Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Legend of the Mystic Tattoo part 4

Well, its story time again. This week we continue the story of Steffen and Amara just after they entered a terrible sandstorm, and....well you should read the first three parts if you don't already know this. Check them out HERE.

This week has a new author added to the list. Charles Siefken joins us at the beginning of this chapter. His wok is in red mine in blue. Wendy stepped aside so that her son could participate and threw his own wrenches into the story.

(If you happen to notice that my contributions are a bit long compared to the others, I have a condition. It's called Itchy Writers Finger. The symptoms include dazed expressions, wandering thoughts, and most severely, the uncontrollable writing sessions characterized by manic typing and unstoppable verbiage. Basically, once I get started it is really really hard to stop. The only known medication for this condition is even more writing, so I am fully medicated. But this, in no way, makes my work any better than the others, just....longer.)

Legend of the Mystic Tattoo: Part 4

The wind howled and the sand stung and bit into everything it touched. Through the howling wind Steffen thought he heard a rumble and the muffled thumps of boarding lines being thrown up on deck. Soon he felt the ship lurch and knew that they had been caught by the one thing he had hoped to avoid. The black sand pirates had found his ship. He knew of them and had always tried to avoid them. The black sand pirates were a group that was considered the lowest of the low. Pirates wouldn’t even take on this bedraggled band of looters and thieves. Rose was in charge of this crew of misfits and outcasts from all over the planet. She was a mouseling who no one thought could ever rule let alone control the rogues and also figure out how to control a sand dragon. During sand storms they would roam the desert looking for ships to pilfer and sometimes let the dragon eat for a snack if they fought back to much. At the wreckage’s black sand was always found. There was nothing Steffan or Amara could do now but wait out the storm or at least wait until Rose and her band of thieves took them inside somewhere to see what their fate was.
The Griffon lurched to one side and then the other. Both occupants were tossed around like a pair of dice in a cup. After the rocking and tumbling settled down Steffen helped Amara to her feet. The winds of the sandstorm were becoming more distant and the creaking sounds of the hull being lifted were all around them. The Griffon was at the tender mercy of grapple lines, a typical method of pirates who enjoy plundering the smaller, weaker ships.
Amara's ears twitched and a snarl began to form on her face. “Did you hear that?” she asked.
Steffen nodded and was slowly pulling out his blade, “Out of the fire and into the frying pan. I don't know what would be worse, getting caught by the Sapphire or Blacksand.”
It might not be them. What if the Sapphire has us?” Amara was leaping to conclusions.
Steffen held his balance as the ship lurched hard when the anchor swayed in the winds. “If Jonathan was stupid enough to drag that behemoth of a ship into a category three sandstorm then he is a bigger fool than I already know he is. No, there are few living things who would even dare get near a sandstorm like this.”
Amara was about to give another conjecture when Steffen put his hand up to her mouth. He gave her a “shush” look and they both listened. The Griffon was pulled against something, docking arms got her and held her in place. Then, the voices of whoever was inside this ship could be heard talking, though not clear enough to be understood.
They are about to come in.” Amara announced in an extremely small voice. She had better hearing that Steffen and knew what was coming.
Steffen readied his weapon and waited while the latch on his door was opened. The lock was picked in about five seconds and then the handle lifted. In came three Scarvians, the Lizard folk of Marshpool, all grinning across their thin serpentine lips. They only wore a vest to signify their position in this crew, otherwise the Scarvians do not wear clothing. Each pointed a sword at the cabins occupants. “OUT!” They commanded, their thread thin tongues dancing out as they tasted the air to get every scent around them.
Amara was about to launch into an attack when Steffen stopped her. He did so without even looking at her, just holding a hand back against her chest. He carefully put his sword in his sash, watching the reaction of the Scarvians the whole time he did. Then he slowly looked back at Amara, “Put your weapon away. They won't harm us.”
Amara was confounded and angry, “But..” she didn't get her argument in with the look at Steffen gave her. She realized he was deadly serious and so she stowed her weapon.
Please, lead the way.” Steffen held out a hand to the lizards.
They squinted at him for a second and then two went back out of the cabin to lead them, one waited to walk behind, so to keep a close eye on them.
Steffen and Amara were led into the belly of an odd ship. Everything was metal with welded rivets holding the walls, ceilings, and floors in place. Large cross beams were making the whole ship structurally sound. The heavy beating of the steam engine in the back echoed lightly throughout the ship, not deafening, but always present. The walls were curved outward, like being inside the belly of a egg shaped blimp, only these walls had large glass windows in them. From the windows they could see that they had lifted high above the sand storm and were floating in the sky heading for the mountains.
Amara's eyes were as wide as they had ever been, the look in them like that of a child who has seen the sky for the first time in her life. “Steffen, what kind of ship is this? I have never seen a metal air ship.”
Steffen quietly answered, “They are rare. This is probably the only metal airship left flying over Aldaria. This is why the Blacksand are so good at navigating sandstorms, this ship is impervious to the storms wrath.”
They continued walking, heading toward a large staircase that headed for what was likely the bridge. Amara asked, “How did they make it? It would take the engineering station of the palace to build a ship this amazing.”
They didn't build it. They found it.” Steffen answered.
Found it! Who would have lost a ship like this?”
A woman answered, “The Ancients.”
Amara and Steffen had been led up to the bridge of this ship. It was a wide bridge with a lot of windows and control stations. Each was manned by a member of this motley crew. Amongst the crew members were Rats, Elves, many Scarvians, a few humans, and one Mouseling.
Rose was a beautiful woman with a reputation for getting exactly what she wants. A thick white fur covered her body, though she did decorate her face with make up all the same. The round tall ears on her head were pierced all over with many gold ear rings, some sporting rubies and diamonds, others just gold. She had on tight leather pants and a short shirt that was purposefully giving a little more of her cleavage than was socially acceptable in most circles. Her long thin tail was ringed by gold rings, sparsely placed starting at the middle and going nearly to the top. She liked the world to see the treasures she has horded from her many adventures. If anything could be said about Rose's appearance it was that she was sexy, if not a little extravagant.
Though, through all that sexiness and glitter, she was a deadly vixen to catch. Outside of her ornamentation’s and alluring eyes, she always had a blade on each hip. She was a true master of fighting that no one has bested yet....well, almost no one. She has never beaten Steffen in a fight, but that was partly due to her attraction to the man of her dreams.
Well, well, well, Steffen. What brings you out here?” Rose asked as though she had just casually walked by, instead of forcibly towing him and his ship into her hanger.
Steffen gave her a smile that he knew perfectly well she would swoon at, “Just happen to come across that blasted sand storm. I see the generous Blacksands are at it still, rescuing the poor souls who get lost in bad conditions.”
Rose, crossing one furry leg over the other, shrugged. “I guess it's just in my nature to be helpful. I just LOVE helping myself to other peoples treasure. HA!” Rose was also a bit nutty, but that came with the territory when being the captain of a crew like this.
Steffen strolled over to her and then leaned on her captains chair, still giving her that look that he was so famous for. “I can't say that I am unhappy to see you. We were in a bit of a bind back there. But, I can't help but wonder what you have planned for us?”
Us?.....Well, she can go and catch some rats down in the galley. You...” Rose turned in her seat so that her little red nose was right up to his nose. Reaching out with her fingers she started playing with his pecks, “You and I can....” The look in her eyes said it all.
Steffen, who has never and will never even dare being alone with this woman, gently took her hand off of his body and held it. “Well, I am a bit busy for playtime.” He was actually enjoying this, not the overt flirting of Rose, but the way that Amara was actually growling right now. Any man enjoys having a pair of women fighting over him.
Rose pouted while batting her eyes. “Pity, and I had some Ginger Spice Wine I wanted to open for just such an occasion.”
Steffen let go of her hand and backed off a little. “Actually, I am still curious as to what you want from me. I don't have any cargo for you to pilfer and right now I am sort of in a bind.”
Rose gave him one last lusty look and then straightened up in her seat. “A bind...what sort?” Her tone said that she knew more than she was letting on.
Steffen played along, “It seems that the Empire has become a little too interested in my tattoo than I like. They have put a bounty on me and I think that Jonathan is after us right now.”
Rose got up and walked toward the front windows. “I know. We saw the Sapphire heading this way. In fact....HELM!” she snapped her fingers and the boy at the helm wheel turned it hard. The whole ship groaned as it shifted position so that they could be looking back toward the direction of Far Reach.
Oh no.” Amara immediately stated when she saw it.
The Sapphire was sitting still on the other side of the sand storm, waiting.
Rose leaned over let out a sigh, “Well, it looks like you have fan club. Want me to shoot them down?” This was offered like she was passing the rolls at dinner.
Steffen cleared his throat and laughed, “ The Blacksand is a good ship, but I am afraid in a fire fight, the Sapphire might be a bit much for you to handle. But, thanks for the offer.”
Rose pouted again, “Pity, I hate that Jonathan.”
I'm no big fan either.” Steffen agreed.
Amara, who held enormous distrust of this Rose, approached. “Again, why did you come to our rescue. I hardly believe your being there at that time was just a massive coincidence.”
Rose rolled her eyes and picked up a piece of paper as she turned. She literally slapped it onto Steffens chest, forcing him to grab it before it fell. “We picked that up in Greyton a week ago.”
Amara looked over Steffens shoulder as he examined the wanted poster. It was him and a poorly drawn picture of his tattoo. “Oh. I see.” Was Steffens response.
Amara got mad and pulled out her blade, which caused the guards that escorted them to react. Fortunately Rose stopped them before they got into a fight. “My my, aren't we the feisty little cat.”
Shut it! If you think you are going to hand us over for a reward, you have another thing coming!” Amara was ready to cut this mouse into pieces.
Rose passively disregarded the threatening stare, sword, and growl from the feline attacker. “If I wanted to turn you over I would be heading for the Sapphire as we speak. As I am sure that Jonathan would love to get his hands on you for a pretty price. But, I'm not selling anyone to that man today.”
Steffen asked, “How can you be certain that this is from the Empire? This says nothing about them. This was sent from the wizard consortium.”
Rose got back to her seat and sat down, “Take a good look at that printing. It is a woven flax paper with pristine delpin ink. It is cleverly made to look like something a bandit would scribble, but it wasn't written, it was printed. The only presses that use flax paper or delpin ink are...” she led him on.
Steffen was wise enough to know this, “Imperial.”
Right. When I realized the Empire was after MY man, I had to do something.” She was the insistent girl.
Steffen asked, “So, where are you taking us?”
A friend paid me to find you. When I showed him this wanted paper and told him that I was going to find you anyway, he said that if I caught you to bring you back to him.”
Who?” Amara asked, nervously.
Rose grinned and shook her head, “That shall be my little secret. Helm, full speed ahead, and do not drop the cloaking shield until we enter the mountain.”
Aye ma'am!” The boy called out and then spun the wheel back around to get them headed for the Ridge Mountains once again.
Amara got near Steffen and both looked at the wanted poster one more time. Amara used the intimate moment to quietly ask, “Do you trust her?”

