The Pride of Dignity
By Alan Mittag
Once again, the crowd was gathered around Dignity Tower. Dignity and Coach Sestonn were set to release information on their newest trade, a blitzer meant to fill the spot by Tenacity, who had died at the end of Season 5.
It was cold, and the wind was broken only by the huddled masses of press and fans. I had my place in the center of them, so I was lucky. I rubbed my hands together to keep them warm and blew hot air into the hand funnel. It wasn’t helping. Dignity’s stage was set just in front of the Tower’s main entrance, with the Red Lion dangling just overhead. Dignity’s twin Archmages were on stage, fuddling with their magic equipment in the podium. “Hurry up,” I muttered to no one in particular, in between hot breaths to my curled hands.
One of the mages, either Teloran or Kelowan, spoke into the voice amplifier. “Testing. Testing. 1. 2. 3. Can you hear me in the back.”
The mass of fans cheered. They heard him just fine.
The other elven wizard stepped up to the podium and said, “Then without further ado, I give you Coach Sestonn.”
The curtains parted just wide enough for Coach Sestonn to step through and the crowd cheered, a kind of sorrowful frozen cheer, but they cheered. At least, some of them did. He was dressed in his usual off-the-rack gray suit and tie, and he had that thin golden circlet on his head again, the crown he started wearing just before Dignity’s last match.
Coach Sestonn took his place at the podium and adjusted the crown on his head until it was just right. “Wow, that was some applause. I take it, you all aren’t happy with Dignity’s result last season.”
“YOU SUCK!” Someone shouted from the back.
“Last season was a building season. We had to develop the funds to find a replacement for Tenacity. No, not a replacement. No one could ever replace Tenacity. But, we did need to fill his spot, and we needed funds to do so. And we still showed a winning record, despite our efforts to play it safe.”
“GET OFF THE STAGE!”
“WE WANT A NEW HEAD COACH!”
“And now we have found our per….”
“DIGNITY HAS NONE!”
The look on Coach Sestonn’s face changed in a heartbeat. He snapped his fingers, resulting in the pointing finger that I had to assume pointed to the last fan (anti-fan) to yell out. “You shut your mouth when I’m talking.”
The crowd gasped. Then, silence. They pulled away from him. A single man, separated from the crowd that surrounded him. His mouth opened again, a hint of defiance, but no words came out. He slouched. His shoulders humped. His eyes fell to the ground. His lips mimed the word, Sorry.
“As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, – Ahem -”. The man flushed red. The crowd was deathly silent, in shock. Coach Sestonn continued, “We searched high and low across the hundreds of teams in the MML, and finally settled on the next blitzer with Dignity. He’s a big name from the farm, and we can see even more potential in his future.
“This is an elf who we expect to fill not only Tenacity’s position as leader, but also to give us a true weapon against the fierceness found in the current Challenge League. He is as quick on his feet as Royalty, as powerful as Physique, and ready to leap into an opponent’s cage with Eccentric’s fearlessness. In fact, his every aspect is a representation of Dignity both on and off the field. His very presence screams Dignity. And with him to lead our defence, Dignity will surpass even its former glory.”
The crowd oohed and ahhed, but it was a hushed, confused, and fearful excitement. Fans glanced back and forth to each other, questioning whether it was ok to cheer.
Coach Sestonn paused to readjust his crown. When the excitement died he said, “Now let’s give a big round of applause to the newest star of Dignity, Count Ridiculous!”
The crowd applauded, cheers and claps, louder than before, but still cautious. Fans looked to each other to make sure it was ok to participate.
The curtain opened to reveal a tall elf, in a fine elven suit of black on white. He had long white hair and crystal blue eyes that shone across the courtyard. With a strong posture and a powerful gait of confidence. He stepped up to the podium, and gracefully shook the hair from about his head, setting it free while he waited for the crowd to calm down.
“I am Count Ridiculous,” He said. The crowd’s excitement was mounting, and they cheered loud and sure this time. As they cheered, he slowly lifted his hands, motioning for more. And they gave him more, louder and louder. He closed his eyes and lifted his head to the sky. And they loved him.
Once it all calmed down, he lowered his hands and leaned on the podium, “Have you all come here to see the future of Dignity?”
“Then you’ve all come here to see the new weapon that is going to bring win after win after win?”
“Then you’re in the right place! I, Count Ridiculous, will give you those wins!”
They cheered. They loved him. And Coach Sestonn was right, everything about Ridiculous screamed Dignity.
“There’s no -I- in team.” He shouted. “But there is an I in win. And that’s me, Count Ridiculous.”
They roared for him. They screamed for him. And through the magics of the amplifier, I could hear him shout, “Not just one -I-. But two! That’s rIdIculous! Count Ridiculous!”
The crowd roared. Members of Dignity came up on stage to welcome their new hero. Physique, Royalty, Eccentric, Funny, Swift, Arcane, Tactician the assistant coach, and even Lithe the once-catcher turned apothecary. Hugs went all around. Laughing and joking. I looked around, but neither of the linemen were there. They were left out again.
As I made my way through the crowd, a gentle tug on my sleeve got my attention.
Fortress and Rolo, Dignity’s linemen stood there. Fortress, with his arms crossed, stern and proud as always. Rolo, with tears in his eyes.
“Mr. Alan?” Rolo said.
“What is it?” I pulled out my handkercheif and handed it to him. “What’s wrong?”
Rolo waved a hand, motioning to the crowd. To the stage. To the team. “Everyone came to this. But no one came to my brother’s funeral.”
Rolo’s brother had been a journeyman in Dignity’s last match. He took a violent hit, and as Lithe the Apothecary started towards the field, Coach Sestonn had intercepted him. Even now, weeks later, I can remember Coach Sestonn’s words. “You sit your ass back down.”
It was heartbreaking. But it’s part of a lineman’s duty when playing for an elf team. Especially a journeyman.
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
Rolo wiped his tears. “I need your help.”
“With what,” I said.
Fortress said, “We are going to change the way they treat us.”