You come back to the headquarters just in time to find a fresh mission order lying on your bunk. You're to travel all the way to Sylvania and track a local partner of the Guild that suddenly went missing.
Once there, the tracking is a matter of time. While the quarry had some interesting, the execution left much to be desired. Another amateur with a head full of dreams and zero tradecraft.
After a quick hike trough The Moot, you pick up his trail entering the Dwarf domain under the World's Edge Mountains, to re-emerge later South at Karaz A Karak. There a coach was hired towards the Border Princes' lands but your customer jumped on the way. A traveling caravan of Skavens returning from Barak Varr, the gate to the Badlands, confirms having met a man matching the description in the city. Once on the spot, it is not hard to discover that he took a ride aboard a small barque, towards a tourist resort set along the Black Gulf coast.
And you find him there for sure, lounging in the shade with a cocktail in hand, comfortably numb. Hiding your faithful truncheon in your sleeve, you decide to approach him and see if you can eventually convince him to go back...
- On the lam, flipflop style -
What? Well… No. I guess you can take the chaise longue. Get yourself a parasol if you don’t like the sun, because you look a bit pasty, friend. Just wave to the beach boy to bring it, but don’t expect him to be here in a hurry. Those Orc boys are not the fastest, despite their red speedos. They always look like they’re running in slow-motion…
What do you think of your experience at an Orc resort so far? Uh-uh. First time for me as well. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by it. Large wooden bungalows with beds one needs a map to get out of. Insanely packed buffet, if only on the meaty side of things. White sand beach with all the necessary amenities. Top notch.
I’m still skeptical about the activities though. There is only so many times one can play Whack-A-Gob, bet on squig races or watch Black Orcs in flip-flops pile on watermelon, pineapples and other fruits. On the other hand I learned this morning that they use the fruits leftovers in a local beer, the Fruit Smash. Gotta give it a try tonight!
And talking about drinks: have you seen the size of that cocktail? I could use my actual sunshade as decorative umbrella in it. And it packs a punch, oh yeah. Just what I needed, trust me. That I have a lot to forget.
What I do for a living? Er… let’s just say I’m a traveler. And I could use a break from it. What about you? A traveler as well, eh? Well, here’s to a well-deserved rest, friend. And what could be more soothing than enjoying a cocktail the size of a beer keg on a sandy beach, lulled away by the sound of the waves?
I’ll tell you what, the Black Gulf coast may not be the equal of Ind or Khuresh but it damn well does the job for me right now. Ind and Khuresh? No I’ve never really been per se, mostly sailed past a bunch of times on my way to Nippon or Cathay. Now that we mention it, I realized I never had the time to enjoy a seaside rest during my stays in Nippon or Cathay…
- The green loveress -
Cathay? How could I tell you about it, friend? It is the kind of place one has to experience himself, and cannot really be described into. But I will try my best. Just let me have some more of this delicious tropical cocktail before I keep on going.
Theeere we go.
I will pass on the conditions of my traveling to Cathay. Suffice to say I was planning to go to the New World and establish some new business venture, but landed in Upon-The-Sea, Cathay, a poor sailor instead. And there are many a better place to land at when you’re poor.
Most of the city is occupied by the inhabitants of Cathay, living along their customs in a jumble of shops, habitations and restaurants. But a few districts are used to host overseas communities: the Elf district is split between Wood Elf, High Elf and Dark Elf quarters; in the same vein Bretonnia and Empire have their own enclave, as well as Dwarves, Orcs, Skavens, so on and so forth.
I landed, or more specifically was debarked, at a dock along the Empire quarter. The usual crowd was there, peddling the goods all sailors crave for when landing: room, drinks, bath, company, fresh clothes. And underground Blood Bowl games. Setting back in my Sartosa ways, I quickly found a place disguised as a restaurant for local but catering to the underground violence need. In exchange for room, board and a laughable weekly allowance, I helped run the weekly Blood Bowl games. And this is how I met Mrs Zhou.
Mrs Zhou was the wife of a moderately wealthy merchant from another special quarter who took to slumming in our underground arena. She quickly established herself as an elite member of our unsavory brotherhood. I can still see her in my mind’s eye: all towering hairdos, filled with more accessories than humanly possible, and flashy, ample, exuberant dresses. Usually sitting at the edge of her seat, her heavy brow creased , enthralled by the spectacle of agility and violence in the pit below.
The rumor was that her love for Blood Bowl came from her past on the pitch as a cheerleader, or a blitzer, depending on the version you believed. I personally never could tell. But, you know, it is not that easy to guess with Orcs…
Anyhow, Mrs Zhou eventually took a shine to my company and often asked me to entertain her during the games. Bringing her drinks, exchanging stories about the players or the games passed. And she always tipped generously at that. Soon enough she had me run errands for her, go pick this or that. Then I became her regular guest over lunch or afternoon tea. It is quite the spectacle to see an Orc lady eat Cathay cuisine with chopsticks to size…
At first her husband endorsed me as part of his wife’s entourage. But, when the rumors started to blow out of proportion and affect the business, I was rapidly convened to a very discreet diner. Diner over which I was offered their undying friendship and a fat purse of small silver ingots if I went on my way.
The rumors, true? A gentleman does not discuss such things, my goodman.
Taking the purse and the memories, I set out to the Southern shore and found another port city at the estuary of the Sapphire River. Temples, tenements, restaurants and shops composed the usual jungle, right off the docks. I found a spot in a back alley, large enough for me to run alone. After a few months, I had the kitchen running and got myself into the local Blood Bowl scene. Catering to the desires of the Blood Bowl crowd, I managed to earn the custom of a small clientele. Bent-O was born, even if the name wasn't there yet.
