The sky was a steely gray and filled with stormy clouds. Dorothy Gale, captain and Chaser for the Kansas Crashers, looked out at the pitch. There was definitely a twister brewing in those clouds. As unfortunate as that was, Dorothy couldn’t help but smile—the Crashers had played in tornadoes often, but the Appleby Arrows seldom did. Mother Nature was not going to stop the Crashers; she was their ally and friend.
Looking at her teammates, Dorothy knew that she wasn’t the only one who was silently thanking the ominous storm clouds. She adjusted her goggles and thunder boomed overhead. They were lucky that Mother Nature was on their side. Earlier, the Seeker, Cody Lawrence, had drawn her aside. A very honest individual, Lawrence had told her that Chaser Bryan Thompson had gotten into an argument with the Arrows’ seeker. The two had argued for several minutes when Thompson had drawn his wand. The rest of the team had immediately pulled him away, but there was now bad blood between the two teams.
She wanted to win. She wanted to show those Arrows that they were all talk. And with luck, the tornado would help her to do just that.
The shriek of a whistle filled Dorothy’s ears and pulled her from her thoughts. The referee, Anna Mullins, was signaling for the captains to shake hands. Dorothy tentatively reached the Arrows’ captain, William Ackerman, and held out her hand. As Ackerman gripped it tightly, she couldn’t help but notice the hint of malice glinting in his eyes.
“I want a fair game from you lot,” Mullins said loudly, breaking the tension. “No need to injure anyone.”
Dorothy couldn’t help but smirk. She could feel the rivalry building and knew the game had the possibility to turn ugly within minutes.
Adam Castillo, one of the Beaters for the Kansas team, flashed a toothy grin as the snapping air whipped his long black hair into wild spikes and tufts. He had predicted that a humdinger of cyclone might put in an appearance at the Crashers-Arrows match. The black clouds marching across the sky made him want to do a little dance of joy. As he zipped around the pitch, he took note of the changing wind speed and direction, and he tallied up the tactical benefits that the burgeoning storm would produce. Folks didn't call him "The Weatherman" for nothing.
Kansas’ other Beater, Sierra Nelson, looked at Adam’s grin.
“And why is the Weatherman smiling so big today?” she asked teasingly.
“There’s going to be a big twister. Talk about home pitch advantage.” Adam gripped his bat firmly. “I’ll bet you twenty galleons that one of their players blows away in the wind.”
“Adam, anyone could blow away in these wind,” said Chaser, Victor Jones, solemnly. “Better not make any bets just yet.” Victor was a frank man. He had little love for Adam’s foolishness. “Just stick to keeping the Bludgers away; that’s your job.”
The team mounted their brooms.
The thing Dorothy loved about Crashers fans was that they'd brave the Apocalypse to cheer their team to victory. When the players took the field, the crowd roared so loud they nearly drowned out the yowling moan of the wind. Even the Appleby Arrows fans seemed undaunted by the small dust devils that swirled on the ground and in the stands.
"Take positions!" Dorothy shouted and watched as her teammates moved into formation.
Over the referee's shoulder, Ackerman glared at her, his knuckles white on his broom handle. The crowd began the countdown. The whistle blew. The Quaffle was released.
From his vantage, Cody Lawrence, the Crasher's Seeker, listened as the announcer called out players’ names above thunderclaps.
“Introducing Gale, Jones, Thompson, Castillo, Nelson, Cohen and Lawrence—Give it up for the Kansas Crashers!”
The cheer of the fans filled Cody’s ears and he gave a wave to the crowd, his eyes still scanning the storm-cloud sky for the snitch.
“Also, please welcome the Appleby Arrows: Akerman, Dawson, Watkins, Blackwood, Blackwood, Butler and Chance!”
The Appleby Arrows flew onto the pitch eagerly and Cody sized up the opposing Seeker, Natalie Chance. He glanced at her and knew he had competition.
William Akerman inhaled deeply and sped after Jones, who had gotten the Quaffle. He wanted to win to show these people that they were nothing but back-country fools. He had been told that the Kansas Chaser, Thompson, had gotten into a fight with Natalie Chance. He was very protective of his team, because he wanted them to be able to perform their best on the field. He wanted to get back at Thompson and the rest of his teammates.