No, but what else can we do?” 

Monday, January 27, 2014

How I lost it

Hello one and all. I wanted to talk a little about some success I have been having. No, not with my writing, though I am making sales this month as well as getting reviews. I set a goal for myself ten months ago and am happy to report that it is going quite well.

You see, ten months ago I decided to lose weight. I did not set a goal number I just decided to lose weight and see where it took me. The inspiration came in many layers. One: The youth pastor at my church had a stroke and was told that he was very very close to death, he needed to lose weight. That started opening my eyes. Two: I had my big dance show coming up in October last year and wanted to lose weight before I showed up. Three: This is the biggest one. My mother is diabetic. Most of the women on my mothers side of the family are diabetic. I'm not a woman, but I did note something. Most of the men, and the one woman who is not diabetic, were all thin. Those with it, overweight. I saw a trend. I have also watched my mother struggle to keep her diabetes in check for most of my life. It is a terrible struggle with little hope for an end. I simply lived in fear of developing that struggle in my life.

So, with all those factors I set my mind on losing weight. Now, you might be asking yourself, "Why now? Why didn't he do this a long time ago?" The truth is I have tried here and there to lose weight. But, it just never stuck. This time I tried a whole new diet plan that worked incredibly well. This guy discovered the one trick to losing weight.....oh sheesh now I am sounding like one of those stupid ads.

Before I tell you that trick I want to tell you about my experience with people. Since I started losing weight I had people notice. Some would give me "that" look, you know the one that says, "He's lost weight....oh I had better not say anything or I'd be retroactively calling him fat." Some would outright say, "Hey you lost weight! Good for you." Those were always cool, I don't mind people saying something about it. But, the ones that made me laugh more than anything were the last group. These were the people who needed to lose weight as well, they would give me "That" look as well as say "Wow you've lost weight." THEN they would add on, "How did you do it?" The tone of their voice and look in their eyes said it all, they wanted me to tell them about that one magic weight loss trick, or that plan that makes you eat only asparagus for one meal a day, or something equally ludicrous. I would always shoot back, "I followed the best diet plan out there, eat less, exercise  more." Then they would sort of smile and then grumble about that being too hard.

Is it hard? HECK YES! After ten months is it any easier or do I now love the daily routine? NO! But....Do I love the fact that I am now 60+ pounds lighter and still losing? YES YES YES! That inspires me more than anything else.

