Commissioned by a  collective of Tilean merchants and mayors, you are sent around the land to make a list of places were business ventures could still be expanded. After many weeks up and down the country, you arrive at the border of the Blighted Marsh at the center of which the legendary Skaven metropolis of Skavenblight is supposed to be located.
Trying to get more information about your whereabouts, you follow the sign to an underground Skaven bar. The place is crowded, a cloud of smoke permanently floating around the ceiling. Waving your way among the crowd, you find a stool at the counter, next to an individual clearly inebriated and talking about Blood Bowl. 

- All tunnels lead to Skavenblight -

What are you saying? This seat? No, it’s empty. Sit down and have a drink. As you can see this is there right place to taste new spirits. A word to the wise though: when reaching for your cup, be careful which one you grab if you don’t want to have your fingers broken.

First time at the Cherry-Cherry? You’ll see it’s a fine example of Skaven speakeasy. Vaulted underground ceiling, with obscure hanging contraptions. Don’t mind the room though and, instead, focus on the counter. Look at this: zinc topped, several feet long with high stools of squig leather, a true drinker heaven. And the real thing is behind the counter. I’ve never seen a wall covered with so many bottles of unique shapes and colors. I could spend days trying those and losing myself in such beautiful contemplation. Have you seen that marvel of a still they have over there? All copper and glass. They say that if you can stomach a full tumbler of its content and stay upright, you win a lifetime of free drinks at the Cherry-Cherry.

Please, get me some of that emerald bottle you have on your right. I’ve been staring at it for a while and I’m curious to try its content. Oh! It packs a kick, eh? 

The name? Yes, the real name is Stuffed Cherry-Cherry. But most people call it the Cherry-Cherry. The name comes from the previous owners: a couple of Skaven brothers versed in the firework trade. They were getting established, supplying Skaven laboratories and Tilean engineers alike. Always working together but trying to outdo each other at the same time. Emulation, you see?
Anyway, one day they made a bet on who would design the best cherry bomb. After weeks of competition, no winner could be discerned, so one of them decided to stuff one with a mixture based on warpstone powder. Nobody ever found them… This place was sold and took this name since.

You must give the Skavens that: always looking for the strangest and most extreme inventions. Some say it comes from their love of warpstone and total disregard for elementary safety. Even here on the bank of the Blighted Marsh you will find many of their inventions, probably more with the traffic coming in and out of Skavenblight. They say it is the most crowded city in the world, and it attracts Skavens from all over the place for sure. I wonder how they manage to keep its location so secret.
I only heard tales about the place: half sunken spires, leagues over leagues of treadmills and slaves, laboratories all over the place with rat ogres growing in jars, sky-high warpstone pillars carved to honor the Horned Rat. I even heard this was the place where CabalVision was designed if you can believe that one. Maybe one day I’ll be able to see the place with my own eyes…

- Field hands and sea legs - 

Now. Bartender! What’s this porcelain jar you have over there? Pour me one, to see how much I like it.

I’ve seen many an unfamiliar place, even if my Bretonnian inflections stayed as thick as in my youth. Born in Bastonne and forged in the local arenas of Aquitaine kind of brand you for life, but I traveled that’s for sure. Funnily enough everything started in the local fields. 

After a particularly nasty game in the middle of summer, the coach decided he had enough of me and sent me to work as a field hand for some of his cousin so I “could learn to do something with my hands”. Back to peasantry it was, and how do I hate the bloody harvest: bent in half all day long, with the sun hitting you on the noggin. I didn’t move into Aquitaine to end up there again.

One day, they put me on escort duty, which meant trundling along the grain chariots all the way to the river and back once it was loaded onto the transport barge. But that time the barge captain was suffering from a shortage of workers and we were tasked with helping to move the grain bags. As we were finishing, the barge crew offered a few of us the opportunity join them and I gladly took it. I told the farmers to go plow their cattle and jumped aboard on the promise of a slightly better pay and smooth sailing along the coast.

The first few sailing days were smooth alright, the Morceaux is often quite the tranquil river, and when I wasn’t tasked with cleaning the deck I could enjoy the view of the passing fields; vineyards and castles. We were heading to Brionne and for this had to sail along the coast for a long stretch. But the Great Ocean was a whole different beast, even close to the land. The flat bottom of the barge made sailing quite the rocky adventure and I was quickly taken with a bad case of green guts. I spent a couple of days puking over the rail and trying to sleep it off in the hold, on the sacks of gain.

This is where I was when we got boarded. A pirate raider was making its way in search of a slow, easy prey and it fell on us. It was just before dawn, they moved swiftly in the fog and the alert was only given as they were stepping on deck. Most of the crew tried to resist, but none of them were brawlers. Awoken by the cries I was running up the ladder and landed right in the thick of things. I was in a bad mood after a couple of queasy days and a short night. The first two pirates I came upon did not see me coming and I easily managed to get them out of the way.

Another one stepped in front of me, still young, bare feet and wearing sailing breeches only. We traded a couple of testing blows before he started to circle around me. My heavy field boots were quite the impairment trying to keep up and he punched me in the ribs two or three times. I saw that he was toying with me, taking his sweet time and laughing at me in his incomprehensible lingo. By that time the rest of the melee was almost over and a few of his crew circled around us to enjoy the show. 

