After a dry spell without work, you finally found employment working for a Skaven conglomerate sellingapothecary products. The hours are endless but there is a salary, if one accepts to live on the road. On the plus side you can sate your wanderlust, and get to stay in various inns and taverns without paying anything. During a stretch through Sylvania, trying to sell a new cold ointment to Blood Bowl apothecaries, you spend a few days at the only decent inn around Tempelhof. A place where you eventually end up sharing the table of one of the regulars...

- Coaching vampires in Sylvania, perks and punishment -

Ah, you again. Sure, sure take a seat. Enjoying your stay in Sylvania then? Uh-uh. What did you say you were doing? Pharmaceutical research… Let me know if you ever find something interesting around here between vampire nobility, obtuse peasants and the odd alchemist. Remember to protect your neck with the first, speak slowly with the second and stay close to the door with the third, that should keep you relatively safe. I know what I am saying, I have to deal with those three categories on a daily basis. Anthropologist? Haha, no. I’m a Blood Bowl coach, for the local team: the Land Sharks.

How do the vampires behave on the pitch? Well… They are strong, agile and can learn to do almost anything if they put their mind to it. They almost manage to recover for some gruesome impacts, I have seen it with my own eyes. Which is not any luxury when you see the drunkard of an apothecary that officiate for us. On the other hand, vampires are neither really fast or well protected, they say that their etiquette and sense of style prohibits it. But randomly ignoring plays to pounce on a thrall and draw a swill of fresh blood during a game is apparently classy enough…   
And do not try to count on the thralls to pick up any slack. Strong, agile, fast and resilient do not belong to their vocabulary. Their principal occupation seems to be: get punched out of the pitch by the opposition before the vampire do it with a gnarly bite. They are not an easy bunch to coach and my experience with them did not do any good to my blood pressure. But there are some perks to be a vampire coach. 

First I get to reside at this present place: Club Firefly, the best - and only - gentlemen’s club in Tempelhof; for next to nothing, since apparently they consider the Land Sharks added value to the community. That should tell you everything you need to know about the area. 
Secondly, it gave me membership to a certain discreet castle I shall not name. A community of Vampire coaches meet over there and we can support each other. You can find a sympathetic ear for your tale of woes or learn from others’ experimentations on the field, you can share roster management techniques, some tactical advices and so on. Not to drop any name but we have a few famous names over there, from different leagues as well. It is always interesting to meet people from different places, you will not be the one to disagree, isn’t it? 

- I wonder if you know, how they live in Tokyo  -

And I’ve been places, I’ll let you know. Bretonnia, Sartosa, Shifting Isles, even Nippon and Cathay. I can tell you stories… How I landed in Nippon? Hm, it’s a long one, so you would better settle down with another cup. And don’t order the white wine, trust me.

I was stranded for a while on the Shifting Isles, stuck in a small garrison of High Elves that had nothing better to do but practice Blood Bowl against poor sods like me that wash up on their shore. Anyhow, all of my lucky pitch fellows were a crew of Nipponese sailors until the elves eventually grew tired of us and decided to put us aboard a junk returning to Nippon. That’s how I was expedited there.

Despite taking the pitch at their side, the crew had little more respect for me than the elves had. And I have never been much of a sailor to start with. They originally stuck me in the hold where I would help ensure the cargo stayed in place, chase off the rats and clean up the bilge water. Not really the stuff dreams are made of. But I eventually gathered enough of their language to understand basic orders, and got my sea legs under me. Which in turn allowed me to access the deck and take my meals with the rest of the crew. I was up there when we rounded the southernmost point of the Southlands, sailed past the spires of Tor Elasor or between the Gates of Calith. The crew loved their legends and could speak for hours about High Elves seafaring legends, mythic creatures of Ind, fierce battles for Warpstone between Goblins and Skavens in the jungle of Khuresh or the fabled reaches of Cathay. Having accepted me as a visitor, they helped me sail to their capital once we landed back in Nippon.

While most of the crew returned to the sea, I was send to help a distant cousin of Shiryu, my short term Blood Bowl captain. Ahh, Tokyo… How I long to see ir again. I remember that stupefying maze of harbors, dwarfing even those of Sartosa; the streets of mud snaking between the low wooden houses with their tiled roofs, the locals shuffling along with their straw hats, colored robes and wooden sandals. Nobles there have nothing to envy from Bretonnian or Sylvanian ones: moving around in palanquins with proper escorts, and woe to the commoner that lingers in the way.
  
I ended up working at a small restaurant nestled in a small alley behind one of the many local blood Bowl arenas. Crowds and staff used to stop by our place to slurp a bowl of flour noodles in soup or have a cup of hot tea. This is how I learned to cook some of their basic dishes, and I can’t spend a week without having some, even today. Beyond learning their customs I also enjoyed some of their hobbies: I have never been one for floral arrangement or woodcutting, but I enjoyed many other activities. I used to join the other workers in one of the locals taverns where one gets drunk before jumping on stage and sing in front of the crowd, while a staff member holds up panels with the lyrics for you to follow. The theater plays were amazing, although I never really understood much but I loved the costumes and the music. Their regular religious processions are also a sight to behold with the streets filled to the brim and the religious idols waving through the press, carried on the shoulders of half naked men. I even heard rumors of nobles running illegal palanquin races in the mountains at night, but never managed to attend any.

