File GSB-001: Testing and Nomenclature

Griggin crossed his arms, and watched the Examiner as he walked round his master piece. Like many master pieces, it had absolutely no practical application at all. It was a toy, a game. A vehicle for demonstrating one’s skills. Griggin knew how good he was, so he had nothing to fear from this examination. He knew that all the connections were solid. He knew that each and every small pipe went exactly where it was supposed to go. The algorithms were well known, and the machine would either draw or win, never lose. Also, Griggin had stared down Voidwalkers, Felguards, Succubi. A mere Gnomish Examiner held no fear for him.

His knuckles were white.

“So, Journeyman Griggin, how does this work then?”

“The machine has been designed to respond in the appropriate way to any move the user may make, Sir. The patterns are evaluated by a steam-based assessment unit which will pass the correct decision on to the main game board.”

“I mean which valve do I press?”

Griggin tried to swallow nothing.

“The one in the middle, Sir.”

The Examiner pressed the valve Griggin had indicated. The machine huffed and puffed, and on the main board, the middle square turned, showing a large X. It took the machine only ten rotations. The top left square turned, showing an O.

“Hmm… Interesting.”

The Examiner pressed the valve on the middle right. Almost immediately, the machine turned the middle left square to O.

“Hah. Think you can win that easily?”

No, thought Griggin. It’s going to be a draw. The Examiner pressed the lower left valve. The machine showed the move, then turned the upper right square to O. The Examiner’s hand hovered over the top middle valve. Then, he gave Griggin a look and pressed the lower middle valve. The machine turned the top middle square to O. Three Os in a row showed. The machine rotated the three squares at the top three times, then blew a whistle. The examiner chuckled.

“My my, Mericet Sparkbolt, Grand Master Engineer, outwitted by a machine! It seems to work, Journeyman Griggin. The action feels nice and solid. I wonder. What would happen if I try to cheat?”

Griggin’s eyebrows raised.

“Cheat, Sir?”

“Yes.”

After its little victory dance, the machine was now showing a new game, with an X in the top left corner. Examiner Sparkbolt pressed the top left valve. The whistle blew. He pressed the valve again. Again, the whistle blew, With a child-like grin, Mericet Sparkbolt pressed the top left valve again. The machine blew its whistle again, then turned all the squares to O. Sparkbolt frowned.

“What’s it doing, Journeyman?”

“Sulking, Sir,” said Griggin.

Sparkbolt looked at Griggin for a few moments. Then he burst out laughing.

“Well done, Journeyman, well done.”

“Thank you, Sir.”

Griggin dared to relax a little bit. Sparkbolt turned round, and with both hands pressed as many valves at the same time as he could. Griggin’s jaw dropped, and he turned pale. Luckily, the machine was still in sulk mode, so nothing happened. Sparkbolt turned round to Griggin with a wicked grin on his cheeks.

“Has my reputation preceded me, Journeyman Griggin?”

Griggin looked at the other Gnome’s ear.

“You hold the record for breaking people’s masterpieces simply by operating the controls.”

“Are you scared yet?”

Griggin gave Sparkbolt a defiant little smile.

“I requested you, Sir.”


Griggin slowly walked back to his appartment, and pulled out his keys. For some reason, the key didn’t seem to fit. He bent over and looked at the key-hole. Ah. Someone had stuck a few bits of wire in, in an apparent attempt to open the door. A clear case of attempted breaking and leaving. Griggin sighed and produced a pencil from his pocket. He poked at the bit of wire till it fell out, and he could unlock his front door. From the kitchen, he could hear the sound of super-heated steam, and of singing. The smell of stewed boar reached him. With a happy smile, he took off his coat and put it on the peg. Griggin walked to the middle of the room and took a deep breath.

“Family meeting!”

Griggin’s wife Lenna came out of the kitchen, carrying a small girl on her arm. There was a noise behind the sofa, and a young boy emerged.

“Did you see me, Dad?”

“No Nix, but if you get bored picking a lock, it’s not good policy to leave your lockpicks behind. Cover your tracks!”

“Yes, Dad.”

Lenna smirked at Griggin.

