Bangers GLT Tournament Experience, Excerpted From the Belgettia Letters
Recovered in a cache of ancient artifacts from the region once known as the slave city of Belgettia, the Belgettia Letters tell the tale of Amitila Venirslotta, who pledged herself as a slave amazon blood bowl player to prevent her younger brother, Luzio, from becoming a slave himself. Rich in detail as well as the watercolor-like paintings Venirslotta crafted with river water, mud, and pigments from wildflowers, the letters provide rare insight into the cruel reality of the Belgettian slave trade and patriarchy as well as the life of sacrifice and bravery of a blood bowl amazon player.
The letter below details the Belgettia Bangers experience in the Forlorn Races Qualifier of the Grotty Little Tournament:
My Dearest Luzio,
You can imagine my excitement when the masters told us we were traveling to compete in our first tournament, an annual competition known as the Grotty Little Tournament, which draws teams from all across the realm. After meaningless games played before drunken spectators who cared little for the sport beyond witnessing death and carnage, this, I thought, was my chance to begin to prove my value on the field. This, I thought, was my first real opportunity to take a step forward on my quest to buy my freedom as well as a better life for you and Mother.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Moments before our first match, it became clear to me that our masters had only entered us into the tournament for the spectacle of seeing women brutalized and humiliated. The black orc team we drew in the first round, a wicked and underhanded squad known as Smash em Bro
, were decked out in thick plate armor studded with deadly spikes. We, on the other hand, had only the frilly orange skirts, leather corsets, and hoplite breast plates to barely keep us decent, let alone protect us from injury.
Master Manulio claims our garb gives us a speed and dodging advantage over our opponents, and though I recognize some truth in that, I must note that even the dexterous and speedy little goblins on the other side had twice the protection any of us had. It seems much more likely our insufficient armor is more about giving the male spectators something to ogle at. It is curious to me how they can claim to admire our beauty at the same time they long to witness our brutalization, but I have given up on trying to understand the minds of men. Thankfully, before the kickoff we managed to find some unused breast plates and leather in the back of our caravan, which we fashioned into shoulder pads for at least half of our players.
We scored first early in the first half, with our blitzer, Amanda Bocabonita, outrunning their hulking black orcs and dodging several goblins on her way to the endzone. We got a second touchdown before the end of the first half, when Jacalina Librosa and Jennifer Explotar, combined to separate their goblin ball carrier from the ball, and a few of his teeth. It’s truly wonderful to see these two women work together on the field. Having been captured by a Belgettian warband from the same village, they share a friendship that is closer to sisterhood, and it shows in the way they play together.
When Jennifer recovered the ball and scored our second touchdown, the masters were clearly not pleased. After all, they’d entered us into this tournament for the spectacle of seeing helpless women bludgeoned by orcs and goblins, but we were doing the one thing they never expected—winning.
Jennifer scored another touchdown in the second half, and we won in a 3-0 shutout, but our post-game celebration was short-lived. As we cheered Jennifer in the stable they were allowing us to sleep in, Master Farzo came in with his whip. He claimed that Jennifer had earned 12 lashes for insolence, because after her second touchdown, she’d raised her fist to the cheering crowd, and among Belgettia’s ruling classes this pose was closely associated with rebellion.
When he raised the whip for the first lash, however, Jacalina stepped between them and declared if he whipped Jennifer, he must whip her too. I don’t know what I was thinking, recklessly putting my quest at risk, but I was so moved by Jacalina’s bravery and loyalty that I joined her. Before Master Farzo could make me pay for my impulsiveness, the rest of the team had joined in, all of us standing between Jennifer and the whip.
Master Farzo was ready to whip us all, flying into a rage, cursing and declaring that he would flay the skin from our faces, backs, and legs until none of us could walk. But Master Manulio stopped him. We needed to have enough women for the next match, he said, dragging Master Farzo away from the stables and leaving us in peace for the rest of the night. I know we’d already played many matches together, but I can honestly tell you that it was at that moment we became a team.
And we definitely needed it, because the next morn we would face the best team we’d ever played. They called themselves Slightly Confused
, and they seemed to be just that, for though they were another black orc team, they played more like lizardmen. A former Black Box Trophy winning team, they mastered a technique known as chain-blocking, often ramming, swinging, and throwing our players into their own players to allow them to charge us with greater speed, huge lumbering back orcs nearly covering as much ground as saruses.