Colin Wayne
How I did it was with some advice from a basic nutritionist my mother started going to. She gave mom some advice about eating right and I took it to heart. I have a friend on Facebook, Colin Wayne, who is a fitness expert and all around good guy. He was always posting motivational stuff on his wall about working out, most of it was just for bodybuilding, but some was about maintaining that body. I got a few bits of advice from him about this. The most important fact I learned from both sides was this, 80 percent of weight loss is in the kitchen. You simply cannot exercise the weight off while you still eat way too many calories. I also did something for myself without the advice of anyone else, I swore of deep fried food and donuts. Not because of some weird belief in certain fats or chemicals abundant in them, I would still eat them if I could. Nope, I just know my hang ups. Know what foods out there trigger my bad habits of eating wrong, so I avoid them. It also sets a boundary line in my mind and heart so I am always mentally aware of my weight loss. I hope that makes sense because I don't have the hours of time to type up the whole reasoning behind that. You got it?.......good.

After all this, you might be saying, "Okay, which was his so called 'one' trick?" The answer, none of the above. That's right. None of this would've worked without this one last trick. I prayed. Yes, I am a Christian. I am a Sunday school teaching, Bible believing, Jesus loving, Southern Baptist Church going Christian. I turned this all over to God and asked him to help me. I had prayed for the miracle weight loss for most of my life and it never happened. I had started on my own a few times and got absolutely no results. But, this time I knew that if I listened to Him, allowed Him to hold me up with His strength, and recognize when He was telling me when it was time to focus harder for I was about to face a temptation, that I would overcome those temptations and move forward. Did I stumble at some points? Yes. Am I perfect? No. Has Jesus had to help prop me back up and get me back on the right path again a time or two? Yes. Throughout it all he has not left me and I can exclaim that it has worked. In time, when I get some made, I may actually show you pics of me, but that will have to wait.

Lastly, about that 80 percent in the kitchen. Early on God inspired me to develop a recipe for veggie soup that is both healthy and very  very tasty. I eat it all the time and love every bowl of it. I call it my liquid salad, but it is hardly more than a basic vegetable soup. The cool part, it is vegetarian so some of my friends who don't eat meat can have this when they come over. I will share the recipe with you, and if you like it too, then share it with your friends.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Legend of the Mystic Tattoo part 3

Week 3 of the tandem story. Interesting twists and changes to keep up with. If you missed them, you can read PART ONE and PART TWO before you read this one. (Yes, those highlighted words are the links.) As with the others, my work is in blue and Wendy's is in black. 

Legend of the Mystic Tattoo: 
The I.A.S. Sapphire slowly entered the docking port in Far Reach. The Sapphire was the second largest air ship in the world, and second largest in the Imperial Air Ship fleet of Aldaria. It was a very elegantly designed wooden airship made of fine blackrock mahogany wood, all twenty decks. The exterior sported iron clad armor with port holes for the weapon systems to operate. The armor was ornately etched with flowery patterns that were customary of all the Imperial air ships of Aldaria.
The upper deck, and command center for this behemoth of a vessel was not as armored and much more elegantly designed with gold gilding around the door and window frames. The main command center was a inside a large windowed room that allowed the captain and command crew to observe their flight, and be able to see most of any battlefield they were involved with.
The airship was carried aloft by twelve type seven lifting fans and moved forward by two of the most powerful propellers ever designed, both attached in the aft section of the ship. To either side of the ship were giant collapsible wings that appeared very much like large wood and cloth bat wings, which helped keep the ship flying smoothly. While docking the wings were collapsed and folded into compartments on the sides of the ship.
In command of this ship at this time was the chief magistrate of the imperial court, and second in command of the entire empire, Lord Jonathan of Althos. The old man was revered for his years spent climbing the ranks as a military officer and then first adjunct to the court before being named chief of the Imperial Magistrate offices. No one in all of Aldaria had more power than Jonathan, save the Emperor himself.
At this very moment Jonathan was busy filling in the paperwork he would have to file away about their recent mission. For the past ten years the royal fleets have been on secret missions all over the lands of Aldaria and even beyond their borders. No one knows exactly what they are searching for, but then again no one dares to ask.
My Lord, magistrate Wimbly is here to see you by your request.”
Jonathan, a balding but striking man looked up from his desk. He waved his hand with the quill pen in it, “Yes, yes, bring them in at once.”
Yes, sir.” the officer bowed out and then just as quickly as he left he let in the rotund head magistrate of Far Reach.
Wimbly quickly bowed, “My Lord.”
Did you bring them?” Was Jonathans greeting.
Wimbly nodded quickly, “Yes, yes, but...I do not see why you need bother yourself with such trivial concerns. They are wanted men and we caught them. I was just about to throw them into the jail when you sent your message to my office. Surely you do not wish to tie up the high courts with...”
Are you questioning my decisions!” Jonathan barked at Wimbly which made the poor little man shake all over.
No, of course not, sir. I was merely suggesting that your time would be better spent with....more important matters.”
Jonathan continued writing on his parchment, “I will decide what is and is not important. Bring them in.”
Wimbly quickly bowed again, “Yes, sir, right away, sir.” he bowed out so quickly that he butted into the door before he could turn to open it. He raced out and came back with four people. Two guards escorted the two men that had attacked Steffen in Castle Shadow Inn. “Here they are, sir.”
Jonathan looked up and seemed to examine them for a moment. Once he was satisfied he said, “Leave us.” waving his hand at Wimbly he dismissed his subordinate, who gladly left. Jonathan looked at the two guards and waved at them as well, “Go, wait outside.” without a single word the guards left and stood outside the door to his office.
Once they were gone, Finn the elf asked, “What do you want with us?”
Jonathan took time finishing his signature on the parchment he had written and then calmly rolled it up. He dripped some wax on the front of it and with his signet ring he pressed his seal into the wax. He was doing this on purpose. Just like a teacher taking a long time before speaking to a student who is in trouble, Jonathan was making these two nervous enough to tell the truth when he asked his questions. Finally he answered, “I want to know why you failed?”
The Rat frowned, “What?”
Jonathan got up and walked around the desk and let out a deep sigh of annoyance, “Look, I need to know more about this guy with the tattoo. It is important to...the empire.”
Finn the elf shook his head, “All we know is that that guy with the tattoo is built like an ox, good with a sword, and protected by some cat girl.”
I see. So...the ransom might need to go higher if we want to attract the good enough bounty hunters.” Jonathan was talking to himself now.
Finn smiled, “You have got to be kidding me. That ransom was from the empire? What does the empire want with that tattooed guy?”
Jonathan rolled his eyes and walked back around the desk, “That is not your concern.”
Finn, sensing a pretty good opportunity, decided to make a deal. “Well, I find it interesting that you are putting ransom on people in the empire. I am sure that the emperor would be interested to know. I wonder how much he would pay me for that information.”
Jonathan shot Finn a very arrogant smile, “Don't act the genius here. I wasn't the one who ordered the ransom, but I support it.”
Finn continued to grin, “Well, then if the emperor is part of this then I am sure he would really not like the people to know that he is paying lowlifes to do his dirty work. How much do you think keeping my mouth shut should cost?”
Jonathan smiled as he stood up and walked around his desk. “I would say about forty stories.”
Finn frowned, “Huh?”
GUARDS!” Jonathan yelled out and the two dutiful guards came back in and bowed to their commander.
Hey, what you doing?” The rat asked with real fear now in his eyes.
Jonathan turned around and merely waved at them, “Take these two to the upper deck and throw them off.”
WAIT! THAT'S NOT FAIR!” Finn yelled while the guard at his side started pulling him out of the room.
Jonathan stood at the window of his office that looked out away from the dock. They were at the highest level of the dock this giant ship could fit in, and it was a long way to the ground. While the two lowlifes were dragged to be thrown to their deaths, he muttered, “Life's not fair.”

