Wednesday, May 2, 2012

My Odyssey

I step on
To the train
I wonder: when
He left home, did
Odysseus know the
Journey before him?
And if he had, what
Words would he have
Whispered into her ear
And across her breast.
Between her lips as he
Held her close, and if he
Had told Penelope about
Where the journey would
Take him, would she have
Have watched him go, or
Would she have taken up
A blade, made him string
His bow, and killed every
Last one of his men who
Thought to open that
Damned bag of air. I don't
Wonder this for the quality
Of character found in
Penelope, but because
I can't believe that she'd wait
What felt like lifetimes of
Worried tears, Sleepless nights
And shunning vulturous lovers
And yet not be willing to stand,
Fight, and defy the men, monsters,
And gods who wanted to keep her
Partner away.
Because I don't get on a train to know where I'm going,
Or even to know who I'm going to, but because I know that
She'd fight giants and sirens, sorceresses and nature itself,
Not because of me,
Nor for me, but because of
Who she is, and for what
She believes in. When
I tell her that she's
beautiful I don't just
Mean her eyes, which
Shine when she gets
Excited, or her smile,
Which gives me so much
Strength. I mean it about her
Hands, which guide the arrows
She looses; about her legs,
Which stay standing
When the world shakes, and about
Her heart,which keeps on beating,
No matter how dark the world gets
Around her. 
It keeps on beating.

I was told that the greatest example of love is to be willing to die for someone,
But I believe The greatest expression of love Is to be willing to live, Breathe,
And fight beside them, Until the end of the day, The life,The world which stands
against you. Until you both come home, Together.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Hot, Steaming Cup of It

Gregor rotated the brass cup in his hand as he stared out of the window. He watched the busy coffee shop move about, ignorant of what was going on around them. The landing of the Splendid Victoria had made the news and every kid on a street corner had a stack of papers with a picture of the mostly-intact ship.

The crew hadn’t made the news though. Captains get their pictures taken and war heroes get films made about them, but engineers made things happen and if they were really good they might get some notoriety in their obituary.

“Sir?” Lively was the first to speak up.

Gregor shook his head like he was coming out of a dream and looked at her.

“What’s the word from command? How bad is it?” She knew it was bad, but Gregor clutched his brass cup and took another drink of the sweetened black coffee before he spoke.

“Discharged. All of us. For ‘endangering fifty-five enlisted soldiers and service men and women, defacing one of the queen’s flagships,’ and apparently the frame of the gasbag landed on some cows so we’re being held for that too. Been nice working with all of you, but our military days are done.”

Silence reigned at the table for a few seconds before Pepper snorted, “Cows. We saved half a hundred lives and get the shaft for killing moo-cows. How divine. How bovine.”

Digger finished his tea in a long pull and slammed the tin cup on the table, making Pepper jump. “So then sir, what’s the next move?”

Gregor raised an eyebrow, “Next move? There is no next move Digger. We’re done and we’ll be lucky to find work with a dishonorable discharge from the Queen’s Air-Navy.”

“There’s always a next move sir. If you can’t move forward you turn, if you can’t turn you jump, and when you’re good enough at jumping you fly. So what’s the next move?”

Everyone at the table stared at Digger for a few moments. Then they turned to each other, uncertain what could or should be said to that.

Bigger placed a hand on his brother’s shoulder, “You’re right. We keep moving. We find another ship. If we can’t work military we can work civilian. No matter what command has said, we took a failed engine and landed a massive ship ourselves with a crew of six. Way I see it we’re the second-best damn engineers in the British Empire.”

Jonas chuckled, “And who’s the first?”

“I have no clue Jonas, but I don’t want you to get a big head thinking noone’s better than you.” The whole table had a laugh at that, even Jonas.

Gregor cleared his throat, “Alright then team. We find a ship that needs a crew, and we keep on flying. We may be stuck in a giant, hot, steaming cup of it, but let’s see if we can’t turn this into a little brown joy.”

