Coach Lysenko roared expletives, but they were all drowned out by the crash of splintering wood as the Turfinator brought the subs’ bench crashing down onto the top of the minotaur’s head. The beast went down like a sack of steak and the coach knew that he could well be out cold for the rest of the match. The black orc cheered gleefully, dancing on the spot for a moment before realising that he’d forgotten what he was so happy about.
The match had only just begun and this was not the start that Lysenko had wanted.
The Pink Horrors faced an insurmountable wall of green muscle and teeth in their opponents, Da Turf Trashers – a far cry from the delicate elves that they had crushed just days earlier.
Receiving the ball at the kick-off, the Horrors huddled tightly around the Drowned Lover – ball clutched in-hand – and proceeded to march in a cloven-hoofed phalanx down the pitch. Frustratingly, several fierce attacks on the orcs who stood between the Pink Ones and the endzone barely knocked the greenskins back more than a few paces, let alone slammed them to the turf and, half-way through the first half, the Horrors had barely managed to advance more than a few steps.
The situation was worsened, noted their coach, by a suspicious-looking old man with grey robes and a pointy hat standing casually on Da Turf Trashers’ side-line, absently twisting his beard around a heavily-engraved wand. Every now and then, he would look across the pitch and smile pleasantly at Coach Lysenko. This was not a comforting sign.
Lysenko hadn’t mentioned the potential for a searing bolt of lightning to roar out of nowhere and rend any one of them into a steaming pile of scattered limbs to the players, but by their nervous offense, Lysenko could only assume that they had worked that out for themselves.
In a final push to take the lead, the Drowned Lover broke free of the cage of man-goats which protected him and pelted down the pitch in the last seconds of the half. With the rest of the orcs tied up in furious melees, there was no-one to stop the Horrors’ star from scoring. Cursed by fate however, the Drowned Lover spent so long looking nervously up to see if the dark clouds overhead had in anyway thickened or ‘turned lively’, that he tripped over his own hooves.
The rest of the half was spent scrambling the ball between green players and pink players until the final grains of sand in the hourglass ran down.
By the start of the second half, both sides were down two players – the Blushing Doxy in fact requiring urgent help from the apothecary to set her smashed limbs – and still the minotaur Ermintrude Gayhammer was unconscious.
The orcs wasted little time in starting their sluggish yet relentless advance. Now it was time for the Horrors to form an impassable wall of their own. Wave after wave of charges crashed against the Pink Ones, but – many times only by sheer fortune – the man-goats managed to fend off each attack. Time ground on and the Trashers pushed closer and closer to the endzone. Finally, in the dying seconds, the ball was slipped to the Lawn Ranger who made a final dash for glory. The Silent Blade reacted instantly, darting away from several opponents, barrelling towards the orc Blitzer.
With a deafening clash, goat struck orc and the ball was sent spiralling into the air beyond the reach of either player. Before anyone could scramble their way down to scoop it up, the referee blasted his whistle and signalled the end of the game.
Both teams trudged back to their dugouts, heads hung, knowing that they should have won the game but silently thanking Nuffle, sure in the knowledge that they were both damned lucky not to lose it.
Coach Lysenko looked across to the wizard, but he was gone. It just went to show, sometimes you could earn your money by doing absolutely nothing at all...