“So, where are we going?” Amara asked Steffen as they prepared the Griffon for lift off.
Steffen tightened the bolts around the air screws main rotor. “We are heading south.”
South? The desert?” Amara seemed surprised.
Steffen finished working on the propeller and walked over to the hand crank that jump started the air screws main engine. “Yes, I have a standing order with the head of the farming consortium to transport cargo for their bluehusk crops, and it’s about the right time of year for those to be ready.”
Amara seemed confused, “Wait, what about looking for answers?”
Steffen smiled humorously as he calmly continued to work, “Answers?”
Amara wasn't impressed by his nonchalant attitude, “Two men just tried to capture you, probably meaning to kill you for that tattoo of yours.”
Steffen finally finished his work and he pulled the crank on the engines starter with a hard tug. It didn't start. He wound the rope up again and then gave it another hard yank, this time it sputtered for a second and then started to turn. “If I spent time hunting down the truth about every lowlife that tried to make good on the many different bounties on my tattoo, I would spend my entire life investigating the scum of society. I have better, and more profitable, ways to live my life.”
I don't like it. You know that there are answers out there about that map of yours, and yet you would rather spend your time on carting cargo to and fro across this empire.” Amara was very disappointed.
Steffen walked over to Amara and gave her a smile that made the girl in her melt, “Look, I will discover the truth when the time comes. Until then, I have to live my life. Now, if you came along on this trip in the hopes of some grand adventure involving tracking down the mythic floating isle, then you are wasting your time.”
Fine.” Amara wasn't happy with him, “Now what am I supposed to do. I wanted to help you find the truth, not just be your body guard.”
Steffen smirked at that and went to work the navigation so they could depart. “First, I don't need a body guard, second, I had to save your tail last night....remember. Third, I brought you along to keep YOU out of trouble, seeing’s how you can't help but find yourself in precarious positions.”
Hey,” now she was going to correct him, “Just because you had to save my life last night doesn't mean I need any of your help.”
Steffen pulled the gear shift and the Griffon lifted up from the docking arms and began its slow maneuvers out of the port. “What about Riverside? If I weren't there to..”
Riverside was different. Those creeps saw how your tattoo reacted to me and were after me, not you.”
Still, who had to pull your furry butt out of the fire?” Steffen squinted as they got outside and the bright morning sunlight came into view.
You.” she huffed, “But.....I could've handled myself.” now she was pouting like a teenage girl.
Amara was about to tell him where he could shove his 'sure' when she saw something very odd. “What do you make of that?” she was pointing up toward the huge imperial ship docked above them.
Steffen was about to sarcastically tell her about the marvelous ships of the imperial fleet when he saw what she was pointing at, “By the four seas, what at they doing?”
Both occupants of the Griffon saw the two men being pushed to the edge of the Sapphire, about to be shoved right off. It was actually against the law to throw anyone off of a ship, even to execute them when they are guilty. This was not normal and he didn't like it.
Hold on.” Steffen quickly turned the Griffon toward the shadow cast by the Sapphire.
It did not take Amara long to realize what he was doing, “Hey, I know you have this good guy bit, but those two tried to kill us.”
Steffen smiled as he sped up his little ship to get there in time. “I know, but as you said, we need to investigate. If they are guilty enough for this, we can drop them in the middle of the desert and let nature take its course.”
You are insane.” Amara held on while he pushed the ship to go faster.
Steffen grinned again, “I know.”
The two fugitives were unceremoniously shoved out the side of the upper deck and sent tumbling down, their hands still bound. Steffen flew as hard and as fast as he could to get to them. The elf did a full body slam into the deck of the Griffon but the rat missed and was still falling.
HOLD ON, THIS IS GOING TO GET ROUGH!” Steffen yelled as he turned the ship downward and flew fast to catch up to the rat.
The rat was screaming and had his eyes closed, sure he would meet his end quickly. Then, out of nowhere, something caught his tail and stopped his fall. It hurt like hell, but it did not take his life. He opened his eyes and looked up to see the extended muscular arm of Steffen over the side of the Griffon, holding him by his scrawny tail. Steffen gave off a huge grunt as he lifted the rat over the side and plopped him onto the deck next to the elf, who was still groaning from having met the wood paneling rather suddenly.
What you doing?” the rat coughed out.
SHHH! Wait.” Steffen quickly pulled a tarp off of a pile of empty boxes and threw it over the pair. “Don't move.” he ordered and then got back to the helm. “Amara, put your weapon away and look as relaxed as possible.” he commanded her and then turned the ship once again in a southern direction.
The Griffon quietly flew out of the deep shadow of the massive IAS Sapphire and headed toward the Ridge Mountains. Dozens of imperial officers were looking over the side to see the nasty remains of their victims. Fortunate for the convicts and crew of the Griffon, Steffen managed to catch them in an area where no one on the Sapphire could see. If anyone in the docks witnessed it, they probably had no idea what was going on.
Steffen would travel a good distance before uncovering the two men, he would be absolutely certain that no one saw them on his ship. The morning was growing late and the tall sharp peaks of the Ridge Mountains were coming into view. Steffen had lost that pleasant look on his face as he realized that Amara was right, there was a lot more to this than just another attempted bounty hunt.
When he could no longer see the port, not even with his spy glass, he finally allowed the two out from under the tarp.
You, gentleman, have two choices. You can either tell me why they threw you off the ship like that or I can drop you off here in the middle of the desert.” He said eyeing the two coolly. Amara had once again pulled her sword out and held it at the ready, her tail twitched in delightful anticipation of retribution for the bite she had received the night before.
“that Lord Johnathan threw us. Threw us because. because of what we knew!” the rat spoke up quickly.
“Shut up you! I will do the talking here.” The dark elf shoved him with his shoulder.
Steffen’s blade appeared as if out of thin air and rested just under the dark elf’s chin silencing any further outbursts from him.
“I’m done listening. Your stupid bright ideas! This last one almost got us killed!” the rat went on, “The Whole empire has a bounty on you. that Johnathan is looking to collect. Mr. High and mighty here. Wanted to bribe and we got tossed.” The rat mumbled the last part.
“Why would they put a bounty on you just for your tattoo? This is crazy! It’s supposed to just be a story from an old witch and no one even knows if the legends are true. We should just kill these two and throw them overboard. It’s more than they would have done for us. It’s a damn sight better than what they did do for them.” Amara said with a growl.
Steffan laid his hand on her arm to calm her. “Easy Amara, we will get the answers we need all in good time. For right now I think we should just let these two stew in the heat of the sun and see what they have to say when we reach our next stop.”
“You better listen to your boyfriend, we just might have important information. You just let the men handle this.” the rat said smiling showing his dirty bloodstained teeth.
In one quick move she was behind the rat and a knife was now sticking through the thickest part of his tail nailing him to the deck. She hissed in his ear. “I don’t care what you think you have. We can find the truth without you! He is not my boyfriend either, got it!”
The rat’s screams could be heard echoing back from the mountains now looming in the distance. Steffan walked calmly around and yanked the knife out of his tail. “You really should watch where you put these. You might get some kind of disease from it.” He said with a smirk on his face.
He wiped the blade on his pant leg and taking her arm guided her back to the cabin to allow the prisoners’ time to think about their situation.
He shut the door on the small cabin making the cozy surroundings almost feel Closter phobic. Amara was more aware of Steffan and his size in their close quarters, doing her best she sat on the edge of the only chair in the room.
“Look, I don’t like them being here anymore then you do, but I couldn’t very well just let them die like that. You know as well as I do that it’s against the law to throw someone overboard, even if they are guilty of a crime.” Sitting on the bed across the small room he ran his hand through his hair trying to figure out what to do next. This seriously put a new light on his situation and he wasn’t sure he liked it. He loved his life that he had led. He was master of his own destination and captain of his own ship. He could go where the wind blew and stay as long as he wanted. Moving cargo from one place to another, make a few bucks on the side helping move some special cargo at times under the noses of the emperor at times gave him even more satisfaction on more than one occasion. He had at times wondered about the tattoo that had allowed him the good fortune he has had since he received it. He couldn’t understand why the tattoo changed when Amara touched it though. He wasn’t a priest or anything but the few people, including a few women who had touched him the tattoo, had never changed or done anything different other then be a regular tattoo. Steffan looked out his window just in time to see the two prisoners jump over the side of the ship.
Running out to the deck he looked over the side to see them land safely in a sand dune they had just flown over. Not wanting to be up high where they could be easily spotted he had run closer to the ground so that the mountains in the background would hide them. Amara came running up beside him and looked over the edge too. “Should we go after them?” she asked watching them running down the backside of the dune. A flash of light behind them caught Steffans attention. Quickly he ran up on deck and grabbed his spy glass to see what was chasing after them. His heart skipped a beat when he realized it was the Sapphire coming after them.

