Kicked out of Altdorf University of Physiological Studies for inappropriate behavior, you end up joining the Guild of Blood Bowl Apothecaries. The working conditions are brutish, but the pay is verging on decent. And there is usually beer at hand.
You are quickly sent on a tour of far away provinces to officiate at bottom division games and learn your trade. This is how you end up in Melnourne, a tiny Chorf outpost in the Dark Lands.
After a game against a visiting team of Vampires, you make your way to your usual watering hole, only to end up bumping into the visiting coach. Luckily, well on his way to get drunk he does not recognize you...
- Rock Monkey: Bar & Grill -
Yeah, sure. Sit. I’d rather have you sitting on my bench than one of the locals. I find those Chorfs can be pretty rude. What are you drinking? Bugman? Solid choice, I picked that myself - couldn't stomach any more Bloodweiser these days. If you’re feeling adventurous, I hear the locals are pretty proud of their stout. Don’t ask me to pronounce the name, though. Word of warning: careful if you feel like trying it, it’s brutal…
What do you think of this place? I’ve been around the block - partially because it is expected of any Blood Bowl coach- and more than once. Recently went too Nehekhara: a bit on the arid side. Sylvania? Filled with backward bumpkins. The Blighted Marsh? Downright weird with all those mad Skavens scurrying about. But this probably takes the prize. The Dark Lands. Acres upon acres of ash, dust, bubbling tar pits and lava rivers; the whole thing bathed in a cloud of thick smoke when not blasted by vicious gales. I wouldn’t want to be the one in charge of the tourism brochures...
You’ll find this place is acceptable, if you don’t mind the local patrons. I mean, Dorfs are usually not the most hospitable bunch, but Chaos turned ones? As short and grudgeful as their cousins but with stubby tusks and cyanosed faces… And don’t get me started on their taste of hats… So in-your-face, totally nouveau riche. But they have a mean streak, hence better avoid staring at them. And it counts triple for the ones you see running on four legs with cloven hooves.
At least here in Melnourne we’re pretty far from Zharr-Naggrund, so it’s not too packed with Chorfs. Have I seen the Zharr-Naggrund ziggurat? No thank you, I’m glad to stay here. No tales of gem fields and endless gold veins will get me to a place ruled by the Chorf version of black wizards, experimenting away in a sky-high black ziggurat. This place, the Rock Monkey, is far enough into Dark Lands for me. Not very imaginative, sure: stone walls, stone floor, stone tables, stone benches... And you won’t convince me that wrought iron makes for good accents. It’s all so… square.
Still, the food is alright. You may be tempted to try their ribs, grilled over their very own lava flow. They say beef ribs, but who knows with the Blood bowl arena so close? It may be Bull Centaur ribs or even Minotaur if you pay enough, hahaha! Hum…
If the meat is not to your taste, you can always taste their special dessert: a tankard of their savage stout with a large scoop of vanilla ice-cream, apparently pretty popular in the crowd. I heard the staff talk about having some live music later on, I think the group is called Man-eater Remains or something like that. Let me get myself another pint while we wait…
- Voir Sartosa ... -
Frankly, before today I’ve never been to a place that makes Sartosa looks like a sleepy Bretonian village. Yes, Sartosa, the Decadent Principality. I anchored there for a moment, and it was quite the unique experience!
What’s the island like? Well, a massive, craggy affair emerging out of the water. Cliffs all round with the towering Mount Ertinia on the north coast. I haven’t seen much of it, as I was living mostly in the city itself. Now, that’s something you don’t see every day. Try to imagine a city built vertically along a cliff. Its feet the many piers covered in a jungle of masts and sails. Along a thin stretch of land, buildings huddled together between the water and the wall forming a single twisted road: Peg Street.
Then you have to climb a maze of planks, ropes and fishing nests, always slippery with drizzle and refuse. The whole scaffolding creeping upwards along the wall to serve homes and business carved inside the cliff with a simple system: hovels at the bottom, fancy holes at the top. A true feat at the confluence of anarchy and engineering.
I’ll never forget my first view of her. We just rounded Jack o’ the Seas, with the ritual salute, and the city was hiding like a coquette behind a thin veil of mist and smoke; her feet lost in the endless spread of canvas displayed by ships milling in and out of the bay. Jack o’ the Seas? That is supposed to be the name of the illustrious forefather, the original robber. All that is left of him are a large crude statue at the entrance of the harbor and a myriad of myths, endlessly repeated in the taverns. Local captains row to put offerings at the feet of the statue before leaving for a cruise, and pour a shot of rum in the sea upon return, to thank him for good luck.
