Archive for April, 2012

20120430-185440.jpg

Rob conquers the desk lamp.

Author’s note:  Part 11.  11,000 words.  Wow.  I’ve tried doing NaNoWriMo several times, and I always peter out somewhere in the first five to six thousand words.  In this installment I hit eleven thousand, which is impressive to me.  As always, it’s a rough unedited first draft, so errors may occur and research is minimal at this stage.  Thanks for reading.  

 

Several hours out of Marrakesh found the Twilight’s galley jammed with people for the meeting that Janus had called.  Both captains, their first mates(Janus had promoted Mellira), Ibben, Makhi, the lieutenant of the guards, and the supply master were crowded around the galley table.  Maps of the continent lay spread out, weighed down with wooden markers and measuring tools.  The whisky sat near Ford’s hand, not yet open.

“First of all, let me say that I think we hold too many meetings,” began Captain Janus.  “This one, though, is important.  It’s through Captain Ford’s kind generosity that our two crews will be working together for the time being, in our joint venture to get back my airship and kick Ruther Slyne’s ass.  I got stabbed yesterday, but it seems like it happened years ago.  Still hurts like a bitch.”

“So let’s open the whisky and have a drink,” said Ford.  He grabbed the bottle and opened it, then took a long slug straight from the bottle.  It passed to Janus, who did the same, and then around the table, managing to pass around Makhi.  The boy looked after the drink and sighed.

“What have we got, cap’n?” asked Grollo, Ford’s first mate.

“Something that might end up being trouble, not that it isn’t already.  My friend here tells me that the German ambassador knew something about the heist, and that Slyne is making his way to Berlin.  We don’t know much beyond that, but it’s my guess that the Anglo-prussian Empire has something planned.  I think we should get to Berlin before Slyne does and give him a warm welcome.  With our fists and cudgels,” said Janus.  He grinned.  “It’s going to be a hard trip, but we’ll make it because we’re airmen.  We’re loaded with supplies, and the Sky Drake is loaded with a belly full of gold – now tell me which ship’ll be flying faster, and if you say the Drake then I have a lake in the Sahara to sell you.”

“I like that plan,” Ibben said.  ‘What chances have we got to catch up?”

“Ford?” Janus gestured at the American captain, who stepped up and took a quick drink before speaking.

“The Twilight is a good ship, but she’s not as fast as the Drake.  But like Janus said, the Drake is full of gold right now, and gold is heavy.  They have a start on us, but we have two crews – I say we fly in shifts, and go through the night to make up the distance.  It’ll be rough, but I’ve got confidence we can do it.  We’re packed with food, water, and coal, and Slyne will need to stop and refuel at some point.  We don’t know when or where, but we can make some good guesses.  Marcus here is our supply master.  Mellira, if you can let him know what the Drake was carrying when she left, he should be able to plot out some towns where Slyne might be landing.  Grollo will organize the shifts, and we’ll fly until we reach the Iron City.”

The airship was soon filled with the sounds of activity, as Ford’s crew continued the small tasks that ensured the smooth running of an airship, and Janus’ crew made spaces to catch up on sleep before their night shift began.  The Twilight had reached maximum altitude, and the desert lay spread out far beneath like a tan blanket.  The ship took minimal effort once a proper course was set on a clear windless day, which allowed both crews to talk and share air stories.

Janus joined Mellira at the forward rail.  The sun was touching the horizon in the west, and everything was shaded in deep purples and the orange of a fading sunset.  Both wore the heavier jackets that airmen favored, lined with fur and thick enough to insulate against the cold temperatures that flying high always brought.

“It still seems mad to me sometimes,” said Janus.  “When I was tiny boy, the first airship took flight in Scotland.  I remember growing up and watching them come in to London – our small town was in the perfect place for the London approach, so I would sit on my few spare days and watch as they flew overhead, dropping giant shadows over the fields below.  Thirty years ago, and now we have ships like the Drake, that can make distances unheard of when the first airship flew.”

“What made you choose the sky?”

“Adventure.  I wanted to get away from home.  My da was a blacksmith, and I was supposed to apprentice to him.  I suppose I didn’t want to be tied to the same town for the rest of my life.  Being up here, and seeing everything so small down below… that’s what I ran to the sky for.”

Mellira smiled.  “One of my brothers was the same way.  He lost a leg in the war, so he couldn’t join a crew.  I did it for him, and every trip we make on the Sky Drake, each time I come home I bring him something from far away.  He’s getting a pretty large collection, and he always wants to hear my stories.  Doesn’t believe me that most of the time it’s uneventful.  Next time I see him he’ll get an earful, I think.”

“I hope we won’t regret this.  The more I brood on it, the more I feel that we never knew Slyne at all, that he had a mask he wore just for us.  It worries me, and I don’t know what we’ll find at the bottom of this.”