“You’re encouraging him in his burglary? He’ll be clapped in irons and they’ll put him in jail and throw away the key.”

“Keys are for pussies,” said Nix.

Lenna gave him a stern look.

“Now where did you hear that?”

“Nowhere, Mum.”

“Well, Nix Brassmelter, wherever you did hear it, I don’t want to hear it again.”

Griggin raised a finger.

“You are wrong, my dear. Very wrong indeed. Not about the language, I quite agree with you there, but the young man you are adressing is not Nix Brassmelter anymore.”

Lenna’s eyes opened wide, and she took a deep breath.

“You made it!” She jumped at Griggin, little girl in her arm, and put her other arm round her husband’s shoulders. “So… what are we called now?”

Griggin, one arm round his wife and daughter, the other on his son’s shaggy head, allowed himself one smug grin.

“Lenna, my love, dear children, from today till you two find your talents and your own names, we will be known as…” He looked at his wife, his son and his little daughter. “The Steambender family!”

Lenna raised an eyebrow.

“Steambender? Steam bends all by itself.”

“Ahh,” said Griggin, “But the difficult bit is getting it to bend the way you want. Well? Do you like it?”

“Lenna Steambender,” said Lenna. “Nix Steambender. Trixie Steambender.” She looked into Griggin’s eyes. “Master Engineer Griggin Steambender. I can live with that.”

“Good,” said Griggin. “Now all I have to do is to go to Town Hall, and sign, oh, a mere two-hundred and seventy two forms. I expect I’ll be back in a week or so.”

Lenna gently put down Trixie on the floor, wrapped her arms round Griggin and kissed him.

“Congratulations, dear,” she said.

“Ewww!” said Nix.

Lenna bent down to him and grabbed his ear. A wicked grin was on her face.

“A word of advice, sweetheart. Don’t try to break into our bedroom tonight.”

Nix turned pale. “Aww… mum!”


Griggin sat on a stool, in one of the underground caverns of Gnomeregan that the general population did not get into. A stone circle was set into its floor, and within it, green runes shimmered. He was watching a young girl try to summon an Imp. To do so, you had to chant out its name, correctly, from the first syllable to the last. Of course, with the shape of Gnome lips being what they were compared to Imps’, it was impossible to pronounce correctly, but you had to hear the name correctly in your head as you spoke it. Put in the effort. The girl choked, and the runes faded.

“Take a few deep breaths,” said Griggin, “Then try again.”

“Why are you making me do this? I don’t have to do it this way outside, do I? I can use a soul shard.”

“Certainly. All you have to do to get one is to kill another living creature, and rip off a piece of its immortal soul.”

“Surely we keep a store of them? You have a few, I know. I could borrow one of yours.”

“Use one of mine?” Griggin raised an eyebrow. “Were you paying attention when they explained it to you? They are soul-bound. From your victim to you. Anyway, once you get its name firmly in your mind, it is actually easier to do it without, for an Imp.”

The girl scowled.

“Faztik is not making it easier, either. I can hear him swearing at me in my head when I try.”

Griggin chuckled. “Why would Faztik make it easy for you? It’s bound to you. If it can keep you from summoning it, then it’ll be free till the day you die.”

“I thought he liked me.” The girl looked at Griggin’s expression, and added, “Till you explained it to me.”

Griggin’s eyes bored into those of the young Warlock. “Demons do not ‘like’ anyone. They will be nice to you, and call you all kinds of endearing names, fawn over you, get very jealous of anyone you like, but they don’t like you. They are not even capable of liking you. Even little Faztik will kill you if it can.”

“Oh I know. You explained it to me. You keep explaining to me. I got it.”

“There’s a very good reason why we keep hammering at it the way we do. You will soon be able to summon more powerful demons. Voidwalkers. Succubi. Fel guards. A Succubus will try to seduce you, eat away at your resolve. Make you fall in love, and when that happens, you will be lost.

“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m a girl. What do you think I am, a bumper?”