That day we berthed at the Blackfish Docks. Up close and personal Sartosa is whole other beast. Smells of salt, fish and tar; rings with calls of fishmongers and drunken sailors. A rowdy crowd, patchwork of nations, endlessly moving in packs between ships and buildings. Between the buildings a whole web of ropes from which ragged colors of lost ships flap to the wind in remembrance. Just talking about it, I am transported back there again.
You see my first captain quickly observed I would never be more than a sorry excuse for a mariner, so upon arrival he gave me a small purse and told me to go look for the captain of the Lofty Fin in his name. As it was, I found the Lofty Fin quite easily: a former Imperial transport lodged at the head of the pier. Apparently she was never really seaworthy, not unlike myself, and was quickly re-purposed after arriving on Sartosa. A local captain with a peg leg and an entrepreneurial spirit turned answering to the moniker of Malicious Matthew bought it and turned it into a Blood Bowl pitch.
- ... et mourir. -
As you can easily guess pirates love Blood Bowl as much as the next guy, if not more. It gives them a way to settle any dispute or vent excess anger without turning the whole Principality upside down. Week in, week out crews took the pitch together punching each other and trying to play the ball. Visiting ships from all over the world tried their luck on its slippery bridge: some for glory, other for settling negotiation disputes...
Meeting with Malicious Matthew was a formality, a few questions established I wasn't a novice into the Beautiful Game and I quickly joined the Lofty Fin crew. Never one day at sea, but working from sun up to sun down. Sweeping, washing and polishing the deck/pitch in the morning. Cleaning the bleachers on starboard and the pirate lords lodges on the stern during the afternoon. When the games were played in the evening, I had to control the ticket at the top of the plank, or the crowd itself if the game became too rowdy.
Bref, Blood Bowl entered my life again.
And I learned many things about the game watching the domestic and foreign crews go at it on that bloody deck. For example, apothecaries; I learned to never trust them. They'll turned a sprained ankle into a compounded fracture with a snap of the fingers. A corporation of good-for-nothing, in their cups more often than not. I’ve seen Orc crews repeatedly lose game after game, as they kept running too fast and slipping on deck. I was even there when an unknown mercenary wizard bolted a player dead on his feet during a bout between Sartosa Scurvy Boys and Ox Head United. Only the boots were found, and the pitch invasion it sparked turned into the Thirteen Days. Half of Peg Street turned into cinders and the wizard was never found... After that we starting cracking heads anytime an idiot from the stands tried to walk on the pitch.
Carousing and filling up on stories was well and good, but I eventually grew tired of the place: endless quarrels between pirate lords, Tilean courtesan intrigues and tavern feasts have a way to take a toll you know? So I eventually decided to wrap up my hard earned capital and try my chance into the New World. Found a passage aboard a smuggler that owed me a favor, for well placed Blood Bowl bets, and went on my merry way.
But it seems Jack o’ the Seas had other plans for me: after a week of sailing we were caught in vicious storm, off of Sorcerers Island. Waves as tall as buildings, the sky only lit by random lightning forks. I was scrambling on deck to help with a rogue sail, when a broken spar hit me in the head and dropped me overboard. I only remember the cold waters closing over me…
When I woke up, I was washed ashore on a sandy beach with pines cones floating around me in the turf. As I was crawling on all fours out of it and vomiting half of the Great Ocean I somehow had managed to ingest, I barely heard the cries around me. It is only when I saw a pair of gorgeous scaled boots stop in front of me that I raised my eyes, only to see the rest of the armor - equally exquisite- crowned by a face twisted in a disgusted look under snow white hair and pointy ears.
I had washed up somewhere on the Shifting Isles, off the High Elf kingdoms on Ulthuan…
- Of the importance of road companions -
I sometimes feel that the more I want to get away from Blood Bowl, the more it pulls me back. There is something beautifully masochistic in it: all the pain it inflicts on us only make the next victory more intoxicating. Result, we keep coming back for more; don’t you think it is true? Anyway… Another curse I seem unable to shake, are those lousy crooks. Bretonnian Blood Bowl coaches using us as field hands, pirates of all sorts on Sartosa, and now this team.
I’m stuck with those Land Sharks as they call themselves. A Vampire team bent on playing Blood Bowl, with me as their coach. In name only I fear, because they only listen to my advice when it pleases them. I think I am no more than an escape goat for them…
And even, I’m not sure they’re in it for the game. I think they just like the travels and the parties, to be frank. Win or lose they inevitably end up dilapidating our cash box contents in debauchery. Consequently they’re always staggering on the edge of bankruptcy and me of madness. And they all keep pulling those stunts to finance our depraved travel expenses, week after week.