“I trust you, Captain,” said Mellira.  “The crew will follow you anywhere, and Ruther will remember the day before he took the Drake as the last good one in his miserable life.”

Janus nodded and gave her a smile, and together they watched as the sun set over the last stretch of the Sahara.

Hey everyone!

I thought I would try something a little new, and I’m posting about it here. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that Etsy and Zibbet have any ways to enable this, so it has to work by way of mouth.

Right now, if you make an order of $30 or more in either my Etsy shop or my Zibbet shop, I’ll include a FREE suede dice bag in your choice of dark gray or brown suede. Just be sure to specify which color of dice bag you’d like to have. This will be the standard dice bag design, measuring 6″x7″, with a double drawstring system.

As I said, Etsy and Zibbet don’t seem to have a way to implement a sale like this, so I’m trying to rely on word of mouth and social media to spread the word, and I’d love to send out some free dice bags with each order!

Speaking of dice bags, I’ve been considering doing a larger version of the standard dice bag – I’d probably call it the Bigger Bag. It would be a dice bag measuring 12″x7″ instead of the usual 6″x7″. Double the room for extra large collections of dice for those hardcore games. Any thoughts on that?

Also, Greyed Out Productions has a Facebook page. Stop in every now and then to see what’s new!

Author’s note:  The past few days have been without an update, and I apologize.  Today was rough, because my wife was having car troubles.  As always, this is the first unedited rough draft.  Thanks for reading.

 

 

The walk back to the Twilight was spent discussing the best plan of action for the journey ahead.  They would need to take on extra food supplies to feed everyone, and spaces to sleep would have to be found for Janus’ crew and the sikh’s guards.

“I’m still not certain where Slyne could have flown,” said Janus.  “We don’t want to end up heading in the wrong direction on a wild goose chase.  Are you sure that Spain is his best bet, Mellira?”

“Mostly.  Slyne doesn’t speak Arabic, so he doesn’t have many options other than north.  Spain also puts the Mediterranean between us, and with a good headwind he can gain some ground on us.  If we can, we really need to look into why he went and stole all that gold.”

“Greed? Power? Lust? Seems pretty straightforward to me,” said Ibben.

“You don’t just empty a city’s bank vaults for greed, Ibben.  I feel like there’s a reason behind his plan, and if we know what that is then we’re a step ahead of Slyne.  Janus, maybe that kid can try to keep looking for information here in the city.”

“Makhi?” said Janus.  “Yeah, that might work.  I’ll try to talk to Fahn about it before we fly.  And you’re right.  Nobody makes himself a wanted man like that without good reason.   He’s shut him himself out of the Islamic world and put a price on his head.  Damn well better believe we’re not the only ones after his hide.  We just get first crack because he’s got my damn airship.”

The air-port was bustling when the group go back – several airships were taking off, and enormous freight hauler was gliding in from the west, engines pouring black smoke as the crew tried to manhandle the giant beast to a mooring tower.  The deck of the Twilight was packed with crew and crates, and Ford directed traffic with an air of long experience.  There was a sense of urgency, but not panic.

“Janus, good to see you back.  And you brought friends, excellent.  Now we have even less space on the decks.”  Ford frowned at the red-uniformed guards and raised an eyebrow.  Janus shook his head and mouthed “later”.  

“How are we on supplies, Ford?”

“Well, they wouldn’t let me take off without you, so I took a chance and had them load extra barrels of salted meat, lemons, and salt fish, as well as extra coal.  We’re loaded to the gills, and it’s going to slow us down, I won’t lie to you.  But I figured better prepared for anything is better than nothing.  What did you get arrested for, forget to pay a port fee or something?  Can’t have been big, you’re already out.”

“Stole the city treasury.  Like you said, nothing big.” Janus gave Ford a clap on the shoulder and a grin as he walked past.  “If you’re ready, let’s take off.  We’ve got a lot of flying to do, and not enough time to do it in.”

He headed back to the captain’s cabin to look over the maps, and was surprised to see the shopkeeper’s assistant, Makhi, already sitting at the desk.  The boy looked up and smiled.

“Captain! How are you doing? I have something you might wish to know,” he said.

“I’m good.  Surprised to see you, but that’s alright.  We meant to send a message to you before we left.  What have you got?” He pulled out the maps, plotting the shortest route to Spain as the boy began to talk.

That morning, after returning with no useful information, Makhi had gone back to Fahn’s shop to open for the day.  Fahn sold a variety of goods, and that morning had received a shipment of German chocolates.  Makhi was sweeping when two white men entered, asking about the shipment.  As Fahn filled their order and wrote the invoice, the men discussed the previous night’s burglary of the city vaults.

“Slyne should be well on his way by now.  The airship was seen leaving the city several hours ago, and he should be in Berlin in less than a week,” said the shorter, portly man.

