“I don’t think I can handle any more assignments from this class, Parkinson must really love giving out tons of work!” Rena complains slinging her backpack over her shoulder as the group left their only class together.
Sor was ready to comment how she thought it really wasn’t that much work before a voice called her name from down the hall.
The entire group turned around to see a familiar boy walking towards then with a grin on his face. Sor gave a friendly smile and wave to the boy “Oh hi, Kaiden.”
Since their meeting on the first day of classes, Sor had learned quite a few things about her lab partner. According to most of the school, Kaiden was a heartthrob. All girls, mostly the Mage girls, had a huge crush on him. Of course Sor thought he was nice but other than that, she didn’t understand why everyone fell at his feet. Though the fact he was from America might have something to do with it.
He stood in front of her, his curly black hair on top of his head bounced with each movement “I was wondering if you could help me with one of our assignments in botany, that class is really kicking my butt.” He chuckled and scratched the back of his head.
Sor nodded her head “Of course, we can meet sometime this week at the library and I can help you out.”
He grinned, taking a small step closer to her “Thanks Sorina. I really appreciate it”
Sor chuckled awkwardly and tucked a piece of her golden hair behind her ear. Why was he so close to her? “It’s not a problem.” A cough came from behind her getting both of their attentions.
She smiled sheepishly stepping back as Rena gave her a knowing smile while the rest of her friends were staring. Ali had a look of annoyance on his face as he watched the exchange.
“Are you going to introduce us Sor?” Rena questions looking between the two students.
“Oh uh yes, Kaiden Reed, these are my friends, Rena, Hope, Trevor, Garrett, Bart, and Alister.” She gestured over to her friends with a grin.
Kaiden nodded his head in greeting then his eyes lit up in recognition seeing Alister “Oh hey O’Malley! I didn’t know you’re friends with Sorina.”
“Yeah what’s up lad? You ready for Sunday’s match?” Ali was cordial and friendly, but only in the way that teammates are. Kaiden was friendly with Ali for the sake of being friendly; Ali was friendly with Kaiden for the sake of getting through the season as champs.
Kaiden nodded his head “Oh yeah, those Grims won’t know what hit them.” He smirked before looking down at his phone “Ah gotta get to my next class. It was nice meeting you guys.” He offered Sor a charming smile “Looking forward to our tutoring session Sorina. See you later.” With that he left heading back in the direction he came from.
Rena let out a low whistle watching Kaiden leave “If that’s what is in botany class I should have signed up a long time ago.”
Hope knit her eyebrows looking at Kaiden run off. She turned back to Sor with a grin on her face. “Kaiden Reed. That’s American right? Look at you Sor. Not bad at all.”
Sor shook her head quickly, a blush on her face “Oh no, it’s not like that. He’s just a friend, well acquaintance really.”
Hope and Rena shared a look, poor Sor didn’t realize the boy had the hots for her. “Whatever you say Sor.” Rena says chuckling.
It was finally Sunday, which meant the first matches of the season were set to begin. The Mages and Grims got the early game while the Brutes and Hunters were the nightcap. If there were one thing students from every class could agree on it was this: Stronghold was THE premier event of Ethelwine. Kids wore ridiculous face paint and waved around team scarves in animal like fashion.
The stadium seats were packed in anticipation for the years first whistle to signify the start of the action. Loud music played through the stadium speakers igniting the atmosphere and exciting the crowd.
Bart and Rena walked up the bleachers looking for their friends. “There they are.” Rena pointed. Sure enough, Trevor, Sor, and Hope sat in the middle of section 3. “Hey guys! We save you some seat.” Sor said loudly when she saw them. The stadium was packed.
Bart went and took the seat next to Hope while Rena placed herself next to Trevor and Sor. “They haven’t started yet right?” Bart asked hopefully.
“No not yet.” Trevor said. “But it should be soon.”
Rena grinned as her legs shook in excitement while she sat, Trevor rose an eyebrow in amusement “Are you okay?”
She nodded her head excitedly, a large smile on her face “More than okay! I love stronghold, I’m ready for this match to start!”
The captains of each squad met with the officials at the center. They shook hands, explained the rules and then were sent back to their respective sides. Ali was talking strategy with his fellow Utility unit - 4 students in total. The Mage team ran with 3 attackers, 4 utilities, 3 defenders and a keeper, while the Grim side rolled out a 3-3-4-1 formation.
“Aye, let’s not waste time then...” Ali said to himself aloud. And just like that the officials whistle rang out, and the match had begun
“Here we go.” Bart shifted in his seat. He looked up at the large floating videos above the arena showing the different players and areas through the match. Bart pointed his finger out at the one that had Ali in it as if poking it from afar and a small video appeared in front of him and Hope. “This magic stuff is so cool.”
Rena grabbed Trev’s arm and began shaking it “It’s starting!” She let go stood to her feet and began cheering loudly “LETS GO MAGES!”