Listen. Just this week we where heading back from a game against Skavens down at the border of Skavenblight. The guys had sponsored our travel southward by posting as mystery shoppers at a Bloodweiser brewery and the journey was nothing but a alcoholic party train fronted by two local harlots dressed in promotional Bloodweiser apparel.
I hoped I had seen the end of it, but no!
After the last game, they apparently met this fellow, Phil- No, Bil- Ah yes, Wilhelm Chaney. I had never imagined there was such a thing as a Werewolf in cargo pants and fur coat. Yes, a proper sheepskin coat lined with fur, you heard me right. I think he stuck with us as much for the booze as for the to Bloodweiser “babes” that were still hanging on. Score one for Hypnogaze, I guess…
The players decided, for whatever reason, that he was hot stuff, the real McCoy as they said, and to hire him for our next game. We obviously had no money to pay for that so another player decided to play one of his favorite tricks: jam auctions.
The proposition is simple: after partying in any tavern or inn we happened to stop by, the fellow always ended up pulling out a coffer and offers to auction its content to the crowd. You can usually find a bunch of thing in there: old jerseys and cleats, autographs of Jim & Bob, tarnished cuff-links, crumple ties from one of the Count in the team, etc. In a word: mostly crap and a couple of valuables on top for illusion.
He then proceeds to offer the first pieces of junk and almost nobody shows up; so, when the round of auction ends, he not only gives the buyers their glorious prize but also refuses to take their money. Cheers ensue, and we start another round of auctioning. This time again, a couple more buyers move in on the action, prizes are given, money not taken. More cheering, more drinks.
For the next step; people start to pile on, who wouldn’t want free stuff in exchange for the promise of money, after all? Except now the guys start to take the money in, but the crowd keep cheering on and offering more, drunk on booze and mob mentality. Things go on, up to the point where we sold all of our crap and most of their money, then it is time to hit the road.
Oh yes, there is always a couple of fellows getting suspicious or downright angry, but who’s gonna chase a crew of Vampire accompanied by a Werewolf in the night, eh?
- The Melnourne Firing Pins -
That’s how we ended up with that bloody Chaney among us to face the Melnourne Firing Pins this week. The lads told me “With him, it’s in the bag!”. Pah. We should have put him in a bag and drowned him in one of those tar pits, yes.
Things didn’t start on a bad foot for us, though. The Chorfs had started on a very offensive set up and I told the boys to kick deep, which they did for once. We managed to push on their right flank and isolate their ball carrier: a hobgoblin with over-sized arms and wearing nothing but a leather duster. Chaney sacked him but only let him stun on the pitch. The guys were moving in on the ball, the Chorfs were there trying to resist.
And then things went to shit. One of the Counts decided to blitz from far away, only to slide on the grass in the most Orc-like fashion. Hurt himself good, and the apo offered to check him out. I could smell the drink on his breath 5 feet away so I politely refused and we went one Count down for the rest of the game. Meanwhile both teams were fumbling the ball in the Chorf half, without anyone emerging out of the scrum in good position to score.
Chaney then decided to stop being useful: he was either laying low on the floor or be content with pushing a Chorf blocker back every now and then. Obviously the opposition took advantage of that, they had to resort to calling upon a Blocker as a scoring threat of last resort. I was still laughing in my beard at the cheek of it, when the Chorfs decided to pick up the ball, ran down the open field and tossed it to said Blocker that scored... Khorne take them, with their infernal luck!
The second half was a scramble to try and score, which the guys miraculously managed after, dangerously toeing the sideline. The Chorfs went back on offense and this time they managed to secure their ball. Chaney coped a KO, in the pure tradition of the team so far. They proceeded slowly but surely down the field. A couple of insanely stupid ball sacking attempts later, the Chorfs scored their second touch down and Big Bertha rang the end of the game.
Lost 2-1 to those bloody Chorfs. They take the head of the leader board and we our first defeat of the season.
Of course Mr. Chaney dropped out of sight as soon as we left the pitch, taking with him the two Bloodweiser tarts we had in our train since the previous week. Good riddance, I say.
I managed to secure most of the cash we surprisingly made this game, and left them to their usual debauchery. We’ll see how fresh they are when we play those High Elves next week ….
Ah, I see that the band is actually setting up. Let me grab another beer and check what this Chorf black metal is all about …