Night-time was falling fast around the Pink Pyre Stadium and - as he was being dragged through the dirt by the chains around his ankles - Coach Lysenko couldn’t help but notice that with daytime’s thick pall of black clouds shrouding the sun, there was very little difference between the two at all.
The coach had become used to travelling around on his back and, if he were honest, the ground had been so worn by his prone body eroding its stony clay that his journeys were now almost what he’d call comfortable.
The Drowned Lover, probably the most proficient of all the man-goats, barged the stadium’s rotting wooden gates open with a pink-furred shoulder. Coach Lysenko didn’t need to trouble his neck to see where he was being taken as his head bounced off each and every one of the six-hundred-and-sixty-six stone steps leading down from the Pink Pyre.
Today had been Match Day, which meant only one thing.
Lysenko was being taken to He, the thing in the skin-tent.
At the foot of the almost-sheer slope of rock which ascended jaggedly towards the clouds, cradling the Pink Pyre Stadium at its peak, there sat a tent; an old tent, worn and weather-beaten, erected before the time of any now living. From without, its walls were hued a pale and ghostly blue by the flames which roiled inside – but those walls, at first glance ragged sheets of heavy cloth bound tight with twine, were not in fact what they seemed. Every inch of leathery material which sheathed the crudely-hewn wooden frame was all that remained of the coaches who had displeased the thing which dwelled within.
Whatever it was which resided beneath those tanned flaps of skin, its form shrouded in heavy, mouldering robes, had no name of which the coach was aware. ‘He’ was all anyone said; ‘He wants to see you,’ or ‘He is angry,’ or ‘You must go to He and hope him not want to skip with your gizzards.’
The Drowned Lover threw back the entrance flap (Grolgar Mittenfeugen, Head Coach, circa I.C. 2168-2173...) and slung Lysenko inside. The coach scrambled to his knees and stared across the sapphire-blue flames. The form opposite was unmoving and the tent fell silent as the grave.
Seconds passed, dragging into minutes, and Lysenko began to sweat.
The creature, He, neither mover nor spoke.
The silence was unbearable and Coach Lysenko broke it before he was driven mad:
‘So... Not a bad result today, then?’
‘You know what they say,’ the coach tried to force a smile, ‘it’s not easy being green.’
Indeed, today it hadn’t been. In a rare show of skill, the Horrors had managed to convincingly keep their orc opponents at bay. Astun Killa had put up a ferocious fight, to be sure, leading with their fists the way that only an orc team can do, but so furious were the Pink Ones after their defeat to the Jagermonsters the week before, and so determined were they not to be humiliated in that manner again, the Horrors came out punching from the kick-off and didn’t stop until the last dregs of the crowd had begun their dismal walk home at the end of the match.
The war-master Khorne, fortunately for both sides, had been slumbering for much of the match and the most serious injuries suffered were knock-outs and bruised pride – though he did open one sleepy eye in time to see Baa-Ram-Ewe of the Horrors disembowelled by Jow Hurt of the Killas; but both orc and Chaos cheered his death in equal measure as nobody likes a journey-goat.
In the end, it had been a close game, the Horrors managing to cling to the narrow lead they had secured early in the first half. The orcs had put up a fine fight, but in the end the Horrors simply had to wait for the clumsy greenskins to do what they do best – drop the ball at every opportunity.
It wasn’t a comfortable win, or a glorious one, but it was at least a win which Lysenko felt merited him keeping his skin.
As if reading the coach’s thoughts, a finger – long-clawed and bony – appeared from beneath the creature’s robes.
‘...You... want... keep... nanny-jabber?’ asked He.
‘What? I don’t follow...’
The finger gestured towards the coach’s groin.
‘Oh. I understand. Yes, yes please. I would like that very much.’
There came a snort from somewhere inside the robes.
‘Then...’ He said, ‘Someone you need to meet...’
Lysenko heard the tent flaps thrown open behind him and felt hot breath as something large and foul sniffed the back of his neck. He slowly turned to see the unmistakeable form of a minotaur trying to untangle its horns from the guy ropes.
The coach sighed.
‘Alright, if you insist. But the bell has got to go.’