A Farewell From Felynia

Friday, 10 September 2021, 1:49 PM Felynia Standard Time

Fireworks are still setting off from the roof of Felynia Coliseum, dotting the dimming burnt sierra sky with pupils of color as I open my bag, searching for my press pass as I descend the stands towards the arena. A security officer, who I recognize as one of the marbles that apprehended the streaker in Football, opens the gate for me, recognizing my blue-and-white-striped notepad and Project Marblearth pinback button atop my Team Momo hat.

“We know who you are,” they say. “You have ten minutes.” When I try to reason with the officer that ten minutes wasn’t enough to interview the sixteen Marblocross athletes, 2021 Marble League medalists, 2022 Marble League hosts, and members of JMR, the officer sighs. “You have ten minutes.”

I race down the stairs into a sea of security officers, then construction workers, then VIP fans, and then, at last, staff and teams. As I travel deeper into the crowd, I hear broken phrases from different marbles stringing together into a cacophony of conversation: “They have ten minutes…can we at least start with the banners…the Limers are trash, aren’t they…wait, are you Stynth?” 

An athlete in a Gliding Glaciers uniform approaches me, a captain’s pin adorning their iridescent patterning of white, blue, and bronze. “Name’s Alpine. Thanks for that RetRollSpective before the season; you and Emp helped us get the name out there.”

I smile warmly, not sure how to respond to Alpine’s flattery.

“Come on, I’m chilling with some of the others. Pun intended.”

Alpine rolls to the left of a crowd assembling around a group of uncontrollable VIP Limers fans, who are smashing one of the Marble League 2021 banners that construction workers had already dismantled. To the right, a group of security officers struggle to get through the piles of debris, discarded key lime pies, and salt.

On the other side is a much calmer and supportive group of marbles: Mimo, Rojo Dos, Sparkle, and Bolt. They are all sharing a large box of Momo’s Dumplings, and Sparkle extends one to me when they notice me come around the bend. I respectfully decline.

“If you don’t eat your dumplings, you can’t have any pudding,” Sparkle says, sighing. “How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your dumplings?”

“More for me, I guess,” replies Bolt, taking a green old-timer dumpling from the box with three dumplings already in their grasp. “What? Lightning won’t mind!”

“You mean mo’ for me,” corrects Rojo Dos. The five athletes chuckle, and so do I.

Alpine motions for Iceberg, Polar, Frost, and Sheet to join from across the way, and they roll over with their overall bronze medals in tow. “We know we fell hard after the Funnels, but we knew that if we kept working hard, we’d find a way to get back to contention.”

“We haven’t gotten a chance to show off our Ice Hockey skills in the Marble League. But we figured they would translate well to Football during our training, so we built on what we already knew,” Iceberg explains.

“And scored five goals in the entire event,” adds Mocha, rolling over from a photo op with their team. “Unbelievable.”

“No, your goal from the corner was unbelievable,” Iceberg responds. “That’s something I couldn’t have even pulled off.”

Mocha beams. They turn around to Mimo offering them a dessert dumpling – a chocolate-filled delicacy with bits of coffee toffee sticking outside of the sweet dough. As Mocha takes the treat, Mimo and Iceberg embrace.

“Our match could have gone either way, but I don’t hold it against the Glaciers for winning,” admits Mimo. “It’s an honor to know we faced off against the eventual event winners and tournament bronze medalists.”

“You still did amazing,” Alpine encourages. “Eight events leading the standings in a row…we didn’t get to lead the standings once.”

Mimo shrugs. “But it’s not about where you start, it’s where you finish, right?”

“It’s the journey as a whole that matters,” replies Alpine.

Can I get a Time Check? I think to myself, checking my watch. Six minutes to go. A lot can happen in six minutes…but probably not all of the interviews I need!

