Sunday, January 23, 2011

Loyalties and Royalties - Part 1

The somewhat-serious tale of my goblin rogue, Kazea, from the perspective of her hired bruiser bodyguard, Gruzzle. It'll be an attempt to capture the emotions that I had while questing through the goblin starting areas for the first time. Hope you enjoy!

Warning: some mild profanity ahead, as well as possible spoilers for the goblin starting areas if you haven't done them before.

Kazea is my character, while Gruzzle belongs to my boyfriend. :)


--
“Put your game face on, girl, we need it now more than ever.”

The words, at first, seemed sharp to his ears, but at this point in time Gruzzle knew that Sassy Hardwrench was just being her stern yet affectionate self. It didn’t keep him from casting a sidelong glance to the petite goblin next to him, just in case he somehow acquired the ability to protect her from words, too.

But no—Kazea looked calm as ever, one purple eye shaded teasingly by her light brown hair, the other fixed on Sassy. “Course,” she replied, almost disdainfully. “Why, you think I can’t handle it or somethin’?”

Sassy recoiled a little at the accusation, laughing and waving her hands a little. “Nah, course not, Kaz,” she soothed. “You’re the boss. Or were. Ya know what I mean.”

Kazea snorted and tossed her head, striding off down the sandy beach, but Gruzzle could still catch the hint of hurt on her face.

Were he opportunistic, or cruel, he might have shuffled the observation to the back of his mind for safekeeping, perhaps using the brief moment of weakness to his advantage someday. But instead, he hardened his jaw, spat in the sand, and followed her, letting such thoughts crumple and die.

He was a professional after all.

~

It wasn’t the fact that she was cute, or witty. Hell, it wasn’t even that she gave him a pretty fair deal in their contract, in which Gruzzle was to be a bodyguard to the rumored “Trade Princess-to-be.” What Gruzzle liked, when he first entered the Kezan Trading Company Headquarters and met Kazea Springload, was her smile.

It was different from when other people smiled, he thought. Having grown up in the slums and gutters of Kezan, he knew an insincere smile when he saw it. But Kazea… now, she had a genuine smile. As if she really cared about what he was saying. As if, when he expressed his doubts and conditions, she really was willing to make some changes to accommodate him. In all his years, he’d never met a goblin that was that nice, and yet didn’t come across as suspicious.

“You ain’t gonna regret working with us, sweetheart,” Sassy has assured him, after the contract was signed and Kazea had sent him off to get outfitted for bruiser duty. “KTC’s gonna be like family, ya know what I’m saying? Kaz is the sweetest gal you’ll ever work for.”

Gruzzle had scoffed at the time, figuring Sassy was just painting a nice fa├žade for the company. People were always nice at first, but in time, the grit and decay would become visible once more, and he’d have to grit his teeth and push through work until his contract was up. He was no stranger to this cycle, but hey—it put money in his pockets.

Yet a month later, here he was, cast away and struggling for survival… and Gruzzle had yet to encounter that familiar feeling of disgust towards his employer. Instead, he owed the girl his life… something he’d never owed anyone before.

It was just a shame he didn’t know how to respond to that, even as everything was falling apart around them rapidly.

~

Night fell upon the Lost Isles at last, the sweltering jungle heat cooling to shiver-inducing temperatures. The goblins, vulnerable on the open beach, had hastily constructed a building out of the wreckage of the ship that had brought them there; unfortunately, the Trade Prince of the Bilgewater Cartel, Gallywix, had opted to hog the entire shelter for himself that night. The remaining goblins were forced to sleep on the sands, cold and exposed to whatever danger might lurk in the jungle.

Some of the goblins went to rather extreme measures to keep themselves safe—climbing the dizzyingly tall trees nearby, or putting together elaborate mechanical devices to protect themselves—but those formerly of KTC opted to huddle together for warmth, dozing near a campfire or Maxx’s fire totem, rattling rather loudly in the stillness of the night. Every so often a goblin would snore loudly, or grumble about one another (“Ya smell horrible, getcha damn feet out of my face!”), but for the most part it was tolerable.

Loyal to his contract, Gruzzle opted to stay up for the first part of the evening, one hand on the large hammer he wielded. He sat a few feet away from Kazea, who was curled up on a straw mat alongside Sassy, sleeping peacefully. From what he had seen in the past few weeks, the two were close. Like sisters, even if Sassy was a bit crazy at times. Gruzzle himself never had a family to depend on, so he could only wonder at the unusual sight of so many goblins all gathered, almost protectively, around the delicate little goblin they called “Boss.”

“She cute, ain’t she?”

Startled, but not alarmed, Gruzzle turned around, his grip tightening on the hammer he held. But it was only Megs Dreadshredder, the former marketing representative of KTC. She held a stick with a dead, impaled crab on the end, futilely trying to roast it over the campfire.