“Good, good.  And the sikh, what are his plans?  He will find it difficult to fly Marrakeshi airships into the Anglo-Prussian Empire.”

“He has been secluded all morning, there is no word yet on his plans. The Sky Drake’s captain was arrested this morning, however.  Rumor has it that he will hang.  Ambassador, do you really believe this will work?”

“Dear Helmut, what we have here is a clockwork, engineered to work until no longer required to.  I have every confidence that things will go smoothly at every step.  Ah, our chocolates are ready.  Thank you, dear shopkeeper.”

Fahn had sent Makhi to the Twilight as soon as the men were outside.  The information was too valuable to risk any delay.

“I think Fahn was right.  If that really was the German ambassador, then this might be a lot more dangerous than just a stolen airship and some missing gold.  We might be in deep shit, boy.” said Janus.  The boy nodded in agreement.  The ship rumbled, and suddenly lifted several feet.  “Well, I think we just took off.  I hope you don’t get airsick, boy.”

On deck, orders flew fast as the airship Twilight was loosed from his mooring tower, and began to gain altitude.  Ford directed his crew with a skilled hand, and Janus’ crew stayed out of the way.  The engines roared as they received more power, and the Twilight moved gracefully through the desert air on a northern tangent.  The captain joined Ford on deck and watched as Marrakesh, domain of the desert kings, slowly faded into the haze on the horizon.

“We’ve got to have a meeting, Ford.  I just got some news that you want to hear.”

“How bad is it, Janus?  Do I want to be sitting down and drinking when you tell me?  I have some excellent whisky saved up that should do nicely.”

“Bring it.  Make sure everyone who needs to know is there.  We have plans to make.”

Alright.  Sounds good.  I like plans.  Plans are important.  That guard captain has been looking for you.  I think his name is Odhed,” said Ford.

“Lieutenant.  Bring him, too.  How’s your crew doing?” Janus scanned the horizon.  They were the only airship in sight, quickly gaining altitude and speed.  Soon it would get colder, and most airships had storage chests of extra jackets and blankets for the higher altitudes.  Most airmen brought their own, but the sikh’s guards would need gear, as would Makhi.

Karchev and Friends

I love playing Warmachine, but when it comes to collecting, I’m several expansions and dozens of models behind.  It occurred to me the other day that I essentially stopped collecting around Superiority.  I don’t own cavalry, plastic ‘jacks, Harkevich, or the upgrade kits.  I don’t even own a Behemoth.  Let’s face it, miniatures are expensive.  I don’t often buy miniatures simply because I can’t afford to.  I’ve made some lucky trades, which is how I acquired the battlegroup up there – the result of trading a bunch of old Warhammer bitz and figures and two Magic the Gathering dual lands.  I think the last miniature I actually bought was Zerkova, sometime last fall.

From that standpoint, when it comes to building lists(and playing games in general) I mostly just try to have fun.  I use the models I like, and if they’re not the most broken ones out there, that’s ok.  Khador is a great infantry faction, but even there I’m a bit lacking.  I have the Winterguard deathstar, with a single rocketeer.  I have minimum Iron Fangs plus UA.  I own the Great Bears(got them a few years ago at 50% off).  I own a full unit of Demo Corps.  But no Kayazy, no Rifle Corps, no Nyss Hunters, no Shocktroopers…. A list for me often does comes down to just a few choices, and many of them look similar.  Eventually I’ll expand what I have, but for now I’m mostly ok.  I haven’t even played a game in ages, because I don’t like going to the LGS when I can’t afford anything.  I feel that if you’re getting to hang out in a game store and play Warmachine for 5 hours you should at least buy a solo or a few cups of coffee or whatever.  (Our LGS has a cafe and does coffee, sandwiches, etc.  It rocks.)  So rather than freeloading, I’d rather stay home and paint some of the bare metal I still have laying around.

Back to lists, though – I play what I like, and that’s totally cool.  I can’t wait to play Karchev some more, even if I don’t have any mechanics as support.  I like playing the Butchers, because they kill stuff dead.  The Old Witch can be ridiculously mean, and even Zerkova has her tricks.  For me, it really is true that switching warcasters changes the entire game.  I’m glad I have that option, and that I own a variety of casters that I can use.  Khador is a really fun faction, and thankfully my LGS isn’t saturated with Khador players like I know some places are.  We have a pretty mix of factions, from what I remember, and a number of good Hordes players as well.  I’m not a hugely competitive player, so I do lose a lot.  Again, that’s ok because I know eventually, once I can get more games in, I’ll become a better player.  And even when I do lose, I still have fun.  My favorite games are the close ones, where it comes down to just a few models left on the board on each side, and it’s literally one die roll that determines the win.  Those are the best.