Somehow we managed to hold them scoreless in the first half, and when we received the kickoff for the start of the second half, we tried to spread them out and use our speed and dexterity to our advantage. One of our throwers, Broochia Firmpecha, advanced the ball up the eastern sideline with a screen of blockers, but when she was cut off by a pair of goblins and Zak-Nok, a black orc the size of a Kroxigor, she dodged away, cut back across the field, and handed the ball to me.
I sprinted for the endzone along the western sideline, but as I looked back at the goblin chasing me, I saw Jacalina try to block a black orc to give me more time to score. The great beast was unmovable. Instead, he lifted her by the throat and slammed her to the ground. When she tried to scramble to her feet, he drove a shoulder spike through her stomach and then stood, lifting her skewered body in the air.
The moment still haunts me, for she was facing me, and as blood poured from her mouth, her eyes locked on mine. I wanted to scream, wanted to rush back and defend her, but a goblin was on my heels and another black orc was headed to cut off my path to the endzone. I had no choice. I could only go forward. Stiff-arming the goblin with all the rage I could muster, I spun away, ran across the goal line and gave us the lead.
There was little celebration on the sideline, however. Our apothecary, who’d already used all his healing herbs and potions, could do nothing for Jacalina. She lay in the dirt, growing paler, bleeding out as Jennifer knelt over her, weeping uncontrollably. I rushed over and asked if there was anything I could do. Jacalina’s eyes darted around, and with all the strength she had left, she focused on me, and said, “Show them.” I didn’t understand at first, and asked her to show them what? “Show them we are no joke, no spectacle,” she said. “Win.”
We rushed back onto the field, desperate to stop our opponents from scoring, desperate to show all in attendance that we were a real team, desperate to grant Jacalina her dying wish. But they used that expert chain-blocking and a fleet-footed goblin as fast as any chameleon skink to break through our line and near the endzone with seconds to go in the game. Still, we pressed in against their cage, looking for a weakness, and then Kellia Granculia, one of our surest tacklers, saw it. On the northern side, one of the black orc blockers had slipped, leaving an opening. She rushed through in a blur of orange armor and golden hair, hitting the goblin with a flying kick to the back of the head.
The ball was loose, tumbling through the air, and victory was surely about to be ours—but, as I’ve learned in this strange sport that has become my life, fate can be as cruel as the most brutal blitzer. The ball landed in the bloody hands of a black orc. Najor, they called him, a mammoth beast with arms as thick as pythons, a snarling mouth filled with broken teeth, and black eyes as dark and empty as a bottomless well.
We had him surrounded, and as the clock ticked down its final seconds, it still looked like we could prevent the tying score. After all, as he stood there chewing on the ball, it was clear that Najor didn’t even know the object of the game, or perhaps he thought the ball was some body part that had come off of his teammate from Kellia’s brutal kick.
But here again is where the chain-blocking came in. One of their black orcs shoved Laurena Nobessa into one of their goblins, who slammed into Najor and sent him stumbling forward. Amanda had a chance to make the tackle, but whether it was because he was stumbling or perhaps he had feasted on skaven blood before the match, the clumsy oaf actually dodged away from her and lumbered across the goal line to tie the game before the final whistle.
The overtime went by like a blur, as I was playing on pure adrenaline. I managed to score a quick touchdown to put us up 2-1, but the wily creatures broke through our defense again, and that little skink-like goblin, Tikkouk’hui, scored a touchdown again right at the closing whistle. In double-overtime, the game would be decided by a kicking competition, known as a field-goal penalty-kick shootout. We’d never encountered one before, and I thought it so strange that a game of such animal brutality and physical endurance would be decided by the simple kicking of a ball through a pair of wooden goal posts.
But I had no idea how horrifying the sport could even make that simple contest. I can’t remember how it all played out, but suffice to say it came down to my foot. They’d missed their last several kicks, and if I were to make the next one, we would win and advance. But before I could put my boot to the ball, someone in the crowd called out for “Chaos Rules.” Apparently, there is a variant of the game played in some of the darkest Chaos realms in which the ball is replaced by a severed head.
