For the month of march, I'm going to flesh out some villains from the Nimbaterra Chronicles. If you're new to the site or wondering what this is all about, these are characters from the stories Lunati and I have come up with for our rp community and, eventually, our game in the early stages of development. This week, we're going to take a look at the ermine Cassandra Chaotica, Queen of the Zengre.
Cassandra is my second oldest character and one who has grown considerably over the years. She has been carefully shaped from my own fears and demons which have been channeled into writing a truly terrible and wretched creature. Appearances can be deceiving, and Cassandra is the poster child of this. Despite her beauty and brilliance, Cassandra's mind is twisted beyond repair.
Cassandra seeks to purge the isles of Nimbaterra of its residents, in retaliation against Tacoma. Sometime after the establishment of the club, Cassandra's father laid on his death bed suffering in pain from a terminal illness. Cassandra pleaded to Tacoma for some of the island's pain relieving opium, but was turned away. Unbeknownst to Cassandra, exporting opium poppies had just been outlawed thanks to the Cartel's drug smuggling operations. Cassandra had already hated Tacoma, for taking away Lunati, her former best friend and love interest. She had to have been truly desperate to come to someone she resented so deeply, and to be turned away was the final knife through her heart. From this point onward, Cassandra the beautiful and brilliant mechanic, once timid and gentle, shifted into a sadistic monster. She derives pleasure from destroying anything or anyone she deems prettier than herself, or a threat to her sanity.
As a child and young adult, she was bullied relentlessly for looking like a boy. Her assailants would follow her quietly as she walked home from school, then gang up on her. They would beat her, degrade her, cut her and spit on her. As she got older, the attacks grew increasingly more violent. Lunati would try her best to accompany Cassandra, as nobody would hurt Cassandra when she had a friend at her side. But as time went on, the two drifted apart. Cassandra developed feelings for Lunati, which were unrequited. By the time Cassandra had gathered up the courage to ask Lunati if she would date her, Lunati had already found her life partner, Tacoma.
But Cassandra's life has had some bright spots, as well. Her ingenuity and inventions have won many awards, and she has amassed a great deal of wealth over the years from her work. This allowed her to build a factory and maintain continuous stock of the supplies required to build mechanical constructs. But as her mind warped with pain and betrayal, so too did her creations. Once helpful inventions were reconfigured into devices of torture and dismemberment. This is her story.
"It's early morning, the sky overhead glows a dark pink as the sun begins its ascent over the horizon. Only the ambient hum of chirping insects and the soft pat of lightly falling rain can be heard through the land. A white shadow cuts through the fog and walks silently through the puddles with heavy boots. Beads of rain splatter against them as she passes over the road. She pauses before two large metal doors leading to a factory. She lifts a remote from her belt and pulls a small mechanical lever. Suddenly, the doors shudder and grind open, granting access to the interior. It's musky inside, thick with the scent of various metals and tanned hides. Lips part with a sigh, the day has just begun and her work is seemingly never finished. But she looks forward to it, every day. All of her ambitions, all of her dreams and desires come to life in this cold, metallic fortress. Gold glitters on her armlet, belt and ring. She has worked hard for this life and she works harder still each day, to prove all of them wrong. The ones who hurt her. The ones who told her she was nothing. The girl who betrayed her trust and broke her heart. None of it mattered now. She would prevail in her endeavors, even if it destroyed her.
She sat down on a heavy chair, her short dress lifting up over her thigh. She crossed a leg over her knee and opened a small trinket box containing several metal screws and gears. With long, razor sharp claws she delicately plucked out tiny bits that she would be needing for today's project and placed them gently on an oil-stained rag. Once all the required parts were collected, she closed the box and set it down on a shelf full of anatomical figures. Most of the shelves in her factory held creations of her's; slender musteline mechanicals with jointed limbs and mouths. Real teeth were used to fill the jaws in her early creations, but these were quick to shatter if not properly sealed. Skulls and bones took up almost as much space on an adjacent shelf; these were trophies of her past victims. If they were of no use in her engineering projects, they could at least make fine decor. They served as reminders, that none would cross her without paying dearly.