I think my whole point here(and I did say that it was a ramble) is that for me personally, list-building is often about how much I have in the game, and not necessarily about how many über models I can fit in there.  That’s not to say that I don’t use competitive units, but I also won’t handicap myself deliberately by taking sub-par units.  It’s different for each person.  I don’t take too much time when I make lists – again, limited selection – and I include stuff that I like seeing on the tabletop.  A few fun games last year came down to a Devastator with Rage tokens from eButcher trying to pull off a caster kill(didn’t work).  It’s stuff like that that I really enjoy.

Lastly, on miniatures and transporting them: my homemade carrying case is falling apart, and I could really use a new transport.  I’m looking at Portable Warfare, because they’re the only company so far that I’ve seen making a bright orange transport bag.  You won’t ever misplace that sucker.  It’s bright freaking orange.  So I’m trying to save up for that, and I’ve started a ChipIn for it. It’s a little fundraiser thing, where people can donate.  You can find it here. I’ve got an Etsy shop where I sell dice bags and such, and you can use the coupon code THNXMUCH for 15% off your order. I’d much prefer to sell a few dice bags, so please spread the word, and pass the coupon code along too!

In which we continue the adventures of a crew of wayward misfits.  As always, this is the rough, unedited, first draft.  It could all change when I start editing and revising, but for now, I’m glad that I’m getting an update done every two days.  Thanks for reading.

 

“Did Janus just… get arrested?” Mellira moved to the railing to watch as the guards led the captain away from the air-port and to the palace.

“I believe he did indeed.  Wonder what he did this time.  Any ideas?”  Ford spit in the direction of the departing guards.  “Those were the sikh’s personal guards, not city watch.  Something is up, and I don’t like it.  Janus may not be the most law-abiding man out there, but as I recall he doesn’t usually get arrested by the likes of them. Looks like we won’t be leaving as planned after all.”

“We’ve got to get him out! What we can do?”  Mellira moved to the tower, ready to head down to the palace herself.

“Pray to Allah that he makes it out alive,” said Ibben.  “The Sikh does not often send out his own palace guards to do the city watch’s work.  We should head to the palace, to try to find out more.”

“Gather the crew and make sure they’re all here, ready for take-off.  We’ll be ready at a moment’s notice.  In the meantime, go see what you can do at the palace!” said Ford.  He barked orders at his own crew, and the ship jumped to life.  Airmen checked rigging, secured cargo, and took care of the thousand other details that needed doing before an airship took off.

Ibben joined Mellira, and together they ran back to the inn.  Their own crew was already packing, ready to make flight on the Twilight.  Airmen’s packs were all over the place, bulging with personal items and clothing, and the innkeep looked like he was getting plenty of exercise running food and drink for everyone.

Mellira jumped onto the closest tabletop, and gave a couple of good stomps with her boots.  The noise level dropped, and dozens of eyes looked in her direction.

“Ok boys, listen up.  Here’s the deal on what’s been going on in our jolly old lives as of yesterday.  Slyne is no longer first mate – it turns out that Ruther had other ideas, and has made himself captain.  He’s also made off with our Sky Drake.  Are we going to take that?”

“NO,” came twenty voices in unison.

“That’s what I thought.  In addition to taking our dearly beloved airship, he’s also kidnapped our dearly beloved Ben.  What do we think of that?”

“String him up!”, “Shark-bait!”, “Air drop him!” came from the crowd, with numerous hisses and boos added in for good measure.

“Exactly my line of thinking.  Now, the last bit of news – Captain’s been arrested on unknown charges.”  Another chorus of boos.  “Ibben and me are going down to the palace to give the sikh a piece of our minds, and you lads will be on the Twilight, making ready to fly down Slyne’s filthy, lying throat when we give the word!”

Cheers erupted from the crowd, and someone with a sense of humor even threw a cactus rose.  Mell took a bow, and stuck the flower in her hair.  She leapt off the table, waved to the crew, and slipped out the door into the heat.

“That went better than I thought,” she said.  Ibben nodded and checked his knives.  “They love you, in their own ways.  Probably follow you to Hell if you asked ‘em to.”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing,” she asked.  The dark man grinned at her, and gave no reply.  Together they made their way to the palace to plead for a life.

 

Captain Janus was waiting when the guards came for him the second time.  He’d decided that dignity was the best option, no matter what the sikh had decided.  The time had passed quickly – he judged only an hour or so had gone by.  The walk through the palace was much faster this time, with fewer corridors to pass through.  The audience in the ornate chamber had changed, but the sikh sat as before on his throne.  Janus approached, surrounded by guards and steel, and bowed from the waist when he was told to halt.

“While the evidence seems to be in your favor, Captain, I cannot rule out that you  are entirely innocent.  Marrakesh is my city, and while in it you come under my rule.  As such, I charge you with this task: find the man known as Ruther Slyne, wherever he may be, and bring him back for judgement.  With him you shall bring the gold he has stolen.  The criminals he associates with may be dealt with as you see fit.  You have an airship?”

