The draw was made in a clearing of torched woodland, overseen only by the Adjudicator and a thousand blackened tree carcases.
And the naked, screaming elf maid.
There was always one of those at these sorts of things.
The Adjudicator could feel the sweat running down his back and his bony fingers were slick with it as well. It wasn’t the fact that those same fingers were about to delve into the slit belly of the struggling elf as she lay pegged to the floor by her wrists and ankles that was causing him to sweat. Oh no, it was more the featureless iron facemask behind which the Adjudicator felt his head was beginning to bake.
These Chaos gods didn’t half love their ceremonies, what with all their masks and robes and burning braziers, and they were always so bloody hot. Just nailing down a human sacrifice or decapitating a copulating goat could really take it out of you. No wonder every bit of him was dripping with sweat.
Still, the rewards were good (the naked, screaming elf maids for a start).
The modest leather sack gave a sickly squelch as the Adjudicator slipped it from beneath his robes.
‘Now, now. Shhhh...’ he whispered to the she-elf, before shaking out the contents of the bag into her rent navel. ‘Just give these a good mix...’ His tone was airy, completely at odds with the task ahead.
He plunged his hand into her warm gut, swirling it around amongst her organs. Her screams made his ears ring, but they probably wouldn’t last – his entry-level Necromancy wasn’t really up to much and wouldn’t be able to sustain her life for too much longer. Just long enough to get the job done.
The Adjudicator’s fingers found one of the foreign objects which had been stirred into the gut soup. He plucked it out and held it up to the moonlight. It was roughly the size and shape of a he-elf’s testicle, probably because that’s what it was. It had been branded with a name, and that name still burned in white-hot flames.
‘The Lashor Devastation...’ he mused as read out the inscription, before casting the elf-nut over his shoulder.
He delved once more into the elf’s belly, plucking out another testicle.
‘I think this one was your dad’s,’ he noted to the still-writhing maiden. She made no sign that she’d understood so he shook his head and read ‘Khorne’s Killers.’
The air was split by a crack of thunder. The gods had understood.
The Adjudicator snorted to himself. The Chaos gods certainly had a flair for the dramatic and couldn’t ever let a cliché slip by unnoticed.
He cast aside the testicle and pulled out the next. ‘The Slaves to Pleasure...’ he intoned. ‘Versus...’
He was reaching deep into the elf for the final time when a shadow fell across his facemask.
He looked up at the figure standing over him. ‘Who the hell are you?’
Coach Lysenko stared out across the pitch, absently rubbing the blisters on his scorched cheek. He’d probably have the scars for the rest of his life, but the way the league was running, that might not be very long at all.
He still had nightmares about being barbecued alive and he could only thank the gods that Filthy Agnes - the team’s new cheerleader - had burst into the Skin Tent only seconds before the coach’s hair had caught fire.
‘Wait!’ she had cried, brandishing a tattered scroll.
Everything had stopped (except the burning sensation). The Oozing Gash and He glared at the cheerleader, silenced. Coach Lysenko on the other hand had barely noticed her presence, his attention being more appropriately drawn to the searing coals towards which his head was being inexorably pressed by the meaty grip of the Chaos warrior.
‘It’s from the Chaos Cup!!!’ she squealed. ‘ We’re in the last four!’
The Oozing Gash threw up his hands in excitement, but his low murmur of ‘Yay!’ was muffled by his bronze faceplate. Lysenko was dropped straight onto the flames but, free of his executioner, managed to roll, screaming, to safety.
The Oozing Gash pulled him to his feet.
‘THE... CHAOS... CUP...?’ Even He’s guttural tone betrayed the hint of the excitement which had begun to broil beneath his mouldering robes.
‘What we do now, boss?’ asked the warrior.
The Oozing Gash was looking at his head coach, and not the thing beneath the robes.
The coach didn’t have any choice. They played.
The semi-final against the Slaves to Pleasure had been too close for comfort. When they had met in the league, their match had been a hard-fought draw, though one that the Pink Horrors had all but thrown away. This time, though, they had been prepared.
The Horrors had, after extensive training, become inured to the effects of the Slaves’ seductive wiles – helped mainly by the iron spikes which had been sewn onto the inside of their loin cloths.
The match was so closely run that both coaches had spent half of the game planning for extra time. Luckily for the Horrors however, their star man-goat ‘the Cloven Elf’ had managed to sneak in the winning touchdown as the second half reached its final few minutes. After a tense and scrappy defence which relied more on the Slaves making errors than on the Horrors successfully stopping their drive, the final whistle blew and the Pink Horrors had not so much sailed into the last game as merely weathered the storm and struck land there by accident.
And here they were. The Chaos Cup final.
Maybe a victory here would make up for the Horrors’ lacklustre performance in the league and -crucially – save Coach Lysenko’s skin. But then maybe it was too late for that.