“And that analogy sir,” Chimed in Lively, “Is exactly why we don’t let you brew tea.”

Jonas's Cup of Joe

The cups around the table spoke volumes of those who held them, and it was my prerogative to notice these little details. I’m the new-kid of the crew and I haven’t quite earned my wings in their books, but I’ll be scrapped and solder before I let them get the once-over on me.

Gregor was an easy read. He drank his coffee black in a brass cylinder. When he was angry about something he would add sugar. One sugar meant that something had gone wrong in a machine, two meant he was angry with someone on the crew or a commanding officer, any more than that meant that he wanted to cause irreparable reconstructive changes to people, property, or environments. Today he’d put in five. Only Bigger was willing to sit next to him.

Bigger was more complex. He steamed his own milk in the heat-sink of his brother’s arm and added it to his coffee along with nutmeg and cinnamon. The mixture was drank from a ceramic mug with scroll-work that I hadn’t completely made out since he always had one hand on the cup. The cup was just like Bigger, a part of the whole was always hidden from even my eye. If anyone on the crew knew his real name they weren’t telling, but the gears in his mind were always turning, cranking and clanking out new ideas and solutions. He feared little and shied away from less, but he always examined any problem from as many angles as time would allow him. He could crush my skull without thinking, but something tells me that he’d just as easily think of a way for me to do it to myself. Thankfully I’ve never known a malicious man to take nutmeg in his coffee.

Digger was a polar opposite to his brother. A clockwork arm, an iron jaw, and two piston powered legs made him as much machine as he was man, but he drank tea from a tin cup with a drop of steamed milk and one sugar. He was simple, unrefined, and yet altogether unstoppable. I’d learned that Bigger had been the man to make the parts for his brother, but that it was Digger’s will to live which made him such a presence. He didn’t talk much, and almost all of what he said was a tie-on to something someone else had said. For all this his humor was low-brow, but fantastically timed. We may have been a crew of air-ship engineers, but Digger reminded me of a steam-powered locomotive.

Three sugars and equal parts tea and milk went into a squat mug made of Brass with a narrow iron neck lightly steamed in front of Lively. I had no idea what her first name was, but she was probably the smartest engineer I’d ever met. She’d designed the cup herself, each time it was lifted and set back down it rotated a set of gears which in turn churned and heated the tea in the cup to keep it warm indefinitely. I took a liking to her from day one on the ship, her wit had a finer edge than any gentleman’s sword. I’d almost as quickly learned that she was off the market. I’d have argued that no man could tame her, and that was why no one questioned a female engineer. That may have been true, but it was clear that she had someone special out there. I don’t know what Gregor’s deal in all of it was, but when I’d asked him he’d told me that that was a course which chartered disaster.

Pepper drank brandy in her coffee and spoke German in her sleep. She was all curves and no height, the kind of woman who turned heads on the docks and in the streets, but got overlooked in a crowd over five-foot-three. She was the most troubled mind on the crew, and while clever with a wrench she’d often attempt the first answer presented to her. Her cup was whatever one she found first after brewing the coffee. I asked her why she was always the one to brew the coffee and she told me that if I thought I could do better she’d let me try, but that it’s hard to do with rivets in your knuckles. I don’t have rivets in my knuckles and I decided to stay that way by letting her make the coffee.

What did I drink? I drink tea in the morning and coffee in the evening, and I never add anything to either. Both are drank from the wooden cup I brought on board with me when I signed on with Gregor and I always drink last at the table. What does that say about me? Why don’t you tell me?

Gregor's Winged Gas-Bag

Silence was something Gregor had never been accustomed to. His life had been a blend of grinding gears, pistons and pumps, whirring fans, and shifting metals of all kinds accompanied by the release of steam and smoke from exhaust ports.

