Blood Bowl aficionados always talk about the risky lifestyle of the players, and sometimes of the coaches, but no one knows how hard an arena owner's life is.
Always hustling to find sponsors, performance acts to keep the crowd happy, fight with caterers to keep everyone fed, especially trolls. It is no life for a honest man your reflect while traveling to the High Elf kingdom of Yvresse, trying to get some of their team to visit your arena around Arnheim, New World.
After a few days in Yvresse a strange languid melancholia takes over on you and you find yourself walking around, looking for company other than the laconic Elves. Which you find at the Dragon's Cove, in the form a Blood Bowl coach slumping over a bottle with mist in the eye...
- Yvresse, quand tu nous tient -
Hi. Please sit, nobody is sitting here anyway. Feel like a drink? Pour yourself one from my bottle, another one is on the way anyway. And you can always pour me one from yours later on. Warms you up, eh? Not a luxury on this slice of land. When people hear Ulthuan, they dream of fairy tales: rivers and sky of ever changing colors, Elves of extra temporal beauty strolling about and sleeping dragons. But when you arrive here, what do you get? Cliffs, rains, pine forests and all manners of seabirds. Nothing to dream about when the whole place is freezing you to the bone. Yvresse, they say. You know, Yvresse in Bretonnian means drunkenness, intoxication. Well I wonder how one could become intoxicated with this place.
I will concede that not all of Ulthuan is thus made. With ten kingdoms stretching on an almost perfect, if mountainous, ring surrounding the Inner Sea, there are many of those fairy tales to witness. The changing colors of Saphery’s skies, the fine vineyards of Eataine or the snowy peaks of Caledor under which dragons slumber. Hm? No, I have never set foot on Ulthuan before, Yvresse is the first Asurian kingdom I am given to visit. But I have seen the Shifting Islands and please don’t ask, I would rather not talk about it. If the weather and the cliffs here are somehow reminding me of Sartosa in winter, I kind of grew to like the birds: albatrosses, cormorants, pelicans and even the seagulls. Maybe the seagulls even more than the rest, with their laughing calls.
The birds maybe are the reason I can endure Yvresse and am growing quite fond of the capital, Tor Yvresse. Quite the city isn’t it? When you arrive by the sea it is unmistakable: massive white walls dwarfed by towering spires and the black banners flapping in the wind. Although born inland I grew up to enjoy ports, they all have their own flavor. Sartosa has the madness, Lashiek the corsair swagger, Magritta the military grimness, Tor Yvresse has its unique melancholia. Have you ever seen such a large city so empty? I heard even during religious festivals, when the crowds take to the streets it still feels empty and quiet. But this rampant melancholia, based in birds calls as something eerie that grows on me for whatever reason. Hahaha!
Don’t pay too much attention to my ramblings. It might be the age talking for, after all, do we have anything to feel nostalgic about when young ? Or maybe it’s the drink. Asurians make a fine wine for sure, but damn! does it makes me feel nostalgic. It’s like they make the grapes weep to obtain the wine.
And they can make a watering hole as well. Look at this place, the Dragon’s Cove is the name. Tall curved walls and high ceilings of white marble; hanging tapestries, ancient but still vivid, alternating with runic gold inlays. All concurs to create a soft light and soothing atmosphere. Low wooden tables with paired cushioned seats where one can lay down, enjoy his drink and sail down memory lane. There on the left is a stand for musicians to perform, mostly languid harp ballads for what I heard. And there is even a garden with pine trees and blue grass if that is what you are looking for. A very, very fine establishment, all tailored to make you enjoy your drink while revisiting your past.
- A Bretonnian in Bordeleaux -
And since we’re on the topic of nostalgia, it reminds me of the last time I went back to Bretonnia. You know, after having been to many places around the world, I eventually grew tired of always being the foreigner. And the jokes about the fall of Mousillon get old surprisingly fast. So, after a few years in Nippon, I had learned enough of the catering trade to save myself a small capital and head back home. That was quite a trip, from which I keep very fond memories.
First leg, from Nippon to Tor Elasor, on a junk hailing from Cathay. They were carrying all sorts of delicate porcelains, of which they took the utmost care. The crew was a representative jumble of the Cathay tribes, all fierce where their identity is concerned but always united for their love of food. After that, I embarked on a spice baghlah from Araby, heading to Coteh. Their deep hull was loaded with cardamom, cumin, pepper and other spices coming from Ind and Khuresh. Never did I have such a fragrant and delightful sail; if the cooks from Cathay could do miracles with few ingredients, the Arabian ones worked masterpieces with their spices.
And the final stretch back to Boredeleaux was made aboard a military caravel from Estalia, this was ship transporting a few envoys in the idea of settling disputes linked to piracy between Bretonnia, Estalia and the Araby Coast. Considering how tense was the atmosphere when we made our way back to the Old World, I could only assume that the mission was not a resounding success. Not the most rejoicing of trips, but when you are heading back home for the first time in years, everything appears more enjoyable.
But eventually there I was, back on Bretonnia’s soil again, richer of my travels and experiences, with a round sum in my luggage. While I had only seen Bordeleaux from afar in my youth I was finally able see the city and enjoy the place. The busy port over which the sun took golden hues at every sunset, the Saint Carin parish and its stores attracting the gorgeous women of the local bourgeoisie, the stone bridges over the Morceaux river on which many lovers exchanged undying vows, the heady wines, the delicate food… Everything was to be rediscovered at my leisure. But I had to find a life and an opportunity quickly arose. After a few weeks looking around and trading tales with fellow sailors and travelers, I found myself inside a small and honest group. We decided to partner up and open our own inn: The Hazy Platypus - a name we finally agreed upon after many rounds of drinks.