‘Pretty lucky, getting drawn for the Chaos Cup,’ Filthy Agnes whispered to him as they watched the teams file out onto the pitch. ‘Someone up there must like you.’
The head coach’s blistered face still felt like it was on fire.
‘Oh, I very much doubt it,’ he replied.
He followed the cheerleader’s gaze to the Regal Box, though what lords or kings could dwell there he knew not. Perched high in the walls of the stadium, a broiling fissure in the skin of the world, it was shrouded by palls of smoke which glowed at their heart with the light of unseen flames. The wails and cries from within almost drowned the roars and jeers of the exuberant crowds below, and every now and then a monstrous tentacle or flashing talon would strike out from within this unknown hell to snatch more victims from their number.
After both teams had finished squaring off against each other and the occasional fight had been broken up, the referee’s whistle echoed across the pitch and the coach quickly turned his eyes to the game. The Horrors had opted to receive the ball and, as soon as ‘the Cloven Elf’ had scooped it up into his many arms, the rest of the team quickly swarmed to him. All except for the minotaur, that is. Ermintrude Gayhammer had geared himself up to slaughter Viper, his opposite number on the Killers’ team, but soon got distracted by the smell of his own anus and spent most of the first half investigating it further.
Such a large gap in the Horrors’ defences left them painfully unguarded and the Killers couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hit them where it hurt. Several of the Pink Ones were knocked off-balance by a unified assault from their opponents and then, from nowhere, came a blur of fur and horns which smashed into ‘the Cloven Elf’ and launched him skywards and sent the ball into the waiting arms of one of the Killers’ man-goats. After that, the Horrors were forced to switch to a desperate defensive stance, trying to keep a touchdown at bay – but try as they did, they could not stop the Killers from scoring as the half-time whistle blew.
This was not looking good. The teams sloped off the pitch and Lysenko followed them, wringing his hands in frustration. Across the pitch, the masked face of the Adjudicator was watching the Head Coach intently...
As the second half began, the Horrors knew that all advantage lay with the Killers, who were now receiving the ball. Throughout the season, they couldn’t help feeling that they’d started to let trying to score touchdowns get in the way of simply slaughtering their opponents. Had their instinct for butchery been dulled in all of this mess of tactics and ‘sport’?
In answer to their worries, the Horrors had decided to ramp up their aggression. As soon at the whistle blew for the second half, they surged forwards, fists flying. Sadly, their blows all but bounced off the Killers and the half began in earnest with barely a scratch on their opponents. Even the minotaur failed to make any dent in their front line.
So with that, it was back to the tactics.
The Killers grabbed the ball and surged forwards, being careful to avoid the nigh-impotent Ermintrude who was still a bit shaky from a blow which led to him having to be resuscitated by the team’s apothecary in the first half. However, the Killers’ lust to score became their undoing as the ball carrier rushed forwards unaided and left himself open to a counter-attack. He was swiftly de-balled in every sense by ‘the Silent Blade’. The pink half of the crowd cheered as the ball fell to ‘the Cloven Elf’ who managed to lob it down the pitch into the eagerly-waiting hands of ‘the Betrayed Bride’ who was completely unmarked. The man-goat managed to trot to a glorious equaliser and the Horrors were still in the game.
Time was slipping away fast. By the time the Horrors had pelted the ball back down the field to the Killers, the second half had almost gone. The Killers responded to the Horrors’ equaliser with fierce enthusiasm, landing a hail of blows against their opponents. Half of the Pink Ones were lying flat out on the pitch – or worse – as the Killers sailed through their lines with the ball. One consolation was the timely slaughter of their minotaur, Viper, which gave the Horrors new hope.
But by the time they had regained their hooves, they could but watch as one of Khorne’s blood-soaked man-goats charged for the line. None of the Horrors could reach him, and they knew it. All they could do, like the crowd, was watch the Killers’ victory unfold. For a moment – just a moment – their hearts pounded and their hopes were rekindled as the Killer slipped, losing his footing on the blood-soaked pitch. The ball almost escaped him, but his scrambling hands managed to clutch it tight to his chest as his flailing feet found stable ground once more. The man-goat brayed triumphantly as he crossed into the endzone.
The blackened sky was sundered by lightning and the crowd’s roars exploded around the stadium as gallon upon gallon of crimson blood sprayed from the Regal Box, falling upon all like rain. Khorne’s Killers collapsed to their knees, punching the air in victory, their gaping jaws drinking the bounty which fell from the sky. The Horrors hobbled silently from the pitch, their heads bowed.
‘Well, that’s that, then,’ Coach Lysenko sighed.
Lysenko wasn’t shocked to note that He had suddenly appeared beside him. As the blood rain fell, soaking him to the skin, and human sacrifices were being butchered in their scores throughout the stadium, it really did feel quite inevitable.