As she worked diligently to assemble an assortment of metal parts, screams echoed in her mind. Screams of the ones held beneath her, flayed and shattered as they cried out for mercy. Screams of fear, of others who had caught her in the act and were then swiftly silenced by vice-like mitts, or wire, or a tool off her belt. Screams in her own bed, awakening from nightmares, searing hot pain across her flesh. Screams coming from her very mouth, held down by her hair and beaten into submission by peers larger than her. "Oh c'mon, you can take it," the voice echoed. "You're not fooling anyone, pretty thing." The screams all melded together like toxic waste stirring in her brain. She finished winding a small screw into the back of a mechanical creature that closely resembled a mink. When she was finished, she placed it upright on her workbench.
"You're here," she whispered, "As an extension of myself, my child..." her thoughts trailed off as her pale blue eyes traced the contours of her creation as though she was studying a painting. A horrid thought blew in and out of her mind in a flash, and as she composed herself again to speak, she lifted a crystal out from the pouch on her belt. She raised it up to the mechanical, red light reflecting across the metallic surface. "You will serve me as your sisters have served me." Her voice was as soft and wispy as her figure, deceivingly slight. An overhead light flickered as she opened a small hatch on the mechanical's shoulder. She lowered the crystal into a precisely measured socket, closed it up and took a few steps back. "You are born into this foul world, an agent of entropy and a reminder to all that I... WILL NOT be betrayed EVER. AGAIN." With the flick of a switch, electricity surges through her construct. A ruby glow emanates from the eyes. Well-oiled joints flex, the mouth gapes. It rears up onto its sturdy spring-loaded tail and, with a pop it lurches upward, gnashing its serrated teeth at the air. Cassandra's eyes shimmer with delight as she studies her creation's movements. Steam seeps out of the nose as it flips and dances wildly, with an eerily fluid movement that is not often seen in similar mechanicals. She closes her hands together and observes, pleased with the day's work.
As the sun dips back down below the horizon, Cassandra leaves the factory and walks home, alone. Her room is quiet, and oddly absent of any trace of her professional life. She slips out of her dress, hangs up her tool belt and crawls into a neatly made bed. As she lays down, weary and worn, the screams are silenced. The hateful voices quiet down as she drifts off into sleep. Instead, somewhere deep inside of her mind, a child cries in the dark, clutching tightly to a small stuffed animal. "I wish you were real," she chokes. "You wouldn't let them hurt me."
Next week, we'll continue the villain theme, but the upcoming character will be a bit different. The way someone's life begins does not necessarily dictate the path they will follow, and even a fearsome foe can grow into a valuable ally. Stay as tuned.
Malevolent March: Biaggio Blacktalon a.k.a Big.
For the month of march, I'm going to flesh out some villains from the Nimbaterra Chronicles. If you're new to the site or wondering what this is all about, these are characters from the stories Lunati and I have come up with for our rp community and, eventually, our game in the early stages of development. This week, we're going to take a look at Biaggio Blacktalon, boss of the Cirrus Cartel.
"Eight years ago, a then young adult Blacktalon first came to Nimbaterra. A towering, muscular gryphon male with silvery-black plumage. Despite being judgmental and sharp-tongued, he had a way of sorting folks out. Tacoma was pleased with his seemingly cool demeanor and no-nonsense attitude. After observing him for a month or two, she offered to hire him as a guard. He accepted gracefully and for a couple years Big was the best damn guard on the Isles. He went on to train the bulk of bouncers who worked the bar and stage areas of Cloud Nine.