An engineer for the queens royal air fleet, Gregor lived a daring, dangerous, and wholly unsung life of diligent work and upkeep. He worked for the captian who worked for the queen, and he in turn had a crew of five men beneath him. Together the six of them worked day and night to keep the Splendid Victoria in the air and up to snuff. If you’d asked Gregor if he thought himself a hero he’d have laughed at you and walked away without another word.

Gregor took pride in three things in life: his work, his crew, and his mustache. Well waked, perfectly shaped, and beyond reproach were three qualities he expected of all three.

However today he stopped dead in his tracks for only half a second as he heard something he’d never known before: nothing. An utter silence which struck to the very soul of his being washed over him, but only for that half a second before he himself broke the overwhelming barrier.

“Jonas, Lively, Pepper, Bigger and Digger what in blasted nuts and bolts is going on? Get those gears turning or we’ll fall from the sky as sure as a stone!” His boots slammed the hard metal flooring as he ran through the machine pulling levers and toggles trying to find what had caused the beheamoth of an engine to quiet.

“Can’t say as what the problem is sir! All the gears just seem to have stopped rolling over.” Pepper was the first to call back. Her blonde hair dirtied and streaked in the grease between the gears as it hung down from the pipes her legs gripped so assuredly.

“Well keep looking, this machine is our lives right now and if we don’t restart it we’ll lose them for it.”

Bigger called back next, “It’s just too large Gregor. even if Digger and myself were to start turning the main gear we couldn’t turn it fast enough to do anything but slow our descent!” Bigger was the largest man Gregor had ever known, but his body would need to double to match his brain. Second in command on the crew, and brother to Digger, who was much smaller, Gregor took Bigger at his word on most any occasion.

“Then give me another solution, we can’t let the girl crash and burn!”

Lively came running around the corner, also tall for a woman and with her long red hair held back in a tight braid, “Sir, we could try for a winged gas-bag. It may be out only hope.

“Madness,” Gregor thought for a moment and realized that madness was the only thing offering survival right now. “Let’s do it. Gear jockies call out!”

“Pepper!” “Digger.” “Bigger!” “Lively!”

Gregor’s thick brows furrowed, “Jonas?! Where are you boy?”

The intercom buzzed and cracked before Jonas’s voice came over it, “Working instead of shouting sir, I’m moving to cut the gas-bag. Why don’t you focus on telling the other’s what to do?”

“Blasted kid is gonna get himself killed one of these days, but he’s right. Pepper and Lively use any piping you can find to build structure poles. We’ll need you to fasten the wings as fast as possible once they’re freed. Bigger, you said you and digger could slow the descent of our lady?”

“Aye sir, but not for long.”

“I don’t care if you only buy us half a minute, get on it!” The ship was already begining to lean as it was rapidly losing momentum. Lively and Pepper took off in opposite directions. Gregor took off at a run for the back of the ship to find Jonas.

“Jonas, report!”

Jonas was already halfway out of the window with a parachute strapped to his back and a heavy hooked-knife in his teeth. He took the sill in one hand and the knife in the other, “About to start the cut sir, care to join me on top of the bag?”

“No, I’ve got to release the frame, you be careful out there, I’d hate to lose you lad.”

“Stop worrying about me and start worrying about the girl, this could very well be a spectacular way to die.”

“You talk too much for someone of so few years. Just don’t screw this up.”

“Yeah, yeah, relax old man.”

Gregor took off running again, pulling out his omni-wrench and reaching the front of the ship in less than a minute on the narrow cat-walk beneath the gas-bag. He began loosening the nuts from the bolts attaching the gas-bag’s frame to the ship-proper.

Minutes later and fighting a distinct lightness which came from the falling air ship, not to mention shouts from the captain and non-engineering crew, Gregor released the final nut and the bolt screeched as it tore from it’s holding. The whole ship shuddered as the iron frame came off nose-first and went tossling back into air behind it. Meanwhile the crew, true to their skill as their word, snapped the heavy canvas of the gas bag into the new frame of stout wings, caught the air as the ship descended and leveled out the ship.

