On your way from Stirland to Ostermark, you find yourself forced to cut through some part of Sylvania. Aware of the county's reputation, you decide to leave early and follow the Hilltop Road. As the morning progresses you leave the town of Swarzhafen behind you and stop at Leicheberg for lunch. While attacking the stretch of desolate road through the Haunted Hills, the mists thicken and the drizzle becomes persistent.
Still, managing to glimpse at the ruined silhouette of Vanhaldenschlosse between shreds of mists, you decide to avoid a place of such ill repute and cross the river Essig. The sun then seems to plummet as you plod your way along the Grim Moor, on which fugitive figures dance an unearthly ballet wrapped in the fog.
You manage to reach the town of Tempelhof as the last rays of sun turn the air into a supernatural orange color. Looking for a place to rest your weary horse and damp carcass, you can hear the curfew bells go off. People now have to stay indoors or risk becoming the night snack of one of the local Vampire lords. You quickly pull into the yard of Club Firefly, a gentleman club; and, without paying too much attention to it, agree to the owner price. Once your horse is stabled, you make your way through the crowded room in order to find some comfort in a good meal and a drink after such a dreary day...
- The many hidden charms of Sylvania -
Again? Is it not possible for one to drink in peace in our day and age? Yes, Yes. I understand that people have to stay inside at night around these parts. Pull up that chair and ask the staff to bring you a bottle then, better get cozy.
What do you think about Sylvania? Quite the friendly place, don’t you think? Permanent mists and drizzle when it’s not downright pouring, and that’s for spring. It’s all sleet, snow and black ice in winter, a total drag. At least summer nights in these parts have something going for them: low hanging full moons reflecting in the marshes, sprawling gloomy forests opening on bleak moors and rocky hills. It can have a certain charm to it, if you’re a fellow with a mind for that kind of funereal beauty.
And the people… What a backward bunch. Traveling around here is like crawling back in time and relive the life of your ancestors. No fashion style to speak of. Proud of their harsh life and traditions, with a cluster of superstitions you wouldn't imagine: they believe that Halflings are cannibals and Dwarves like nothing more to drown cats for fun. And that habit of hanging their garlic and herbs at the doors and windows, not really convenient for cooking, let me tell you. I heard this is all on account of the Warpstone meteorites showers in the old times, the soil is riddled of it. It created a fertile ground for hunchbacks, limps, cross-eyes, webbed toes and extra fingers… But it doesn’t seem to stop the local nobles when they want to take a nibble...
You probably seen the many castles around the place, some still inhabited. Yes they’re occupied by the Vampire Lords, that’s why it is better to stay inside once the sun is out. Especially in summer: with the heat it seems their appetite grows stronger. So, when you have to step outside after dark, you’d rather hear the buzz of mosquitoes than the flapping of leather wings, hahaha. I know I should not laugh about that, but I always had a peculiar sense of humor, what can you do?
Some of them are damned freaks, burning through you with red eyes as they stare from behind the flaps of their coach. Still, besides necromancers, they are some of the only folks you can have an educated conversation with around these parts, when they’re sated and chatty.
But a belligerent folk as well, not unlike the nobles from back when in Bretonnia. Always feuding between themelves, when they’re not trying to expand beyond the Sylvanian borders. I guess that’s one reason for their interest in Blood Bowl; that and satiating their Bloodlust in a more open manner. You should catch a game while you’re here: the local peasants don’t amount to much on the pitch but the Vampires sure can be amazing players, when they can keep their lust in check. What’s more scary than a raving homicidal maniac you ask? A nearly immortal raving homicidal maniac…
- To be young in Aquitaine again: a tale of rural Blood Bowl -
Bretonnia? Yes that is where I originally come from. Born in Bastonne, came to age in Aquitaine. Oh, I so miss Aquitaine. The endless fields of wheat and the massive stone castles dotting the landscape. No real town to speak of, but the most beautiful villages you can dream of. Not like this place, all doom and gloom with its twisted castles. In Aquitaine you can witness the three pillars of Bretonnia at their finest: castles, noble knights and fighting peasants. Ah, they have the courage of their convictions and honor over there, which is a way to say they won’t think twice about punching you in the face if you give them a chance to do it, hahaha.