“Yes, your lordship.  Jeremiah Ford of the Twilight has offered his services,” said Janus.  His mind spun at the turnaround of events.  He had just been set free to do what intended all along.  The sikh’s next words brought him back to the present.

“Good.  A contingent of my personal guard will accompany you, to ensure that my trust was not misplaced.”

“May I ask about travel expenses, your lordship?  Refueling is not cheap, and my crew is already going to be imposing on Captain Ford’s business,” Janus said.  The sikh stared at him, and was silent for several minutes.  The captain shifted uncomfortably.  Finally the sikh nodded and sighed.

“You are correct, of course.  Expenses may be deducted from the gold aboard the Sky Drake, provided that I receive an intimately detailed and itemized list upon your return.  Now, you may leave.  My lieutenant of the guards will meet you at the palace doors with your guard.  Your acquaintances are waiting there as well, I believe,” he said.

Janus wondered who the man was talking about.  He knew no one in the palace, and surely the man couldn’t be talking about the soldiers that would be coming along.  He shrugged and followed his guides, simply glad to be free and alive.  The guards with him were silent, only gesturing to indicate direction when needed.  He wondered if they were upset at his release.  More pressing was the question of what had changed the sikh’s mind.  He was sure that the man would have him executed, just for owning the airship that took off with his gold.  The small group turned the corner, and Janus saw two familiar forms waiting.

“Mell, Ibben!  Damn but it’s good to see you two,” he said.  “What are you doing here, I thought you were back at the Twilight?”

“We came as soon as we could, the crew is at the airship and ready to take off.  We had to wait a few hours, but finally we somehow got in to see the sikh.  He asked us a lot of questions about where we were last night, if anyone could testify to that, what we planned to do, that sort of thing.  I think we managed to convince him that you were with us a good part of the night and that you were innocent,” said Mellira, taking a deep breath.

“Let’s get out of here, we’ve been here long enough already,” chimed Ibben.

“Not yet – we’re taking on passengers.  The sikh is letting me go on the condition that we hunt down Slyne, but he wants some of his hunting dogs with us.  They should be here in a minute,” said Janus.  “I wasn’t expecting to walk out of here, and I’m grateful for whatever you said to change his mind.  Thank you both.”

“Aww, you can repay us later, captain,” said the redhead.  Their heads turned down the corridor at the sound of approaching boots.  The lieutenant of the guard, a grey haired man in his forties, was leading four others, all packed for travel.  He nodded at the captain, and gave a quick salute.

“Ok, are we all here?  Then let’s go, we’ve got a snake to hunt down.”  Captain Janus led the way out of the palace’s doors, already thinking of the next steps in their journey.

Occasionally I like to put up a few links to my Etsy store, and let everyone know what’s been going on. I’ll try to mark those posts clearly, so that people can skip over them if they choose to.

I haven’t been adding a lot of new items to the Greyed Out Etsy store lately, but I did renew a few items.
The Wilderland map sold, so it was renewed just yesterday.

As always, the Drawstring Bag section of the shop has a ton of options, everything from Freestanding Brown Suede dice bags to a variety of dice bags in colorful prints. I’ve even got a commercial up for the dice bags on Youtube.

If you’re interested in fantasy art, the Monster Skull might be a good choice… I based it off a hyena skull, but changed the proportions around a bit. There’s also a Skeletal Hand painted in acrylic on matte board.

Last but not least, my crooked houses.

This is just a small selection of the items I have listed, so please stop by and take a look. I also have a secret, unlisted coupon code – it’s 15% off your order when you enter THNXMUCH as your coupon. Pass the word along to friends, as well!

Author’s note:  One of the problems I’ve always had when trying to do NaNoWriMo is that after some small number of words(usually around 5,000), I would fizzle out and have no idea where to go next.  So far with Airships I’m not having that problem, because situations keep leading to other situations.  And it’s totally ok if this thing takes me a couple hundred pages to write out, because that’s the nature of the novel and the first draft.  Jim Butcher always says that one of his favorite things to do is put Harry Dresden in impossible situations and trouble just to see what happens, and I feel like that’s a good way to get conflict going.  I think you see that a little already with Captain Janus; first he gets stabbed, and then he finds that his trusted second in command made off with his airship.

The guard was efficient, and quickly led Janus through the city to the jails in the palace.  Marrakesh at the time was ruled by a sikh, advised by the leaders of the nomadic desert tribes.  The prisoner was brought to the jail through a back entrance, avoiding needless attention.  The cell was surprisingly spacious.  Small barred windows near the top of the high ceiling showed that they were at ground level.

“Stay here.  You will be brought before the sikh to hear your sentence shortly,” said the guard.