A smirk crossed the bruiser’s face, despite himself. “I don’t think that’s how ya cook crab, toots,” he remarked.

Megs gave him a dark glare, but tossed the mal-cooked creature aside. “How ya holdin’ up?” she asked.

“Eh. I’m fine, I guess. Be better if that two-timing, scrap-for-brains sleezeball Gallywix wasn’t holing his ass up in that shelter WE all built.”

“I hear ya.” Megs pulled out a box of cigarettes from her vest (handrolled in Ratchet, with the finest herbs imported from Stranglethorn!), no doubt a relic from better times in Kezan, and lit the end of one in the fire. She inhaled a mess of smoke and exhaled it, causing Gruzzle to turn his face away with a grimace. “Poor Kaz. You hear the shit Gallywix was throwing at her this afternoon? And after she saved his sorry ass!”

Gruzzle considered it briefly, remembered how the Trade Prince spent the better part of the day mocking Kazea and trying to blame this mess on her… and growled. “If he knows what’s good for him, he’d better keep his gold trap shut—”

“Ain’t much we can do, though. As far as most people here are concerned, Gallywix is the one who saved us. Most of the goblins here, they ain’t knowin’ any better. They don’t know how she spent her damn fortune to save their lives…”

This thought was even more infuriating the last, and Gruzzle glanced over at Kazea’s sleeping form. He recalled the moment, back on Kezan, when they arrived at Gallywix’s yacht and discovered it was all a trick. How the Trade Prince swiped the money out of a stunned Kazea’s hand, while his goons laughed. And not just Gallywix’s goons… her own so-called boyfriend, Chip, had even helped Gallywix in the plan, laughing at how she had believed them, all while he had his arm around another woman. The only satisfaction Gruzzle had enjoyed in that moment of betrayal was how he had managed to plant a fist in Chip’s pretty boy face, before he was beaten off and dragged below decks with the rest of those deceived, to shovel coal and be the Trade Prince’s slaves.

He wasn’t sure what had been harder to bear—the realization of how they had all been tricked, or the look on Kazea’s face. While nursing his broken nose, Gruzzle had happened to look over at her, the former Trade Princess-to-be, staring out of one of the portholes as the other goblins shouted and bemoaned their fate around her. The light was dim below decks, so it was unlikely anyone else had been able to notice, but to his surprise… Kazea had been crying. Her face remained stunned, but tears spilled down her pretty cheeks as she stared outside. It took him a while to realize she was watching Kezan disappearing behind them, left to its fate.

At the time, Gruzzle had figured she was crying over this whole betrayal business. But when he asked her about it, she had whirled on him angrily, slapping him away.

“Gallywix ain’t worth my tears, ya got that?!” she shrieked, vulnerable and furious. “I just… I…” Her lip trembled, and she turned away again. “They’re all gonna die…”

Stunned, Gruzzle realized, in that moment, that she hadn’t been crying for herself. At least she was alive, even if left humiliated. No… she was crying for all the other people on Kezan she couldn’t pay for, the remaining goblins all left behind on an exploding volcanic island.

Perhaps that was why so many curled up to her, even now. Why Sassy and her sharp tongue encouraged her every day, even if Kazea wasn’t paying her anymore. Why Fizz and Evol stopped fighting with one another when she passed, as if to pay respect to the girl that had lost everything for all of their sakes. Why Ace and Izzy still called her “Boss,” even within earshot of Gallywix. Why Gobber gave her a big hug and grinned every time she said hi to him, a lowly hobgoblin.

“…She’s a good gal,” Gruzzle finally relented, gruffly, making Megs look up at him again.

“Sure is,” she agreed, chewing on her cigarette absently. “…Doesn’t do much for us right now, though. We’re still stuck here. I wonder if maybe there are natives here… ones we can exploit, ya know? Make ‘em build a new city, or a ship, or something…”

Gruzzle shrugged, unconcerned with the (former) marketing representative’s brainstorming. It wasn’t up to him where the goblins of Kezan went next. He knew that. But it sure as hell wasn’t going to be Gallywix pointing him in any such direction either.

No, he decided, looking down at the petite goblin he still counted as his employer, as she shifted a little in her sleep. If he still had money to bet, he’d toss it in with Kazea.

--
So ends part one of Kazea's story. :o

I wrote this with the expectation that the reader knows the NPCs and events of the goblin starting areas, so I didn't go into too much detail there. Obviously Kazea is portrayed in the role that all players assume when they start a goblin--powerful, wealthy, and about to take Gallywix's place as Trade Prince(ss), before everything goes wrong.

I hope to continue this series in the future. It will probably be updated when I lack inspiration for Serisyna's story. :)

As always, comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Hope you liked!

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