Gregor came to his feet and nose-to-nose with the captian. “Engineer, explain yourself!”

“Sir, the engine failed for unknown reasons and so we converted the ship into a glider.” Gregor turned away to shout, “Good work crew, Bigger and Digger we’ll need manual control of the rudder if the gears aren’t working. Lets make this as smooth a landing as possible!”

“Someone is going to hang for this Gregor, and I intend it to be you.”

“You may try sir, but I think it’s better that one man sway from a line than that six dozen men die in a crash.”

The captain’s mustache bristled with frustration, “Dismissed Engineer Gregor, best make sure we don’t all die in the landing.”

Gregor turned and walked away, Pepper and Jonas fell in line beside him. Jonas spoke up first, “Sir?”

“You heard the captain, let’s land his ship.”

Friday, March 2, 2012

Latest project

Decided to try something new, posting the first three parts I've written for it now, if I write more I will post them then.

-Claire's Tale (working title)-

Claire rode the train after riding the bus after walking a mile from her office before getting on another bus before walking another mile to her small apartment in south San Jose. She did this five days each week, and while most would complain she did not. This was her life. Each night when she got home she’d unlock her door and open it to get hit in the shins by her cat which thought itself a cannonball. The relatively small critter was more fur than fat and acted as though she never paid it any mind at all. Claire would pick up the cat in her arms, scrub behind its ears, walk back down the steps to her mail box to get the mail and then return to the apartment with the mail under one arm and the cat held in the other. Claire would go through the mail while she cooked her dinner, fed the cat, and then sat down to eat. She’d wash the dishes and put them away, at which point she would pick up the book she was going to read and sit down on the large sofa in her living room.

Claire owned a television, but aside from watching movies she never turned it on. Her living room had every wall covered with book shelves which made the already-small living space even smaller. Every shelf was full, and organized alphabetically and by genre. Some of the shelves had begun to accrue stacks of books which had no space left on the shelf to call home. Her bedroom was much like her living room, but instead of a large comfy couch she had a queen size bed layered down with quilts made by hand and a large chest of drawers which held her clothing. Claire took great joy in books, and would often read them instead of going out with friends or watching a movie, or doing much of anything else which could have interested many other people. Her favorite books were historical fictions, books which questioned if what society accepted as truths had instead happened in a different way. She’d often thought of writing a book, but like so many people who could relate to her she had never really pushed herself to do so.

Claire was beautiful, not in a magazine or pop-culture way, but truly beautiful. She had a large curvy frame despite being remarkably short at just over five feet tall. Her hair hung bone strait and though she would have loved for it to gain some volume it was more work than she cared to take to do so. She didn’t wear much make-up, though she’d often have some fun with painting her nails, and her style of clothing could be defined less as fashionable than it could be called practical. Comfortable boots, jeans, a v-necked t-shirt, and an assortment of sweaters, jackets, and hoodies were her everyday style, and not everyone would stop on the street to admire her. But she was beautiful. Her spirit, energy, and confidence was an almost physical thing, writhing around her and drawing anyone open to true beauty in so they could understand that this is not what movies would call beauty; it is what artists would spend months trying capture in marble and if they even drew close they’d call it a masterpiece. The only person who was truly oblivious to Claire’s beauty was Claire, but she was happy with her life the way it was, happy with herself for who she was, and what truly made her beautiful is that she was comfortable in her own body.

In the morning Claire would ride the train after riding the bus after walking a mile before riding another bus before walking another mile to her job in San Francisco. But that would be the last time before everything in her life changed.


As the train rolled down the tracks Claire slowly made her way through her book. It was a slow-moving ordeal which’d been given to her by a friend who said it changed their lives and all she could really see it doing was taking time a better book could have filled. The train bounced as it came to a stop at one of the many stations between South San Francisco and San Jose Diridon station, Claire looked up to see the elderly woman who’d been sitting two rows in front of her get off the train and a large man get on.