Akerman swore silently under his breath. Despite their best efforts, Kansas had just leaped ahead by thirty points. This wouldn’t do.
“Butler!” Akerman roared at his Keeper. “What the hell do you think your doing? Thompson just scored three times! Three! Get in the game and out of the clouds!”
Mark Butler flushed slightly, and turned to the goal in time to catch the Quaffle before it slipped through the ring. He tossed it to Akerman.
“More like it!” Akerman sped towards the Kansas Keeper, Jenna Cohen.
Cohen’s daring stunts made her an exceptionally hard Keeper to get past. Her opponents never knew what she was going to do. But the pending tornado, pouring rain and speeding winds limited her moves.
Jenna held her defensive position as she watched Akerman hurtling towards her.
Castillo hovered nearby, taking a moment to assess the game's progress and process the details through the complex machinery of his brain.
"Hey, Weatherman!" she shouted. "I could use a little help here!" Jenna nodded toward the oncoming Arrows' Chaser.
Adam saluted and called out to Sierra Nelson, who nodded and chased down a nearby Bludger, whacking it over in Castillo's direction. He did a bit of mental Arithmancy and moved into position
"This oughta slow him down," Adam drawled, and hit the Bludger with a resounding smack.
The Bludger hurtled towards Akerman, and he almost didn’t notice it. Akerman veered off course at the last moment, thankful that the Bludger whistled harmlessly past his head. He didn’t have time to celebrate, however. He passed the Quaffle to Dawson- and groaned as Dawson’s pathetic attempt to score was easily intercepted by the Keeper.
“STOP MAKING CARELESS MISTAKES!” Akerman shouted over the wind. He wanted to teach the Crashers a lesson, and they needed to be in top form to do that.
Akerman swallowed nervously. He didn’t know much about weather, but the tornado was obviously about to hit.
Even though Adam was disappointed that his Bludger missed its target, he couldn’t help but notice the telltale funnel cloud barreling towards them at an alarming rate. Several times he glanced at Anna Mullins, wondering if she’d postpone the game.
Quidditch in Kansas stops for nothing
, Adam thought wryly.
All the same, the inclement weather was beginning to affect his flying. The winds were catching his broom’s tail and veering him off track.
Above him, he spotted Dorothy also struggling to keep on course. A sense of dread filled him as he realized their captain was closest to the tornado.
It was gaining speed and Dorothy could hear nothing but its roars, see nothing but the vortex, feel nothing but its strength. Victor’s words rang out clearly in the storm. Anyone could blow away in these winds. Dorothy didn’t want to be that anyone. She scrambled for her wand, but realized with horror that it had already been sucked up by the tornado. Frantically, she called out to her teammates. But the wind swallowed her cries. On the pitch, Ann Mullins blew her whistle and a team of Weather Wizards stormed the pitch to calm the storm.
But the Weather Wizards were too late. Even as they performed spells to make the tornado leave the pitch, the Crashers could see their Captain being sucked further and further into the cyclone.
The Arrows, having an impromptu conference in the air, were ecstatic. Gale was the glue that held her team together. What would happen now that she was gone? They were sure that things were changing in their favor.
The Crashers, however, were frantic. They had replacement players, of course, but they weren’t Dorothy Gale. The Crashers weren’t sure that they could keep their lead without Dorothy there.
“Take a five minute time out!” Anna Mullins called as she flew over to speak with the Weather Wizards. They needed a few minutes to sort out whether or not the tornado was still a threat to the players.
The Crashers gathered underneath Jenna’s goalposts, and as soon as the whole team was there, everyone began talking loudly.
“Load of good the Weather Wizards did – Gale’s already gone,” Bryan Thompson remarked wryly.
“She’ll be okay though, right?” Jenna asked quietly. “They can find Dorothy.”
“Of course,” Victor Jones said. “But now, we need to get our reserve Chaser out here.”
Laura Price knew she was persona non grata the moment she saw the Kansas team's grim expressions. The fans weren't happy either. Nonetheless, she was determined to prove her worth. She might not be Dorothy Gale, but she was a damn fine Chaser - good enough to make the reserve list. She had beaten out one-hundred-and-fifty-seven other players for the privilege of wearing the Kansas colors and waiting for her name to be called. Now it had been. She squared her shoulders and stepped up to huddle with the team.