“Steffan!” Amara screamed at him pointing ahead. He spun around only to see what all people dread to see in the desert. A sand storm had come up suddenly and a giant wall of sand was now bearing down on them literally putting them between a rock and hard place. Quickly he ran to the air brake and slammed it into place and reached for the air screw only to find Amara already helping to lower it so it wouldn’t be torn to shreds by the wind and biting grits of sand. The ship landed with a heavy thud on the desert floor. Thankfully no rocks were in the area to punch holes in the hull. Throwing the anchor overboard hoping to help keep them in place they both dove for the cabin and slammed the door and shut the windows before they dove under the blanket with rags over their mouths. The one thing that Steffen knew was that if he couldn’t fly in this mess, neither could the Sapphire. Seeing was out of the question and there just wasn’t anything to ping them off of to find them on any radar system either. With the shifting sands he knew they would be digging out when it was over but for now he was stuck where he was. There was no flying over this storm because he knew it was useless to try and outrun the large empire ship so he landed hoping maybe the other would be blown off course and have to hole up somewhere as well.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

I write what I want to write

Recently I was talking with someone about characters within a story that I am working on. He started talking about my characters using words and race names that I did not know. It took me a moment to understand his confusion, but I finally realized what he was thinking. He assumed that all my characters were based on the archetypes created by other authors. Thus, if I mention that a character is a goblin then it MUST fit into the prescribed goblin archetype. I don't like that notion. (Note: My friend wasn't being mean or anything, it just got me thinking.)

When I write I create from my own imagination. I try my best to create a world that is uniquely mine. I know that there are accepted norms in each genre, and it is alright to fit your work into those norms. I too draw from the genre I am writing in, but I also work to give it an element of originality. Unfortunately, there are some who feel that there are rules to follow when it comes to character/setting creation, rules that simply don't exist.

A grand example would be from The Crystal Needle. Before and after I first published the book, I encountered a prevailing thought about the Kitsune that I hadn't even considered. Some potential readers were eager to read my book with the expectations to find this theme in my pages. What did they expect? I was informed that in the fantasy genre of anthropomorphism the Kitsune is a sexy, sexual, seductive creature. So, when I talked about the main character being a Kitsune they immediately assumed my book was X rated.

Before I got upset I did my research. I wanted to be certain that I didn't make a horrible mistake in using this character. What if the kitsune creature in Japanese lore is only represented as a sexual creature? I don't like holding hard and fast to archetype, but if there is only one representation of that type of character then I would be attracting the wrong audience. I also didn't want parents to be offended that their teens were reading my book with that in it, even though what I wrote would not be X rated by any measure or standard. What I found was that the kitsune is NOT represented only as a sexual creature, but just another part of Japanese fantasy. Many many stories written about them are not X rated. In fact the whole notion depicting them as basically magical harlots was created more recently by a subculture in the fantasy fandoms. So, I was good. What had happened is that the readers seeing that in my book immediately jumped to conclusions based on other authors perception of this personality. They made wild assumptions and then weren't happy that I didn't fulfill their expectations. I apologized for unintentionally misleading them, but I told them that if they were looking for such things, look elsewhere.
Oh, there you are.

What I am trying to say with all of this is that I write what I want to write. My stories are my own. If I use recognizable images, I try to put a twist on them that makes it unique to me. I do keep some of the accepted characteristics, such as the fact that Kitsune are shapeshifters from Japanese mythology. But, that is about as far as I wanted to go in keeping it in expected archetype

So, with this attitude I do also have a different view of storytelling by others. When I see a movie like Disney's Hercules, I hear people who won't stop complaining about what they got wrong. Who is the final authority? That's right, no one. It's just another fantasy written for the entertainment of others. With my lion/man character that I draw and write about I have had the same issue. People will point to other authors and artists works and try to tell me that I am getting it wrong. My response is always the same, "So you have seen a lion/man in person? No? Then don't try to tell me that I got anything wrong."

 Whoever created the character has the final word on that specific character, they are not dependent on my interpretation and I am not dependent on theirs.

Thank you for reading. I hope you garnered something from my ramblings.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Legend of the Mystic Tattoo part 2

         Week #2 in our journey of this tandem story. If you missed it, HERE is week #1. As it was with last time, the blue text was written by me and the black text was written by Wendy Siefken. 