“You are assuming that a Succubus is a woman,” said Griggin. “Succubi are creatures of passion. If they catch you unawares, you will desire ‘her’, long to touch her. That skin will seem to you like the most desirable thing to feel under your hand. And when you do… you will know it’s the best thing you ever felt, and you will want to touch her again, and again. Finally, you will become her pet, unable to resist. And at that point, you will know that demons are capable of hate. She will slowly strip the skin off your body, inch by inch, and still you will desire her. She can keep you alive, and suffering, for years if she wants. And she will want, because while she tortures you, technically belongs to you, we will not be allowed to separate her from you.”

“Hold on. If you see someone being beaten to death by a demon, even if it’s her own, you’ll stop it, won’t you?”

“No,” said Griggin. “No, we will not lift a finger to help you. That is part of the agreement.”

The girl looked at Griggin’s face to see if he was lying. She saw no sign. He wasn’t.

“In the old days,” said Griggin, “We used to summon demons, do with them what we would, and dismiss them like you might put away a tool. And then, a Warlock died without dismissing his demon. It went berserk. Killed everyone in town, man, woman or child. It took a group of ten Warlocks to get it under control. Then, the Warlock Masters summoned a demon-lord, and drew up the Covenant with him. They drew up the rules. You’ve been told of the Rules, don’t you?”

“Do not summon them unnecessarily,” said the girl. “Treat them with respect. Above all, do not touch them without permission.”

“Those are only the safeguard rules. There are many more, and many more detailed ones. Stick to the top three, and you have a good chance of living to learn the rest.”

“Pah. I’m wondering if it’s all worth the trouble. Maybe I can become a Mage instead.”

“You can’t,” said Griggin. “Once you are able to summon the Imp Faztik, you will be safe. Not before. You must learn this.”

“Huh. Or else?”

“If you do not learn to control even an Imp, then you will, at some point, run afoul of one of the rules of the Covenant. And when that happens, you will die.”

The girl looked at Griggin, nervously.

“Huh. Demons would come out to drag me into the Twisting Nether?”

Griggin’s brown eyes settled on the girl’s face.

“No. I would kill you. And you would thank me for it. Now, when you’re rested, try again.”


“No!”

“You don’t want your drink? It’s strawberry. Lovingly synthesised strawberry to match your tastes.” Lenna shook the sippy cup in front of her little daughter, then gave it to her. Trixie threw it across the room, and it bounced off the wall. Luckily, this was a Steambender Original Designed cup, and it didn’t spill a drop. Lenna glowered at her young daughter.

“Trixie, no! We do not throw food and drink!”

Trixie wailed defiance, and almost squirmed out of her mother’s arms. Lenna grabbed her by an arm and a leg and plonked her back in the play pen. She picked up the cup, and held it in front of Trixie’s face. She slapped the cup out of Lenna’s hand, and it bounced onto the floor and rolled away. Lenna scowled, pointed her hand at the cup and let fly. A small, white-hot ball of burning plasma shot at the cup, which jumped up and shot water vapour all over the place.

“Then have it your way. No drink for you.”

Trixie stared at the remains of her sippy cup. Then, she giggled.

“Woosh! Bang! More!”

Lenna closed her eyes, trying to keep a stern face. Useless. She shook her head, and ruffled the brown hair of her little whirlwind of a daughter.

“Trixie Steambender, you’re a handfull.”

She looked at the clock, wondering what was keeping Griggin. He wasn’t usually late for dinner. Her smile faded. On the occasions he was late, there was usually a good reason.

 

“Oh my… Is that what I think it is?”

The merchant grinned broadly at Griggin, seeing the clear sign of a Good Customer in the making.

“It certainly is. This is the Piggelmee DE2000 coffee maker. I got it from a mate who didn’t know what he was giving away. It’s always nice to meet a fellow enthusiast. Can’t sell these things anymore you know.”

“Oh I don’t believe that,” said Griggin. His eyes roamed greedily over the lush curves, the tiny nipples, the gleaming chrome, the pressure gauges, integrated steam-powered grinding unit.

“Believe it,” said the merchant. “They’ve got the twenty-four hundred now. They’re going like hot cakes. It takes a real craftsman to spot a beauty like this.”

“DE2400?” Griggin sneered. “They let a dwarf design that. It’s got a milk frother, for crying out loud!”

