måndag 27 maj 2013

Pigskin and Chaos Warriors

Once upon a time I spent a lot of time playing a board game called Blood Bowl. One creature in the game is called a Flesh Golem - and thus making it one of the many pieces of my new novel (Av kött och blod - By Meat and Blood).

The piece I publish today is a short story that take place on the blood bowl pitch. I am fully aware of that the translation is a pure amateur work.

Here is the original text (in swedish).

But nevertheless and with my warmest regards to the blood bowl community:

Pigskin and Chaos Warriors
Henrik Johansson

When I got out on the square in front of the stadium all the smells hit me: the crowd, horse shit, cooking odors, candied hazelnuts. For the first time in my life I did not go to the big entrance, but to the backside of the stadium. I was sweating and had a stomach ache. I pushed my way through the crowd and for once I gave a coin to a beggar. One of my last one, actually. Perhaps it could give me luck.
A man stood outside the player entrance. He looked as if he was waiting. I walked up to him and looked around. He was probably not the one who would meet me. I was expecting someone with nicer clothes.
"Grimel Gozca?"
"Sorry, I do not know, or yeah, that's me. Grimel. Are you the owner?"
"Coach. My name is Anselm."
Anselm spoke and asked. Did I knew that I would stand on the line of scrimmage? As a rookie I did not get paid until I was a accepted, was I aware of that? Scouts from several bigger teams sat in the audience, a good opportunity to show off, he said. I could borrow armour, but did I own boots? Good, good. Rokosa? Well, he would play. Anselm himself had played, of course, but not anymore. Twenty-four games in the crimson jersey, yes, more than most. A stinking zombie bastard took a large bite off his thigh. That was it. The zombie ate the meat in front of his face. Had not the healer been there he would have bled to death.
"Hey, guys! Here's the rookie! Be nice. He is a good guy."
"But what the hell ... we have two on the injured list."
"Goddamn it, guys. I got one here. That's it. Get in there."

I looked around. The smell of locker rooms ... Men who laced up their greaves. Laughed and joked. Greaves of iron. Not the heavy bronze shit at home. This was the pros. A man stood in front of me. He looked. There he was, sure it was him? Yes, it must be him. Without the helmet, chest plate and the jersey he was ... still big. Did he even have teeth? His nose was broken. His face looked like horse leather.
"Hey, I'm t..."
"You are Rokosa. The team captain. I've seen you, I mean, I've seen you from the stands. Many times."
"Then you know that on the pitch, you obey me. If I tell you to mark a fucking troll, so what do you do?"
"Do they have a troll? The opposing team, today?"
Rokosa sat down and continued lacing his boots.
"They have a minotaur."

"Out of the way, asparagus. You are sitting on my place."
I moved over. Slowly. I could see who it was. Benusch: the blitzer, The Hammer, the arrogant fuckin' diva ... Let someone else take the hit and took credit. The worst kind.

Anselm entered the locker room. Stood at the blackboard and slammed two helmets together with a bang.
"Okay guys! Listen up! This is it. We are facing some of heavy shit today: they are fielding seven beastmen, three Chaos Warriors and a Minotaur. Expect t..."
"How do we stop the Minotaur?" said Benusch. "It's the first time we encounter one of those."
"What kind of bloody question is that? We play our own game. We always do."
Anselm hit the slate with his palm, the dust of the chalk whirled and he pointed at Benusch.
"I don't care if you have to crawl over the line with both legs broken and the pigskin in your mouth. You will get there. The answer to your question is – don't give a shit about the critter! We play to win, not to beat the shit out of these mutants, not to survive – we play to win the game!"
None of us said anything. I checked if my leg greaves were fixed properly. They were stained with dried blood. I tried to rub away the stains.
"Yes, they are bigger, meaner and stronger – but we have better speed, we have a better passing game, we're smarter." Anselm pointed at his temple. "Use the whole pitch, we will not win a bloodbath in the middle, that's their game. Once we got the ball, go for a quick touchdown. When it's their turn – high pressure: go for the ball, all the time. Do
not back home, keep the pressure on the ball. Keep your heads up and your eyes open: if you don't know what to do – look for me or Rokosa. Okay, that's all. Get out."
In the corridor somebody began to run and I joined in, somebody struck up a roar at the gate when we rushed out on to the field.
I screamed on the top of my lungs. Roared away all the nervousness, all the fear, I roared for the will to win, for the hatred of the bastards on the other side.
The response from the audience hit us like a wave, it was deafening. They chanted:
"Kill! Kill! Kill!"

I warmed up, jumped like a crazy and was jabbing the air. On the other side of the midline were the opponents. A beast bared his teeth at me. The Warriors laughed and urged for us to get closer. In the middle stood the referee, a Warrior and Rokosa. A coin into the air. The referee caught it and pointed in our direction. Good. Rokosa stood watching our opponents set up. Turned and walked into the circle, which was waiting for him.
"Five men in front, you grind the three goats as hard as you can. The rest of you: Set up broad, but not right in front of the line, a few steps back. I will take care of the ball. We must have them in our half of the field before we go for a breakthrough. I will not throw before someone is through. As we go forward, anyone who can runs for it, those who can't break through must,
have to mark a man each."
"No quick touchdown?"
Rokosa shook his head. Looked around. Put his iron-clad head forward. The team pressed together and lay arms over each others backs. Struck up a howl.