Part 2: 

A pair of unsavory figures made their way down the streets of Far Reach. Draped in dark cloaks they wanted to go unnoticed by anyone. They would rather the sun be down and the skies dark so that they could slink through the shadows.
"Foolish, this is. We travel by night, go unseen. Travel by day and too many eyes look upon us." The ratling lowered his hood to reveal his furry snout and tall ears.
The dark elf lowered his hood and glared at his companion, "That old wizard has offered ten thousand gold for this man, dead or alive. If we don't move now someone else will find him. You want the money?"
"Yes, yes, yes. Money good." the rat sneered at the elf.
          "Then, tell me, where is he?" The elf asked with a bit of annoyance in his tone.
The ratling sniffed the air and looked around, he walked down another street and stopped, sniffed the air again, and then down another street. "This way, I think he moved."
         "You think?" The elf, who had been silently following as inconspicuously as possible.
The rat glared at the elf again, "His scent, old memory. But, right, I am. He this way." the rat pointed a boney clawed finger down an alley.
        "Let's hope you're right. We both have bounties on our heads in Far Reach and I want to be out of here as soon as possible." the dark elf put his hood back on his head and then unceremoniously yanked the hood back over his rat companions ears to hide him as well.
They slunk down the alley attempting to draw as little attention to themselves as possible. The vendors and patrons hardly noticed them, though few would have known the value of capturing either of them.
Little did they know that there was another person keeping up with them. Every time they stopped she stopped, and hid, every time they moved, she moved. She too was following a scent, theirs. The ratlings have incredible senses of smell, but so do their natural enemies, the cat people of the Tarra desert.

         "Please, have a seat." Greta held out a hand for the two new comers to find a seat amongst the many available tables.
        The dark elf smiled at her and slowly lowered his hood. "I am afraid we are not here to enjoy a meal. Just looking for someone."
        Greta smiled as warmly as ever and started wiping off a recently used table, "And who might that be, young man?"
        The elf walked toward her, distracting her while his companion sniffed around. "A man with an interesting tattoo."
        Greta did not pause, stop smiling, or even flinch, but she knew exactly who he was talking about. "Oh, we have many patrons who have tattoos. You will have to be more specific."
        The elf was not stupid, he could sense she was holding back, but he played along. "This tattoo is unlike any you have ever seen elsewhere. It is a map."
        "A map you say. Fascinating. Sorry, no maps today. Perhaps you should try the docks." She gave him one last smile and then turned to leave.
        The elf reached over and grabbed her by her collar and pulled her back. "Don't try to play me old woman. I am not afraid to hurt you."
        "FINN! Found him....found him! Sat here, he did." The rat called out excitedly.
        Finn turned the old lady around, "So, you haven't seen him?"
        Now Greta was scared and her patrons were all starting to get up and step back. The elf pulled out a knife, a long serrated dark elf blade that was stained with someone else's blood already. "Perhaps this will help you remember. Now, TALK!"
        Greta just about yelled for help when something flew right past her and hit the knife, knocking it clear out of his hand. Then he was hit in the side of the face by a sharp clawed hand. Greta was freed of his grasp when he jumped to counter strike against his assailant. But, he didn't get the opportunity. A bo staff was swiftly laid across his face and then at his knees. He was brought to the ground, out cold.
        The petite feline girl stood there with her bo staff in one hand and a great big smile on her face. Her ears perked up and she turned at the same time that the rat tackled her and both went tumbling across the ground. When they stopped rolling, her staff was sent over the floor and the rat was planted on top of her, his knees holding her down. He made a terrible screeching sound and went for her face with his own claw; she caught it with her only free hand and then hissed with a harsh growl that showed an impressive array of fangs. He pulled up on his hand, which pulled her hand up as well. Once her hand was up far enough he did exactly what he planned and bit down into her arm with his big teeth. She screamed and struggled, but he had her pinned pretty good.
        Out of nowhere the tip of a large scimitar slid right in front of the rats face. The rat could see his own reflection in the finely polished surface. As the blade moved, so did the rat, slowly getting up from the girl. Steffan stood there, in his bed clothes, pointing his weapon at the rat. "Hasn't anyone ever taught you, it’s not gentlemanly to bite a woman on the first date."
         The rat attempted to use the element of surprise to launch an attack at the person he was after. But, Steffan was better and merely used the flat side of his sword to hit the rat in the face and send him sprawling across the ground. Now he too was out cold, lying on top of his traveling companion.
Steffan turned his attention back to the girl. "What are you doing here? I told you to stop following me back in Riverside."
          “I had everything under control!” she said as she got up from the floor holding her arm. Gingerly Steffan assisted her up and walked her over to the seat he had occupied earlier in the evening. Though she had a cut on the side of her head from when she fell, Greta brought over some warm water and bandages for Steffan to use on the new arrival. With a sigh he saw the shape Greta was in and also had her sit while he attended to the two women’s wounds.
“Greta you could have just told them what they wanted to know. I can handle anything they decide to throw at me.” He said with a gentle smile playing across his lips.
“I wouldn’t tell those two scoundrels a damned thing! I don’t care how big or tough they think they are, I don’t betray my friends.” Greta said with a shaking voice.
Just then Gramps walked in and saw his wife with a bandage on her head. “What in tarnation is going on here?” Quickly he hurried over to her to check her over and hug her. “Steffan, who did this to her?”
With a quick jerk of Steffans thumb pointing to the two piled in a corner. Fire raged in Gramps eyes as he moved quickly to throw those bums out. For a wiry old man he was surprisingly strong as he hefted first one of the thugs out and threw them into the street and then the second. He then disappeared outside after them where muffled sounds of blows could be heard from the street.
“Amara, I told you to go home. I don’t want you to get hurt.” Steffan gruffly said as he gently bandaged her arm.
She winced in pain but refused to make a sound to let him know just how much it hurt. “I’m going to change your mind. You need me you just don’t know it yet. I can fight and handle myself very well.”
“Yes that is very evident right now.” He said as he tightened the bandage on the wound.
Amara put her hand on his arm to stop him and that is when she saw it. A small portion of the map on his arm changed. Since the room was almost deserted no one else saw it but Amara. “Look I am too far away from home for you to send me back now. I might as well come with you.” She said.
With a heavy sigh he stood up and looked at the floor. “I have to get supplies in the morning. It will be several months before we are anywhere near your home and I can’t have you out here fighting off those that are following me. At least with me I can keep a better eye on you, Greta would you please bring a mat up for her to sleep on in my room.”
“Oh no, I won’t have any of those shenanigans in my establishment! I will sleep up there between you two!” Greta said as she pushed her husband to the back of the Inn to get the mat for her and Amara to sleep on.
Steffans jaw almost hit the floor as the meaning of her words finally sunk in. “I, we, I!” throwing his hands up in the air Steffan stomped back up the stairs to his room. Amara and Greta followed along behind. It was all Amara could do to stifle the giggle that perpetually kept trying to escape as she watched Steffan huff and grump around the room and Greta made a fuss to position herself on the mat between her and the hulking man up on the bed.
“Good night,” Greta said sweetly before blowing out the wick on the lamp.