Finding the place was easy enough, with the large turnover of business ventures in port cities. And our gimmick was pretty simple: bring foreign dishes and drinks to the local crowd always looking for new sensations. No way to simply open just another “oysters, cheese and wine” establishment, they were already a dime a dozen. The key was to not be so Bretonnian. We scoured the docks and found an Arabian chef leading a team of cooks that could argue in 7 different languages. Our masters of the cellar were a couple of Tilean twins that had drank in watering holes all across the Old World, trying as many spirits as they could. The rest of us used our contacts aboard ships and at the docks to get our hands on the freshest ingredients, the most exotic performers from distant shores, the richest travelers from Bretonnia and beyond. That place was a riot, and we rode it in an endless chaotic tumble.
But nothing is everlasting and eventually the port grew smaller, the bourgeoises plainer, the wines and the food too heavy for my taste. I kept feeling like a foreigner in my own country, tired of having the same age-old conversations about the fall Mousillon, local wine vintages and rather sub-par Blood Bowl. On top of all this, the Hazy Platypus had become an insane circus of nationalities and rivalries. So, one night, drinking some of that High Elf wine most probably, I decided I had enough and packed my trunk. The next morning my shares were sold amongst other founders, and I took to the port again. I once again found myself standing in front the board of departing ships: Tilea, Araby, New World, Dragon Isles… The possibilities seemed infinite as long as I was willing to take to the sea again.
- A well respected man about town -
What? Yes, we’re the vampires who played against one of the local teams. I guess you can’t have a team of Vampires and expect discretion. Although some of the players seem to manage to extract some when their hart tells them to. You know, when I started this “owner-coach” adventure, I saw my funds disappear into an endless pit of debauchery. The lads would drink, eat and fuck their way into an early grave if they were not, well… vampires and such. But this is not the most aggravating of their practice. They just seem to love to go into a wide series of confidence abuse to fuel their endless “party train”, as they call it.
It used to aggravate me to no end and have me fear for my life. It is known that the Guild of Bandits (and Affiliated Trades) does not look kindly upon free operators, but I was not looking forward to see the kind of corporal punishment Chaos Dwarves have in stock before running you out of town. But there must be a god for the crooked: we not only never had to face local authorities nor former victims but the Guild was finally seduced by their sheer cheekiness and decided to sponsor us. Which in turn seem to stir up more and more outrageous operations from the boys…
Just recently, one of them decided being a low tier Blood Bowl player and thought running a “Big Store” would put a feather in his non-existent hat. After snooping a round he found a local merchant looking to get rid of some library furniture, you know, desk, shelves and so on. After landing those for a handful of pennies, our man then equipped himself in an old fashioned dark suit, loaded the furniture onto a truck and rolled southwards. After passing the Moot and Karak Varn, he found a trading town at the foot of Worlds Edge Mountains and set up shop. In a matter of hours, a musty room became the office of Federico Von Lustig, notary. The word then quickly around than a new notary was in town, straight from the heart of the Empire, specialized in authenticating trade certificate between Humans and Dwarves. Both sides never lacking industrious characters looking to make a profit moving merchandise, our new notary did not struggle to find customers.
From nine to five he stamped, signed and authenticated to his heart content; giving the impression of a well respected man, doing his best work oh so conservatively. At night he posed as a shady oficial to be bought, and helped some less scrupulous individuals “authenticate” their own forged documents. And then, when his bag was full, he simply left town and returned to us, ready to party; leaving a bunch of poor traders and less talented con artists duke it out with the vengeful arm of both Dwarven and Human law.
The boys had a good laugh about that one. The story apparently even went all the way down to the Southlands and it brought up a fresh Vampire from Lahmia, ready to enlist. Not for the glory one can find on the pitch mind you, but for the joys of tricking and carousing. I do not doubt we will have the opportunity to talk about his achievements soon enough…
- Local handpicked heroes triumph over visiting bloodsuckers -
How the game went? Which game? Ah, the Blood Bowl one… Sorry , I guess I may have gone on a tangent. I seem prone to doing that sort of things.
We played against a selection of handpicked locals. And when you see them on the pitch you can understand why: a brutal catcher, a speedy one and blitzers coming at you from every angle. We, on the other hand, had just recruited a rookie Vampire into the team and took in a local boy on a try-out, despite the poor results of the Igor experimentation the week before.
Things started alright for us, despite being on the offense and having to face a rock throwing idiot in the crowd. We managed KO one of the opponents and thought we could handle the first half solidly. Unfortunately the Elves had another idea in mind: pressuring us dearly they managed to score some removals of their own. We surprisingly managed to stall long enough and score late, leaving almost no time for Elves to reply. The Vampires seemed to be keeping their Bloodlust under control, which pleased me. That’s how I knew we were doomed.
The second half started with a lightning strike offensive one-tow from the elves, after another rock flew down the bleachers. After a couple of punches they moved through our lines and despite the team scrambling in defense they casually passed the ball over our heads and scored. I had traumatic flashbacks. We tried to get on the offense again but our numbers had been dwindling steadily if slowly. After a few tentative movements we eventually got bogged down the Elvish offense. The classic “magnet hands” tactic saved our bacon for a fleeting moment, just before one of the counts decided to nose dive in the grass, looking for snakes or something. The Elves pounced on the opportunity, stole the ball, laughed, dodged away, laughed again and screened it out of range. They also probably laughed some more but they were too far for me to hear…From there, scoring was just a formality and there was nothing left for us to do.
Final tab: 2-1 for You Have Been Chosen. The High Elf curse continues: when they don’t simply drive us into the pitch, they drive us into the pitch and then style on us. Can’t say I hate them really, I’m probably more envious. And obviously salty, as you rightfully point out.
Hopefully we’ll fare better next week against some Underworld Denizens. After all, what are they but a bunch of rats and goblins high on warpstone?