After a few weeks, I bumped into an old acquaintance of mine on the docks. Shiryu, the aging Nipponese pirate, was up to his old tricks and had to lay low once again. Grateful for his help to get me out of the Shivering Isles and settled in Nippon a few years before, I offered him to take the kitchen over. And that’s how Bent-O, my restaurant, reached in its final form: at the crossroads of friendship, Blood Bowl, travels and exotic cuisine.
- The Lahmian Lockup -
And Bent-O kept picking up speed. After a few more months we regularly had to refuse customers, for lack of space. People used to come for the menu, others for the atmosphere, the free beers or simply to see and be seen. It was quite a time. The success was such that we eventually decided to expand by two floors, and hire some local staff to help run the thing. That’s how I ended up mostly supervising the room staff and talking to customers; while Shiryu handled the kitchen crew in his very distinctive manner: a iron hand, in an iron glove.
But I must be cursed, for it all eventually became too oppressing. Running for the produce, catering to the crowd, always trying to offer novelties presented in the case of familiarity... All of it piled on top of the infernal working hours and the regular staccatos of cries and invectives erupting from the kitchen. That’s why, when Shiryu announced he had enough money to put a small crew together and return home, I decided it was time to move on.
The next venture would be one in the sports and entertainment industry.
You see, after many years spent in or around Blood Bowl, I decided it was time for me to invest in a team. Finding a buyer for Bent-O was easy, representatives from the Imperium Consortium looked like they had a contract ready. But finding a Blood Bowl team to invest into was another story.
You see, Cathay is not unlike Nippon: they have their own championship and team rosters. Their typical lineman wouldn’t surprise any Empire coach, but the Monkey Warriors with their tail or uncanny use of their feet would for sure. Not to mention the four-legged stone statues they manage to animate on the pitch…
So, as Nippon, it was a no for me. I needed something more cosmopolite.
That’s when I was contacted by a very polite gentleman. Dressed in an elegant and antiquated fashion, with manners to match, he said he had heard of my tentative forays into the sports industry and came with an offer. He represented a fresh organization out of Lahmia, composed of lower aristocrats and their servants. A very promising entity, only hampered by the backwards way of the local system.
The thing is: to play in the Lahmian leagues, a local patron is necessary. Theirs was a greedy, malicious old thing, investing in young promising teams to dismember it promptly as soon as the whiff of lucrative transfers came to him.
Our cast of young, promising players knew their future would only shine among the brightest stars if they stuck together and desperately looked for a way out. Or, more pragmatically, a buy out. Which is how they sent a representative to me: they already knew which league to enter, all they needed was coach with extensive on and off the pitch experience. As well as enough capital to cover the buy out, the league inscription and the petty matter of de-localizing into Sylvania…
The amount he asked from me was almost equivalent to what the Imperium Consortium was offering for Bent-O. I decided to take a leap of faith, once more, and went for it. And this is how I ended up conned into coaching the Land Sharks…
Yes the Land Sharks. You heard of them? Oh! Wait… You’re with the Guild aren’t you? Now, please. Put that truncheon down, no need to get messy. I will explain everyth- AAAARRRRGGGGGHHHH, MY HAAAAAND!
- The subtle art of negotiation -
YOU BROKE MY FINGERS!!
You maniac!! Why did you have to do that?! The Guild sent you?!
Figures. Yes. Yes. I will tell you what happened!
And watch; you spilled my cocktail as well… Just… You think I could get another one to numb the pain? Alright, alright. No need to get all worked up again. Put that stick away.
You see, everything started with that awful game against Underworld. After it finally ended, I went and got quite drunk in that tent, Underworld’s Hideaway… I know a dark secluded place…
Yes, yes, I am getting to the point my goodman. No need to get all revved up again.
I knew that your local man, Anton Crantz, was waiting for me to demand an explanation, and possibly worse. I decided that was the camel that broke the straw back. Or something.
In my state of advanced inebriation, I went to the locker room in order to negotiate with the players; and yes I realize how ludicrous it sounds now that I am sober…-er. The team was deep in its usual post-match ribald celebration; but I could tell their heart wasn’t in it.
Most were slouching on benches, trying to get stupidly drunk while watching a couple of ribald wenches slovenly shake their booty. Taking the lead Vampire aside, I announced to him my decision to leave the team and them to their fate. I only wanted my original investment back. After a second of stupefied silence he burst out laughing and, talking to me as if I were five, explained smugly that everything had been spent way back then on “hookers & blow”. Whatever that means. I tried to argue and all that, but his eyes just kept sinking down under his brow until they looked like a pair of low intensity embers.
It was long past time I buggered off.
On my way out I, unsurprisingly enough, found Anton Crantz and a couple of henchmen waiting in the shadows outside of the stadium. They started by pushing me around a bit and ruffling my feathers, Just to get me in the mood. Then, as one of them held me by the front of my shirt, Anton droned on and on about the Guild disappointment.
They gave me a fair chance, he said, and I had squandered it. The only reason I was still whole was because of internal dissensions at the local level. With a disgusted frown, he spat out that this was my last and final warning. Another failure to deliver what the Guild expected and I would be done for. They threw me to the ground, and head to Club Firefly.
Most probably for Anton to indulge in a glass or two of that foul local white wine.
Lying there on the gravel, I cursed them all and bailed. The Sharks, the Guild, they could all go plow themselves and find a way to sort their issues together. So I ran. And I ran. And I came all the way here because nobody would expect me to lay low in Orc territory this week, as the Land Sharks are actually playing at the other end of the Badlands.
But I see that I was wrong. Now, tell me, what could I possibly still have that you ever want? And keep that stick away, will you?