“What are my charges?” Janus clutched the bard. “You haven’t even charged me with anything!”

“Listen to that, Jasim.  The city treasury is emptied and leaves on this man’s airship, and the stinking cur pretends not to know.  What a fool does he think we are?” The guards laughed and left, leaving Janus to his thoughts.

He sat back against the cool wall.  So that was what Slyne had planned, why he’d stolen the Sky Drake.  The captain wondered how the first mate had managed it.  The city treasury gone… Small wonder he’d been arrested.  It must have taken months of meticulous planning, an incredible risk with a huge payout.

He had been attacked at sunset, and the rest of the crew had been led out drinking around the same time.  The money must have been stolen just after full dark, maybe with the help of a bribed guard.  It would have taken hours to haul everything across the sleeping city; the air-port was on the opposite side of Marrakesh from the palace, because the sikh still mistrusted technology, nevermind the huge sums that his import taxes were raking in.  Loading the Sky Drake added several more hours, meaning that Slyne had probably flown at or just before dawn.

Had Janus gone to the airship, he would have ended up as dead as Len.  In hindsight, staying at the inn to make plans was the best decision they could have made.  Best of all, the Drake being full of gold meant that the airship was heavy in the air, burning more fuel and needing many more stops to take on supplies.  That meant the route Slyne chose was much more predictable, with more chances to get caught.

Janus looked around his cell.  The room measured perhaps twenty feet by fifty, with the long wall at the back of the cell across from the bars.  The ceiling was high, probably another twenty feet, with small windows near the top that led in morning light.  He was currently the only prisoner, and the room beyond the cell was equally empty.  The guards were likely certain of their security, and felt no need to keep watch on a single prisoner.

He sighed.  The problem came in getting out.  Trying to argue with a man already convinced of your guilt was often pointless, and Janus was certain that the sikh was of the mind that he was indeed guilty.  The captain doubted that anyone would be breaking him out of jail anytime soon.  Escape almost certainly carried a death sentence, as if the penalty for theft – loss of one or both hands – wasn’t bad enough.  Janus had no intention of hanging, nor did he want to spend the rest of his life as a handless invalid.  That left a strong convincing argument as his defense.  Maybe the fact that he was stabbed would actually work in his favor.  He closed his eyes, and fell into a doze.

‘Wake up, dog,” the voice said. It was accompanied by a rattling of metal on metal – a halberd being dragged across the bars.  Three guards waited outside the cell.  The light had changed, and Janus guessed that he’d been asleep for several hours.  He stretched and took a moment to wake up.  They had untied his hands when he arrived, and without being told he held them out to be bound again.  The guard had changed, and one who now tied him was younger, and nodded approval.  The cell door clanged shut behind Janus with an unpleasant finality.

The walk to see the sikh seemed to take an eternity, through endless palace corridors filled with sumptuous carpets and beautiful knick-knacks.  Staff rushed by, often carrying trays of delicacies.  His guards bantered back and forth, and Janus was beginning to suspect that they were deliberately leading him in a longer route than necessary.  They stopped in front of a pair of ornate doors just as he opened his mouth to ask.

The chamber inside was sumptuous, tiled in an intricate design of repeating shapes and abstract forms.  Janus vaguely remembered that Islam forbid direct representations of animals and man, so architects had turned to lines and repetitions of curves to decorate.  It was beautiful but sometimes overwhelming.  One wall of the chamber opened into a shaded garden, with multiple decorated archways leading out.

The room was so busy that it took Janus a moment to notice the people.  The sikh sat on a large thronelike chair and wore robes in a rich cream color with gold thread.

He was an older man with grey in his hair, and a finely trimmed mustache.  Courtiers surrounded him, wealthy men who supported the new trade agreements and dealt in goods from all over the world.  Janus recognized several whom he had traded with and delivered cargo for in the past.  A table to the side was laid out with food, and more people wandered through the garden, conversing quietly.  The guards with their halberds stood out sharply in their red uniforms.

“Captain Janus, welcome.  I am told that you were made aware of the charges against you.  How do you plead?”  The sikh had a quiet voice that commanded respect, silk with iron underneath.

“Innocent, your lordship.  Does my plea make a difference?  Haven’t you already condemned me in your mind?  I swear on my life that it wasn’t I who robbed your treasury, but I know who did,” said Janus.

“Your ship, the Sky Drake, left this morning with most of the gold in our treasury in his hold.  And yet you claim innocence?  Your only mistake was in not leaving the city with your airship!  I can only guess at the devious plots you have in motion which kept you here.”

“Like I said, I knew you wouldn’t hear my reason.  What was the point of bringing me out of my cell to have this farce of an audience?  Why even bring me to the jails at all, why not simply execute me on the spot?”  One of the guards raised his halberd to strike, but a gesture from the sikh stayed his hand.