I’m choking… let me have another swill of that nice bottle. Wine? Now that you mention it … Aquitaine was never really the place for that, not like Bordeleaux on the other side of the Morceaux.
But you know what it has? Some of the most beautiful coastline Bretonnia can offer, as beautiful has Moussillon was in the old times before the whole place went to the dogs… L’Aiguille? Pfft. Good sailors, I’ll give you that but no coastline like Aquitaine. Imagine a shore of splendid sand dunes stretching, as golden as the wheat fields before the harvest, against the deep blues and greens of the great ocean. That’s something else than those cliffs you get in Bordeleaux! Small villages, coves and safe havens from the mouth of the Morceaux all the way down to Brionne. Upon my word, I’m no religious man, but that looks like a piece of land shaped by gods.
What I was doing there? Well, I had to get away from Bastonne on account of a misunderstanding with a local baron regarding the principles of wealth redistribution. So I went around Aquitaine, they liked my fighting spirit that’s for sure! I played for a few local teams, trading punches on the sandy grounds of regional arenas. I never was star material, but if you made it out of there in relatively good shape, it was hard to fend off drinks offered by supporters and kisses offered by wenches.
Talking about celebrities, I crossed path with a lad that could get the crowds going, him. Not one of those fancy knights nor a brown-nosed squire, but a true peasant, Shako Jako. A punch that felt like you were hit by a war charger, and a mean way to drop on you cleats first once he got you on your back. He still paid the price for it mind you: a busted hip, a smashed ankle, a neck broken in more pieces than a stained-glass window to the effigy of The Lady and don’t get me started on the state of his back.... Still alive and kicking last time I heard though. He apparently even found a long lost cousin: Bohemond of Somewhere, another buff bastard with similar methods to what is said.
Me? I eventually admitted that I was just running towards my end on the pitch and took to the sea: more exotic lasses to meet and singular drinks to try on distant shores…
- How to obtain a stadium by helping a real-estate moghul -
Talking about those, I was recently at the border of Nehekhara. Quite a place to see, but way too dry if you ask me. I just came back a few days ago to sort out some affairs regarding the Land Sharks. The Land Sharks?They’re a Blood Bowl team I have an interest in you could say… I say a team but they’re mostly a sorry group made of bloodsucking freaks and their unpalatable servants. Yes, Vampires; but not from Sylvania.
On the way back from Nehekhara they wanted to make a detour into Lahmia, to visit blood relatives they said. I wasn’t so keen to keep traveling with them for several reasons, mostly because one of them took the habit of staring at me like a uncle of mine used to look at a bottle of Morceaux wine… So I let them flap down memory lane and made my way back here, under the pretext of preparing our second week of competition.
Because we still didn’t have a stadium, can you believe that? A Blood Bowl organization without a stadium, it’s like a meal without cheese! Anyway… I also had to meet a fellow who recently applied to join our ranks so I came around early to sort this out.
I found a site here in Tempelhof, nothing to miss the end of the world for, but not far from the river and with some potential. It apparently was some kind of experimental field for alchemists and necromancers. Can seat a few thousands on solid wooden stands and that’s pretty much it where I am concerned.
The owner was more than happy to lend a few wheezy goats to chew on the grass, plant the regulation posts and even draw the field lines. The price he asked for was a bit beyond what I could afford, and good luck trying to budge one of them parochial yokels once they set their mind onto something…
This is where the fellow I had to meet came in handy.
