I hope you're doing well with the crazy events going on in the world! I just wanted to share the cover of a short story I wrote called "All the King's Horses" set in my fantasy universe of Taramore!
With the release of WoW Classic this past week, I started up again with the buddies from back home and was hit with a wave of nostalgia. During one of my writing warm-ups I decided to write a scene with my gnome rogue--Klane (who shares the name with my lead character with "The Journal and The Stone")--and my buddy Tommy's gnome Scooterpie--a quirky mage.
I ended up really liking the scene and expanded upon it. What was meant to only be about 500 words became well over triple that so far. Here is the first part!
To give you an idea of the region, I've placed a screenshot from the cinematic of the snowy mountains around Ironforge ... and the cinematic trailer below that which is really quite beautifully done.
This story starts off in a stereotypical dwarven tavern, located in the snowy mountains somewhere near Ironforge. Klane and Scooterpie wind up snowed in thanks to a vicious storm, and word of horde raiders in the area.
Orcs, Trolls, and Bears ... oh my!
Klane fiddled with the gryoscopic gnome-a-sizor with a defiant resoluteness. If the damned malachite lens wasn't going to fit in with good-ol elbow grease, perhaps this High-Tinkerer approved tool would do the trick. Sweat was starting to bead up along his brow, and it wasn't quite clear yet if this was from an increasingly frustrating effort at following this overly complex schematic--or the heat radiating from the hearth across the room which was crackling away and painting everything around it in a warm amber hue.
"It looks like the storm outside is picking up!" Klane glanced up at the source of the voice, a rather disheveled Scooterpie stomping into the tavern's dry protection, wiping flakes of snow from his robes. "Any minute now I expect the expedition to come packin' in."
"Great." Klane threw the gnome-a-sizor down as the faceted malachite lens shot across the room in spring-propelled haste, and ricocheted into the writhing tongues of the hearth's flame. If I can't finish this in this relative quiet, I sure as Stormwind won't be finishing it once Stormpike and his boisterous posse shuffle on in. Klane watched the green gem swelter in a notch of the log.
"How's the mechanical squirrel coming along?" Scooterpie pattered up to the workbench. "Nevermind." He sighed as his eyes fell upon the mess of copper and tin casement that looked marginally squirrel-ish. "You'd think after making twenty other ones that you'd have developed some sort of proficiency."
"Go lay yourself in the fire over there." Klane glowered at his friend.
"I guess proficiency doesn't kick in until mechanical squirrel twenty-one." Scooterpie shrugged. "You want a pint?"
"Might as well, while there's still some left." Klane twirled one of his daggers around on the granite working surface. The freshly oiled blade caught slivers of amber light along its edge.
"Here's your malachite." Scooterpie said, his words were underscored with a sharp hiss as a cloud of ice extinguished the flames around the gem. He broke it off from the rest of the ice, then rekindled the fire with a jet of flame from his opposite palm. Klane envied the elemental control most magi could harness.
"Thanks. Grab me some of the Ironforge Reserve." Klane caught the malachite and examined it, quickly pointing up toward the top shelf behind the bar.
"You choosy bastard." Scooterpie clambered atop a barstool, then up onto the counter-top.
"Ye' mischi'vous basterdz." The heavy dwarven accent carried out from the backroom. "Scoot's if you don't hop ye'self down from me'bar I'll have yer head served for breakfast in the morn'. Drinks aren't just free ye'know."
Klane hopped off his seat and ambled toward the door to the backroom as Scooterpie hastened back to the tavern floor. "How about we roll for it Hardras?" Klane fished a pair of dice from his hip satchel, a conniving smile twisting his lips. "A game of chance, I win, Scooterpie and I get a pint on the house."
"You can go eat an Orc's axe if ye'think I'll be fallin' for one of your roguish ploys Klane." Hardras said. Heavy iron-toed boots clunked across stone floor toward the tavern's main room. Hardras ambled around the corner, balancing a dozen-or-so freshly scrubbed tankards in his arms. His hair looked more gray than normal, bound with heavy iron circlets into a ponytail that fell to his lower back. He wore a cognac-brown leather jerkin, and charcoal pants. Much the same as the clothing Klane wore, but of a heavier weave.
"How did you know I was up there?" Scooterpie asked. He kicked his feet back and forth as he sat atop a barstool, head propped in his palms.
"I can hear the patter of little gnome feet like the damned mice in the walls. Yer'both troublemakers." Hardras shouldered past Klane back around the bar, and then unloaded the tankards with a crash into a storage basin. "Oi, I see your squirrel is still a mess." Hardras nodded toward the workbench. "Remin's me, the one you made me the other day back'n the basement done broke."
"Mallard?" Klane asked, eyes widening.
"Eh, whatever you named it. Kicked it over'n the corner."
The narrow windows along the eaves of the ceiling rattled as a blustering gust of wind buffeted the stone facade. Klane stared up at the normally clear--albeit dusty--windows to see it was a complete whiteout. The door rattled in its frame as if to underscore the growing intensity of the inclement weather beyond, a low forlorn whistle slipping through the cracks across wet stone. The gryphons would definitely be sheltered for the day, any hopes of a quick lift up to Ironforge to swing through Tinkertown, or catch the tram to Stormwind were quashed.
