“Heroes get remembered, but legends never die,” it was the famous line from his favorite childhood movie, The Dustlot. The coming-of-age blood bowl comedy film told the story of a group of young blood bowl players during the hottest summer of their lives. That line flashed through his head as the waning minutes of the game, now in overtime, ticked by. He smirked to himself, but they sure don’t look alive laying over there, as he looked at the pile of rat bodies laying on the opposite side of the pitch. His team, the New Orcland Grunts – the pride of the Nation – had systematically removed all but three of the vermin from the game, and one of those was on his back on the pitch leaving two standing precariously on the sideline.
Anticipating the impending surf, the crowd jumped the fence and ran down to the field, ready to stomp the rat into the ground as soon as he stepped off the pitch. Break’T had been putting up a phenomenal game so far, clearing rats off the pitch with a fervor that left nothing to be desired. The crowd stepped closer for the expulsion of the rat, not wanting to miss a single savory second of stomping his little rat head into mush. Break’T charged, sidestepping the downed rat ogre, he made a straight beeline for the chittering gutter runner. Four times the size of the rat the black orc crashed into the side of the rat launching vermin ten feet back into the crowd.
At least that is what he saw from the sideline where he stood opposite the carnage. He had seen the gutter runner’s head snap to the side, his body being launched into the crowd and mutilated beyond recognition. Yet the rat stood where he was before, Break’T glaring down at him, but otherwise unscathed. Un’Forc’n believable, he thought to himself as he removed his headset and started yelling across the pitch at his Grunts.
“Close that gap! Mark that rat Ogre! Pickens! get over there and help out,” he yelled, the troll paying no attention, “F’orc’n liability, Syth, get over there and muck up that hole. Surround him boys!!!”
That’s exactly what they had done, seven orcs stood around the gutter runner, and a lone storm vermin. There was no where for the rats to retreat, no place for them to scurry off and hide. They had been out matched, out coached and now, out of options. The rat ogre shuttered and lay still, still unable to get up from the last punch that brought him down. The storm vermin, looked at his attackers and shirked away, hoping to not provoke another attack. The gutter runner, Twerkin’, shifted uneasily looking back and forth, trying to comprehend the magnitude of the events that had transpired.
The rat dug his paw into the dirt, the heel scrapping the sideline, and made an assault straight into the army of orcs before him. A huge left hook came in from the side, he dodged it, another from the right and another from the front, deftly weaving through the mess of muscle and anger the gutter runner broke free of the line. He saw the streak emerge from the green wall, heard the crowd gasp, and caught a glimpse at the runners shoes…
“…guaranteed to make a orc run faster and jump higher…Orcidas”, how fitting that scene, how pointedly it hit home just now, how ironic.
The headset he had worn the entire game hung limp in his hand. He’d coached a flawless game, exercising the correct amount of patience and foresight, beating his opponent in every aspect, overcoming near disasters and recovering from the slightest of stumbles. He turned slowly, the headset thudding into the ground along with his dreams. He could hear himself walking, the soft crunch of the grass that surrounded the astro-granite under his feet. The crowd was deathly silent, the celebration of a lone rat in the end-zone the only noise that pierced the silence, and even that was minute compared to the deadness that engulfed him.
The dark hallway in the club house echoed his heart as the only light came from a flickering bulb that was clinging to it’s last hope of life. He walked pasted the locker room, what would he say in there, what could he say in there?, and made his way to his office. “Preach – The Nations Own – Head Grunt” was etched on the door, a “F’orc Average” sticker pasted to the side frame. He paused, reaching out to touch the memento of the former Grunt super-star.
“I miss you buddy,” he said as he opened the door.
He didn’t enter. There was no solace to be had in there. He turned and walked deeper into the darkness of the hallway. A door eventually presented itself, it was the back exit to the clubhouse, used by the janitorial staff and underlings that the Nation employed. Seemed fitting, but an exit was an exit and he needed air…maybe a drink.
We walked a block to the nearest bar, a dive of a place, but the best seat in the city to cheer on the hometown orcs – if one couldn’t get a ticket to the game that is. The door opened as he approached, striding out was a tall lanky fellow, “nothing you could do about that, Nuffle just said no,” and kept walking. The dive was as quite as the clubhouse, just the lone drone of a juke box, long broken and only able to play one song, playing in the background.
He sat down at the bar, he barkeep a good friend of his grabbed a mug, filled it and slid it over. “The score might not show it, but you won that game,” said the barkeep before going back to finding himself a drink.