Large didn’t really define him as it failed to grasp the magnitude of his size. It wasn’t that he was particularly tall, maybe a few inches over six feet, or round with his stomach showing a comfortable roundness which suggested an active lifestyle coupled with a love for food no matter how unhealthy, but his width. If he’d sat down his shoulders wouldn’t have been able to even try to make a person next to him comfortable, and it’d probably take a good five feet of rope to wrap his barrel-chest just once. As he moved through the train car it was as though each light dimmed slightly before him, as though the magnitude of him absorbed the light around him. He sat down across the aisle and one row in front of her, casually relaxing across both of the seats to discourage anyone from sitting next to him.

He ran a hand through his hair and leaned his head back on the seat, closing his eyes and moments after the train started moving again Claire could hear the steady deep breaths of sleep.

Ten, maybe twenty minutes passed before the screeching of the trains brakes pierced Claire’s ears and the train jarred, bouncing Claire and her book off the back of the seat in front of her. Claire stumbled up off the floor of the train and looked up, but the large man had completely vanished. Had he gotten off the train without her noticing? Surely he couldn’t have gotten up without her being aware of it.

The lights flickered as she looked up and down the train car. Claire began to make her way toward the doors to get off the train, but she’d scarcely taken three steps when the sound of tearing metal screeched above her and she looked up to see four hands tearing a hole in the roof of the train car. Two pairs of black eyes looked back at her.

Claire opened her mouth to scream.


They climbed down through the hole like spiders, gripping the the metal frame with long black claws. Their skin was black and rubbery looking, with sinuous muscles woven over lean frames. Their mouths were full of sharp fangs and their eyes pieced like something strait out of a horror movie. Claire’s scream caught in her throat as they examined her. One spoke, “So plump, not the one we’re looking for though.”

The other rasped back, “However she’ll make a fine snack brother.”

“Mm, very well brother, one cannot be too picky.”

Claire’d begun to back away from them when the first one pounced, leaping through the air and righting itself as it pushed from the ceiling of the train car at her. She covered her face with her arms and felt a movement of air but nothing touched her.

She opened her eyes as she heard a loud crunch and a quieter squish as the things head was driven into the floor of the car denting it. Holding the base of it’s neck was the large man who’d climbed onto the train earlier, but he was much larger now than he had been before.

His arms were mottled and gray, long enough to almost reach his knees and ended in oversized hands with yellowed finger-nails. His hair hung over his face but tusks came up from his lower jaw in an impressive under-bite. He couldn’t have stood at his full height inside the car if he’d wanted too, and his shoulders were broad enough to easily sit upon for even a lady of her size.

The other black creature scrambled out of the hole in the roof and gave a sharp whistle, in less than a second the car began to shake. This behemoth of a man stepped forward and scooped her up in one arm, “Sorry ma’am, but you’ll be wanting to come with me.”

Claire made a sound somewhere between a gasp and a choked scream as the loped on his other arm and legs down the path and dove from the train car, running out into the industrial area surrounding the tracks. Able to see behind her far better than where ever he was running Claire could see as nearly a dozen of the creatures ran behind them. Some ran on two legs, others moved like apes or monkeys on four limbs jumping and swinging from anything in their path. She struggled to gain a breath as his pace had her bouncing upon her stomach, unable to say anything, unable to warn him that they were moving faster than he was.

He came to a sudden stop and she could hear his feet slide along the gravel of the yard they were in as he spun and lobbed her ass-over-tea-kettle onto a pile of sand. She briefly saw that from his other hand he flung a bag of quick-crete like a fast-pitch softball and knocked one of the creatures out of the air.

She came to her sense and the creatures had surrounded him. They’d rush in to swipe at him, or leap for his back, but he moved in quick, heavy, practiced sweeping motions which kept most of them away.