The next day Amara and Steffan headed out to the shops to gather the supplies they would need while out on a run. Surprisingly Amara needed very little supplies and what she did get she paid with her own money. Without saying a word, Steffan got what he needed for repairs on the boat that happened while out and also more straps to replace some worn ones used to tie down the cargo. Though the ship sailed on the air currents it could still get rocked back and forth and straps would often get worn and break. Losing a load is not a good way to continue to get work if that is your only way of making money. Soon they were headed back to the Inn to get one more good meal before they left for the high winds. Once more Greta brought over large bowls of stew with fresh baked bread smeared with creamy butter. Both Steffan and Amara relished every bite of the delicious meal knowing that it would be a long time before they got to eat this way again. Greta talked with all of her customers who came in and made sure to scold those who got too rambunctious or tried to any funny business. Today a large man sat in the corner and glared at anyone who tried to start anything.
“Who is that?” Amara asked in a side whisper to Steffan.
“That is Greta’s grandson, Renkle, but everyone calls him Tiny if you could believe, who heard about what happened last night and has decided no one will be making that mistake again.” He said scraping the last of his stew out of his bowl.
“Hey ole lady, I want a more of that crappy stew you are trying to force down us!” a young buck decided to yell out trying to impress his friends. He hadn’t seen the large hulking man in the corner and let out a high pitched scream as he was picked up from his seat and sent sailing out the door. The hulking man quietly went back to his stool in the corner and sat back down. Not a pin drop could be heard in the restaurant as everyone instantly settled down and ate their stew quietly.
Soon Greta came back over to Steffan and Amara and shook her head to them. “I still don’t like the idea of you two being on a ship all alone and no one to protect her virtue.” Greta said.

Amara almost choked on her drink when she heard the last words spoken. Steffan patted her back with a smug smile on her face. “I will do my best to be sure her virtue stays intact.” He said which caused even more coughing spasms to come from Amara who thought to herself, “I’m going to die before I even set foot on his ship!” 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Covering the Indies

Hello everyone, always enjoy having you stop by to read my little posts. Okay, so they aren't all that little. This week I wanted to introduce you to a part of me that you may already have met. I have what has been called a "giving spirit". I love to give and help when and where I can. Not for the glory or prestige, but because I just like to do things for others. I know where it comes from too, my mother is exactly the same way, just in different types of giving.

That said: A while back, probably two years ago, I read a rather disparaging article written about indie authors. It was mean, disdainful, and with a lot of demeaning attitude. In particular they attacked the cover art of independent authors. Of course they picked out some rather terrible examples of covers and then pretended that all indies books suffer from the same horrible artwork. The article was borderline internet bullying, but perpetrated by a well known news source. I couldn't argue that their examples were bad, they were awful. I couldn't argue that those examples weren't really out there, they were from real books. But, I could argue that not all indies had terrible covers. Then I went to look and saw that a lot of indies covers really did need work. They weren't nearly as bad as the examples shown, but they were in need of attention.

I am not a graphic artist with any credentials. I never said I was. But, I do have an eye for color and art. I have studied art history for most of my life, I am an avid stitching which teaches color balancing and design, and I have a heart for those who don't have the money to hire a credited graphic artist. So, I decided to start my own cover art business. Only, this one would be free. What I would do is search high and low on the internet for public domain pictures and create a massive file of those. I also added in a lot of my own photography that I didn't mind using. I then took all this and crafted covers. I began to offer them for free for whoever wanted one. If asked, I would even add title and author name. I didn't get as many takers as I expected, but I did get a few. On more than one occasion I found an author on Facebook who had a book with a rather....shall we say...unfortunate cover. But, they were very proud of their work and refused any advice. I never harassed them or even told them that I felt they needed help, if they were happy then they are fine. But, I offered all the same.

Only once, so far, have I done actual drawing and art for a cover not my own. I saw a friend who was desperately looking for specific cover image and couldn't find one. She had a hopeful source, but couldn't get in touch with them. I realized that I could probably draw something like she wanted. So, without her knowledge I drew the picture and then gave it to her. She was so excited she asked me to help do the whole cover. Though I never asked, she insisted on payment. She asked me to do the sequel, drawing the characters and designing the cover, and I agreed.  Thus I have actually been paid for a few of these.

With all that said, I would like to show you some of the work I have done. Yes, some are my own books, but I want you to see what I can do. Also, here is a LINK to the page of available covers that you can choose from if you are in need of a cover for a book, or know someone who might be interested. If the cover is in that link, it is free. Also, check back, I add to the covers as I play around designing more blank covers.

 Note: Some of these are either not available yet, or they have since changed their covers.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Legend of the Mystic Tattoo, first installment

      Welcome to the first installment of what, hopefully, will become a full story. A while back I read an article about a professor that gave his students an assignment. They were to write a story in tandem. Paired up by who they were sitting beside they were to write a story where one would write the first paragraph and then the other would add the next. It turned into a bit of internet comedy, but it got me thinking. I know a lot of authors and a few that have the inclination to do something crazy now and then. So, why not write a story in tandem? I contacted my good friend, Wendy Siefken, and asked if she would be interested. She was thrilled. We started writing a fantasy story in tandem the first week of 2014 and will post the continuing adventure on our respective blogs. Now, there is no guarantee that this will be finished, we are posted as we write. But, with hope and a lot of encouragement from you we will do our best. 
       Note: One of the notions I had was to give you the organic progression. What in the heck does that mean? It means that you will see what we wrote, without major editing and cleaning up. So, if your editors senses go all tingly resist the urge to respond with a deluge of correction comments. We know its rough. If, by some stretch of the imagination, this turns into a real publishable book, it will be edited. Right now it is just a wild experiment. But you should also know that this is still copywrite property of Daniel Peyton and Wendy Siefken, if you wish to cross post, publish, use, edit, or anything else to this story, you must first get permission of one of the two above, or both if possible. The artwork that will be involved is also copywrite property of Daniel Peyton and cannot be trasmitted, copied, cross posted, or used in any fashion without his(my) explicit permission. 
       Here it is. We plan on posting the continuing adventure on our blogs each Wednesday, so stop by each week to see what we have come up with. Drop us a comment, let us know what you think. To help illustrate that two people are working on this, my part is in blue, hers is in dark green. I do not change her words and she does not change mine. (Though we do keep in touch about story ideas that will need the others input.)

The Legend of the Mystic Tattoo.  

