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.