As he pounded one into the ground and the sound of its ribcage collapsing filled the night another lept onto his back and sunk its teeth into his shoulder; he bellowed in pain, reached back behind himself to grab the creature, not reaching high to grab the head, but low and back to snatch the ankle, and tore the creature off of himself and at another. With the few still able to move it struggled to its feet and vanished into thin air.

Claire stared in confusion, terror, and awe and he caught his breath and she saw the large hunk in his should fill back in, healing in seconds. He turned to face her and grunted, “Fat lot of good you are in a fight ma’am. We should go.”

“We? Why we?” Claire stammered. “I don’t even know who you are!” 'Or what he is' directly followed though she couldn’t bring herself to ask.

“Call me Marco. Those leeches have your scent as well as mine. You can go your own way and they’ll feed on you tonight or you can come with me and maybe we’ll survive to sunrise. Your choice, but make it now.” He seemed to shimmer as he stretched and rolled his shoulders, shrinking back down to his merely-large bulk from before.

“That hardly seems like a fair offer of you Marco.” Claire didn’t like being ordered around by anyone, especially men who man-handle her before introducing themselves.

“Tell you what, if you can name a place where everything is fair and bad things only happen to bad people I’ll drop you off there and you can get back to gum drops and unicorns. We have a long walk and we need them to lose our trail. You coming or not?”

“Fine, but only if you’ll answer my questions.” Claire place her hands firmly on her hips.

He rolled the freshly healed shoulder as though it was still tight or sore, “Alright, I promise to answer every question you ask honestly so long as you don’t call any of my answers bullshit.”

Friday, February 3, 2012

Chapter 1: Party Time, Part 3


Up through the Unguard Tunnels; past the Molten Doors of Azzail; into the ruins of the temple of Nomolos and back out again; across the Desert of the Jeshuman; and finally down the slopes of the Seventh King's Mountain. All this and I'd left the Dwarven capitol and its kingdom, entered the Human lands, and I still had miles to go before I could rest.

It had taken me the better part of two months to cover the terrain, my left hip throbbed from where Thoragrim had marked me, and each night when I laid down to sleep it was swollen and the mark burned red. The mark is my curse, but I do not regret it for the power it has given me.

The adamantine on my left arm had continued to fold and articulate as I'd walked, now resembling a nigh-organic gauntlet covering my arm from elbow to finger-tip. It feels like a second skin, it warms in the light of the sun like metal, but makes almost no sound as I tap my fingers against my thumb. This was one of many gifts Thoragrim had given me, proof that I'd done the right thing.

The temperate lands of Miiska are a pleasant change, the Dwarven lands are so torturous that we took to living beneath them. Only the Gnomes are fool-enough to live top-side. Chewing on my last ration I tossed away my worn out sandals and took in the damp soil, the tall grass blending between my toes. The terrain was full of high-sloped hills. From the top of one you could see for miles, but like a dune-filled desert there is still so much hidden behind the hills and in the tall grass.

I didn't notice the winding road until I'd nearly begun crossing it, and as I placed my metal hand against the road I could feel vibrations coming from the west. Out of food, low on water, and honestly doubtful of my ability to hunt with only a hammer, I wait at the road side and hope that I'm not waiting on a group of bandits to come past.

About ten minutes of waiting rewards me, as a caravan of seven carts comes around the hill and comes to a stop about twenty feet before passing me. A Halfling pops up from the drivers seat and calls out, "Amicha no stewar?"

"What?" I call back in the Dwarven tongue.

"Neee, Alenor!" He waves both hands as if pushing air towards me. "Vash, vash." He then turns to the carts behind him and shouts in a flat yet shrill voice, "Alenor! Broksen Alenor!" He turns back to me and holds up one finger, I guess he means to wait.

In retrospect, learning the halfling language would have been a great idea, but who could've taught me? If this caravan had found its way into our tunnels my father would have ordered them killed on sight.