         The Griffon flew steadily through the air over Aldaria. Steffan, the single operator of this little cargo ship, was ready to set down at the port and find a place to eat. His plans for the next nine hours involved food and a bed. He loved his little cabin on this steam powered airship, but a hanging cot was nothing compared to a good comfy bed.
        Steffan was not your ordinary cargo captain. With bulging muscles to catch the eye of every lady, and a smile to match, Steffan cut a striking figure. He often walked around bare chested, so to show off his impressive physique, though he would have you believe that he was just hot and needed the cool breeze. Yet for all of his charm and sex appeal he wasn't the kind of man who accepted the many lusty advances. Not only did he have a spark of gentleman in his heart, he was protective of himself. Every lowlife in the Far Reach knew of his mystic tattoo and wanted nothing more than to poison him and skin it right off his arm. He had to remain vigilant. So, each morning he would tie his bandanna on his head, tuck his sword into his sash and prepare for another adventure carrying cargo from the Far Reach to the distant lands of Aldaria. Always he hoped to one day discover the truth behind the tattoo, but that would have to wait until he found enough money for that sort of adventure.
       “Whoa!” Steffan pulled back on the air break and slowed down the air screw enough to begin his decent down toward the port of Far Reach. He often spoke to his ship like it was a horse, and he babied it all the same.
        After a quiet decline through the crisp morning air he spotted a good, open dock on the far side of the airship docking house. The docking house was a conical wooden building with a honeycomb of open ports all up and down it. There were large enough port holes for the massive airships of the Imperial Fleet, down to the small ports for ships like the little Griffon. Once Steffan had lowered to the level of the proper hole he waved a hand at the docking assistant and the man launched five ropes with hooks attached at the end to latch onto the ship and guide it inside.
Just as he passed the assistant the man stopped the hooks and held out his hand. “Papers and docking permit.”
         Steffan produced the proper paperwork and his up-to-date permit to operate an airship. The young man checked the information and then handed it back with a nod. As he started the ropes back up he robotically stated, “Welcome to Far Reach, it is three past sunrise, the weather looks to be warm, enjoy your stay.”
Airscrew propeller
       “Thanks.” Steffan sarcastically replied and then steered the ship so to help the ropes settle it into the bay. After it clunked right into place the arms underneath lifted and took hold of the ship. Steffan locked the steering and then turned off the air screw on top. This old design airship was held aloft by an antiquated and out dated airscrew, a large cone shaped wooden screw that spun at speeds according to how high or low you wanted to go. When the ship was docked, the screw could be collapsed and locked so that no one could steal the ship, though very few would find profit in stealing this old relic.
        “Hey there! Why if it isn't old Mr. Pecks!” An old man came walking up to the ship by the docking ramp. He has known Steffan for years and always poked fun at the way Steffan flaunted his body.
        Steffan lugged his bag over his shoulder and then smiled at the old man. “Hey gramps. Are you still over charging for these bays?”
       “Ha! This is the best docking facility in all of Aldaria, and you know it. It is worth every penny. Now pay up.”
        Steffan pulled out a hand full of coins and dropped them into the old man’s waiting hands. “Keep the change.”
      “Oooh, must have been a good cargo mission for you to be so generous.” Gramps greedily counted the money in his hands.
       Steffan shrugged and started walking down the plank, “It paid well enough. I am also tired and hungry and ready to get somewhere that I can sate both.”
       “Well, your gain is my gain then. Try Castle Shadow Inn, they are serving stew today, and it is the best in town.”
        Steffan headed down the walkway and turned to follow it toward the lifts. “You would have to say that, your wife owns it.” With that he boarded a lift and was carried down to the bottom level where the denizens and shops of Aldaria could be found. 
       When the lift stopped he stepped out onto a busy walkway where crews from other ships were spending their down time and money in the many shops and other forms of entertainment that could be found. The windows along the walkway were arranged to attract attention and begging to be purchased. Steffan strode down the sidewalk ignoring all the trinkets and also the scantily clad women who were draping out of windows or leaning seductively against a building trying to catch the eye of a sailor. He could hear his name being called by a few friends in the crowd who he acknowledged with a wave and calling them by name. The Castle Shadow Inn finally came into sight on the edge of the long street. The sign hanging above the door was old and weathered looking.

Once Steffan stepped inside the noise from the street faded away. A bustling little old lady came up to him and welcomed him warmly.
“Steffan, it’s about time you come around! Sit, sit I will bring you a big bowl of our stew. We gotta keep you from wasting away.” She smiled broadly at him as she took his hand and led him to a table against the wall where he could watch the doors as well as the rest of the room. Ms. Greta was a small woman with a cloud of fluffy white hair encircling her head. She barely came up to Steffans elbow but that didn’t stop her from putting people where she wanted them. She knew how to take care of her customers and was very aware of his tattoo and the draw of the legendary promises it held. Ms. Greta had no time for nonsense like treasure maps or such nonsense. Her purpose was to take care of her customers and feed them well so they would come back.
Steffan took a seat at the table and looked around the Inn that was half full of patrons. The tables were scattered throughout the room with wooden chairs placed around them. The wood beams of the walls and floor seemed to glow with their own light that made you feel safe and warm. A set of stairs led up to the second floor where rooms could be rented for the night. The aroma’s coming from the kitchen made Steffans stomach growl, reminding him he had been eating rations for far too long and would now settle for nothing less than a good home cooked meal.
Soon Ms. Greta was bustling back out with a large tray that held a big bowl of stew as well as two large slices of fresh made bread spread generously with butter. She set the dark ale in front of him as well. “Eat up and don’t worry, this is our special ale that has no effect on you. If you know what I mean.” She said giving him a knowing wink.
Picking up the spoon with one hand and a piece of bread with the other, Steffan breathed in the aroma’s, savoring the simple pleasure before digging into his food. By the time he finished he felt very full and very relaxed. Ms. Greta came back over as Steffan slid some coins on the table, enough for the food as well as a room for the night and a hot bath. He was looking forward to sleeping in a real bed with real sheets and pillows. Tonight he was going to relax and enjoy himself. People were still coming and going steadily all the while he had eaten. Now he sat back and watched the people and just observed those around him. More than one lady seated at a table with a man was slipping sideways glances at Steffans fine form and handsome good looks.
Soon, He decided to head upstairs to take his bath before he settled in for the night. It felt like it had been years since he had taken a bath let alone a hot one. The ship just didn’t allow for those kinds of luxuries. Usually you just had to make do with a sponge bath and let it go at that.
The deep wooden tub was brought round to his room and filled with steaming water. A large bar of soap was laid on a shelf nearby as well as a wash cloth and towel. Once the tub was full and his door had been locked Steffan stripped down and slipped into the tub. At first it was hot but as he eased into it his body adjusted to the heat. When he settled into the tub he let out a sigh of contentment. The heat from the warm water seeped into his muscles and relaxed him until he almost dozed off. By the time he roused himself the water had become tepid and he decided he had better wash up before it became cold.

After drying himself sufficiently and dressing for bed he found a book on a shelf on the bedside table. As the night drew on Steffan lit the lamp on the bedside table so he could continue to read. The book was a fantasy written by a long ago author, a fellow by the name of Peyton who had become successful after publishing his Dragonwand series. The book he was now reading was one of his earlier works called the Crystal Needle. Finally too tired to keep his eyes open any longer he checked the door one more time to be sure it was locked as well as a chair pushed up against the door. The window had bars on them so he knew no one would be coming in that way. The room plunged into darkness when he blew out the light and settled into bed. Tomorrow he had a lot of things to do and he knew just where he wanted to start.