On the way up to the line Benusch took hold of my helmet cage and pulled me towards him, grined and told me to hold the beast on the right while he mangled him.
"If you bail out I will get you instead."

The beast that stood opposite me was hair, muscles and iron. Clotted blood and mud hung in the fur. He growled. Sniffed and tossed his head. One of his horns was broken off. The mouth looked slit up. He rolled his eyes and stomped his hooves. Showed his teeth. I wondered if it was his first match. Did he tried to join the team?
The referee whistled. With a kick a chaos warrior sent the ball far down on our side. I threw myself at the beastman. Grasped his arm. Benusch took hold of his horns. Drove a brutal knee into his stomach. The beast lifted from the ground and fell backwards. Screamed. He was down. Benusch stomped him in the mouth.
The ground shook. I saw someone in the corner of my eye. Dodged. The Warrior's elbow hit my shoulder. He threw me down. The air was beaten out of my lungs.
I lay still. Rolled me away and staggered up. A beast was on its way toward Rokosa and the ball. I slide tackled him from behind and he fell. Turned on his back and kicked me in the head. The helmet rang like a bell, but took the hit. My nose was burning. The taste of blood in my mouth. Noise in my ears.
Came up to my knees. Anselm pointed forward and I saw that he screamed, but I heard nothing. The crowd yelled louder. I have to show what I can. My only chance. A hand on my shoulder. Benusch pulled me up. Come on, asparagus, he shouted. He ran with his hand on my back. Pushing me forward. Forcing me to raise the speed. Pushed me into a Warrior. Shoulder first, he smashed into a beast and shoved him aside. He was through. The Warrior turned and aimed at him. I threw myself at the Warrior's knee. His spiked glove hits my back plate. I was hanging on. I was hanging on. I was ...

A sharp, pungent odor. A hand slapped my face. I sat on the bench. The healer shoved his smelling salts at my nose again, but I pushed away his hand.
"How many fingers can you see?"
"I have to go out ... on the pitch."
"Sit down. Anyway, the game has begun. Sit the hell down!"
"What happened?"
"Benusch scored, Rokosa threw the pass." said Anselm.
"I held onto a ... a Warrior."
"It's as good as scoring. Everyone's needed." he said and slapped me in the back. It hurt. Neck pain. I took off the helmet and looked down into it. The lining was bloody. I touched my head. The hand was red, but not so much. The helmet cage was buckled. It was dripping blood from my nose down on the shirt. Above my head the crowd screamed and threw stones and rotten fruit.
"Don't you have anything stronger than smelling salts?"
"Tilt your head back, I will plug the tap."
The healer shoved pieces of fabric in my nostrils. It hurt.
"Do you have Taleria or something? Give me that powder you can be refreshed by, so I can go out and play. "
The healer took out a glass jar with snow-white powder and looked at Anselm. He shook his head and said it was too expensive.
"We're a man short without me."
Anselm watched the game.
With the Minotaur in the lead the chaos team pressed us downfields. They protected the ball carrier with a wall of meat and pressed forward. A bout with the strong neck and the bull horns knocked over one of our line guys. The Minotaur took the next man and threw him away. We couldn't resist. Anselm was shouting out orders. No one heard him. In the final seconds, they broke through our defense and sprinted across the line. Anselm cursed and pounded his fist into the ground. An equalizer and the bastards would start the second half with the ball. And now we were two men short.
The guys came to the half-time rest looking on the ground.
"Okay," said Anselm, "if they are smart, they will go slow, protect the ball, extend their numerical superiority and put the second goal in the final seconds. You know what you have to do. High pressure, go for the ball, take chances, sacrifice yourselves."
"The new guy? Is he playing?" said Rokosa and nodded in my direction.
Extend their numerical superiority said the Coach. Well, I knew well enough what that meant. That's one way to say it. I tried to move my legs. They seemed okay. The back was not okay, maybe a crack in a rib, or even worse: a scapular. I could hardly move my neck. My arms were sore, but had full movement.

The referee whistled and the Chaos ran out with light, confident steps.
Anselm gave his final instructions before he sent the men out.
My brain exploded. A violent shock went through me. Like getting a bucket of ice cold water over your head. Pulled air into the lungs. I had slipped down a hand in the jar and took a pinch of powder. When the last man ran onto the field, I had snorted the powder up the nose. Now I took-off and ran like a madman and heard Anselm swearing at me. He started walking after me but the assistant referee prevented him from going onto the field and pointed to the bench.
I looked at him. He laughed and shook his head.
We play to win.
I ran to my place on the line and pushed down the helmet. Opposite the Minotaur, I would stand. The great creature stomped into the ground, sniffed with his nostrils and bellowing with suppressed rage. He could barely contain himself.
Someone clapped hands behind my back.
It was Rokosa.

The end.

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