Another Halfling comes running down the road along the side of the wagons, iron beads sway from his over-grown side burns. A Dwarven axe hangs from his belt, crafted smaller than it would normally be to fit his hands, and he calls out in Dwarven, "So you don't speak Halfling. Lucky for you I speak the Dwarven tongue."

"Indeed I am lucky. That's a fine axe you have there."

"Thanks! What are you doing out here all alone?" He smiled friendly, but his hand rested readily on his axe.

"I am but a humble pilgrim. I've run out of food, I'm low on water. I'd offer my services in exchange for your aid." I opened my hands outward in a sign of peace.

He looked me up and down. "What skills do you have? I know Dwarves are a warrior people, but we have trained soldiers and you have no armor besides that fancy glove of yours."

"I am a skilled healer, and I'm not a stranger to hard labor. I can do many things, though cooking may not be my strong suit compared to your skilled hands."

We both had a laugh at that.

"Let me check with the caravan elders, if they say we can take on a healer then we'll add you to our ranks until we reach the next town."

"And what is the next town?"

"Edton; it's another eight days from here, but the road is full of bandits and I think there'll be ample use for you as a healer, warrior, or moving heavy bodies out of the road."

"Well then, let me know what your elders say, but one more question: What does Alenor mean?"

He turned to walk back along the wagons, "It's our word for your people, but it roughly translates to 'a hairy talking boulder'." And with that he vanished behind the first wagon.

I doubt they'd turn me away, but I don't know how much I like being called a hairy rock.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Chapter 1: Party Time, Part 2


Ah Edton, one of the many cities belonging to the Ascents. All of them walk around being so proud of their short lifespans and overconsumptions. It sickens me to watch the Ascents trounce about. They use too much stone in their buildings, too much cloth in their clothing, too much food in their meals, all because they're "bigger" than me. Well if by 'bigger' they mean that they somehow are oblivious to the fact that they walk around with their butts at nose-level for me then yes, the oafs are bigger. And disgusting.

They have one redeeming value, one thing which keeps me and my people from wiping their sad existence as a blight on nature from nature. They know how to party. And nowhere near Edton can party like the Cracked Flagon. Three stories, it's one of their five biggest buildings; the top level is full of inn rooms, but the bottom two make up a magnifiscent tavern. The ale, wine, and wiskey flow like water from a fountain, and they make amazing roasted pig, hard-crust bread, and import amazing cheeses.

So after I rode into down in a grain cart and offloaded my payload at Fantastic Mel's Shiny Accessories, a nice payday indeed, I made haste to get to here with as little contact with the crowd of Ascents as possible. I took up a small table on the balcony above the bar and had a beautiful Halfling waitress serving me wine and cheese while I listened to a group of musicians play a jovial tune.

My seat was fantastic, I had my back to the wall and to my right was a clear view over the balcony to the front door so I could see everyone who entered. Of course most people who entered were disgusting as they were tall, but when slightly pointed ears poked out of a head of curly auburn hair it caught my eye. See, there is nothing worse in the town of Edton than the Ascents, so when they go and mix their blood with another of the lesser races it can only result in improvement from the pure filth of their own gene pool.

She carried a bow on her back, which caught my attnetion in full. The curve at the tips of the wood were neither Elven, nor the the work of Ascents. It was far too large, but that bow was made using the perfect techniques of Halfling craftsmen. I had to talk to her. I turned to my waitress.
"Have a bottle brought to her table please."

"Sure thing short stuff." She winked at me. What can I say, I have a way with the ladies.

I got up and walked over to the edge of the balcony, leapt and swung down along the rope lanterns hung from. No sooner had I begun to lower on the rope than the door opened again and another woman walked through, followed by a second. The first had grey skin and tusks, clearly carrying Orcan blood. Well I guess not all mixtures are a step up, but she looked stronger than almost any other man in the bar so that's a fight I'd pass on. The second wore a lovely blue dress that completely concealed, wait, wait. Holy shit! I swung upside down from the lantern and pointed at him,

"Wait, what are you doing wearing a dress? Does it just make you more free?"