"You ever flown in a storm, Price?" Victor Jones asked.
“No,” she admitted. “But I’m not afraid to try.”
“Good enough. But it’s not like we have any choice- she’s our only reserve Chaser,” someone muttered. Laura glared at the group, not knowing how to convince them, yet knowing that her opinion was the only one that really mattered.
“Whatever. Let’s play,” Laura said, exercising her self-control.
The two teams swiftly mounted their brooms and immediately flew back up into the air to resume the game. However, it soon became apparent that without their Captain, the Crashers were helpless. Their lead quickly disappeared, and they began to lose the game.
“And Watkins with the Quaffle… Dawson… Dawson scores again!” the announcer cried. “That’s four goals they’ve scored and the sixth time they’ve intercepted the Quaffle. The Crashers are struggling without Gale.”
They were falling apart. Dorothy held them together and they knew her strengths. But nobody was certain about Laura. She’d rarely practiced with them and never played. The team knew she was their only hope of maintaining a full team, but they feared she would never amount to Dorothy’s skill. So the Quaffle passed between Victor and Bryan. Laura would protest and Byran seemed to only lose his focus.
Laura was fed up. She couldn't take this any more! She could be just as good as Gale, if only they would trust her.
But they wouldn't trust her.
She had to give them a reason to trust her. She signaled to Mullins for a time out, and landed on the ground with her teammates.
“Listen to me!” Laura exclaimed. “You’ve GOT to trust me. If I wasn’t good- really good- then I wouldn’t even be a reserve. My mom always used to say there’s no ‘I’ in team. You’ve got to use everyone available, or the team will fail.”
There was a small pause where no one spoke. The Crashers merely looked at one another, wondering who would break the silence. They knew Laura had a point, but none of them wanted to admit they had been wrong in thinking she wasn’t good enough to replace Dorothry.
“She’s right,” Adam said finally. “We all want to win this game, and the only way we can is by working together.”
There was a murmur of agreement among the team, and Laura smiled.
“That’s the spirit!” she cried happily, as Anna Mullins blew her whistle loudly.
The game would start again.
"Okay folks," Thompson said. "I think if we can keep 'em playing into the wind, we might have a shot at this."
"Right!" agreed Price. "Use Weatherman's knowledge to our advantage!"
Bryan nodded. "Speaking of the Weatherman, I want you on their Seeker like silk on corn. Keep her dodging and distracted."
"Then can I get Sierra to be my shadow and swat flies?" asked Cody. "It'll make searching for the Snitch a whole lot easier."
"That should work," Victor said. "Jenna. You keep doin' what you're doin'. As for me, Thompson and Ms. Price--let's score some points, shall we?"
Bryan Thompson snorted indignantly. “I’ll
Victor sighed. Bryan, though an excellent Chaser was not adaptable to change. He liked things his way.
“We need the entire team to win this thing. You hear?” Victor said carefully.
“I hear fine, sir.” Bryan smiled mocking respect. “Just because Dorothy’s gone somewhere over the rainbow doesn’t make you captain, Jones.”
“For the time being,” Cody Lawrence said softly. “I think it’s safe to listen to Victor. He’s been playing Quidditch longer than most of us.”
“I agree with Cody,” Sierra piped up. “Let’s just play. So who am I tailing again?”
“You’re following me,” Cody said. “Now let’s get our brooms in the air before Mullins starts to worry. But first I’d like to say a quick prayer.”
Cody bowed his head, and the rest of the team followed. “Hey, Mr. Wizard, we sure could use a bit of help. I don’t mean magic slippers to send us home- though I’m sure Dorothy could use those- but we’d like you to help us remember that we need to work together to win. And we sure would like to win! So please stay in our hearts and help us to remember that.”
"May it ever be so," everyone murmured and mounted their brooms.
As the Kansas Crashers took to the air again, the fans lifted a rousing cheer. Thompson, Price and Jones pumped their arms in the air as a sign of their renewed fighting spirit, and the crowd roared even louder. Akerman wrestled to keep his broom at a steady hover in the ferocious wind. Something was different about the Kansas team. Whatever had been said during the time-out had put fire in their bellies once more.
