Kazbo visits the Steambenders

One of my fellow fanficcers, the talented Mr. Gre7g Luterman, is posting his story, named “A Tauren Tale” in weekly episodes each Friday. In it appears a Gnome called Kazbo Fizzgimbels, who shares a taste for coffee with my Gnome, Griggin Steambender. Kazbo (being from East Gnomeregan), speaks only in rhyme, and suddenly this image popped into my head of Nix and Trixie sitting there across the table, bright eyed, going “Come on! Say something!” So what else could I do but invite Kazbo over for coffee and dinner? And here it is…


“Please enter, Mr. Fizzgimbels.” Griggin pointed his hand inside. “Let’s see who’s home.”

The two Gnomes entered, and a woman came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. She raised an eyebrow at her husband. What is the meaning of this unexpected person, my dear?

Griggin pointed a hand at his guest. “Lenna, meet Mr. Fizzgimbels. He’s here on business from Ironforge, and he is inquiring about a heat generator for his flying machine. Mr. Fizzgimbels, meet my wife, Lenna.”

Kazbo bowed his head to Lenna. “A joy it is to meet you Ma’am, a wonderful experience. I hope sincerely that I am, no undue inconvenience.”

Lenna’s eyebrows rose a little, before her face settled into the polite, friendly smile normally reserved for Customers.

“Not at all, Mr. Fizzgimbels, not at all.” She cast a glance at Griggin. “Would you like to stay for dinner, perhaps? I’m making sausage stew. If my dear husband could see his way clear to peeling a few more potatoes, I’m sure there would be enough for all.”

“I would indeed be very pleased, to honour your kind offer. I could contribute to the feast, what I have in my coffer. The Tauren call them Jacao beans, and eat them fried with bread. A parting present from my friends, without whom I’d be dead.”

“Excellent! That’s settled, then. Griggin my love, get peeling.”

“Alright,” said Griggin, making his way towards the kitchen. “Perhaps Mr. Fizzgimbels would like some coffee?”

Kazbo followed Griggin into the kitchen. Holding pride of place on one end of the worktop was a fearsome engine. It looked like one of those things that are euphemistically referred to as a “device”, and can turn a large city into a barren, glowing crater.

Kazbo’s eyes lit up. “I knew the Gnome by whose design, this coffee maker was conceived. If I’d have told him of this find, the Gnome would never have believed. That after all these many years, a working model still was found. They have succumbed to rust, and wear, or otherwise have gone unsound.”

“I bought mine in Gnomeregan,” said Griggin. “Before the Unfortunate Incident. This is the DE2000. I could get it cheap, because everybody went for the DE2400.”

“That model was designed by Dwarfs, long after Piggelmee retired. I think I visited him once, I don’t believe he longer cared. About the pipes of chrome and steel, and pressure tanks, or steam, hot air. He moved into Tanaris’ dunes, and I believe he’s happy there.”

“A thing to look forward to, Mr. Fizzgimbels,” said Griggin, manipulating the machine into producing coffee. He ducked down into a cupboard, and came out holding a bag of potatoes. A drawer yielded a knife, and he started peeling. Kazbo, who couldn’t bear to see other people work while his own hands were empty, picked up a knife and a potato and joined Griggin.

The front door opened, and a young woman walked in, holding the hand of a little girl.

“In you go, Bies. Time to wash hands and set the table.”

“Alrighty then.”

Griggin called out. “Trixie? Meet mr. Fizzgimbels. He’ll be joining us for dinner tonight. Mr. Fizzgimbels? Meet my daughter Trixie.”

Trixie walked up, and held out her hand to Kazbo. Kazbo shook it, noticing the firm grip, the calluses and the scar tissue on her knuckles.

“Pleased to meet you, Mr. Fizzgimbels,” said Trixie.

“A pleasure, Miss, I’m sure it is. Permit me to be daring. I take it you’re a Warrior, from your forcefulness of bearing.”

Trixie blinked. “Uh… yeah. Thanks.”

Kazbo merely smiled and nodded, then looked down into the face of the young girl that had come in with the Warrior woman.

“You talk funny,” said Bieslook. “The ends all sound the same.”

Griggin put a hand on Bieslook’s shoulder. “Mr. Fizzgimbels is from East Gnomeregan, dear. That is how they speak there. Sorry, Mr. Fizzgimbels.”

“I do not take offence, my friend, at this young lady’s words. It often does surprise a Gnome the first time it is heard.” Kazbo bent down to Bieslook. “It’s not just that we rhyme in Lore, to quote it back verbatim. It makes you think about your words, before you start to say them.”

Lenna came in from the living room, with a sneer on her face.

“What’s keeping Nix? He can tell the time, can’t he?”

“Had an important job to finish,” said Trixie. “Another lock for that trollop in Redridge.”

“Huh?”

“He thinks she’ll grant him a Boon if he makes a lock she can’t pick. I think she’s just playing with his head.”

“Well, if he’s not careful, he’s going to miss out.”

“That’s what I keep telling him… oh. I see.”

