Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Loyalties and Royalties - Part 2

This is part 2 of "Loyalties and Royalties," the tale of my goblin rogue, Kazea, from the perspective of her hired bodyguard, Gruzzle. Has plenty of wealth, drama, love, and loss... or something to that effect. For previous installments, please click the Storylines link!

Thanks, and enjoy!

Gruzzle may have been a tough bruiser, but even he began to slowly succumb to the difficult day he’d had, washing ashore what the other goblins had begun to dub the Lost Isles. (“We’re lost, ain’t we? There ya go.”) He’d started tuning out Megs’ wild brainstorming an hour or two ago, dozing despite his best efforts.

He dreamed of his first paycheck, and his first day working for Kazea Springload.

It had all started when he decided to quit working for those “professional” bodyguard agencies in Kezan. They took exorbitant cuts out of every paycheck he earned and generally treated him like dirt, constantly reminding him he should never expect anything better in life (this, they chortled, as they counted stacks of macaroons in front of him). Gruzzle wasn’t stupid enough to think that he could become some trade prince… but if nothing else, he had pride. If he had to break faces for a living, he was going to do it without some tight-suits breathing down his neck, treating him like a dog.

So, he quit the agencies and became the sole employed of one “Gruzzle General Bruising Limited,” negotiating his own contracts and offering nothing but what he alone could give. And perhaps because he was bold—or stupid—enough to do so, he caught the attention of Kezan’s very own “Trade Princess-to-be.” An hour or two of negotiations with the cutest gal he’d ever laid eyes on, and he was her bodyguard.

“The Great Banker must be lookin’ out for me or somethin’,” he murmured, resisting the urge to grin. He shifted a little in the armor he had been issued—brand new even, not the second-hand junk he had been forced to make do with for years—and tested the weight of his brand-new weapon. A large, only slightly-worn hammer that felt amazing in his hands, one that Sassy had almost smirked about.

“Last thing that bad boy was used on was ya predecessor,” she had remarked, after he had selected it from KTC’s stockpiles. “Sharp as a bowling ball, he was, and ugly too. I swear to dividends, he looked a lot better in his application photo. Kazea don’t have much patience for dumbasses, and even less for men that looked like they were dropped on their faces repeatedly as a kid. He lipped off to her when she handed him the pink slip, so she clobbered him a good one with that hammer.”

Gruzzle had stared at her, warily, wondering if this was some sort of warning or precautionary tale. Catching the look on his face, Sassy quickly laughed and patted his cheek a little.

“Oh, but don’t you worry, honey,” she soothed, “you’re as good-lookin’ as they come.”

Having been punched in the nose one too many times, Gruzzle never figured he was much of a looker. But after making his rounds of KTC Headquarters to familiarize himself with the layout of his new home, he was starting to reconsider. Every lady goblin working there had stopped to flutter their eyelashes at him when he passed, or—in the case of the resident rogue trainer, Slinky Sharpshivtried to give him a pinch on the rear. He was pleased to find his mail armor protected him quite well from such advances.

“Keep ya head on tight, kid,” Maxx Avalanche—supposedly KTC’s master of the elements or something—warned, as he gave the new bodyguard a friendly handshake. “This joint’s run by the women here. Nice women, don’t get me wrong, but women all the same. I don’t have ta tell ya how women can get sometimes.”

Gruzzle snickered a little, but wasn’t quite sure what Maxx meant. How did women get sometimes? Was it those supposed mysterious mood swings they had every so often? Hm. Not like it mattered. He’d met men with crazier mood swings before. With all the explosions and dangerous stunts goblins pulled on a regular basis, it wasn’t uncommon to meet people with screws loose. If Gruzzle could handle that, he could handle some moody broad.

Speaking of which… Gruzzle figured he ought to go check back in with the boss lady. She was planning some kind of corporate party, one that would be guaranteed to skyrocket her popularity and make her the talk of Kezan. Kazea was already well-known for inventing Kaja-Cola (“It gives you IDEAS! ™”), which had single-handedly made her the second most powerful goblin on the whole island. And if she batted her pretty eyelashes enough and marketed herself right… she could be number one. Goblins bet regularly on who they predicted would win in the end—the charming challenger, Kazea Springload, or the ruthless, current Trade Prince of the Bilgewater Cartel, Jastor Gallywix himself.

Entering the main building of headquarters, Gruzzle found it surprisingly empty, save for a pretty girl sitting at the table, painting her fingernails. She looked up at him and grinned as he came in.

“Ya lookin’ for the boss, handsome?” she purred, sending a tingle down Gruzzle’s spine. “She’s… preoccupied at the moment. She might be available in a few, though.”

Gruzzle found it hard to respond at first, instead looking her over. Damn, but was she a looker. The bruiser never thought himself easily swayed by a woman, but this girl was something else. She had gorgeous blonde hair done up in cute curls, and wore red-and-white, obscenely revealing clothing that matched well with her dark green skin. He thought she looked familiar, but he couldn’t exactly place where he would have seen her before.

She gave him a lip-glossed smile that smelled faintly of mint, making a show of checking him out in return before she continued. “You must be the new bodyguard that Sassy found. You already look a million times more competent than the first one,” she giggled. “I’m Candy Cane. What’s your name?”