No, Blood Bowl was my thing. Working next to the arena, I was often dispatched to bring pre-arranged meal boxes to wealthy spectators. And they do love their Blood Bowl as well, despite only competing domestically. Even then you can still define two styles: the agile Southern teams and the hard-hitting Northern ones. While they both field peasants and a couple of nobles in armor to shore up the whole team, they really are set apart with the positionals. Southerners prefers to rely on monks, think lightly armored but agile Empire blitzers, and ninjas, the local equivalent to Kislev catchers I would say. Northerners had those half naked sumo warriors, no very fast but strong and immovable; but their true attraction are those demons, Oni as they call them: massive juggernauts complete with horns and claws. And every clash between teams opposed in style was considered a special occasion, attracting large crowds. Bets, booze and food flowing freely, it was a glorious time for all of us small entrepreneurs, on both side of the legal fence. Those were some of the finest years a man can live I tell you.  
  
- The bawdy tale of Krumm-Huegel -

Talking about good times, let me tell you more of a story that floats around. Just last week one of the aristocrats of the group, probably inspired by another who recently received praise from the Guild of Bandits (and Affiliated Trades), decided to show us one of his tricks. He called it the badger game.  

As you may know, Sylvania is supposed to be part of the Empire. And the paper pushers from the Imperial administration in Altdorf have a conflicted approach to this. On the one hand they do like their paperwork, especially when it concerns tax revenue, and, still on paper, Sylvania is supposed to pay. On the other hand it is quite hard to collect from a bunch of psychopathic bloodsuckers notably hard to kill. After a few tax farmer went missing, both sides eventually worked out a deal to satisfy everyone. Every once in a while Altdorf sends one of them with proper pomp, and the locals lords him in their castles. "Spontaneous contributions" are offered, Altdorf gets something out of Sylvania and the Vampires keep open borders through which goods and travelers keep circulating.

The past years, the Altdorf envoy is the Venerable Alexander Krumm-Huegel. Krumm-Huegel is a native of Reikland and has served as member of the Imperial Diet as well as special council to the Emperor. He likes to tour around in his gilded coach, with almost as much pomp and entourage as the Emperor himself. He’s a shroud and inflexible negotiator, which one would not expect at first sight with his stout figure, bald dome and blotched face. But, you see, Krumm-Huegel also has a special quirk. The lads call it sadomasochism, a sexual practice apparently theorized by a certain Bretonnian called Sade and an Imperial called Masoch. Proof, if needed, that we Bretonnians have a lot in common with our Imperial neighbors when the naughty comes into play.

Our Venerable Krumm-Huegel is consequently always on the look out for female partners to take part in his parties fines. I heard he likes them tall, thin, clad in black and domineering. This is where our Vampire comes into play. Keeping track of a lady of the nigh they already used in scams before, he offered her to be the next chosen one. With minimum founds he lodged her in a pretty room not too far from castle Drakenhof and waited for the envoy to make his apparition. Our dear girl was then offer the proper outfits: black dress with black lace for the day, black leather boots and bodice for the evenings. The rest was pretty simple: waiting for the envoy coach to roll pass in the street, she gave the envoy a couple of glances, a coquettish flap of fan or two, pretended to ignore the attention he gave her and before you had time to say it,  she had received a letter from old Alexander offering to share this dinner.

The first time our prude lady refused to stay, pretexting to prefer the privacy of her own room to the visitor quarters of the castle. You can bet that our man was knocking at the door before the week was over. After that it was all fun and games: naked and tied up, dear Alexander bravely endured from his newfound friend what one would try his damnedest to avoid on a Blood Bowl pitch. Blows, whips, cuffs, the young lady demonstrated the depth and variety of her repertoire. Sometimes several evenings a week. Only that, unbeknown to our penitent, the place he liked to be cuffed at faced a one-way mirror, through which our ingenuous vampire artist had no difficulty taking pictures of the scene. Said pictures were then used to simply blackmail the envoy into diverting some of the local contribution towards the Land Sharks party fund. Job done.

- Cold front from the North hits Tempelhof - 

This is how, after much partying, we were to face a visiting crew of Norsemen. Their skipper is of legendary status, with many a famous games won at the head of Wood Elf teams. I honestly didn’t expect much after last week’s performance. And the sponsor was apparently on the same page, offering us some money to help us straighten the balance a bit. Aware of the Norse reputation for hard hitting, I thought to bring some reinforcement in the person of Igor, a local young lad who likes to play for Vampire teams. He does not amount to much but you can always rely on him to charge Big Guys, take a hit and walk it off. I also retained our dominatrix and gave her a barrel of Bloodweiser to ride instead of an aged Imperial official.

The first half saw us going on defense. I quickly saw an opportunity to try and spread the opposing team before splitting it in half. During the maneuver, one of the bloodsuckers decided he had enough of Igor and bite him so fiercely we had to take the lad off the pitch. A few hard blows and failed dodges later, the Norse had sent other members of our team on the sideline. One vampire was removed following a vicious elbow drop, another one pushed of the pitch to the delight of the crowd that gave him a good kicking. We were worried for a second, and the apothecary continue to be useless, but the player eventually shook it off and waited for the second half. If not for bad luck on the Norse side, I don't know how we could have tied the ball up in the Norse half and, despite numerous losses, managed to stop their offensive drive.

The babe did her work though, and most of the guys pretending to be knocked-out finally came back on the pitch. Not Igor mind you, he seemed to enjoy the view from where he laid. Our offensive drive was… loosely played, to say the list. Even with some lucky removals we managed to lose the ball twice. We were saved once by the classic "magnet hands" tactic, the second time by a failed dodge from a Norse berserker. With the numbers and luck on our side we managed to score at the end of the second half, leaving only a sliver of time for the Norse to reply. Which they almost did, using crowd pushing shenanigans, but their bad luck reared its ugly head once more, leaving them one step short of a possible run into the end zone.

Final result 1-0 for us, totally unexpected. I’m still worried about tactics: we lose to many players on defense, and our offense only bears the name of it. I guess next week’s game, away against some High Elves, will tell if this was a hiccup or the beginning of something interesting.

- Zee

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