Sor giggled at Trev’s bewildered expression “Get used to it, she’s pretty....expressive when it comes to Stronghold. Whoever sits next to her usually has an interesting time.”
The Mage front line darted for No Man’s Land in center field. Three of the utilities followed suit, close enough to help the attackers while also keeping tabs on the field of play. The Grim unit had a more defensive approach; they were letting the match come to their side of the field.
One of the Mage utilities cast a spell of fire that burnt up some of the heavy green ahead of them that cleared a visual path through the forest. They were 20 feet from No Man’s Land. “Alright, we stay aggressive and push the pace,” Jacob, one of the captains, told his sizable group. “Ali, you and the Mids float around the border and set traps. We shouldn’t need a bailout but you know what to do if we’re caught.”
The Grim attackers had used their knowledge of magic to blend into the tall grass on their side, once the Mage attackers had crossed enemy lines, they pushed up towards No Man’s Land. The leading runner was full speed, when suddenly she froze.
Ali and two of the other Utilizes had formed a triangle around her. She was a mouse in a trap at this point. “Gaisgich!” Ali yelled out. Ogugua and Shea, the other parts of his unit, cast a spell that worked as a rope which caught each of the Grims legs. They pulled at the rope, and the helpless attacker was hung like a piñata from the trees.
The scoreboard updated: Mages 10 Grims 0
“THATS HOW ITS DONE! LET’S GO!” Rena shouted causing other students to look over at her with glares, “Do we have a problem?” She glared back with a raised eyebrow.
The students quickly turned their attention back to the match not wanting to anger the Russian girl.
Sor shook her head and chuckled, her green eyes wandered back to the game where she spotted Alister leading his unit across the field “You got this Ali!”
The attacking Mages had made it to the steps of the castle mostly undetected. They knew the Grim game plan was one of heavy defense, so they had to remain extremely cautious. “Eyes up, you know how tricky these bastards can be”. They found a side exterior stairwell to quietly climb. It led to an entryway that was garnished in Grim banners and statues.
All was going well, until one of the statues began to move. Then another. “It’s a mind trap! Stay focused!” The Grim defense were using hallucinogen spells as a defense tactic. They weren’t in the castle at all; Jacob and his unit never made it out of the woods. They were walking circles in enemy territory.
“AHH-” a Grim defensemen took hold of the female Mage attacker and cast a non-fatal poison curse on her, effectively thinning the opposition
Mages 10 Grims 10
Jacob and his wingman were cornered. It was 2 on 7 deep in Grim territory with no Utilities as backup. Shea looked at her squad “We have to shift! Let’s move!” They moved to the next phase of the map, while the defenders moved up to the Mage boundary line. They occupied the 2 remaining attackers, pinning them between a wave of Mage players.
Jacob, a 5th year, was fending off defenders with every spell in the book. The other attacker tried to keep pace, but the Grims noticed he was much weaker and focused on him. He was out within seconds
Mages 10 Grims 20
Finally, Ali and friends caught up to Jacob’s position, evening the playing field. Ogugua cast a spell, and a ball of light went into the air. Ali tackled Jacob, as they each covered their faces. Shea lit a magic firecracker and tossed it directly at the floating orb.
With a pop the orb exploded, becoming a makeshift flash grenade. The surrounding Grim units were all disoriented, which is the only means of offense the Mages had in enemy territory. “Run it, lad! You guys handle this!” Ali and Jacob has picked themselves up off the dirt and made a break for the castle.
Once inside, Jacob cast a spell of invisibility. Ali remained visible and began rummaging around. The enemy treasure was a black and ruby chalice, fit for a king. “Now where could I find...got it! Nope, that’s just a regular cup. He was so deep in digging that he had forgot an important detail: the Grim’s keeper.
Rena was chewing on her fingernails nervously watching the scene ahead of her. “The suspense is going to kill me.” She mumbled out amongst the cheering, mostly from Grim students.
A strike of lightning hit right next Ali’s feet. He jumped, and noticed the keeper hunting him down. It was constant strikes of lightning! Ali continued to dodge his opponent but eventually found himself cornered. He looked around for a way out, but this was it. He cast a spell of fire, but the Grim quenched them as soon as they were lit. Ali gave in. “Alright! I yield...you got me man.” He hung his head for a moment, before looking up. “Say, you’re not knew to stronghold are you lad?”
The Grim was confused and rose a brow. “First season starting...why?”
“Well I just thinking it’s a bold tactic going after a person instead of protecting your treasure...seeing as how, you know, I’m unable to capture it.”
The keeper looked stunned. And then angry.
“Utility player, boy. And your treasure walked out the door 5 minutes ago.”
Jacob, still an invisible blur, had retrieved the chalice and was in route to the Mage Stronghold. Shea and Ogugua played bodyguard as they crossed into no mans land.