The door opened, and Nix came in, with that expression on his face that said: This time it’s going to work. He took one look at Kazbo, and his face fell. Dad sometimes brought in Customers, on which occasions he was supposed to make a Good Impression. Which meant, annoyingly, that he would not be able to slope off to the workshop right after dinner. Not all was lost, though. Dad had, at times, let him out early for good behaviour.

“Good evening, Sir,” said Nix. “Nix Steambender at your service.”

“Kazbo Fizzgimbels, at yours and at your kin’s. I hear that you’re an engineer, may your designs be wins.”

Nix looked at Griggin. Next to him, Trixie tried very hard not to laugh.

Lenna clapped her hands. “Dinner’s ready! Do I see plates on the table? I don’t think I do. Hop to it!”

They had finished dinner, stacked the plates up in the sink, and Nix was very helpfully brewing coffee for everyone. Ultra-strong for him and Dad, Medium for Mum and Trixie, Chocolate for Bieslook.

“How strong, Mr. Fizzgimbels?”

“Engineer’s strength, if you please. That I may stay awake with ease.”

“You got it.”

Griggin took a small sip of coffee, sat back in his chair. “This steam generator. What, exactly, do you intend to use it for? Internal heating?”

“I need pressurised steam, to power a harpoon. To catch the passing clouds, and winch up, quick and soon, the vehicle, to swing, upon a long strong thread. Wherever I would want to go, though you might think it mad.”

Nix looked at his coffee cup, to avoid looking into Kazbo’s bright, enthusiastic face. Right. A Mad, then. Gnomish engineers, broadly speaking, came in two flavours: Sane, and Mad. Nix liked to think of himself as Sane, whatever Trixie might say. They were the grinders, the steady ones, the people who would take ideas, and turn them into usable contraptions. And then, there were the Mads. A Mad engineer was one whose mind was a magnet for all ideas, no matter how wild, no matter how impractical. Seven-hundred seventy seven times out of a thousand, the ideas would be impractical, impossible, enormously dangerous, just plain silly, or any and all of the above. What a Mad lived for, and the reason that the Sanes tried with all their might to keep their more eccentric brethren from killing themselves and anyone else in the blast area, was the Thousandth Idea. A concept so incredibly useful, so incredibly powerful, that no Sane person would have thought of it in a million years. Nix looked up at Kazbo. This idea, he estimated to be somewhere in the low hundreds, though. But shooting a harpoon through a cloud of water vapour and watching it fall back to the ground seemed harmless enough to indulge it.

Griggin rubbed his chin. “You would need very high pressure steam to get any amount of altitude at all. Which is not what my Optimal Prime line of boilers is designed for. I could probably do you a steam-powered cannon, but it would be a custom job.” Griggin sucked his teeth. “Not before next Wednesday. And I’ll warn you, it won’t be cheap either.”

“Do not trouble yourself, over either gold or time. I have the problem yet to solve of what manner of line, would be both light enough, and sufficiently strong. For if it would break half way up, things would go badly wrong.”

“Indeed, they would,” said Griggin. “So how about you draw up your requirements, and I’ll start sourcing the materials while you research the tensile strength of different kinds of line?”

“That would be splendid, and all that I would need. And now, I fear that I must leave, I’ve many things to read.”

Nix and Griggin watched Kazbo march off, head held high, in the direction of the Deeprun Tram. Griggin shook his head. Nix looked up to him.

“So. We start looking for a high-yield compressor?”

“I think I’ve got one of those in the warehouse,” said Griggin. “Could probably build the whole cannon in three days.”

“So why didn’t you tell him?”

“Because it’s never going to work. Flying through the air, hanging from a cloud by a bit of string? That is… far fetched even by usual Mad standards.”

“So why didn’t you tell him that, then?”

“He wouldn’t listen. They never do, they never will. And who knows? Perhaps something amazing will come to him while he’s trying to get this idea to work. Mad engineers don’t work the way we do, son. They shoot at a fly with a blunderbuss, and no fly ever gets harmed. But then, sometimes, one of the pellets will strike something that needed to be struck, and that’s when we take over, and turn their silly ideas into something useful.”

“Hm.”

Trixie came up behind, pushed past them and ran off to the shed, tossing the control box to one of the striders into the air and catching it. Lenna looked at her, with a little smile on her face.

“Where’s she going?” asked Griggin.

“Goldshire,” said Lenna. “Visitor from Westfall.”

Nix snorted. “Who? Richard? You remember Richard, right Dad?”

“Him, and his father,” said Griggin. “I was expecting that to be over by now, and still. It all goes to show that you never can tell.”

“Ah,” said Nix. “That reminds me. “I got a parcel to post. Heh. She’s never going to pick this one. And it doesn’t use magic this time.”

Griggin laughed. “Best of luck Nix.”

“Luck has nothing to do with it,” said Nix. He waved, and ran off.

Lenna leaned up against Griggin.

“And how about you, Mr. Steambender? Do you feel lucky?”

Griggin put his arm round Lenna’s shoulder, and they turned inside.

“Incredibly, inordinately, and undeservedly so,” he said.

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