You see, that character is a sleek one. I saw it straight away, with his gleaming dome and cat-like grin. Allegedly a local boy, if you can believe him, that was sent to work for a distant relative of his local lord. The story wants that said Vampire was taken with the sea, can’t blame him, and decided to make a name as an "undead gentleman of fortune". So the boy was sent to be his purser. They started along the Araby coast, then pushed further to Lashiek and the Sorcerers Islands. They apparently tried to make for Ulthuan but the High Elves are a bunch of vindicative seafarers, I know what I’m talking about…
Long story short, they ended up pillaging their way down the Vampire Coast, wasting their gains in lavish and depraved parties on deck. Until the day their bloody leader apparently managed to impale himself on one of his booms during a particularly stormy night. The vessel ran to the ground, and the surviving crew scattered. Th’impervious horrors of a leeward shore, eh?
But pursers are a crafty lot, and our man then made his way back to the Old World, sinking what little gain he had into his passage. But he wasn’t ready to give up. Presenting himself as the clerk of a New World colonist and planter, he went around and told the following tale of woe. His so-called master was the sole heir of a prominent local family. Sadly, having fallen into the terrible vices of gambling, drinking and whoring, he was now forced to sell wide swathes of prime land to maintain his lavish lifestyle.
The clerk was then merely traveling around the Empire, acting on his behalf. His alleged goal? Searching for merchants with a decent reputation, a taste for colonial ventures and a sizable wallet of course. To hear him say it, he had to fend the idiots with a stick to stop them from pestering him.
He had them sign fake ownership deeds hand over fist, and used the money to live the same dissolute life he was living before returning on our shores. Until one of them schmucks miraculously returned alive from a trip across the water and told his tale of swampland and alligators... Now our fellow had to find a way to get out of dodge and, for whatever reason, decided to cast his dice alongside us. I got him for the promise of a new name and paying his inn bill over there in Ostermark, quite the hefty one at that! That way I got more boots on the pitch and even managed to convince him to forgo his ill-gotten last rings. The stones on those simply paid for the stadium!
- From the sideline to Club Firefly -
So .. we eventually managed to play our first game at home, against some Human teams. A horde of filthy barbarians that filled the locker rooms with sand…
They even fielded a chainsaw mercenary! The ref got mugged by the crowd at the start of the game, so he was staying in his corner and being even more useless than usual. Fortunately the chainsaw freak only managed to knock himself out with his machine and wasn’t much of a threat during the rest of the first half. But the rest of the team, barbaric they were, all scrappy, punching left, right and center. Even their ball carrier was possessed by a battle frenzy: carrying the ball was not enough, he had to get in the scrum again and again.
We slowed them down at the cost of some injuries: another dislocated knee and some broken ribs for a another guy. A couple more took some bad hits and left for the sideline again. I was already dreading the post game talks…
Still, in the mist of all that, one of the bloodsuckers managed to get his hands on the ball and ran away to score! The ref was probably awoken by the bugles and finally decided to expel the chainsaw.
Second half saw the lads galvanized by the score. They started hitting back and brought the opposing numbers back to our level, and even below. The lord who scored in the first half decided to try again and managed to plant a late second one in the endzone, not without mimicking the opposite carrier and blitzing their catcher off the pitch while carrying the ball. I can’t believe we won 2-0 and didn’t take that many serious casualties. Now they're all celebrating together and loved his story so much that they decided to name our former purser their man of the week... I can picture them from here, getting drunk and partying, all but ready to get trounced by those Rats next round..
That’s why you find me here on my own: drinking and celebrating, while I can. Who knows what the future holds?
And there are worst places than Club Firefly to do that, for sure. Look around you: solid stone walls and tapestries representing the local fanged celebrities, a fireplace wide enough to roast an ox, high back wooden chairs and a decent selection of wines.
I heard even some famous Vampires coach stop by at times, like Lucker Youth of Old World fame, or Coruscant Blaze from the New World shores. And, of course, the more obscure ones like yours truly, haha.
Alright, enough talking. Let me see what else the owner keeps in his cave. After all there are still a few hours to occupy before the sun rises...