A Green Duke Mystery Solved, Part 3: “Every Leaf Must One Day Fall”
Below is part three, and perhaps the most controversial installment, of The Duqueswoodian’s “Investigative Series on the Final 4 Games of Duqueswood University’s NCBB Season 43.”
In this third recovered recap from the team’s last four games, we learn more about the death of Mirlin Spinleaf, the university’s attempt to shut down the Green Dukes’ program, and a true rarity for Duqueswood, a victory:
Green Dukes Get First Win But Suffer Tragic Loss in 1-0 Victory Over Midskeletonmen
The Duqeswood University Green Dukes
ended their season-long winless streak with a 1-0 win over the Navy Midskeletonmen
on a single touchdown from sophomore thrower Bryden Branch (quantitative root-conomics). Despite the win, however, the victory for the Green Dukes was tainted by heartbreak, as Duqueswood team captain Mirlin Spinleaf (tree bark studies), who recently recovered from warpstone dust addiction, was brutally killed in the second half.
Branch runs for the game’s lone TD
“Sometimes when you win, you still lose,” said a dejected Duqueswood Coach Gerric Smithson after the game. “I’m at a loss for words now. I just can’t help but think if he’d still been snorting warpstone dust by the barrel full maybe he would have been fast enough to outrun that blitzer who took his damn head off. I don’t know. I’m not saying warpstone dust addiction is a good thing, I’m just saying …”
With a blizzard coating the field with snow, the first half was a mess of failed pick-ups and fumbles, as the Green Dukes kicked off and immediately blitzed into Navy Territory. Several Midskeletonmen were able to get their hands on the ball, but the Green Dukes defense turned every possession into a scrum, holding Navy in their own territory until the halftime whistle blew.
Although the strategy paid off, it exposed the Green Dukes to heavy blocking from the more physical Navy squad. One such block that would prove to have devastating ramifications was Navy tomb guardian Matthew Pritchett XIV’s mailed fist crashing into the side of Duqueswood sophomore wardancer Angorn Windfoot’s (undeclared) head.
As Windfoot fell to the ground, it was clear that a chunk of his skull had been pulverized as a good deal of his purple brain matter stood out starkly against the white snow coating the field. Coach Smithson rushed the team’s apothecary to his aid, and using a leather strap, a shot of whiskey, and the team’s sole ancient potion brewed by the high eleven priestess of healing Gilwin Peasilbrin, the apo was able to patch Windfoot up and put his brain back inside his head so that he could rejoin the action in the second half.
“I saw the forms of my fallen kinfolk shaped in light, climbing a great tree of silver starshine leading into the sky,” Windfoot said after the game. “They beckoned me to follow, and I felt the draw as sure and strong as a lodestone. But then I tasted the cool, sparkling draught of the healing potion, and I called to them, nay, my brethren, I join you not today, for I have a blood bowl game to finish.”
Duqueswood moved to strike quickly after receiving the second half kickoff. Junior thrower Elehorn Oakhand gathered the ball, moved up field and handed it to Spinleaf, who sprinted deep into Navy territory along the northern sideline. He looked to nearly be in the clear, but he didn’t quite outrun the aptly named senior Navy blitzer Skulland Crossbonies VI. With a diving tackle, Crossbonies, drove the edge of his steel shoulder plate into Spinleaf’s neck, severing the wardancer’s head in one clean blow.
As the ball bounced along the sideline, the Duqueswood sideline fell into chaos. Coach Smithson shouted at the team’s apothecary, “Save him! What do you need? I’ll give you anything you need!”
“Well,” answered Duqueswood apothecary Antonyo Longyo sheepishly, “I just need a leather strap, a shot of whiskey and … ” he held up the empty bottle he’d used on Windfoot in the first half “… another ancient healing potion.”
The Duqueswood apothecary holds up the empty healing-potion bottle, as Spinleaf’s headless corpse bleeds out on the snow-covered field
As Coach Smithson tried to strangle the apothecary, as the Green Dukes reserves tried to pull Coach Smithson off of the apothecary, and as blood gushed from the neck of Spinleaf’s corpse, Branch scooped up the ball at Crossbonies’ feet. Crossbonies turned on Branch immediately and swung a bony arm for his head. But Branch deftly ducked, dodged away and ran into the end zone for the score.