A stranger walked up and sat down, they’d met before, but he couldn’t place him just now. “Hell of a game. I’ll have nightmares for weeks after that,” quipped the stranger.
He hadn’t touched his mug, it looked like mud and probably wouldn’t taste much better. He lifted the drink to his lips, but then stopped as his eyes caught the cabalvision above the bar. It was replaying the last 15 seconds of the game. Salt to the open wound. He felt sick to his stomach. He put his mug down, tossed a few cyans on the bar and made his way out the door.
Home was north, but he walked south. The game replayed in his head as he limped down the sidewalk. A dog barked, others joined in, their bays grated at his last nerve. Anger replaced self-pity, and he kicked the trashcan that sat on the corner. A voice entered his mind, “Getting Nuffled is your own scared ass limitation, that you’ve tried to put a term on.”
“Leave me alone Leeroy,” he grumbled.
“You’ve imprisoned yourself in a cage of fear, get the F’orc up and do something,” said the voice.
He stopped and looked around, he had no idea how long he had walked or where he was, but this part of New Orcland wasn’t known to him.
A crash and a muffled grunt came from the dark alley to his left. He strained his eyes to see in to the depths but couldn’t make anything out. While New Orcland was a fairly crime free city, the dark back alleys where a place one could get in trouble. Stepping from dark into pitch black he strained his eyes against the nothingness. After a few seconds his eyes adjusted to the gloom and he could make out a hunched object laying on the ground, two hooded figures; one on top of him, the other to the side.
“Hey!” he yelled.
The hooded figures stopped ransacking the victim and turned their…muzzles. “You!” hissed one of the figures as it jumped down from the hulk to the field-stone alley. The other figure slunk around their victim and came to stand beside its mate, “you will never win. Get him!” The creature charged! He’d seen that gait before, the swift stride; he knew it all too well – he’d been a victim to it already this night. As the creatures scurried towards him, he braced himself. He would at least go down with some semblance of pride.
F’orc Pride. Came the voice.
The two vermin where almost upon him, when suddenly one of them stumbled and skidded to the ground with a crash, a single crossbow bolt sticking out of the back of his skull. The other startled and sidestepped out of the alley at the last moment, another bolt flying into the street missing it’s mark. He turned and watched the creature dash down the street and into another alley, how long? he wondered. His thoughts where interrupted the thud of heavy footsteps that stopped just behind him.
He turned to face a new menace, but was not met with aggression. The hulking figure that had been laying prone at the back of the alley was now standing before him, cloaked in a hood, his breathing erratic and wheezing, he was still an impressive sight to behold.
“Who are you,” he asked, unable to make out any features other than a glint of what could have been a tusk.
The cloaked figure didn’t answer, but instead extended his hand holding something out.
“What is this,” he asked as he took a step forward.
Then he stopped, immediately recognizing the article that was draped across the strangers paw. He glanced down at the dead vermin, back to the article and then into the recesses of the hood. Uncertainty was replaced with recognition, recognition supplanted with fear, and fear eradicated by revenge. He reached up and took the tattered cloth from the strangers hand, and tucked it into his pocket. “You’ll need another one of those,” he said.
The figure said nothing, made no motion and gave no answer as he reached up and pulled back his hood, and slung his crossbow.
He turned, and this time, walked north. He had work to do, lots of work. He glanced over his shoulder as he crossed the street, the hulk was right behind him. As they neared the stadium, he reached into his pocket and pulled out the tattered cloth the stranger had given him. It started to rain. The cloth quickly soaked but the wet glistened off the letters, making them almost glow in the lamp light. He gave it back to the stranger, “You should keep it,” he said. Opening the door to the club house they went inside the same dark flickering hallway he had exited earlier.
“Come, we’ll get you a new jersey. Welcome home,” He smirked, F’orc Average.
– – – – – –
The body of their fallen comrade was quickly gathered and disposed of. Nobody saw them, nobody heard them, but the city was their home as well, albeit the undercity. Their day would come, they had become bolder over the years. Soon their day would come, very soon.
– – – – – –
As he sat on the bench, he turned the rain soaked jersey over in his hands, the letters of his name now visible. The door to the locker room opened and the Grunts plodded into the room, surrounding him. He stood up, and removed his soaked coat. One by one the Grunts silently walked up and embraced their new brother. His jersey, laying on the bench next to him looked up, reminding him of his true home, but urging him to find refuge here. “Gorbag” it said.