Big, however, had a secret hit-list. He had as many enemies as friends, and knew how to get exactly what he wanted. In time, Big had earned a respectable sum of gold and started a gambling ring on the Isles. The gambling ring brought in more visitors, but also caused many fights to break out over accusations of cheating. Two wealthy patrons who had dealings with Big's clan went missing in the span of a month, and suspicions arose throughout Nimbaterra. The patrons were never found, but their families hired an investigation on the Isles which only caused more suspicion and hostility toward Big and his clan.
Tacoma was driven mad with stress over the ordeal and, after a long hearing from patrons and workers, came to the decision to revoke Big's Guardian title. Big was understandably upset but receeded from public sight to continue his gambling ring and assemble what would eventually become the Cirrus Cartel. Tacoma had a few trusted allies make dealings with the Cartel to gain insight into their activities. Drugs were discovered being smuggled out of Cloud Nine, many more patrons mysteriously went missing and foul play was afoot.
A high ranking cartel member caught on and threatened Tacoma when her spies were outed. Knowing the death of the owners or any high ranking officials would spell disaster for the Cartel, Big never ordered any violent acts against her. Threats were enough to keep her from retaliating. Fearing for her life and those closest to her, Tacoma chose to turn a blind eye to Big and the Cartel. She was deemed cowardly for not attempting to dismantle the Cartel, but to protect those she cared for there was no other option in her mind.
This internal conflict has caused a great political divide on the Isles of Nimbaterra. A surprising many side with the Cartel for personal gains, and others out of fear. Tacoma's presence in Cloud Nine these days is scant. She continues to plan and build new areas with Lunati and her workers but had become sheltered, alone in her anxiety."
Lunati wrote her own take on the time Blacktalon was discovered. You can read it here.
Next week, I will go into depth about another dark figure in our story. It's my second oldest character, one who is both terrifying and close to my heart. A current conflict in my life inspired me to develop them a little more, and next week I will feature this villain on the blog. Stay tuned.
More Roleplay Art and Updates
So, normally I wouldn't post this type of work here, but Lunati has insisted I get in the groove of updating more. These three were relatively quick portraits drawn for my pathfinder group. I don't have much to say about them, but they kept me busy for a few days while I figure out which of my scans to tackle next. My current goal is to post once a week, even if they aren't my best pieces. This is in preparation for starting up a patreon.
Art happens to be what I spend the most time working on, and what I love doing most. I can't find a steady job due to health problems, and need to support myself somehow. While it's a lot of pressure at an already stressful time, it's keeping me going and might improve my life in some small way. We'll see.
The past week has been a continuation of everything in my last post. My wife is still tirelessly looking for work while I build my portfolio back up again. With whatever time is left at the end of the day, we flesh out our roleplaying characters a little more. There has been a family emergency and a lot of stress tied into it so each of us having creative outlets right now is cathartic.
The art in today's post is Emerey the cat alchemist, my wife's first anthro character. She was playing Emerey the night I met her on furcadia some fourteen years ago. I was roleplaying as Tasmin, my thylacine character. Both of us had just escaped bad relationships and were more or less looking for a quick yiff. Emerey was too shy to ask, but she was cute enough that I was willing to follow her around and just chat. I think I was happy just having a girl to talk to, honestly. I never imagined I'd end up marrying her, but fate has a funny way of working things out.
Emerey never got much backstory or reference, so when she decided to use this character in our pathfinder game, I was happy to devote time to make her some character art. What I didn't anticipate was how long this piece would take. I ended up using it as a digital refresher course and practicing a lot of different techniques. I continue to use a mouse on all digital paintings, as I haven't yet found a tablet that I can work faster with. As I'm flat broke, now would be a horrible time to experiment with tablets, anyway.
Two weeks later, Emerey's art is finished and I can move on. It was fun hiding little things on the bookshelf. Maybe someday I can move faster with these pieces, but for now I'm just satisfied to finish something.
Other than that, there isn't much else going on. I've been lucky to make a few etsy sales, as sporadic as they've been. Still praying that we'll catch a break sometime soon here, and not have to struggle so hard with money. Friends have been wonderfully supportive of both of us, and we're very grateful to have the few who have remained close to us this week.
