7: Semi Final vs Reddit Rotters.
The team is waiting in their changing room. It’s been a short while since their last game against the Jelly Jammers, and they’ve had time to come to terms with what they’re about to face.
The smell is necrotically familiar. It’s only been a few weeks since the Nautical Imperatives faced the then-undefeated Reddit Rotters. It had been a brutal game, but Nautical had escaped victorious, besmirching the Rotters’ perfect record and making themselves a tenacious enemy in the process.
Bumford is nonplussed, as always. He’s once again talking to the elderly, decrepit witch that helped them out last time. She shakes her head, glances at Belay! and leaves.
“Sorry lads, no help this time. Stop yer bellyaching! You’ve beat ‘em once before, ya can do it again.” The team are worried. Some of them have been keeping an eye on theRotters, and can see how they’ve improved over the last few games.
“A few things worth remembering today, lads.” Bumford explains. “As it’s a semi-final match, there ain’t gonna be any draws. We gotta keep going and keep going until someone wins or you’re all dead. Here’s hoping, eh? Eh?” he nudges the nearest elf with an elbow, who cringes of disgust.
“Well, actually, that ain’t true. If it’s a draw, it’ll go to extra time. If that goes on for bloody ages, they’ll call the whole thing off and flip a coin. And, ah, after last week, I reckon the cointoss might be slightly skewed in our opponent’s favour…”
Bumford remembers the previous week when he’d been a member, albeit briefly, of the referee’s union. He hadn’t made any friends, put it that way. Any chance for revenge by the referees is likely to be seized upon.
“Any tactics, coach?” squeaks an elf.
“Hmm, not really. Just win! This is for the finals barkbrains! Come on!”
Bumford has paid for a few scandalously dressed women to administer beer and massages to anyone needing it on the sidelines. He reckoned, funny as it would be to see his team get the snot kicked out of them -Bumford giggled- , it would also be fantastic to actually win and make it to the finals, where he would face either the perfidious Skaven team Mad Experiments or the less, well, scrungey cousins of the Rotters, the Chaos team Kurgan Blood Tide.
The Nurgle team shuffle onto the pitch, followed by a cloud of flies swirling behind them. The cloud is larger than last time. Bumford sniffs. Humphrey, star player of theRotters, heads over to him. Bumford smiles widely, remembering the last time they met. “Bumforrrd.” his voice sounds like mud bubbling on an sewage grate. “None of yourr trickss will work thhis time. Just yourrr little elvess and usss. We’re gooing to have some fuuun, maybe staaart recruiting.”
Bumford slaps Humphrey on the arm, laughing all the time. “Here’s hoping!”
Humphrey looks confused for a moment, then decides maybe taunting this insane dwarf would be a waste of his time, and jogs back to the team.
Bumford turns to the nearer of the two so-called ‘Bloodweiser Babes’.
“Great laugh, that Humphrey. Can’t hold his drink though. Speaking of which..?”
The whistle is blown, and the match starts.
The game is furious. Enraged by their last encounter, theRotters unleash their anger through sickening impacts, laying out elfs left and right. Elfs are dragged to the sidelines, where Bumford, between cheers, encourages theahem assistants to try to wake them up again. The ball is kicked to the Elf team, who zipped up the pitch as fast as they could, only to find themselves trapped on all sides by the disgusting, fetid, congealing flesh of the corrupted Chaos Players.
The largest and most hideous of these, the simply-namedHudor, had gripped a number of the elfs in his array of tentacles, keeping them close enough that they were all but passed out from the stench.
Humphrey, as is typical of the veteran, was laying out about him with fervour. The ball was knocked out of Hard to Larboard!’s hands, and bounced madly around the scrum, ricocheting off heads, arms, and whatever else the Nurgle team had, until it finally came to a stop. It had stuck in some of the gelatinous gunk that coated Hudor, and he plucked it with a wet splotch from his side, grasping it in hands and tentacles.
Oh dear, thinks Bumford.
The only hope Nautical had of getting the ball back would be if they somehow overpower the hideous groaning mass of death and teeth. Aye Aye!, thrower of the team, had somehow become freakishly strong recently. Perhaps it was Bumford’s constant bullying that had driven him to suicidal weightlifting. The incessant digs at his cowardice, hiding in the back, not getting stuck in like a proper player.
Either way, a lucky lunge from* Aye Aye!, being supported by half the elfin team, and the ball was somehow freed! *Weigh Anchor! snatches the ball and runs it in.
The Rotters’ offense is insatiable, and it’s not long before they’re deep in elfin territory with the ball. Elfs are being swatted away as they approach as if they weren’t even there. There are mere moments left for the first half. Bumford is perfectly happy, knowing that the Rottersaren’t going to equalise, there are too many elfs in the way.
As if sensing the challenge, Humphrey snatches the ball and gracefully pirouettes around and defenders, leaving them in the dirt. Moments later and the ball is in touch, and the score is 1-1. The half time whistle blows.
It’s halftime and Bumford is half annoyed, half excited. He flits between explosive rage and childlike enthusiasm, chattering furiously.
