First of all, I should say that I’m not a writer. I’ve barely put pen to paper for years, well, except for sorting out the accounts. That doesn’t mean I can’t write, my story is pretty interesting too, but I just don’t. So why am I now?
I guess with some things you just feel that pull. The inescapable feeling that you must. So I have. This isn’t my story. It’s theirs. Remember that.
That said, it all happened by accident…
As he let me in he grunted something in his native tongue; all high-pitched squeaks and synonyms. His fur was almost bare in places and as he hobbled away he clutched the damaged back he’d been carrying for several seasons. He was more like a crippled, old man than the star player I expected. I guess that’s what five years in the Pros does to you.
He waved me towards the pantry. I wheeled the cheese in and unloaded the dolly. It was a lot of cheese, whole wheels of exotic fromage from all around the world, paid for by his teammates, a few opponents and a few of the richer Clans. There was one particularly luminescent, green cheese. I checked the label, “I was first, but you did it with one team. Brothers-in-arms. Gorbag. P.S. Don’t eat it. It tastes like Halfling scat.” If the fumes were anything to go by, it would likely kill a Halfling at twenty paces.
My job done, I headed back towards the front door of the musty hovel, nosing through open doorways en route. Each room was dark and dusty with sheets over the furniture. This didn’t seem like the home of a legendary player. Where were all the trophies? The accolades? The newspaper clippings? Where was all the money?!
As I neared the door, a faint squeak called me back.
I found him in a back room, a study of sorts; an armchair and footstool in front of a fireplace, bookcases on all the walls, a desk, papers scattered across it, and piles and piles of letters, one-sheets and publications. I was astonished. I could barely cross the floor when he beckoned me to sit on the second, smaller armchair opposite his.
In fact, I couldn’t cross it. Almost immediately I knocked a pile of papers over. They went everywhere.
He leapt up with a speed I thought impossible, teeth bared. I apologised profusely as I squatted, frantically trying to gather them up. But as I did, I noticed something about them…
They appeared to be copies of the same publication. It was called The Sick Note, and underneath the masthead it said, A fanzine for Rodentia Ad Nauseam. I had never heard of it and probably never would’ve, had I not decided to give Ole Geoff the day off and deliver the cheese myself. OK, I admit, curiosity got the better of me. I mean, you don’t get the chance to meet an MML Legendary Player (TM) everyday, right?
He’d sat back down now so I asked him about the magazine.
He grunted something unintelligible. I told him I didn’t understand. He repeated. I still didn’t get it. He glared at me and in a really slow voice he said—
Now, I’ve done my best to translate it but, trust me, I could barely understand his rat speech, let alone transcribe it!
—He said, “Skaven are hurt-hurt in the surface world. Man-things, elf-things, orc-things all hate-hate us. Sick-ill Man-things even gone so far as to turn kill-kill clan into sport! Make tournament! So in the MML, clan teams get no respect-praise, don’t get like-love they deserve. RAN always avoid-hide from man-things and stay just with clans. In Skaven world, RAN players like hero-gods. So why we not share the spot-lime-light with Leeroy Jenkins and Terry Bruise?”
I pointed out that both these players were dead, and that it takes more than one player to make a team.
“Yes, yes, know-understand this, but they were the hero-gods. They were celebrated-known. They were respected. And then Orc-thing, Gorbag. People mistake our rivalry. We’re good good friend-mates. Apart from every other day-week Orc-thing sends poison cheese. But it’s all in joke-fun. There’s not many-lot players in MML who have seen-known as much as we have.”
I asked him what he was trying to say.
“Skaven saying he want some damn-damn recognition!”
I asked what I was supposed to do about it.
“I need-want someone. Someone accepted. Someone man-thing. And you lucky-favoured man-thing that come-enter through my door!”
I still didn’t understand.
“Want you cheese-man-thing to tell-tell our story. The Sick Note has been going since the beginning-start. Whole RAN history. YOU can get these story-tales out there. Better late than never.”
Me? Why me? How is a lowly cheese delivery guy going to make RAN famous?
“Because you man-thing wanted to meet me. You man-thing wanted to be near greatness.” He pushed up out of his chair with an effortless grace I hadn’t yet seen. “You man-thing know-know that you can bask in the glory, be famous-known too.”
He side-stepped several piles and was on me before I knew it. The stench was worse than the Orc cheese.
“Man-thing want to see what legendary really means?”
He sniffed me. Ugh.
“Man-thing want to touch-feel greatness for first time in long-life?”
He ran a clawed finger down my chest. I retched.
“Han will show you want legendary truly means.”
And with that, Han Tavirus let out a blood-curdling high-pitched scream! But it didn’t come from one mouth. On no, it came from two!
Han ripped back his hood to reveal a second head, just below the first, ugly like a newborn, still covered in primordial slime.
“Han is RAN! Han is legendary! Han is GREATEST GUTTER RUNNER OF ALWAYS-FOREVER! AND HE WILL BE A HERO-GOD TO ALL-THINGS!!”
And then I understood. This wasn’t the story of a simple, modest rodent who made it out of the gutter. This was a rat who thought that glory would bring him power and riches. But it didn’t. A rat who craved the acclaim, but who didn’t receive it. A rat who thought the world would bow before him, but the world just didn’t care.
Only two heads could ever hope to hold an ego of that size.