Up 1-0 with plenty of time left in the half, Duqueswood would need to quickly compose itself if the team wanted to hold on to that lead. After the apothecary was removed from the sidelines, Coach Smithson gathered his team. “Look,” he said, locking eyes with Windfoot. “I know we’ve had our problems in the past, but if we’re going to win this game, if we’re going to honor Spinleaf and his ancestors and all the trees and whatever, I’m going to need you to go out there and hold. Can you do that for me? I mean, I’m really trying here, kid. Not a scrap of metal anywhere on me.
I’m wearing wooden shoes for Christ’s sake.”
Windfoot just nodded solemnly and took the field. On the ensuing kick-off, the wardancer flew into Navy territory crying “for Mirlin!” And the rest of the Green Dukes defense followed. The pressure was strong enough to force an errant throw by Navy thrower Kriss Proctor, leading to a loose ball in the Midskeletonmen’s half. After a fierce scrum in the snow, Branch recovered the ball on the sideline only to be surfed into the stands.
A hard-charging Windfoot forces an errant throw from Proctor
When the crowd threw the ball back onto the field, Proctor was able to recover all alone, and set up for a deep pass to Navy lineman Antron Harper VII, who was wide-open deep in Green Dukes territory. As the closing seconds ticked down, however, Harper bobbled the pass, which was then caught by the trailing Navy lineman Clint Sovie IX, who was too far from the end zone to score before the final whistle sealed the victory for Duqueswood.
“This win is definitely something to build on,” Coach Smithson said. “We’ve taken a clear first step with this one. Now I guess the next step would be winning a game without having your best player beheaded.”
Additional Game Notes
Official Statement on Spinleaf’s Death
It has been confirmed that Mirlin Spinleaf (tree-bark studies), junior wardancer for the Duqueswood University Green Dukes, died during today’s match vs. the Navy Midskeletonmen. Spinleaf’s death, as well as several other deaths this season, are currently under investigation by the Duqueswood Board of Elders, following an official request to dissolve the school’s blood bowl program made by Vice President of Student Safety Baerys Pondripple.
Pondripple said that he expects a decision from the board in the coming days. Until that time, we ask that you refrain from speculation on the nature of Spinleaf’s death and whether or not it had any connection to his rumored use of warpstone dust, which Coach Gerric Smithson not only condoned but encouraged, according to Pondripple. Coach Smithson has been placed on administrative leave until the investigation is concluded and will not be available for further comment.
Details on Spinleaf’s return-to-the-forest ceremony will be available once arrangements have been made. In the meantime, the university community extends its heartfelt thoughts, prayers, and woodland rituals to the Spinleaf family.
Spinleaf’s body lies in state in the Duqueswood, as the university’s elven chaplains prepare it for his return-to-the-forest ceremony
Green Dukes Future in Doubt
The Duqueswood University Board of Elders has officially placed the university’s blood bowl program on double secret probation. In a statement released to scribes this morning, the university says:
“We are greatly disturbed by the program’s horrid 5-to-1 death-to-win ratio, and will have no choice but to discontinue the blood bowl program at Duqueswood University if the team is unable to raise this ratio to at least 5-to-2 by the end of the year. As many hold him personally responsible for the deaths and the lack of wins, Gerric Smithson has been dismissed from his position as coach. Vice President of Student Safety Baerys Pondripple will take over coaching duties for the final game, during which he promises to stress player safety above all else, even if that means the team’s players merely lie down upon the field and allow the other team to score as many touchdowns as they please.”
Given Smithson’s absence and Pondripple’s safety strategy for the final game, it seems likely that this may be the last blood bowl game ever played at the Uther J. Rune-Elf Athletic Field Stadium when Duqueswood hosts the Bro-hio State Buckeyes in the final game of the season—and perhaps the final game in the troubled Green Dukes’ program.