The night before…
Bumford’s arms are spread wide. He speaks with gusto.
“Come on you lot! A pint of the brown stuff for every broken bone you inflict on’m!”
The response is nonexistent.
“Oh for Arnok’s sake, that’s entirely the wrong attitude.” He glances around for inspiration. His face creases with concentration.
“A.. pint of… wine?”
Small shuffles. A voice floats from the back of the changing room.
Faces lift. The mood is lighter than before, in a way that the earth is lighter if you throw a stone in the air.
“A pint is a bit much maybe though coach, delicate stomach you see.”
“Fine, fine! A small glass of fruity wine for anyone who breaks a dwarfish bone!”
A tiny cheer rises. Perhaps this game would go well after all.
“Coach Bumford, just how tough are Dwarfen bones?”
A pause. “Well, do you know soft, ultra ripened peaches? The way they easily splat on the floor in an explosion of flesh?”
Mutters of agreement.
“In this analogy, the Dwarfs are like the floor. The cold, stone, indefatigably robust earthern pavement.”
2: Burnfurnace VS Nautical Imperatives
Bumford swaggers back into the room stinking of dwafen booze.
“Ah, great bunch of lads, lovely guys. You’ll love ‘em.”
The team are sitting warily in the changing room. No one speaks.
Bumford belches loudly before continuing.
“Anyway, so you all know the plan still, yeah? You, what’s your name, hmm?”
“Eleri- I mean, my name is Kiss The Captain’s Daughter!, coach.”
“Wos the plan?”
“Uh, grab the ball then run it in?”
“Remind me to promote you to captain once the game’s over son. Ok, off you go then”
Kiss The Captain’s Daughter! almost smiles, then remembers what they’re about to face.
“Oh, actually, a bit of advice before you get stuck in chaps. Dwarfs are slow, so the trick is to outrun them and huff the ball as far as you can. Nice long passes and running as fast as you can, that’s the key. Ok?”
The elfs stand up. They’re almost feeling the tiniest spark of confidence at this sudden unexpected nugget of actual, solid advice. A stranger, someone calling themselves Paul, is helping them out as they’re an elf short.
“Does anyone else feel a chill?” he asks.
Snow blankets the pitch. Whirling winds and bitter cold wash through the air, whipping hair and stinging throats. The elfs find it hard to walk steadily, let alone run.
“Ah, they’ll be fine,” grumbles Bumford happily. “Bit o’ cold never hurt anyone.”
The dwarfs of Burnfurnace look well at home in the inclement weather. They’re laughing and joking, slapping arms and sharing tankards. One dwarf yells across the screeching wind.
“Oi! Bumford! I’ve promised a pint o’ brown for anyone who breaks an elfin bone, just thought I’d let you know laddo!”
Bumford laughs, wiping snot from his brown beard.
“Hah, brilliant lad that Dalof, right laugh he is. Ok boys, remember the fruit wine now. Good luck!”
The elfs win the toss and elect to receive the kick. It’s hard to see the ball in the snow. They hold back, not wanting to press forward and get stomped. Dwarfs walk forward with inexorable determination. It’s not long before the injuries start. A crunch, a scream, a splatter of red on the pitch.
“First pint is mine then lads!” yells Dalof, to a responding cheer.
Kiss The Captain’s Daughter! lies on the floor. The teams Apothecary, new to the side, stands up but Bumford holds him back by his arm.
“Wait a mo, this’ll be good”
A second disgusting crunch, and Kiss the Captain’s Daughter!’s head flies from his body a few seconds later to cheers from all, none louder than Bumford himself. The doctor decides perhaps decapitation is beyond his expertise to repair and sits back down.
The elfs spot this, the second death in as many games, and panic sets through them. They break though the line with urgency and sprint forward, hampered by the snow. The elf with the ball at the back has snow in his eyes. Passing is next to impossible.
The elfs hand the ball from elf to elf, being taken down by dwarfs almost as fast as they’re doing so, and fuelled by self-preservation instincts Belay! manages to score a touchdown.
The first half isn’t over yet. Five elfs are on the sidelines, either dead or knocked clean out.
“Well, maybe the snow will slow them down..?” muses the doctor whimsically. The sound of an anvil being struck from somewhere in the vicinity of Burnfurnace’s changing room. The clouds split, and beautiful sunshine spills from the sky.
“Or, maybe not”.
The dwarfs know they don’t have time to score, so they merrily beat the cheese out of a few elves for the fun of it.
The ref blows his whistle. End of first half.
Bumford address his team again.
“Good one guys, 1-0 up at half time. Going pretty well, eh?”
Empty stares. Fatigued elves sit noiselessly on benches.
“Oh chin up, it’s not that bad. Remember last match? At least Kiss isn’t standing on the line o’ scrimmage as a shambling zombie now, eh?”
Paul the mercenary looks up.
“What kind of team is this..?”
“Hear that? Time to go lads. Off you go now!”
“But coach, there are only six of us. How’re we supposed to stop a whole team of dwarfs?” pipes an elf.
“Plan F! Simple!”
“We don’t have a plan-“
“You really better get a shifty on boys, time’s a-wasting!” and with that, Bumford struts back out onto the sidelines. A sob floats from the changing room.
The second half happens much as the first did, with several minor alterations. Instead of 11 elfs, there are 6. Instead of the elfs nimbly darting around dwarfen attacks and handling the ball with finesse, they stand back and try their best to fend off a veritable steam tank of dwarfen strength.
The dwarfs are in no hurry. They casually saunter downfield, wrecking elfs left and right. Weigh Anchor!finds himself shoved into a crowd of other dwarfs who treat him slightly unkindly. The elfs that managed to recover from their trauma enough to stand back on the pitch are again knocked into the dirt and stretchered off. The two stars of the team, Belay! and Hard to Larboard! remain prone on the sidelines, counting stars and nursing bruised brains.
In a fit of repressed rage, Board! flings himself at a laughing dwarf by the name of Lorim and cracks him in the neck. He falls to the ground, badly injured. The remaining dwarfs scarcely notice, but pummel Board! all the same. Bumford cheers.
By the time the dwarfs score, the clock has run down and there are only 3 elfs left on the pitch, none of which are standing.
The elfs are in a various states of extreme pain, but no permanent injuries.
“Well boys, 1-1 is respectable. That’s for sure, and nothing of value was lost.” says Bumford, contentedly. Glares from the elfs.
“Oh of course, how stupid of me. I’d forget my head if it wasn’t welded on! We have something very important to do regarding one of our number.” His face is solemn. The elfs look up with curious sadness.
Bumford walks out of the changing room and returns with a small glass of purple fruit wine. He hands it to a dumbfounded Belay! with a huge smile on his face.
“Here you are lad. You’ve earned it.”
Paul stands up. “Well, I think I’m going to go and, you know, it’s been fun, ahem.”
He makes for the door.
“Good luck against in your next match.”
Bumford consults his chart. “Ah yes, goblins. Madcap Maulers. Everyone knows goblin teams are pushovers, and weak as toffee pudding as well.”
A sigh of relief from the remaining elfs. A nice, easy game with little bloodshed. Paradise.
“Of course, that’s why they sneak in all sorts of interesting, hmm, handicap-levellers, if you catch my drift. Nothing huge, just a mushroom-crazed ball and chain, a few bombs, and-” he yelps with joy.
“Oh fantastic! They’re bringing a chainsaw!”
Bumford hops from foot to foot in glee.
Speechless faces. One of the elfs faints. No one helps him up.