‘Um... There’s always next year...?’ the coach ventured.
‘NOT... FOR... YOU.’ It stretched out a clawed hand, quick as a striking snake, which closed around the coach’s throat. Lysenko choked and struggled to free himself, but the grip was immoveable. Slowly, his angry and dejected players gathered around to watch. His death, it seemed, would be some consolation to them.
Blinding white fire burst up from the palm of He’s left hand, crackling and spitting as the blood-rain fell upon it. Lysenko could feel its heat as it approached his face and his already-burned cheek began to sting as it drew nearer. A murmur of excitement grew from the eagerly-watching Horrors players.
‘TIME... TO... DIE...’
Lysenko closed his eyes, bowing to the inevitable, waiting for the –
Salvation came out of nowhere as the Adjudicator shoulder-barged He, knocking him to the ground. Lysenko staggered back, gasping for breath.
The coach could barely speak, and didn’t bother wasting what were probably his last breaths by asking what the hell was going on. He’d given up wondering that about two seasons ago.
In an instant, He was back to what were presumably, beneath the robes, his feet. The creature drew itself to its full height and was standing eye-to-iron-mask with the Adjudicator.
The Adjudicator didn’t cower away, which was something quite new to He. In fact, the madman in the iron mask actually leaned closer and said:
‘Listen, love, if you don’t bugger off I’ll shove my kitchen set so far up yer jacksy that yer’ll be chewin’ on my pan-handle for a year.’
‘WHAT???’ Over countless millennia and wars which spanned longer than the feuds of gods, no-one had ever dared speak to He like that.
‘Oh, sod it!’ The Adjudicator reached into his robes and – to everyone’s surprise - drew out a heavy iron skillet. The pan moved with such astounding speed that those watching could barely follow it as it arced through the air, cracking down onto what could well have been He’s skull. The thing in the robes dropped straight to the ground so fast that the Head Coach assumed that indeed it was.
PONK! In years to come, it was a sound that Coach Lysenko would recall with immense fondness.
PONK! PONK! Ah! It was like the first rays of sunlight after the longest and blackest of nights!
PONK! PONK! PONK!
Coach Lysenko’s tormentor barely moved, aside from the occasional twitch of its fingers, as the dented skillet rained down blows upon him.
PONK! PONK! PONK! CRACK!
He spasmed violently and then suddenly fell still.
THUCK! THUCK! THUCK! THUCK!
‘I think he’s dead,’ said the Head Coach, in response to the tar-like black fluid which was oozing freely out of every fibre of the creature’s robes.
‘Phew! Knackered now!’ The Adjudicator threw the buckled skillet to the ground. ‘Anyone fancy a pint?’
The Adjudicator threw of his robes and suddenly then entire stadium fell still.
It was Filthy Agnes who broke the silence with her scream. ‘A DWAAAAAARF!!!’
‘ON STILTS?!’ yelled the Spry Butcher.
‘WITH THE BIGGEST BREASTS I’VE EVER SEEN!’ Lysenko blurted out.
Everyone was looking at him. ‘Sorry,’ he shrugged.
‘I’m lookin’ fer a coach,’ announced the dwarf, hopping to the ground. ‘You’ll do,’ she nodded to Lysenko.
‘Me? Oh, no. I’m through with Blood Bowl,’ he explained.
‘Looks like yer through with a lot o’ things.’ A circle of frothing Chaos minions had begun to close around them and was drawing in on them like a noose.
‘Well, what about him?’ Lysenko pointed to the Killers coach who was by now dancing naked around the pitch, drinking blood-rain from the Chaos Cup trophy.
‘Him? Yer joking, aren’t yer? I can’t afford ‘im. He’s actually good.’
By now, the dwarf and the human were surrounded by a phalanx of frothing beasts and daemons as the whole stadium slowly descended upon them.
‘Look, thanks and all that, but I don’t think we’re actually getting out of this stadium...’
‘Leave that ter me,’ she bellowed over the slavering din. ‘Are yer in or not?’
Coach Lysenko looked at the carnage around him and, for the second time in his career, knew that he didn’t really have a choice.
He said nothing, just sighed and nodded.
‘Righto. Might be a good idea to discuss yer fee later...’ She picked up her gore-drenched skillet in one hand and threw the coach over her shoulder with the other.
She shouted something, but the coach didn’t quite catch it, his head, as it were, being upside down and buried ear-deep in cleavage.
‘WHA--?’ he mumbled into her chest.
‘I said “BETTER FIND SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO!”’
Coach Lysenko’s mind boggled.
‘MHOO ELL ORR UUH?’ Who the hell are you? he asked.
‘Me, love? The name’s Brimstone. Belladonna Brimstone!’
PONK! PONK! PONK!
TO BE CONTINUED... NEXT SEASON!!