I bid a hasty farewell to Mimo, who hands me a dessert dumpling as I hustle to the back of the arena. As I scout the perimeter, I find Hazy and Misty trying to shoo away a group of distraught Hazers fans. There, I ran into two athletes, one decked out in fuschia, the other in the unmistakable orange of the O’rangers.

“Come on, let’s help them out,” says Rizzy, gesturing at the Hazers duo. I am surprised to see them yell in tandem with Kinnowin for security, who rushes over to the scene to clear the crowd. They seem entirely unfazed by their performance in the final event.

“OOOOOOOY, out of the way!” hollers Kinnowin, darting through the crowd to dispel it from the inside. Misty, still wearing a special medal that they were given for Most Valuable Marble after the ceremony, smiles warmly and shies away to the arena’s exit.

Hazy eyes the exit as well but moves through an opening in the crowd to approach me. “We’re unfortunately used to this with last events and closing ceremonies. The best thing we can do is hold our heads high and keep on rolling.” After a moment, they follow Misty out of the arena.

I am left with Rizzy and Kinnowin, the latter of which is calling to a Let It Roll correspondent in the stands about the reopening of the Blood O’ranger Gym. Rizzy turns to me, their demeanor completely changed. “I knew I wouldn’t break the Marbula curse, and I’ll never forget it. But I’ll do my best to forgive myself for that.”

Catching an orange thrown from the stands, Kinnowin adds, “If we could after choking away last year’s championship, then you will after barely missing this year’s. Give us a call if you need anything…like some freshly picked oranges!”

As my custom Time Check stopwatch approaches the two-minute mark, I’m sprinting across the arena of the Felynia Coliseum to interview everyone I can… (Art Credit: Stynth)

In the stands, the rogue fan is being approached by a security marble, one of many sky blue marbles in the detail that was starting to spread throughout the stadium. 

Time Check, I remind myself, checking my watch. Two minutes. Not bad. But I haven’t found everyone yet…

I stop in front of Minty Fresh, who is posing with Speedy for a picture for Marbles Today. I awkwardly move to the left of Minty Fresh, catching a glare from Speedy to their right. Following the photo op, I congratulate Minty Fresh on their Marblocross victory and third career gold medal.

“Stynth! Thank you so much. This is anything but what we would have wanted our season to be…but honestly, we learned so much. And all things considered, there isn’t a better way to end a Marble League than winning the final event.”

“I should know,” Speedy adds, to the enjoyment of some of the marbles among us as they chuckle to themselves. “Although…I’m wondering if I should let someone else close next year for the Speeders. Maybe they’ll be a little more aware of the safety marble lane after a sand section and the conveyor belt.”

I drift away from the two, although I don’t have to roll very far to reach Billy, who is huddled with the rest of their team in a fitting V-formation.

“Ducks fly together,” Bombay remarks after their embrace with the team. “There were some close moments this year, let alone in this event. We lost, but we lost together, and we’ll make it through that.”

“I’m excited for next year. The moment we get to reset the Rafting record in Draklin…” teases Billy before being cut off by Mallard.

“We have a lot to focus on before then, Billy. How’s about we go to Greenstone next week? Try out the course again?”

“Sounds good to me!” Billy exclaims. 

“Hey, Billy, great work out there,” says a voice to the side. Out rolls Diego, who Indie had mentioned a few nights prior as their team’s runner for Marblocross. “I wanted to catch up to you, but the slaloms got to me…”

Time Check. Thirty seconds??! Wait, Mellow Yellow is just a few lengths away. Let me see if I can ask them about their three-event medal streak…or about how Yellup is back…

A voice from behind me booms, “Time’s up.”

I jump suddenly, turning to find the security guard from earlier. Their stopwatch is beeping incessantly.

“Time to go,” they reiterate. “No excuses.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Cleocatra gazing in my general direction, escorting Mellow Yellow in front of them to a special exit from the arena, before security guards and official stewards enforce control, outlining a path for remaining fans to exit. I comply, exiting Felynia Coliseum for the last time.