The bird on his shoulder cawed and I felt Phillip squirm in his pouch.

"It's not a dress! They're robes ya friggin midget!" He took a swing at me, and missed by about six inches.

"Slow, clumsy, and bad at aiming. I'm scared now!" I dropped from the lantern and landed on my feet. I took a bow, "Well I have more important things to do than embarrass you further. Good day."

I walked over to the table the half-elven woman had gone to and hopped into the chair to her left; the one on her right had her bow and quiver leaning on it.

"Hi there, I'm Roscoe, who're you?"

She rolled her eyes at me, "Why is everyone talking to me today?"

"I don't know anyone else's reasons, but I noticed your bow, and I was wondering what a young woman like you was doing with an oversized halfling bow?"

"Oh, um, well I was taught by-" She looks up from me as the half-orc sits down at the table with four large tankards clutched in her hands.

"Look, I'm sorry, that was rude of me back at the taxidermist's. I bought you an ale, and since I saw you have an admirer I bought him one too." The half-orc smiled. She seemed a whole lot happier to see me than the half-elf was to see her.

I offered my hand, "I thank you for the drink. Roscoe Redbottle, expert in item recovery and treasure reallocation. And you are?"

"Challa Axeborne, ranked third in my class at the Hexagon War Academy."

"Impressive, I guess." I turned back to the half-elf, "And you mistress archer? Or would you just prefer Mistress?" Her eyes widened and her lip curled up at the line, as I expected, and thank the gods she didn't show interest in me. I'd hate to break her heart.

"Sam Fletcher, no credentials."

The thing-in-a-dress joined us at the table. "I took the liberty of ordering food."

Challa chimed in, "Sorry, this is Larry. Larry, this is Roscoe, and you know Sam."

Larry cleared his throat, "It's Lawrence, son of Logos, magus of the Raven's order. I'd prefer you not call me as anything but my full name."

"Larry Sawnoff Logos, your name is way to long for casual conversation. Thanks for the food, I ordered us a bottle of wine. So how do you all know each other?"

Sam rubbed between her eyes. "They tried to recruit me, but I already told them, I work better alone."

"Well that makes sense to me. I too work better with just the one partner. Team jobs tend to carry way to much danger for my style."

Challa jumped in, "They also tend to pay a lot more little man. Larry and I just pulled in a cool hundred gold pieces. With an archer," She nodded at Sam, and then looked back to me, "and a skilled 'securities specialist' we could pull in three times that."

I looked up as if in religious exaultation, "I've seen the light, my mind has changed." I turned to Sam, "I don't see why we shouldn't join up with them."

She looked down at me, "First, there is no 'we'. I work alone. Secondly, if I wanted to take on a team and watch them get killed because they couldn't keep quiet I don't think I'd choose this hodgepodge."

The waitress walked by and dropped off four platters of ham, white goat cheese, steaming sliced bread, and fresh fruit. If I'd doubted Challa's claim about deep pockets, this cemented me. She'd probably had to spend eight gold pieces to get this spread, more than most would need to eat and sleep in an inn for a fortnight. The waitress also had my bottle of wine and four clay cups.

I began to pour the wine and pass the cups, "Well Sam, way I see it you've just been given a tankard of fine ale, a platter of high quality food, maybe the best in the house, and I promise you this wine is astounding, as a recruitment attempt. Why not do one job with us, and if you don't like it then you're free to walk away and Challa will never bother you again. Right Challa?"

"Sounds fair to me," Challa shrugged.

Sam smeared some of the cheese on the bright red berry.

"Alright, I will give it a shot, but on one condition. You three have to go find us a healer. I'm not putting all of our lives on the line if you don't first get us a holy man."

"Sure thing, I mean, how hard can that be?" Larry said.

My jaw literally dropped, "Do you make a habbit of saying things like that, because if so then I'm going to have to ask you to change your battle cry to 'I'm invincible' on principle."