“Let him speak.  He only digs his grave deeper.  I have witnesses who will tell of your guilt.  Bring them out!”  The sikh stared at Janus with cold eyes.

Two men entered the chamber, both wounded.   One had a leg in a cast, and the other was bruised and battered.  They bowed low to the sikh, before turning to face the captain and his guards.

Both men visibly started.  They looked at each other in confusion and hesitated, reluctant to speak.

“Well? Speak his guilt,” said the sikh.  Impatient for his trial to end, he tapped the fingers of one hand along the arm of his chair.

The man with the broken leg opened his mouth to speak, but the other talked first.  “Your eminence, this is not the man we saw last night.”

“Of course it is, who else could it be?  He is Janus van Koonns, captain of the Sky Drake.  He was arrested just this morning.  Look again, fool.”

“I am sorry, but this is not he.  The man we saw leading the attack was also blonde, but much taller and thinner, with a sharp face.  This man’s face is rounded and his hair is short and shaggy, while the other had long hair slicked back,” said the man with the cast.  He looked severely apologetic.  “This is truth,” agreed the other.  “Though each has blond hair, they look nothing alike.  This Captain Janus was wounded, it seems, while the man from last night escaped with no harm to his person.  I am sorry your eminence.  You have our deepest apologies.”

Janus’ mouth hung open in shock.  The two men had risked their lives to tell the truth, and had perhaps inadvertently saved his life.  He glanced at the sikh, who had a similar expression on his face.  Murmurs spread through the watching crowd.

“Captain Janus, do you know the man they describe?”

“He was my first mate, your lordship.  I was attacked last night at sunset, cut by my attacker, and spent the rest of the night at the inn called the Wandering Crocodile.  Two of my crew were with me, and the rest were out drinking.  They’re all in the city right now.  My first mate, Ruther Slyne, betrayed me as well.  I had no idea what his intentions were until one of your guards mentioned the stolen gold to me this morning.  My crew and I were actually supposed to take on a load of cloth and spices and leave for France this morning.”

“If what you say is truth… I must think on this matter.  Take him back his cell.  Do him harm, and give him food and water.”  Janus nodded in thanks, and gladly followed the guards.  It wasn’t the best outcome, but it was better than hanging.

 

Author’s note:  Rough unedited first draft.  I’m writing with no research done, just ideas, and what you’re reading could change drastically.  Thanks for reading.  

 

The sun rose slowly over Marrakesh, shadows drawing back into alleys, between houses, into the nooks and crannies that every city had in abundance.  The heat would come back as it always did, but here, now, in the early light of dawn, it was still bearable.  The inhabitants had dealt with the sun for millennia, but the hundreds of visitors, traders, tourists, investors and newcomers all faced the desert heat in different ways.

The small inn at the edge of the trade district was a hive of activity.  Crew from the Sky Drake had been arriving in small groups, staggering in to find food and relief from the previous night’s drinking.  Makhi, who had returned with much of the same information as Ibben, ran messages and went from tavern to tavern, rousing those crew members who needed more than a quick kick to get them moving.

Ibben and Mellira flanked the captain as he stepped out, cigar clenched in his teeth.  Passersby avoided the trio, who looked ready to take on Hell itself.  None of them had slept, and Ibben in particular was grimy and filthy from the previous night’s adventure.  Together they headed in the direction of the air-port, seeking the captain of the Twilight.

The air-port had grown on the outside of the city, getting larger every year as airship travel exploded and merchants the world over realized the profits to be made in trading goods that could be delivered anywhere, much faster than by any other method.  Already loud and bustling with traders, captains, crew, and porters, the air-port only grew busier as the day went on.  The very nature of the airship meant that there was plenty of shade to be found, even if it did move slightly with the wind.

The Twilight was moored at the edge of the port, tethered with thick ropes to a four story tower that contained stairs and a mechanical lift for easier loading of cargo.  The airship resembled the Sky Drake with only a few minor differences.  The Twilight was three meters longer, and had a deeper belly for larger cargo loads.  The aft engines were heavier, and the Drake was slightly more maneuverable.

The trio climbed the tower and paused on the landing platform to take in the view.  Marrakesh spread out before them, saturated in the warm tones of early morning.  The city was murmuring as it woke, residents getting up to start their daily tasks.  The great market square was busy, vendors setting up their stalls to catch the early customers, shouting their wares.

“Who goes there? Mellira, is that you?” The voice came from the deck of the Twilight, and belonged to a balding man with wire spectacles.  He held a staff casually at his side and peered at Janus and his crew from less than ten feet away across the gap between airship and tower.

“Tomas!” The redhead grinned and waved.  “How are you doing, you old dog?  Are the kids doing well?”