“Yeah. I know. Bastards. And still, everybody leaps at them like they’re the best thing since the double-action membrane pump.” He sighed. “If I can’t sell this soon, it may have to go on the scrap heap. Break my heart, it does, but what can you do?”

Griggin reached for his wallet, and spoke the magic words.

“What do you want for it?”

 

Lenna stared. She closed her eyes, and opened them. The Thing was still there. A chrome-tentacled, shining… apparatus that looked like a mad scientist’s doomsday device.

“What by the name of the Titans is that?”

Griggin grinned at her happily.

“This, my love, is the ultimate in coffee making equipment the world over! There is no finer machine in the whole of Gnomeregan or outside. Just wait till I get this baby hooked up!”

“How much?”

“Well, one of the mains steam connections will do. I’ll temporarily disconnect the washing machine while I try this out.”

“Griggin Steambender. How much did you pay for this?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll put in another connection, but I don’t want to bring the whole system down just for a test.”

“Don’t you like the coffee I make?”

Something in the back of Griggin’s mind detached itself, and gave the rest of his brain a good hard kick up the backside to make it pay attention. He looked at Lenna. She did Not Look Happy. Griggin blinked.

“Could you repeat the question?”

“How much did the person you bought this from take you for?”

Griggin swallowed.

“Only fifteen gold, dear.”

Lenna said nothing.

“These things used to go for at least twice that! You usually see them only in taverns! It can output thirty cups per minute! Customised to everybody’s taste!”

Fifteen gold?”

Griggin looked at his feet.

“yes.”

“Do you know how much I saved buying potatoes in bulk? Stretching out my trips to the hairdresser? Walking for miles getting the cheapest food?”

Griggin opened his mouth, and closed it again.

“Twenty gold. Since we got into this house. Three years ago.”

Lenna took a deep breath.

“We don’t need this thing! Look! There’s a perfectly good coffee jug on the counter! I love making coffee for you. You never complained. So what in Azeroth possessed you to blow three years’ savings on that freakish contraption, I don’t know, but you’re taking it back!”

“The merchant has left town for Ironforge,” said Griggin. “Anyway, this thing saves on coffee beans used, works quicker, and serves one cup per helping, so no more throwing away half-empty jugs of coffee. It’ll earn itself back!”

Lenna’s hands glowed.

“How long will that take?”

Griggin’s lips moved, considering. Fifty percent increase in efficiency, steam usage, possibly increased usage the first few weeks…

“About twenty years, dear.”

Lenna said nothing, and said it very loudly.

Griggin bowed his head.

“I’m sorry my love.”

“I feel a new family rule coming up,” said Lenna. “Purchases above five gold to be done with at least two Steambenders present.”

“Adult Steambenders,” said Griggin.

“How many of those do we have? We’d never buy anything.”

“Yes, dear.”

 

With trembling hands, Griggin put the cup down in front of Lenna. She looked at her husband. A small wisp of steam came from the cup, spiralling its way to the ceiling. She smiled.

“Thank you dear.”

She sat back in her chair and picked up her knitting.

“Aren’t you going to taste it?”

“In a bit, dear.”

Griggin nodded.

“The steam net will be down for maybe thirty minutes in an hour’s time while I fit another few outlets in the kitchen.”

“Another few dear?”

“Just in case we want to move some equipment in the future.”

“Enjoy, dear.”

Griggin sighed, and turned round to the things he was most comfortable with: pipes and machines. Even though both machines and wives had a tendency to blow up in your face when mishandled, with a machine, you could usually tell beforehand.

The little ball on the pressure gauge hadn’t moved even a fraction of an inch in the last five minutes, which meant that the seals were tight. He was just about to disconnect it when there was a hand on his shoulder.

“It’s lovely coffee, dear.”

Griggin looked round at Lenna.

“I’m really sorry, dear. I promise I won’t buy anything that expensive again without asking you.”

Lenna laughed. “If Succubi knew to offer you something with high pressure steam pipes rather than an unobstructed view of their bodies. You’d be lost forever.”


Copyright: © 2008,2009,2010 Menno Willemse. All rights reserved.

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