The brutes on Slightly Confused, of course, loved this idea and began chanting “Chaos rules! Severed head!” But the referee said we could only change to those rules for this kick if both coaches agreed. To my horror, Master Farvo looked down at Jacalina’s dead body, looked up at me, grinned, and agreed to the rule change. It was clearer than ever that our own masters didn’t want us to win. That we were never meant to come this far, and they definitely wanted us to go no further.
My dear little brother, you can only imagine how difficult this was for me. Jennifer flew into frenzy as the apothecary hacked away at Jacalina’s neck. It took three masters to hold her back, and she was tearing at her own skin. When they placed Jacalina’s head at my feet, I began to wretch and shudder violently. I fell to my knees and didn’t think I could stand, let alone kick my teammate’s head through the uprights.
But then I looked at Jacalina’s face, and I remembered what she said, her words echoing in my mind. “Show them.” I swallowed my disgust and stood. “Show them.” I took three steps back from the head, and drew a deep breath. “Show them.” I charged forward, and all of the rage I’ve ever felt at the masters of Belgettia, the cruelties we’ve faced, the degradation of a slave’s life—all of that anger I put into my foot. “Show them.” And I kicked Jacalina’s severed head clear through the uprights and into the stands.
My teammates embraces were the only thing holding me up from collapsing afterwards. Exhaustion and grief finally overwhelmed me, but my sister-slaves were there to support me and carry me back to the stables. We’d advanced to the finals of the tournament’s regional qualifying round, and by the look on Farvo’s face as my kick sailed through the uprights, I knew we had definitely “shown them” something powerful about this team.
In the finals we faced off against a team of snotlings known as the Swisslings
, and to save you any suspense, I will tell you first that we lost. I know we’ve never seen nor heard of snotlings in Belgettia, so imagine if you would a goblin, only smaller, more slippery, and—if this is possible—more cruel and cunning. In truth, I can understand why many see them as vile little beastlings, but I will say that despite their underhanded tactics, these creatures earned my respect.
As their kind are often underestimated, the snotling squad was actually considered an underdog and awarded two star players and a wizard to assist their team. I suspect that they also bribed the referee based on their rampant fouling and a lack of consistent calls throughout the match.
So it was we faced off against the legendary orc player Varag Ghoul-Chewer, the ball and chain-wielding Fungus the Loon, two trained trolls, and swarms of snotlings, who rushed onto the field to greatly out-number us, being too small and quick for the referee to reliably count. We managed to hold the match scoreless for most of the game, but an errant throw from Lania Estante—our normally reliable second thrower—gave them the ball midway through the second half. As they maimed, killed, or knocked out all but two of our players by the end of the match, they slowly moved up field to score in the closing seconds for a 1-0 win.
You might think I would hate this team. I was vomited on twice by a troll, the second time knocking me out of the game permanently, as the acid in the creature’s bile ate through the flesh of my neck and shoulders nearly to the bone. I will bear these scars until my dying day, which during the game as that vomit burned worse than any flame, was something I’m embarrassed to admit I prayed for. In addition to badly injuring three more of my teammates, they also killed Catalina Zexadia, felling her first with a bomb and then stomping on her throat as she lay helpless on the pitch.
Yet, I bear no ill will toward these Swisslings, and I actually hope they advance far in the tournament. (In fact, I’m including my attempt at a likeness of Puffi, the tiny snotling lineman who scored the winning touchdown.) I have learned that brutality is the price we pay for glory in this sport, and I recognize that I made my peace with that pact when I first joined this team and chose this path to try to win my freedom and change our lives. And, as I too know what it is like to be overlooked and doubted, I hope this band of snotlings shocks may a foe on the pitch and wins this tournament so that one day I can boast that I played against them.
More importantly, I also know that our showing at this tournament has earned us some renown, and enabled me to learn new tactics and strengths I can bring to my game so that I might continue to advance. After our final match, I heard Masters Manulio and Farvo arguing outside our stable. Master Manulio had recognized our talent and wanted to enter us into more respectable competitions such as these, while Master Farvo only wanted to continue trot us out for mere spectacle.
I could not say who won that argument in the moment, but the next morn Master Farvo was found in a nearby creek bed, his throat cut from ear to ear. As we head back to Belgettia in our caravan, lighter for the teammates we’ve lost, I mourn their passing, but I cannot look behind me. I choose to fix my eyes on the future and the hope I can trade my blood, sweat, and tears on the pitch for freedom and a better life for all of us.
Yours With Love and Regret,