Friday, 10 September 2021, 6:41 PM FST

Nearly five hours later, I settle down in my hotel room and exhale deeply. I knew that I should have been relaxing that night, even if I wasn’t invited to either the official staff banquet or the athletes’ gala. But I was in the mood to work—so I begin unpacking my sets of notes on each team’s performance in the Marble League.

12. Savage Speeders – You couldn’t count out the Savage Speeders going into the final event, where Speedy had the opportunity to close the season with their third Marble League championship. But they crashed hard against the safety marble lane in Lap 16, sinking in the race order from sixth to the bottom four, and they couldn’t recover. It wasn’t an injury, but it was a hurdle that, for once, the GOAT couldn’t clear. They told Minty Fresh they’d own it if they lost to them in the Marblocross, but it’s unlikely Speedy predicted it would go this poorly for them. Now, their entire team has finished in its lowest position in any JMR tournament ever, and even with 2 golds, this was the Speeders’ year to lose. Now, it’s their loss to own.

I remember Speedy, earlier that afternoon, suggesting that another athlete close for the Speeders next year. The Savage Speeders’ RetRollSpective has yet to be republished on the Project Marblearth Blog, but I can’t help but think about how well this would fit into their existing article. And I can’t help but pity Speedy for falling so hard at the end of this season.

These thoughts and more go through my mind as Editor-In-Chief—as I wonder where every experience these athletes have gone through fits into their overall narrative. I wonder how the Minty Maniacs, with their redemptive gold medal in Marblocross, will find a way to give back to their home region of Herbotamia for their undying support. I wonder where the Jungle Jumpers, after a tumultuous year of development around their hometown of Lewara, will train for future competitions. I wonder if Dr. Crolley, that rogue paranormal investigator, will come out of hiding with some strange conspiracy about the Hazers doing terrible in final events. I wonder how Candy, former captain of the Jawbreakers, will carry on outside of Jelle’s Marble Runs.

As I wonder, I realize that it’s not all about sports – competition appearances and performance results only go so far. Medals and trophies are only physical representations of those moments of success, but they often don’t capture the big picture. 

A vignette imagining the marble moments that will follow the 2021 Marble League. (Art Credit: Piney)

Casual fans may not think of Mellow Yellow as a championship team if they’ve only seen them compete in 2020, but today, they won convincingly in the closest Marble League to date. It’s difficult to understand why if you only look at their JMR performances…but the context of their victory in the Fruit Circuit Reunion, where Yellup executed a last-lap-overtake against the Watermelon Wanderers after spending most of the final race in the bottom of the racing order, says more. As Yellup said after the race:

“I thought of everything I had been through – my miserable tenure at a corporate job, months of struggling to make ends meet, and years where I’d been so close to winning, even when I’d fallen so short…and I realized that the act of winning isn’t what matters, but the journey to get there does. And I’m not making the most of that journey if I’m not fighting for it, even if the result ends up not so mellow.”

My experience as a student learning how to write taught me the same through the process of “identify, exemplify, justify”: state your point, back up your point, and explain why that point matters. At this moment, I realize that Yellup’s comments after their Fruit Circuit victory hold for their Marble League victory as well, and justify why it matters that you make the most of your journey.

If I can do that for all of these teams and athletes, I think to myself, if I can connect these stories from the community and have them mean something – I’ll have done my job. And I’ll be able to move forward from there.

My phone lights up about a minute later with a text from Fouc: “You’ll never believe who I saw at the bar.” I pick up the phone and give them a call.

Monday, 13 December 2021, 12:31 PM Pastone Standard Time

Good afternoon, Contributors!

…Today, I’m proud to officially announce that we have completed our initial Phase 1 goal of updating a RetRollSpective for every active team.

…I wanted to thank you all for being a part of this project. To be able to work on building a narrative universe is what I feel represents our community at its finest: when we’re creating together. Working with you has been a pleasure for me, and I hope it has been a pleasure for you all as well.