The whistle blew, the Quaffle was released, and the game was back in play.
“And it’s Jones to Thompson to Price, who aims the Quaffle carefully, and she – SCORES! The Kansas Chasers have put another ten points away, bringing the game within a goal. After struggling to play without their captain, Dorothy Gale, it looks like the Crashers have a shot at this one.” The announcer’s voice filled the stadium, but it could barely be heard amid the cheers of the fans.
“Nice shot!” Sierra called as she passed, still tailing Cody.
As Laura smiled broadly in return, two Arrows scowled as they zoomed by, reminding Laura that the game wasn’t over just yet.
“Hey, Lawrence!” Natalie called out. “I’ve got two words for you!”
Cody looked at his opponent. Natalie’s short brown hair and bronze skin were dripping with the rain; her dark eyes glinted mischievously.
“Really?” Cody cocked his head.
Natalie took off after the Snitch floating near Cody’s left-hand side.
“Sierra, do something!” Cody shouted, speeding up and chasing after Natalie, who was now hurtling to the ground.
Sierra shrugged helplessly; there were no Bludgers in sight. Above head, the Chasers of both teams were battling for the Quaffle and the two Keepers hovered as sentinels near their goals.
Growing up with six siblings, Sierra Nelson had been a team player all her life. As she dove after Cody, she was suddenly reminded of broom races with her brothers and sisters. Sometimes all you really needed to win was a little help. She positioned herself behind Cody and kicked her broom into high speed.
The Snitch glittered less than a foot in front of them. Sierra shouted, "Get ready to win, Cody!"
"What?" he shouted back without taking his eyes off the Snitch.
"Just don't miss it!"
She reached out, put her hands on his back, and pushed.
The extra bit of speed Sierra provided him with was just what he needed to catch up with Natalie. The two began bumping into each other, trying to drive each other off course, each desperate to catch the Snitch and win the game for their team.
Cody leaned forward, his arm stretching as far as it could, fingers extended. He was so close to the Snitch he could nearly touch it. He was maybe a centimeter away from giving his team all the glory in the world. “Sierra! Again!” he cried, knowing that one more push would win the game.
Sierra could see Natalie gaining on Cody. By now, her fingers were almost level with his, and the help of Sierra’s push was wearing off. Amid the cheers, she heard him shout for help again.
She stretched out her arms and pushed Cody firmly in the back, launching him forward once more.
[i]Come on, Cody![/i[ she urged silently, as she watched with bated breath.
Cody’s fingers were out as far as he could manage, and as he felt himself rocket forward, he smiled. The small, struggling form of the Golden Snitch was clasped in his hand.
The Crashers had won.
For weeks following the day of the match, local Muggles would shake their heads and mutter sadly about the shrieks and cries of terror they thought they'd heard over the howling of the mighty twister that had ripped through cornfields and chewed up farmhouses. Local Wizards, however, knew better. The shrieks, whoops and cries were not those of fright but of joy and elation.
Cody and Sierra felt five other panting, soggy bodies collide with their own. They giggled and wept with emotion as they drifted, in a clump, out of the air to the ground below, hugging one another.
“WE WON! WE WON!” the Crashers kept crying. Finally, Jones detached himself from the mob that were his teammates and walked over to the Arrows, weaving around all the fans that had flooded the field.
“Good game,” he said, holding out his hand. Akerman reached out, quickly shook his hand, and mumbled a reply. Knowing that the Arrows were not feeling very sociable right now, he walked back towards his teammates, wondering what had happened to their Captain, Dorothy Gale…
Dorothy Gale stared around her in wonder. Where am I?
she thought. She had never seen anywhere like this. Muggle conveyances—they were called cars—in every color and size surrounded her, lined up in neat rows before an enormous building. The sign said The Mall Of America
That was one hell of a twister!
she thought, and moved to a small copse of trees nearby. She double-checked to see that no one watched her, then Apparated with a loud crack. When she re-appeared in the middle of the pitch, she was bombarded by her laughing, victorious teammates.
“Dorothy! You’re back!” Adam shouted.
She grinned. “There’s no place like…well…you know! So tell me. What’s a mall