"The High Tinkerer will have my head." Klane grunted.
Scooterpie appeared at his side, stepping up and handing a frothy mug of ale. A quick whiff of bitter oats and a hoppy scent told Klane it was the Ironforge Reserve he'd asked for earlier. Klane turned and nodded a quick thanks to Hardras--the grouchy bastard had a heart after all. "We probably should've left earlier, but you just had to build another squirrel."
"The parts were taking up stowage on the wagon okay?" Klane shook his head, and took a sip of the ale. His fingers tingled with the warmth of the tankard, the liquid within was just below a simmer, on the edge of drinkable without giving his tongue that weird, rough sensation.
The door rattled again, but this time it was more than just the wind. Muffled voices from outside and the rumbling grunt of a bear signaled the return of the expedition. A howling gale rushed through the tavern as the door opened, sending parchment and a tattered WANTED poster scattering from the bulletin board. A slurry of snow and muddy gravel splattering against the inner walls, glazing them in a mottled sheen.
"Thaurissan's frazzled beard! It's a cold one out'here."
"Interest ye' in a pint, Rimohr?"
"A few if ye'will." Rimohr shrugged off a heavy fur cloak, tossing it beneath a table. He hefted off the leather cuirass and spaulders he wore beneath, and quickly shed a second lighter coat. His corded arms glistened with sweat, his eyes were bloodshot and his bulbous nose looked as red as a cherry. The flecks of snow in his tawny beard was dissolving rapidly. "Worst I've seen in a decade. Ol' Michaen almost ate us out of frustration." He ruffled the gray fur of a small bear that had skulked in behind him, leading a band of five more grumbling dwarves in behind him. "Ain't that right Mich'?"
The bear huffed and nosed through the fur cloak. Small was a relative term, Klane realized. For, what was small for a bear around Dun Morogh was terrifyingly large for a gnome. Klane shied away as the bear padded over and nuzzled Scooterpie's outstretched hand.
"You're ... wet." Scooterpie frowned and wiped his palm down his cloak.
"Any sign of trouble?" Hardras asked. He was quickly filling up the remaining tankards he'd brought from the back.
"I'll be impressed if any foe tryn'a make an attack in this. Cron Hellguard's motley crew won't be doin' nothin'. A few tracks to the north--looks like some troll tracks, might'n be Cron's headhunter's doin' some recon. But they're day's old from Tralamir's best guess. I'd agree." Rimohr's voice was rough and worn. He threw his hands up in a wild gesture at the storm beyond the tavern walls, "Hellgrim's hammer, I don't even want to trudge across to the forge or the inn. 'N that's only a few paces such."
"Well at least I have an excuse for the High Tinkerer as to why our reports will be late."
"Quiet, gnome." Rimohr glared, "sorry wer late but it tisn't like Gnomer'gon is gonna be recovered overnight. Maybe if y'all hadn't lost it in the fir--"
"Rimohr." Hardras chided.
"Sorry. Sorry. The little fella just grinds my stones is all."
Klane cast his set of dice across a bar stool. The little cherrywood cubes tumbled to a stop. Boxcars as always. "He lives." Klane whispered to Scooterpie who had watched curiously.
"I'd like ta'see you try'n stop meh runt!" Rimohr yelled.
"I can arrange that!" Klane pulled his daggers from their sheathes, crashing up against Scooterpies arms. "your bear's pelt would fetch a nice price on the underground!"
Michaen crouched low and growled. Klane felt his throat twist to a knot, cogs on high that was terrifying. But he wouldn't show it. The other dwarves were watching with bemused smirks, and a few restrained chuckles.
"All ya' shut up." Hardras said. He eyed Rimohr warningly, "any more of that and y'all both be out in the storm 'til morn." Hardras wrestled a thick timber into place across the door. "I'm lockin' us down for the night. The bed rolls and fires are alight down the stairs. Try notta chew through ye' drinks too quick boys. The pipes atop are froze solid, can't get nothin from the brewing barrel on the ruf. Had to roll a few barrels out from below, whatever hadn't gone flat."
"We can drink the flat stuffs too!" Rimohr said, his band of companions cheered heartily.
"Over my dead body ya'will." Hardras said. He adjusted some of the rifles and axes that had been unloaded against a weapons rack on the wall and vanished into the back room. "It'd be a crime to serve that."
Klane wasn't sure how figurative the crime remark was. In all his years he'd not found any drinkers heavier or more dedicated than the dwarves. Klane turned to Scooterpie, "so what's the plan?"
"Stay here. I guess." Scooterpie shrugged and ran his fingers through the trimmed locks of his virulent green hair. "We can kick off first thing in the morning. I'll conjure us up some supplies for the journey before bed. Speaking of which, I'm going to go settle below right now. It's getting chilly up here." He eyed the dying hearth as he spoke.
"Deal. I'll be down in a bit." Klane watched as a few of the dwarves chugged down their ales and lined up to take turns hurling small axes at a stuffed target dummy rigged up in the corner. One of Klane's early, few inventions that still functioned.
I can give it another shot Klane thought, and looked over to the heap of gears, springs, and metal casement that was supposed to be a mechanical squirrel.
I post on this blog rather sporadically as some of you may have noticed! As I balance out writing with "the day job" I will do my best to post more consistently.
Thank you for your support and feedback!