elven thrower. As he retreated from danger and his teammates flooded forwards the Sun Gods attempted a new tactic. Not flooding the defensive half they wished to try stymieing the Elf attempts to score quickly. It was not to be, the Elves hit with power and ran rings around the Sun Gods with players beginning to leave the field.
Xholmundi attempted to take out the Elf blitzer who was doing all the damage but he found himself cut off from support. With Mundiconqua struggling with the lights and becoming confused the defence fell apart and the Elves scored around turn 5. The Sun Gods came roaring back however. Turning the corner immediately, Xholmundi was able to get free and scored as the half was coming to an end.
The light suddenly snapped off leaving both teams in darkness. In the silence Xholmundi heard a voice in his head that could only be Mazdamundi...
"Xholmundi, I am afraid that time is growing short with your training. I am confident that you must stay in Itza no longer and must make your way along the Vampire Coast and on to Hexoatl. This path shall be your training. You shall succeed and once this match ends, you shall have more support to add to your company."
With this the lights reappeared and the second half got under way.
With the teams at 9 and 10 players respectively, the Sun Gods considered that they were still in with a shout with an Elf being killed late in the second half that was sure to dismay the Elves. But it didn't, they played just as hard as they had i the first half and the Sun Gods were quickly under pressure. Xholmundi sought the reassuring bulk of Mundiconqua who had seeming shaken off his disorientation.
The play continued back and forth around the centre of the field when an Elf got in behind the lines and flashed towards Ankhaxl, Tihex made to cry out a warning when the promising linefrog fell to the ground. He appeared to be hanging by athread and the priest attempted to revive him. And yet he was unsuccessful.
Another soul gone.
With that the Elves made a blitz on the ball and managed to knock Xholmundi to the ground, they blocked the ball free and recovered in a dazzling display of precision. At this time, Tihex and Goqhui were overcome by rage and gained some measure of vengeance for the untimely death of Ankhaxl. They each seriously injured an Elf but by this time they Sun Gods were out of position and were struggling to get the ball. Once again, Xholmundi managed to get a block in on the ball carrier but was stunned for his trouble.
At this point the Elves were playing keep away as they ran down the clock. To the anger of the Sun Gods, the Elves attempted a late foul on Xholmundi who was on the ground. The foul was unsuccessful but the Slann could not make them pay. The Elves scored late to complete a close fought win that both teams could take pride in.
As the Elves made their way back to their compound, having shaken the hands of the Sun Gods and wished them luck, the Sun Gods gathered their items and made their way to the northern gates of the city. They thought themselves down a player but were surprised to see what appeared to be a blitzer running to meet them.
"I am Zlatoatl he said, and the Old Ones have spoken to me. I am to join you on your quest. Together, we can only be victorious." The others, cheered by this, made their way out of the brightly lit city and deeper in to the gathering gloom that marked the borders of the Vampire Coast....
The team had only just left the city gates when they heard a voice. "Oi! Froggy! You wanna game?" it said to them and they look around to see what was going on, as Mundiconqua looked down a snort came from him inadvertently. They looked down to see half-men standing in front of them and they wondered what they were doing in this part of the world.
Xholmundi said to them, "What kind of people are you? How do you come to be in Lustria?", and there was a moment's silence as they men opposite considered this. "Well... The thing is, we was on our way to a minor tournament and we got blown off course in a storm." Ball players? Xholmundi thought to himself. They got to talking and it transpired that the team was named the Mighty Blowflies and they were a traveling team devoted to showing the world just how good Halflings (as they called themselves) could be. "Oh yeah! Before youse start" said the fling, "We has got ourselves some help you know". And he whistled.
As he did so, two massive trees came shuffling out from the undergrowth. As the Sun Gods eyes widened, the flings chuckled and set up for the game. They received first and straight away Xholmundi was leaping in to knock the ball loose. The next few turns saw the trees attempting to main the Sun Gods as the ball went too and fro. The flings recovered the ball and tried to rearrange themselves. Xholmundi tried his luck again and succeeded only in pushing the unusually agile fling closer to his enormous guardians. The flings were well marshaled and were giving as good as they got outblocking the Sun Gods who were trying to edge around the periphery to get a go at the ball.
With a start, the Sun Gods saw the tree pick up the ball carrier and throw him howling through the air. As he slumped to the ground the Sun Gods were able to retrieve the ball. Looking downfield, Xholmundi saw Zlatoatl screaming for the ball. He leaped over the markers and threw it to him, neatly managing to get in the way of retaliation. The Sun Gods by this time had suffered some frogs knocked out and as such they endeavoured to get the ball near the end zone which they achieved quite happily.
Out of second chances the Sun Gods made it into the end zone to make it 1-0. And the flings had lost two of their players to the KO Box. The Sun Gods were amazed by their ability to slip out of the tightest spaces and vowed to be careful in their attacking phase. And yet, greed is a powerful motivator. The Sun Gods moved down the flank through Boqkai and Tihex with Xholtoc lending strong support. Zlatoatl moved behind the lines and the Slann tried to lock down their opponents. Having thrown yet another fling, they had Xholmundi seemingly trapped deep in the Sun Gods half. However, his superior agility shone and he was able to free himself and run to safety. A couple of mistakes by both sides led to the Sun Gods getting the ball to Zlatoatl in order to see him gain greater abilities. There was some inconsequential blocking until one of the trees smashed Boqkai to the ground. In what was becoming a distressing scene, both sides grouped around the player as he struggled for breath.
"Xholmundi..." he groaned...
"The plan must succeed. Let me die knowing I have been part of something greater than myself".
"We can save you" the Captain said but it was not to be. Boqkai let himself slip away. A beatific smile on his face.
The game became furious now, with Kailoq and Tihex hurting two flings badly and the flings retaliating with some massive fouling. Xholmundi himself was badly hurt late in the game and the numbers were starting to thin alarmingly. The chatty fling made his way clear and Mundiconqua snorted as he went to knock him down. Sadly for his self-esteem, the flings consistently brought him to the ground and moved on. A late score by the Mighty Blowflies allowed them a real measure of honour in the match which had been played in a particularly fine spirit.
As the teams both mourned the departed, they shook hands and the flings wished them luck on their quest. "We will keep informed of your progress fellas" said their captain and the Sun Gods promised to keep in touch with their doughty little opponents. As they considered the surreal nature of the match, the Sun Gods couldn't help but smile. They knew that one day their paths would cross again, and they fervently wished that it was as friends and not rivals.
They were surprised to hear Tenqhex as he began to laugh and as they turned around he had grown measurably. "I am much stronger now" he said, "Glory to the Old Ones"...
Glory to the Old Ones indeed.