Gruzzle swallowed quickly, almost coughing out a response. “Ah… um, Gruzzle, ma’am. Good to meetcha.”

The sound of a door opening upstairs made them both prick up their ears, and Candy giggled again. “There’s the boss,” she said, with a knowing wink. “I’m sure she’ll have business with you, but maybe we can talk again later? How about at the party?” To Gruzzle’s surprise, she fluttered her long eyelashes at him, licking her lips a little as she purred. “I’ll look for you if you look for me.”

“S-sure,” Gruzzle managed to gulp, just as he looked up to see Kazea come down the stairs, followed by another goblin.

“Don’t tell me I made ya wait,” Kazea gasped, looking a little disheveled and breathless. “But I see ya met Candy? She’s one of our models. Sexy sells everything, right Candy?”

Candy giggled, and Gruzzle finally remembered where he’d seen the blonde goblin before. She was on a few Kaja-Cola billboards around Kezan, drinking the beverage in a most seductive manner. (“It gives you… ideas~”)

Kazea looped her arm through that of the goblin accompanying her, finally making Gruzzle take notice of him as well. “Don’t suppose you’ve met our other model here? Chip honey, introduce yourself. This is my new bodyguard, Gruzzle.”

Chip gave Gruzzle a wary look at first, taking stock of this newcomer. He, too, was familiar-looking, adorning some of the other billboards in Kezan with his shirtless bod as he drank a can of Kaja-Cola and flexed his muscles. He had red hair that matched his tight, red leather pants, and put an arm around Kazea protectively as he spoke. “Hey, good to meetcha. Chip Endale’s the name. Just gotta say, ya better be takin’ care of my baby when I’m not around. She’s worth more than you are, after all.”

Kazea swatted him irritably, pushing him away a little. “Oh, quit it,” she chided. “I like him. He’ll do a good job.”

The male model merely grinned and planted a quick kiss on her cheek, before heading towards the door. “Course, baby. Well, see ya after the photo shoot, I guess. Let’s go, Candy.”

Gruzzle glowered after Chip (and stared longingly after Candy) for a moment, until Kazea placed her hand on his arm. “Sorry about that,” she apologized. “Chip’s protective of me. Don’t worry about him, though.”

He frowned a little, slowly reaching up to take a long, loose strand of hair falling from her messy bun, and tuck it back behind her ear. “Boyfriend, I guess?” he said, a little gruffly.

“Hm? Oh, yeah.” Embarrassed, she took the clip holding her bun up out of her hair, and tried to reform her lovely brown locks back into a neater one. “Megs said it would be a brilliant marketing match-up. The Trade Princess in love with one of her own. It’d sell, she said.”

Gruzzle hadn’t had words for her at the time, only a strange disappointment that settled into the depths of his gut for some reason. Only now, as he opened his eyes again to the red glow of the campfire, did he know what it was.

Chip ain’t right for you, babe.

He didn’t know why it mattered, either then or now, but it was something he felt he had to tell her, one of these days. So she already knew—too late—that Chip was a cheating, two-timing, backstabbing son of a discombobulated boltspanner. Big deal; she was still heartbroken. Maybe if Gruzzle told her she deserved better, she wouldn’t be as sad. If he could just explain that a smart, brave, clever, and caring girl like Kazea needed a man who didn’t care about her wealth all that much, who wouldn’t date her just for prestige (though they were good perks, to be sure)… maybe she’d cheer up and move on. Gruzzle knew first-hand what it felt like to have to bite back pain, disappointment, and heartbreak all on his own, without encouragement from anyone. It might not be in his contract, but the least he could do was protect Kazea from that as well.

After all she had been through… she deserved that much. Right?

I'm still experimenting a bit with where I want this story to go, but so far I'm having a great time writing it. Very similar to how playing Kazea in-game feels!

My goal with this story is to capture the feeling of memory, how jumping from reality to memories and even to different memories within that memory can feel like. All without confusing readers. Hopefully it's working. xD Let me know.

I'm trying really hard not to make Gruzzle too much of a softie, although he really is a sweetie deep down, just like his creator. ;)

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

Friday, March 4, 2011

Stories Unspoken - My World of Warcraft Screenshot Gallery

"So like, I heard a picture is worth a thousand words..."
"Ya don't shay... *hic*"

Since school has been keeping me pretty busy, and I barely have time to play World of Warcraft nowadays much less write interesting blog posts about it, I've started on another project I've been personally wanting to do for a while. As the title of this post states, I've started a gallery for the many WoW screenshots I've taken while playing. :)

They're nothing too special, just memorable highlights from my journeys in Azeroth and beyond. It's still under construction, so I've only got screenshots from 2009 up so far, along with a few pieces of fanart that I've drawn based on WoW characters.

Even if no one else finds them too interesting, they are special to me and I'm happy to be able to organize them in one place for ease of viewing, and sharing with friends and family.

You may find the screenshot gallery here:

I'll also be posting any updates to it on my Twitter account. :D

Hope you enjoy! Let me know (via comment, email, Twitter) what you think as well! Thanks!