Failure

“It’s funny, you know?”, Larry Meatsack muttered, digging into a salad of questionable appearance. “It’s a fail. Death. You failed to keep living. And it’s going to happen to all of us, sometime.”

Verwarthil stared at him silently, squinting a bit, trying to figure out if there was a morbid punchline soon to come.

“But we get up every day. We soap up, shine our running boots, and we head out to the field. We slide past orcs, dodge werewolves, float past Chaos — and these are all guys just focused on one thing: Trying to kill us. One day, we’re going to fail. And that’s all it takes. One failure. Just one.”

Verry, as the elves around the locker room refer to him, broke his awkward stare and smashed a sandwich into his mouth. Meatsack still had his attention, but it seemed this conversation was going to be more of a rant and less of a joke — so Verry was losing interest. He decided to fire back, hoping to quell the line-elf’s fears, and allow this conversation to die.

“Meatsack, none of us play this game to die. But we all signed up knowing that it’s possible. And there’s no greater honor than to die on the pitch. But what’s more important is the TEAM. I could die tomorrow, and if it gets us a win — then I’ve done my job.”

Meatsack interrupted without hesitation.

“But that’s just it! What happens when one happens more than once? What happens when the ones just start rolling in? Dead elf. Dead elf. Dead elf. That’s how teams die. We don’t have the strength of the Disco Divas. We don’t have the training and coaching of the High Wings of Hope. We don’t have a Longbomb Lerry or AB to fall back on — we’re just… us. We’re the most likely of all the elves to succumb to the rolling ones. One dead elf followed by another, followed by another — uncontrollable, like rolling down a hill!”

An audible “Harumph!” broke Meatsack’s train of thought, and he and Verry both whipped their heads to the side. There was Larry — The Larry — the closest thing this team of ball-slinging elves had to a star player. He was a bit of an enigma in the locker room, quiet and keeping to himself. But when he spoke — you listened.

“I like that. The Rolling Ones. Has a nice ring to it.”

He sauntered off, and the players would later find out that he was off to have a conversation with the Coach about using that as a team name. The group had recently made it through the MML Challenge League, and were soon to embark on their first pro season. Unfortunately, funds weren’t at a level where a top class coach could be brought in — so the team went with what they could afford.

What they could afford was a lumbering black orc who had mild success with a group of gibbering idiot greenskins the prior season — Jim Sardonic. He wasn’t the most eloquent, and didn’t know the first thing about elfball, but he seemed to stumble into success — and all this team needed was a chance.

It was made clear that failure wasn’t an option, and that this team wasn’t going to wait for their chance. It was now or never, and Sardonic would likely be out of a job if he didn’t improve on his prior season’s performance with the Cleverly ORChestrated team. And that was a tall order, as that team had made the challenge league playoffs.

“But he couldn’t keep coaching the orcs,” Meatsack gossiped, weeks earlier after learning of the new coach, “because they kept getting so beat up!”

There was a weird collective gasp in the room. Would this new coach make the elves go toe-to-toe with ogres and orcs?!

“They were all set to go pro, but so many of them were injured or killed — the team was disbanded. And now he’s going to coach ELVES?!?. We can’t wear armor like the orcs! It will slow us down!”

As practices went on, though, the elves grew to respect — and even somewhat like their new coach. It wasn’t long before the first match of the twelfth season was upon them — they were set to face a long storied Dark Elf team… the ATX Longhorns.

The team found their groove early, and put on an electrifying show. Coach Sardonic told them before the game that “this game set the tone for the rest of the season. Don’t worry about defense, it’ll work itself out — just do what elves do, and score.” And score they did — four times, netting a 4-2 victory over the Longhorns.

They couldn’t celebrate long, as their next opponent was a newcomer team that had shocked the league in week one by securing a victory over the famous Bill Cowher Power Hour. Nobody knew what to expect of the “Better Off” Necromantic squad, which made game planning pretty difficult. Sardonic merely said “That thing you did last week? Do it again.” Black orcs don’t exactly paint pictures with their words.

The Rolling Ones went out and gave their best, nearly pulling out a victory, but managing merely a tie against the impressive newcomers. They weren’t deterred by the result, rather, they were emboldened. This team had taken down the Power Hour, but not them. Nothing could stop them. Elf morale was growing, and post-match foam parties were a slice of soapy heaven.