“How can you let them score like that, in our half! Useless, the lot of you! Cor, isn’t it fun though? I wonder who’ll win! It better be you though lads, or you’ll be sorry. ThatHumphrey is amazing isn’t he? Kill him! I hope he kills you!”
This tirade lasts for a full fifteen minutes. The next half begins. The elfs file out, some of them lingering a few moments more to spend more time with the, ahem, special interest representatives Bumford had hired. Bumford sees them daudling and practically hurls them onto the pitch.
If the first half was intense, the second was frenetic. More injuries, more tackles, more elfs going down. A glorious pass is almost thrown by To The Brig! for the victory, but his mouth is full of flies and his eyes are full of moths, and there’s a huge 7 foot tall armoured disciple of Nurgle breathing down his neck, and he fumbles it, and gets a fist of steel in the teeth for his trouble. Nurgle grab the ball again, and pass it as well as any elf to Steamy the pestigor, protegee of Humphrey, scores again, bringing the score to 2-1 Rotters.
Bumford jumps from his seat and starts yelling and shouting.
The elf team attack yet again, sprinting forwards with all the speed they can. Belay! is knocked into the crowd, and Bumford, in his fury, joins the crowd and kicks him in the groin as he stands up. Elfs are being grasped in tentacles, unable to support.
The whistle blows for full time, and it is only after several moments waiting for the mist to lift that Bumford realises his team scored in the interim. It’s 2-2. It’s going to go into extra time.
The elfs are tired. They’ve been playing their best, and they’re waning. The Reddit Rotters don’t look like they’ve been exerting themselves. They’re as fresh, if fresh is the right word, as the shambling dead can be. The ball is kicked to Nautical. They hightail it up the flank, relying on their speed to win them the day. The Rotters, see this, and counter effectively, snatching the ball for themselves. The ball, once again, is lost in a scrum of bodies, before popping into the bands of Steamy again. Steamy, flush with victory, steals away up the flank. Time is running low for both teams. Nurgle victory is certain. There’s only one way the elfs can snatch a draw. Hard to Larboard!, the other elfin blitzer, avoids a crushing blow from a warrior and jumps up to kick him in the exposed, fleshy neck. Using him as a springboard, he leaps around the Nurgle defense to hurtle towards Steamy. Steamy hasn’t noticed him, he’s too intent on scoring.
Hard to Larboard! almost trips, he’s running too fast. With the last, final strength he can muster, he literally throws himself at Steamy, taking the Pestigor down, and the ball bounces into the crowd, who throw it back in with an excited roar. It bounces off of the head of another warrior, who doesn’t realise what is happening, and the elfs seize their chance, their last chance! Aye Aye!, freak of strength and nature, somehow dodges through tentacles and fists, steals the ball and gets ready to throw. The flies are thick in the air, but he closes his eyes, and throws.
The crowd is in a frenzy. The ball sails, cleaving a path through pestilence, and the ball is caught by Weigh Anchor!, who had been fighting off a monster of a warrior for the past few minutes. Weigh Anchor! dodges from his grasp and is away, and just as the referee had gotten his game-deciding coin into his hand, Weigh Anchor! scores with seconds to go. The score is 3-2, Nautical Imperatives are through to the finals!
The changing room is abuzz with excitement. They’ve done it! They’re through! Through all the odds, they’ve actually made it to the finals.
Bumford is pleased. He goes from elf to elf, clapping backs and punching arms. Elfs flinch from the affection, several yelp, and one even passes out.
Belay! is still in a bad way. Bumford saunters over to him and shrugs.
“Nasty bunch, the crowd. Never know what they’re capable of.”
There’s a knock on the door, and Humphrey is standing there. His eyes scream murder, but he is in control of his face.
“You got lllucky, Bumforrrd.”
“Sorry? What was that? I can’t hear ya over the sound of my victory! Har!”
“We’ll meeet again, and next time-”
“Oh, go and get drunk from shandy, ya silly, stunted, waste of good disease. Gowan! Bugger off!”
Humphrey is not pleased. Belay! groans and stands up, and shuffles over to him.
“Yeah, piss off you-”
Humphrey kicks a cloven hoof at Belay!, once again causing him to double over in pain, clutching his crotch. He moans pathetically on the floor. Humphrey turns and leaves.
Belay! is not looking good. He’s most certainly not going to be fit to play for a while.
“He’ll probably be out for the next game, lads. Never mind, you don’t need him! You’ll be fine, don’t you worry.” The elfs have gathered around the twitching Belay!.
“Who’re we playing in the final, coach?” pipes an elf.
Bumford turns to face them, and glances quickly at the clipboard.
“Oh, it turns out the Kurgan Blood Tide won their game, they needed extra time too, so it’s Chaos.”
“But didn’t we just face Chaos?”
“Yes, but these are different.”
“Weaker?” asks a plaintive voice, hopefully.
“Oh no, not at all. Just as strong. Only difference is they’re faster and more agile. Something to look forward to!”
He downs a bottle of grog he was holding and swaggers from the room. He tosses the bottle behind him, and it lands, once again, on Belay!‘s unmentionables. He faints from the pain.