Our publication break will remain in place until at least mid-February, but we will begin working on our content for Phase 2 starting early January.

…Keep on rolling!

I hit ENTER on my keyboard, sending the above message to everyone in the community involved with working on Project Marblearth. After nearly a year of collaboration, it feels surreal to see the progress we have made in chronicling the events of the athletes competing in Jelle’s Marble Runs. 

And even then, thanking them at this moment does not feel like enough for the time and effort they put in throughout a year of tumult—one that saw the dissolution of the Jelle’s Marble Runs Committee, and with that, the separation of Project Marblearth from affiliation with Jelle’s Marble Runs.

The uncertainty of the moment and successive frustrations with the staff nearly caused me to cancel the entire project, but it was our authors, consultants, co-editors, designers, and supporters–including Jelle themself–that inspired me to keep going. They inspired me as Editor-In-Chief to fulfill the promise I made to former JMR Team member, Novawolf: to give every team the same attention to detail in telling their stories. Today, we as the community achieved that.

As I schedule the publication dates for the final three RetRollSpective re-releases, I receive an email invitation from the Jelle’s Marble Association for a special ceremony in eleven days. Although I’m across the ocean from the event…I cannot pass up this opportunity.

Friday, 24 December 2021, 4:00 PM Nijellen Standard Time

Today marks a historic day, not only for Jelle’s Marble Runs and sports history but for all of marble society. The city of Knikkegen, where Jelle founded Jelle’s Marble Runs and hosted the Marble League, will be officially renamed to Nijellen in recognition of Jelle and their achievements.

I’m stationed in a press office on the second floor of a gelato shop in the city center. Below me is a densely packed city square, with fans from around the world, locals, athletes, and close confidants mingling in the square, which is, fittingly, actually shaped like a circle. In addition to the city rededication, I’m hearing this space will also be recognized as the “Bakkerbol” – honoring the sphere of influence that Jelle has had in developing the city’s interests in sports.

I’ve been invited to sit among the fans, and yet, I feel some hesitancy. I’m torn between my duty to report from a location where I can see the big picture of the celebration, and my desire to report from a location where I can be in the moment to celebrate with Jelle. In a way, I feel that this separation is exactly what I need to distance myself as I fulfill the final requirement of Phase 1 of Project Marblearth.

But ultimately, I know exactly what I want. I want to be with the community that I love being a part of, and I don’t want to let it go. So I’m donning my Team Momo hat, my Project Marblearth pinback button displayed atop with pride, and grabbing my blue-and-white-striped notepad as I race down the stairs…

“Greetings from Nijellen,” introduces the Marbula One Racer’s Champion, Red Eye. “It’s my honor to welcome you home – home to a vision that if you’re passionate about something and give it your all, you will achieve your goals and be the best that you can be. That vision finds its home here because of a marble that has realized it through their passion for runs, races, and sports. That vision finds its home here, in Nijellen, because of Jelle Bakker.”

Red Eye pauses, letting a stream of cheers that had permeated through their opening statement overflow into thunderous applause. They’re beaming onstage as they roll up to the microphone once more.

“As an athlete, I owe the success I’ve had in my career to Jelle. But more importantly, I owe the passion I’ve found in my career to Jelle and their vision. It’s the kind of focus that has guided me as an athlete, and I’m certain has guided so many others who I’ve competed with as they continue to achieve glorifying moments in their journeys.

To that end, this isn’t about me, and it never was. It was about you, and your truth that no matter what, we’d find a way to keep on rolling to the finish line. We’d do that together. And we did.

So now, it’s time to celebrate you, to thank you for everything, and promise you that we’ll keep supporting you and your vision. Because in the end, it’s our vision too.”

An Editor-In-Chief’s perspective of a new beginning for the community. (Art Credit: Betawolfs)

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