“What the f’orc is this?”, Sardonic said, stepping into a locker room half full of foamy bubbles and exasperated players. “You know what? I don’t want to know. Just keep playing hard, and I’m not going to ask any questions.”

Next up was a new kislev team — some fiery Russians with a penchant for red stockings. The Rolling Ones showed no mercy, putting four points back up on the board and allowing no scores for the opposition. Everything seemed to go right this game, and it was what the elves needed to secure their trust in their new coach — and the team as a whole.

They needed that confidence, as their next game was against the Legendary Bill Cowher Power Hour — and the fearsome stackletail menace that young elves fear like the boogeyman. But the confidence (and some soap) carried them through to another tie — and the thought of an undefeated season became a thing. A focal point, a united goal of the group.

In fact, it wasn’t Sardonic who set that goal — it was the team, themselves. With four games in the bag and no losses yet, it was the mysterious “The Larry” who brought it up during the team’s post-game debriefing. “It’s not that hard, guys. We just have to not lose. Not fail…” he shot a look towards Meatsack, “…not succumb to the rolling ones.”

They rode the high to a 4-1 victory over the “Run It” Amazons, before coming up on a game that dampened the locker room mood a bit. Their next opponent was Nurgle — the bane of all passing teams. But to make things worse, these Nurgle had an ugly mass of tentacles — clearly intended to make elves die. These behemoths had wriggling worms of “rolled ones” attached to their body. These beings were made solely to make elves fail. To make elves die.

The locker room was silent before the game, and Coach Sardonic didn’t have much to say. He knew the “Just go out there and do what you did last week” speech wouldn’t work in this match. So he drummed up his most powerful speech of the season.

“Look. If they catch you, they’re going to eat you. And not like, with a fork and knife. Not all classy. They’re just going to munch down, and all of your families in the stands are going to have to sit there and watch you get eaten alive. So how about we don’t let that happen, okay?”

The locker room was already silent, but if it could be more silent, it would. Eleven wide-eyed elves stared at him in horror.

“Ok, let’s go win this game!” Sardonic answered himself.

And they did. Somehow. Through the grace of Nuffle. Passes sailed through the air with grace. Soapy dodges worked when they clearly shouldn’t have. Everything that could go right did go right. And they were one game away from their undefeated season.

The only plausible roadblock was the nasty Krassen Cult chaos team, with their super agile Chaos Warrior star, Brutesinew Kha Dhy. The game plan worked, though not perfectly — somehow the boys threw two interceptions in this game — but still escaped with a 2-0 victory. An undefeated season. A playoff berth.

Set to face the Bartertown Scavengers, Coach Sardonic was clearly nervous. This was the make or break game for him — either the team secures the victory here, or he’s out of a coaching job. And these skaven were no slouches — they had put up points all season, and caused a lot of headaches for their opponents. They had a few lightning quick gutter runners who were deceptively strong when they needed to be, but so tiny and weak-looking that you never see the knockout blow coming.

The match was a real firefight — a back and forth scorefest, but The Rolling Ones pulled it off in the end with a 4-3 victory — narrowly affording Sardonic a longer term contract, which was well received in the locker room.

The team were up against a fierce roadbloack, yet again having to face down the turbulent force of chaos in the Bill Cowher Power Hour. And this time, it didn’t go so well. Coach Sardonic was so relieved to have saved his job that he spent most of the game at the Bloodweiser Beer Tent at The Slaughter House (which happened to be a really, really nice stadium).

As a result, the poor Helves took quite a beating… and the ones started rolling. Meatsack was critically injured. Two other elves died. And the beaten force succumbed to the stackletail in what was really 16 turns of a 2-1 elf slaughterfest. The High Elves showed immense heart, though, refusing to allow their companions to die in vain, and continuing to pressure the ball and take any opportunity they could to attain a victory — but the Power Hour was too well coached to give up even an inch.

The team was not broken, though… riding high on an undefeated season and mild playoff success, The Rolling Ones were ecstatic to get their ticket to the MML Pro leagues — the league where legends are created. They now had the opportunity to cement themselves in history, like the great Princes of Arioch.

The only question remained — would they? Or would they succumb to the rolling ones?

 

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