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.
Alright so I for Workshop Wednesday #2 I'm sharing a piece I worked on not too long ago. For those who do not know, I am a pretty big fan of World of Warcraft. Specifically the Goblins in Warcraft lore. They've got the goofy tinkering quirks of Warcraft Gnomes, and some other flavors on fantasy game goblins, with an air of criminality. The whole organized crime, mob-esque feel is fun to think about. The picture below of "Jastor Gallywix" gives a pretty good feel.
So I wanted to write something in the vein as Blizzard's Goblin Gangsters. You can learn more about them here, and see some cool artwork.
Scene Description: So when I think of the mob, or organized crime and stories about them ... one of the top things that comes to mind is the constant paranoia which must be on the back of every criminals mind. You may have heard the saying: "There is no honor among thieves", it seems crime lords/kingpins are never short of people who want to kill them.
So that's what I set out to write about. I wanted a scene which had the feel of a seedy backroom deal, and the way greed could lead to a lowering of defenses. How perhaps the level of paranoia over someone trying to kill you is warranted in that line of work. I also ended the scene in a way which would try and propel the reader onto the next scene/chapter if it were a longer piece.
I think I accomplished these goals in the piece below and I'm happy to see your thoughts, critiques, and otherwise in the comments! Please keep in mind the Workshop Wednesday pieces undergo very little editing. They're extremely raw, so I have no doubt spelling or grammar errors will be lurking within the sentences.
“Welcome to the big time, pal.” The shadowed creature behind the oak wood desk extinguished his cigar in a battered ashtray nestled between a crown of white candles, melted to little more than shapely blobs among tattered papers and knickknacks which littered the work space.
The cigar let out a faint hiss, like a serpent warning its prey to back away while it still could. Coils of smoke framed the beady-eyed face which now contorted into a shark-like grin, causing the shadows cast by the soft flickering candlelight from below to slither deeper into sunken eye sockets. As if to spur a response, a scarred green hand reached forth into the pool of light that bathed the desk and nudged a bulging burlap coin purse a tad closer. They jingled and clinked like prisoner chains. Even from all the way down the narrow corridors of the club Howell could hear the muffled plucks of a double bass and warbles of trumpets as the band drew their song to a close—cheers and applause followed down from the lounge to this back office, slipping beneath the crack of the wooden door and chestnut colored carpet.
A sucker is born every minute. Howell licked his lips, playing out a visible show of apprehension glazed with minor-anticipation. The earthy taste of the cigar hung in the air. He returned the shark grin with a smirk of his own, nodding an acknowledgment to the pint-sized, two-bit, pointy-eared crime boss which stood atop a plushly upholstered chair behind the desk—almost eye level, now. How such a scrawny goblin had ever risen to the top of one of the most feared crime organizations in Gobblesprocket was beyond figuring out. That coin purse, assuming the coinage within was legitimate, held a lot of money.
“So this is it?” Howell reached slowly to adjust the collar of his trench coat, noting an almost imperceptible flinch of the fat ogre bodyguard which loomed over both himself and the goblin a few feet away. The ogre sunk back into the hollow between two bookshelves as Howell eased him back with a calming gaze. Far enough away to be forgettable, but close enough to snap a poor fools neck if the moment came Howell thought. "It wasn't easy to get hold of that damn book. Havelock Stormbound has been hunting for this to bring back to Talon City's academics."
“Lis’n pal, you should be thankin’ me.” The goblin tugged the bottom of his suit coat flat, smoothing out one a few of the hundred wrinkles which marred the front. “I could just have Lug ‘ere snap your neck and be done with it.” The ogre grunted something low and guttural—a shiver went down Howells spine.
“But you’re too smart for that Tact.” Howell reached for the coin purse.
“That’s Sprock Tact to you, guy.” piped a voice from near the ogre.
Sprock? No doubt short for sprocket. As in sprocket wrench. Howell wondered at the obsession these little green freaks had with tools.
“My apologies.” Howell paused and gave a respectful nod toward Tact, and his rebuker—a plump goblin sinking into a tufted chintz armchair. A shock of red hair was plastered down with grease on the goblin's head, it swallowed the fiery light radiating from the dozens of candles on an end table next to him that had melted together into large blocks of beige wax. The plump goblin turned his glare from Howell back to the shotgun he had been obsessively cleaning for the last hour.
Howell grabbed the sack of coins and stuffed it away inside his coat, the weight of the cash a foreign feeling.
But a great one.
“Take it, you’ll be wealthy, kid.” Sprock Tact let himself down from the chair, nestling into the plush red cushions of his seat as he sat back and studied Howell through devious eyes. “Give it here.” Tact snapped and jabbed a long-nailed finger toward the small leather satchel at Howell’s side.
Howell obeyed, slipping the long strap of the bag over his head before dropping it onto a relatively clutter-free edge of the desk and letting the flap fall open. “There you go.”
“If this ain’t the book you said it was, you won’t be needing those coins.” Tact snatched the leather-bound book from the satchel, swift action stimulated by unmasked greed and anticipation. The book bulged from what seemed like pages barely contained by the golden locks and straps which kept it shut. Tact tugged at the straps, they didn’t budge.
“I didn’t know how to open it.” Howell shrugged innocently, tucking his hands back into his pockets.
Tact glowered, then sighed. “I almost didn’t believe ‘em when they said what you were bringing. A great way to end my week, and expand my collection. The only other discovered book like this was lost shortly after archaeological efforts uncovered them ... no one knows where or how." Sprock Tact gave a knowing look, his tone conveying that he indeed knew where. "Snotch, open this baby up.” Tact tossed the journal toward the shotgun-polishing lackey.
“May I be on my way?” Howell jerked his head toward the door, the band had started up a new tune which rolled in the familiar three-four time.
“Yea get outta here.” Tact flicked his hand, shooing away a dog he no-longer had any interest in. “If this ain’t legit, finding you won’t be hard. If it’s legit, then you did good kid. I’ll have some more work for you I’m sure.”
“Noted.” Howell fiddled with a small device sewn into the liner of his coat pocket, running a finger along the bevel of the button which pushed against the coat’s fabric. It was hard not to laugh, or at least chuckle, at the obliviousness of the crime lord. A gangster so known for his caution and paranoia, had thrown that same caution to the wind as soon as Howell had found a tempting enough item in which the prospective reward obliterated the risk of letting in some unknown kid.
Howell nodded toward Snotch and the ogre, as motionless as a statue, before turning around and heading out. He ignored Snotch ... that one gave him the creeps.
The door clicked shut behind him, and with it ended the feeling of unfriendly eyes boring into his back. Howell turned and squinted against the frosted glass, watching as two pointy-eared silhouettes melded into a fat, ogre-shaped, shadow eclipsing the flickering candlelight behind them. Excited voices from within told Howell they’d essentially forgotten about him by now, their attention rapt by the book. Having such big ears, he wondered if they’d hear the click of the striker before they died. Probably not, Howell guessed, if they did, it would be too late for them anyway.
He put his back to the door and pressed a device in his coat that rested against his leg, driving his index finger down on a small button.
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!
Matthew Taylor was born February 13, 1991 in Simi Valley, California. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from California State University Channel Islands, where he served as treasurer and briefly President of one of the campus's two political clubs. While earning his degree he continued to write and hone his craft, eventually releasing an initial few short stories on Kindle.