“HOW’S THAT FOR MAGIC, BA-”
The keeper hit Ali with lightening for real this time.
Mages 10 Grims 30
There was a very audible “OOOOO” from the whole crowd that rang through the stadium. Sor stood to her feet with wide eyes, worry etched on her face “Oh god, is he okay?!”
Jacob made it safely back to the Stronghold, placing the Grims treasure next to their own.
“GAME!” Called the official, and the match was over. Mages won on a Capture Victory, rewarding them 100 points on the table.
The Final: Mages 110 Grims 30
Applause erupted in the Mage student section, with Mr. O’Malley letting out a shout of joy.
“That’s What I’m talking about!” Bart jumped up and was cheering! He turned to his friends. “Well I have to say, that ending was just shocking.”
Rena and Trevor both moaned at his awful pun. Sor giggled while Hope facepalmed But started laughing.“So...worth it...” Ali forced the sentiment out, still lying on the stadium floor staring up at the crisp Greenland sky. Jacob and Shea would eventually help walk him to the locker room. “Good work, boy. I can’t believe that worked.“”Well you know, teachers have been...ow...telling me that for OW...a while”
“I can’t believe we lost.” Bart kicked a pebble across the sidewalk as they walked. “How did nobody think that at least one of the Brutes would transform into the fastest land animal.”
Rena shrugged “Idiots need to learn a thing or two about going against Brutes or playing stronghold for that matter.”
“Hey it’s only the first game of the season, I’m sure the Hunters will do better next game.” Sor says optimistically as she wrapped her cardigan closer to her body, with the arrival of fall it was much cooler in the evenings.
“Ughhhh Brutes are the worst" Ali said, laying on the couch. He was still immensely sore from the events earlier.
“Tell us how you really feel Ali.” Trevor said sitting at the table
“...I can’t feel my tongue”
Sor reached into her bag and pulled out several herbs, using her magic to create a salve placing it in a small container and handing it to Ali “Here, this should help with the soreness. A little lavender, ginger, and chamomile will do wonders.” She smiled as the group looked at her with raised eyebrows “What? Our group is very unpredictable, SOMEONE needs to be prepared for injuries.”
“Oh yeah, bean. I’m keeping you around” Ali laughed and smiled at Sor before taking the remedy. “Well Hope, you got a chance to scout all the teams. Still feel good about next week’s match?”
Bart pulled an arrow out of the vase by his desk and took a step back. He notched his arrow and released. Bullseye. He grabbed another.
“I think we will manage.” Hope said. Bart continues to shoot arrows into the target.
Rena sat on the floor with her legs stretched out “Well I’m rooting for you Hopey, besides I still think you architects will surprise everyone.”
“She’s playing against your team Beasley.”
She shrugged “Girls gotta support girls. And it’s always fun to cheer for the underdogs, no offense Hope.”
“Traitor! Aye, what’s in this stuff you gave me Sor? I feel-” In a blink Ali was knocked out cold, the lavender and events from this afternoon, sending him into a deep sleep.
“I think that’s the most quiet he’s ever been.” Trevor said nodding at the now sleeping Ali.
Sor winced “Oh yikes, I forgot to tell him about how lavender helps calm the body” She poked his face “AND possibly cause drowsiness.”
Hope walked over to Bart. Everyone was taking turns poking Ali in the face to see if he would wake up. “So.” She said quietly. Her voice was soft again like it normally was. “Have you given any thought to the dance yet?”
Bart shot one last arrow and set his bow on his desk before leaning against it. “Oh. I mean, not really honestly. I don’t even know who I would go with and even then, I wouldn’t know what to do. I’ll probably just spend the night training to be honest.” Bart saw Rena look over with a raised eyebrow. Why was she smirking?
Hope looked a tad disappointed. “Oh. Right. Well, I mean, as long as you’re having fun it doesn’t matter right? If you know what you’re doing that is. Besides, sometimes you just have to get up the courage to ask someone.”
Bart thought for a moment. “Yeah I suppose, I mean after coming to this place it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing I’ve done. Who says I have to have a date too you know? I can just go and hang out with you guys. I know Ali probably won’t take a date, I think he intends on getting on there.”
Hope just shuffled in place feeling a bit dejected. “Oh yeah. Probably would be fun. I guess. Well I should probably go, we have classes in the morning.” Bart leaned off his desk and spoke in a louder voice for everyone to hear.
“Yeah, hey we should probably get going guys. I don’t think he’s waking up.” Hope walked off without saying anything and headed for the door. Bart grabbed his stuff and walked past Rena who was shaking her head. “You are such an idiot you know that?” She grabbed bag and walked after Sor and Hope.
“What was that about?” Trevor asked eyeing Rena.
Bart stared at the door Hope just walked through confused of what just happened. “Uhhh. I’m not really sure to be honest.”