Roleplay and Revival
Last year, I mentioned how my wife and I have been struggling after the loss of her job and our income. We spent the winter selling and shipping most of my sewing supplies as we needed money for food. I even took ultra cheap emergency commissions because we needed to eat. It was a bad time, and both of us ended up going into a very dark place together. But we kept talking, and little by little dragging each other out of the depths.
Lunati encouraged me to give myself more credit as an artist. I had been insecure about my work, my passion, and I had been selling myself short. She believed in me, when I didn't even believe in myself. She told me it's time to get back out there, and maybe open a patreon. I'm going into this very cautiously, but I think she's right. It's time.
In between looking for work, Lunati has spent hours each day scanning my drawings. I honestly had no idea she (or anyone) loved my work so much. Any time I cut myself down she raised hell, and I'm grateful for it. I now know it's time to get back into the fight.
With that, I've been drawing more. A lot more. Every day. Even if I have a million other things to do, I find the time for art. A small side project has been us getting into roleplaying, and dragging out old characters that had been created and forgotten long ago. The character art in this post is her kitsune character, Glimm. I needed some quick profile art for our pathfinder game and Lunati lent me Glimm while she works on her cat alchemist, Emerey.
This tiny little project of ours grew into a massive storm of art and inspiration. I'm grateful for everyone who has helped us survive these last few months, even if you just commissioned me for a cheap sketch or bought something from my shop, thank you. Every little bit has helped. We're still struggling, we're still unemployed, and I'm still disabled, but we're fighting harder than ever to get out now. She's been more motivated this year, and I'm drawing as much as I can.
Tomorrow Luna and I will be celebrating our second anniversary as a married couple, and our fourteenth year together. It's going to be a while more until we're in a financially secure place but for now, I feel much more confident in my abilities and in our perseverance. I don't think either of us could have clawed our way out of this alone. Not this time. But we have been making small, slow progress together and that's worth something, I think.
I can't say when my next update will be. It may take three weeks, it may be in three months. But it will be. I can promise that more is coming here, and I can finally promise that it will be worth the wait. ;)
Whenever I'm between commissions I have a special folder that I dig into, but only when there's no other work to do. It's a large and incomplete archive of art, some dating back to a decade or more. What makes this folder special is the way in which I work on these drawings. Each piece was drawn entirely in Microsoft Paint.
Fooling around in Paint is surprisingly therapeutic, especially when trying to get my mind off of pain and anxiety. It's a simple program but there's a good challenge in seeing how far you can push its limitations. I'll admit that the bulk of my Paint folder is a mess of small doodles that start when I have a particular idea, or just need to scratch something out. Very few of these drawings get the attention they deserve so, for the past week, I've dedicated my time to completing at least one.
I've had a lot on my mind lately. Some new problems have risen up with no solutions yet to be found. To add insult to injury, Paypal hit me with a negative sixty-dollar balance after my bank rejected two payments made earlier in the year. This couldn't have come at a worse time for me. Lunati and I are struggling to stay afloat so whatever commissions I've taken in the past two months have gone directly to pay for food, health insurance and medication. Unfortunately, there are more pressing matters than my paypal account so I'll have to let that negative balance stew until I'm back on my feet again. All I can do now is take comfort in the knowledge that this too shall pass. In the meantime, I'll be digging through some old art and trying to make something pretty out of all the mess.
Quick Update and Pixel Portfolio
So it took a little longer than anticipated, but I finally put up my pixel art portfolio! Also added more examples to the commissions page. I've been busy with both digital and pencil commissions lately, along with some personal drawings on the side. If all goes well, I'll add a new gallery for those sometime. Right now I'm working to increase the visibility of my art outside of Furcadia as the community there has shrunk down a lot. Together, Lunati and I are working on a very large project that we hope to announce details for in the coming months. Just a quick little update for now, but things are just warming up. Stay tuned!