Blood Bowl

1-2 hours
It all began long, long ago, on an ancient battlefield somewhere in the Known World. The battle ended in a grim bloodbath, and both sides slumped beneath the circling vultures on the reeking, gore-soaked battlefield, fickle Madame Victory remaining firmly out of reach of everybody. Mutual exhaustion led to a truce being called, whereupon the leaders of both sides attempted to parley. As the leaders argued, the ordinary troops fell where they stood, thankful for any respite from the slaughter. Mungk, the leader of a small Orcish band, was sitting with his first sergeant, indulging in his favourite sport of bogey-flicking. Having won this absorbing competition with a deft over-under move, Mungk waved his scrawny companion away. The Orc leant back, wondering when this parley nonsense would be over so he could get back to the fun of wholesale slaughter. He gazed out over the battlefield, grinning with fond recollection at the piles of Dwarf corpses. Their last stand had taken place in a bowl-shaped depression. At the southern end of this stood a strange silver dome, undoubtedly another of the many ancient constructions left from a previous, more peaceful time. It was against this dome that Mungk now rested his head.

Bored with simply sucking his teeth and motivated by a thunderous rumbling in his belly, the Orc beganscrabbling in the sodden earth in the hope of finding a juicy earthworm or two on which to snack. His battle-blunted claws hit something hard and smooth. He pulled, but to no avail. He scrabbled: nothing happened. Then he pushed. Something went in, something else clicked, and finally a third something let out an almighty hiss. This third something was the side of the ancient building, which slid upwards to let stale, dry air pour from the dark interior. Mungk, who would have been in serious trouble with the washerwoman had he been wearing any form of underwear, gazed goggle-eyed into the glittering hall now revealed inside the dome. Strange armour adorned the walls, peculiar mosaics lined the floor, and at its centre, on a great bejewelled pedestal, sat an enormous book...

After the parleying leaders of the two great armies had been informed of the Orc's peculiar discovery, they adjourned their so-far-fruitless meeting in favour of this new mystery. Since none of the generals could actually read, however, they were unable to establish much beyond the fact that the building was obviously an ancient temple. Messengers were despatched with utmost speed in an effort to find some literate being who could reveal the secrets the dome held. Eventually, a half blind Dwarf was led up and introduced as an expert in all languages, both current and arcane. The book thrust before his warty nose, the Dwarf sat crosslegged on the floor and began poring through its forgotten secrets.

Three days passed, during which time the Dwarf hardly moved from his chosen spot. At last, he was ready to make his report. A podium was hastily erected before the silver temple, and the stunted fellow hoisted up onto it to deliver his findings to the assembled multitude. "This book," wheezed the ancient seer, blinking his heavy-lidded eyes, "appears to be the religious text of a group of warriors who came from a land called Amorica. The book is dedicated to the lost god Nuffle. The head priests of the various sects of this deity, known as coaches, led their bands of warriors into great arenas, and attempted to exterminate each other. The object was not, however, violence simply for violence's sake. No! It was in truth of great ritual significance!''

There was a subdued murmur from the crowd as they attempted to absorb this outlandish concept. The Dwarf continued: "A pig's bladder was inflated and carried or thrown from one end of the arena to the other, in an effort to, erm, score. Carrying the bladder over an opponent's end line gave a sect a number of things called points. The battle lasted a set time. At the end, the sect who had amassed the most points was declared the victor. Apparently, you didn't even have to maim all your opponents, although the coaches seem to have encouraged this practice as much as they could. Furthermore, the book also states that Nuffle's sacred number was eleven, and that only eleven warriors from each side could be on the field of battle at one time."

At this there was a great deal of shuffling in the goblinoid ranks as they removed their footwear in a desperate attempt to find out just what the number 'eleven' was. Typically, this degenerated into brawling after a Goblin discovered what a great joke it was to keep his boots on and stamp on all his mates' bare feet with his hobnails. Ignoring the infrequent howls of pain, the Dwarf continued. "This does not mean that there were only eleven members of a sect, or team, as they were also known. Warriors could go off and come on at will, as long as the sacred number was not exceeded. One could also hit an opponent at any time, as long as one did not use a weapon! Nuffle said that one's body was one's weapon, and - although he allowed armour - all weapons were forbidden from the arena. It is also written that the arena for this conflict was a rectangular field, set within a huge bowl!"

All eyes turned to regard the shape of the battlefield in which they had gathered, where large squadrons of over-stuffed vultures were making feeble attempts to get airborne again. "It seems to me," continued the Dwarf in a loud voice to regain their attention, "that Nuffle has seen our dilemma and is trying to resolve it. I suggest that a team is put forward from each side, and that our differences be resolved in this fashion." A murmur of assent rippled through the crowd, soon rising to a roar of agreement; except, that is, for the corner in which the Goblins were standing, since they were all still exploring the intriguing new possibilities of foot-stomping!

And so it was that the first game of Nuffle Amorical Football, as it soon became known, took place. A pig's bladder was inflated, much to the pig's consternation we must add. Armour was taken from the temple, and placed on chosen warriors from either side. The teams lined up, a shaman 'umpire', dressed in fresh zebra skin for the occasion, blew a whistle and the game was away. There was no proper pitch, no lines and very few rules, and to this day no-one is quite sure who actually won. There was a suitably large amount of carnage, however, and everyone agreed that they had really enjoyed themselves. The battle was forgotten, and the various sides dispersed to carry the exciting news to their homelands, where every tribe quickly rushed to field a team. It was while those who remained swept up the mess that they discovered a strange green surface just under the bloody mud of the battlefield, a surface engraved with peculiar symbols and lines. The field was scrubbed clean. The workers were hushed, aware of the significance of their find. At last, the sacred Gridiron spoken of in the Book was revealed. The Dwarf seer, who had adopted the name of Sacred Commissioner Roze-El, after a priest of high standing mentioned in the Book, offered a prayer to Nuffle and began to organise the first sect meeting. His mind burned with plans for the future, plans that would culminate in the toughest sects meeting in a physical offering to the great god - the Blood Bowl!
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