The Rebirth

The Rat’s Nest, home stadium of the Repulsive Ratlings, Thursday at Dawn:

“Again.”

The sound was barely audible, like leaves carried on a gentle breeze over a graveyard. The Ratlings had adapted to this manner of speaking since the return of coach Stuffnjunk. His voice was a stark contrast to the deafening “BOOM” which followed: the sound of a cannon firing from the End Zone.

The projectile was an “enhanced” Blood Bowl ball constructed of the purest warpstone. Its trajectory was low, more akin to a bullet from a Skaven jezzail, and was aimed directly at Slinij, located at the other End Zone. The numerous holes dotting the wall behind the team’s star Gutter Runner showed that the slightest mistake during this exercise would be lethal.

Slinij knew the stakes. Catch the ball, make it to the other End Zone through the array of Ratlings and skeletons on the pitch untouched, and maybe there would be sleep and food for him tonight. His previous punishment, a day which he had spent mostly submerged in near frozen water with no food, was a reminder of the costs of failure.

He couldn’t call what happened next a catch so much as stopping a bullet with his body, but he had his hands around the ball and was still on the pitch. He took off at full sprint and easily dodged through the initial line of skeletons. The Ratlings proved far more difficult and he almost went down on numerous occasions. As he flew past the line of scrimmage the only threats left were Scalpke Beastmaster, the team’s other developed Gutter Runner, and Gnawghty, the Storm Vermin with an ankle injury. Gnawghty lunged at Slinij but missed. The Beastmaster gave chase, but was not quite fast enough. Slinij stopped in the End Zone, lungs struggling to take in enough air, when he heard the Coach say:

“Again.”

Slinij tried to argue. “But man-coach, have a heart!”

The warpstone dagger, still protruding through the chest of Stuffnjunk, seemed to glow with a fiery red light. The coach’s voice took on a new quality, now sounding like skulls scraping together in a concrete mixer:

“I tried to teach all of you the ways of humanity. I even tried to include you in the #OneClan nonsense. Sympathy, compassion, understanding… none of these concepts mean anything anymore! We will try the Skaven way. The strong will survive and the weak will feed their rise. As far as a heart goes, I seem to remember you relieving me of that burden, traitor! NOW, AGAIN!”

The sound of the cannon echoed for miles throughout the day and night.

 

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