“It is you, by god.  I’d recognize that red hair and that pretty arse anywhere.  The kids are doing great, Betsy is a wonderful mother.  Can’t say as I’m the best dad in the world, but I try to bring ‘em something every visit,” Tomas said.  He set down the staff and laid out the gangplank.  “What brings you to the Twilight?  Captain Janus, good to see you too.  Ibben.  Come aboard, come aboard!  Ford is in his cabin, go right on in.”

Mellira ran the plank and jumped at Tomas, giving him a warm hug as she pecked his cheek.  The men were more reserved, and stuck to handshakes.  The deck was quiet, though a pile of crates had begun forming at the base of the tower, and a small number of porters were standing in a group, waiting to load the ship.

“Is he awake? It’s early yet, but we need to see him,” said Janus.  He looked back toward the cabins and frowned.

“If he’s not, you can wake him up,” said Tomas.  “He should be up, though.  Breakfast, I think.  I’ll have something brought for you as well.”

Janus nodded and led the way aft.  It was time to call in the favors.  The cut on his chest hurt, and he was more than exhausted.  The theft of the Sky Drake had caused him more grief than he wanted to show, and the anger at Slyne’s betrayal fueled him now.  He had left home twenty years ago, signed up with an airship crew, and never looked back.  Back then, airships were slow and bulky, but designs had improved drastically in the years he’d been in the air.  The Sky Drake was only a few years old, and she was his.  He had worked his way up from deck crew to captain, and no whoreson bastard would ever take that from him.  He clenched a fist and heard his knuckles pop.  The door to the captain’s cabin was ajar, and Janus took a deep breath and stepped inside.

“Jeremiah Ford! Your ship isn’t fit to carry pigshit!  What are you teaching that crew of yours?”  Ford looked up from his breakfast plate, eyes wide with a fork halfway to his lips.  The bacon slipped from the fork, and the small captain grinned as he saw who had called his name.

“Well if it isn’t my old friend Captain Janus van Koonns!  What brings you to this old flying crate?”  The two captains embraced, and room was made around the table for everyone.

“I’m calling the favor, Jere.  Slyne took off with the Drake and left us all hanging with our balls to the wind.  He flew just before dawn, from what we can tell.”

“That backstabbing sum’ bitch… What do you need from me?  I’m at your disposal, you know that.  I’m set to load up on cloth goods, but it’s a small cargo,the load-in shouldn’t take long at all.  We can set out in an hour.  Where’s Slyne headed?”

“We don’t actually know.  We think he’s going for Spain, and he’s got Ben on board as hostage.  He had Ben write a letter that was delivered to me, but he didn’t specify any reasons.  Nothing but long-winded gloating about why he was better than me.”

“Then forget about it for now, and relax and have some breakfast while you can.  I’ll have another pot of coffee sent in,” said Ford.  He was American, born in Pennsylvania, and in the way of most Americans was endlessly optimistic.  He leaned back now in his chair, in shirtsleeves and suspenders, and pulled out a pipe.

The rest of the hour passed quietly, and Janus and crew enjoyed the simple breakfast provided.  Finally they pushed back plates and mugs and stood, stretching.

“I’ll get the crew, and meet you back here,” said Mellira.  They walked out to the gangplank with Ford, discussing plans, and were surprised to see several of the city watch on the tower’s platform.

“Captain Janus?” said one of the guard.  They were in the traditional red ceremonial garb, and carried short halberds.

“Yes?”  Janus traded glances with Ibben, and shook his head ever so slightly.

“We regret to inform you that you are under arrest, under orders from the Duke of Marrakesh.  You will be accompanying us to the city’s jails, please.  Come peacefully, or you will come bruised and beaten.”  The men stepped forward, flanking Janus as their leader tied Janus’ hands.  Mell, Ibben, and Ford watched in silence as he was escorted down the tower stairs, shock on their faces.

 

I know that technically Mordor is in the providence of The Lord of the Rings, but my earlier post on mapping Mirkwood follows the same title format.  So I stuck with it.

 

I’ve always wondered what produced the almost square mountain ranges that encompass most of Mordor; it’s a land that’s almost instantly recognizable on a map if you’re a fan of any fantasy whatsoever.  I haven’t yet read any of the massive history tomes that Tolkien wrote, I’ve only made it through the Lord of the Rings three or four times so far.  But it’s a great land to look at.

I know that in my cartography I’m not really breaking any new ground, but nonetheless I really like mapping out these places and seeing every little detail.  Mordor doesn’t have nearly as many as the Wilderland map I’ve done, but still… all those mountains.  Man.  I had fun with this one because I used watercolors to add some extra shading/color to the mountains; in plain ink they looked a bit boring.

Enough blabber! Here are the pictures:

 

I’m also working on a few sketches that involve Edward Gorey-esque children – I’m getting the occasional search on the blog for “Edward Gorey children”, so I thought it appropriate to do some art that’s relevant to that, so as not to disappoint searchers.