I rapidly started to feel queasy again, with the clapping of the waves against the hull, so I tried to end it early. Hurling myself inside his guard, I tried to grab him and give him the good old Slagswog kiss. But, as I as winding up, he punched me hard in the gut. Instead of head-butting him in the schnoze as planned, I folded in two and threw up right on his breeches. He pushed me back and started to scream in anger, looking in turn at me, down at his breeches and around at the laughing crowd.
This gave me the shot I was looking for, taking advantage of his distraction I stepped back in and slammed my knee as hard as I could in his crotch. In a second, his angry yells turned to wails and he crumpled on the deck, hands between his legs, tears and snot running down his face. Which seemed to rejoice the crowd even more... Their captain and a couple of tough looking pirates put an end to the show.

After some quick deliberations, the ruffians locked the rest of the barge crew in the quarters and started moving the grain onboard their own ship. The bosun came to me and made me an offer: help them load the grain and join their crew, or try to discover if the Holy Grail was a hundred fathom deep off the Bretonnian coast. I didn’t think twice and took his hand, before joining the rest of the file. They called me Greengills, tossed me a bag of grain to carry and that was that: I had become a member of the Free City of Sartosa…

- Gentleman Xhoni Party Train - 

Hey! Would you be so kind as to give me some of that round peach colored vial behind your shoulder. The round one, yes. It looks sweet enough.

I tell you, living on Sartosa you meet all manners of unsavory characters. And yes the island deserves its reputation, but I’ve met my share of scoundrels in the Old World as well, Sartosa does not have a monopoly there. Here, just this week…
You see we had to come all the way over here for our game against a team of local Skavens. The players had a good match the round before, and they partied to their heart content to celebrate. And I will confess that I had a few ones myself.
Still, they decided to continue partying this week, just because. Stopping them? Who, me? Hahaha, yes. Right. You go tell a Vampire that’s been drinking for three days in a row to stop. We’ll see how chewed up you’ll come back…

Anyway, while we were on our way here, the guys went from inn to tavern to brothel, spending what little money we had made on chow, booze and strumpets. Logically, we got close to running dry somewhere in Wissenland. With a trek trough Dwarven and Orcish lands ahead of us, thing started to look dire.
But one of the lads decided to take the matters into his own hands with a very personal method. While we were approaching the city of Kell, he and a couple of other fellows went to the local Bloodweiser brewery introduced himself as Mr Xhoni from Stirland and started to poke around, ask questions, pretending to be doing business. 

You see, Bloodweiser may be the unrivaled beer in most of the Empire but they have issues in southern Wissenland. Yes you said it, Bugman’s 6X Ale. While the brewery is not anymore, someone somewhere is churning enough of this beer to supply the Dwarves communities around. And it has often been said that the folks in Wissenland are more Dwarves than men, that could explain their taste for Bugman over Bloodweiser.

Our guy took advantage of this: milling around the local brewery he talked about ordering large quantities of their production. The local head brewer went down for a meet and greet as well dressed gentlemen coming from Stirland deserve some consideration. They had a tour: tanks, masher and boilers, grain rooms, cold rooms, the whole shebang. Then a few “tasting” tankards started circulating and business talks took place. 

This is where the boys made their play. With a few surreptitious slips of the tongue, they hinted strongly to the fact that they were not your run-of -the-mill buyers. The brewers kept the beer flowing and eventually managed to extricate the truth from their fine, if drunk, visitors.
It turned out that those gentlemen and prospective buyers were in fact employed by the headquarters up in Altdorf, and that they were sent down South to check on the local infrastructure. Apparently a talk for an expansion push destined to topple the Bugman position was in the tubes, with the possible support of the Bank of Altdorf, no less! The brewers took the information in and, looking forward to make a good impression to the big cheeses in Altdorf, went to prepare a large dozen kegs. They refused to take more than a handful of coins and IOUs from the esteemed Xhoni from Stirland, even tossed in some advertisement garb for good measure!  

This is how one certain “Xhoni” equipped our traveling convoy with a dozen of Bloodweiser kegs and put a couple of local tramps in Bloodweiser garb to pour for us. The guys called it the “Gentleman Xhoni Party Train” and wouldn’t stop laughing about it.
The train was popular enough during our Dwarven and Orcish parts of the trip, sharing the beer around as we went. But obviously we didn’t have much left when we reached our destination to play, barely a couple of barrels and the two drunken serving wenches…

- Hangover day, no play -

Oi! Let me try that blue twisted bottle now. Hmm, not bad. A bit tart to my taste but goes down smoothly enough. 

Where was I? Ah, yes… We were supposed to play a some local team: a bunch of Ratmen born and bred for Blood Bowl accompanied by a series of others with names that couldn’t be anything else than pseudonyms. One of them had a mean punch and they had a few filthy Gutter Runner that you can never put down…

Long story short, the lads were still a couple of sheets to the wind when they took to the pitch. After winning the toss, proof if needed that there is a god for drunkards, they decided to let the opposition go on offense to “take it easy”. Apparently the other guys didn’t get the memo and one of our Vamps coped a bad hit that took him out early. We thought his back had snapped, but the apo said it was a cracked skull. Nobody was sure of anything, and the bloodsucker finally came up from his nap and went to stand in the reserve box. What do you know?
The rats must have thought things were messy enough and scored quickly. This seemed to help sober up some of the guys, trying to go on offense before the end of the first half they fought their way up field. The Skaven defense was relentless and they managed to stop us.

The second half started slow as a couple of our lads were staying on our sideline to chat with the “Bloodweiser babes”. Fortunately for us, mean hangover turned the boys into mean hitters. They started to punch the poor Skavens at every occasion and managed to reach the border of the endzone before the end of the second half. The play got all scrambled and it too some more hitting and punching to make their way in, pushing two of those Gutter Runners off the pitch to make room and score. 

Final score 1-1, and for once no serious injury despite the early close call on the Vampire. I'll drink to that!

Ok, let me see if that copper and glass still challenge is a real thing !

- Zee

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