Wednesday, January 30, 2013

There Is No Comparison!

 So help me, we talked about Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson in the same class in American Lit. I still don’t understand what is so fantastic about that nitwit Whitman, and frankly, there is just no comparison between him and Emily Dickinson. I had a comparison earlier between poetry by Whitman and by Dickinson. I don’t remember what I picked for Whitman’s poem, but for Emily I picked one that explained her love of the magic of books – how a sick boy was set free by the wonders of a good story.

A second experience with the comparison of Emily’s beauty to Whitman’s gagfest? Very well, then:
Whitman:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The world’s biggest bragging poet thought he was somehow bigger and more important than ordinary people. He condescendingly celebrates them while thinking he’s so much better than them. If Echo’s Narcissus ever wrote poetry, it would be exactly like Walt Whitman’s.

Emily Dickinson:
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I will not live in vain;
If I can ease one heart the aching,
Or cool one pain;
If I can help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I will not live in vain.

Emily had a servant’s heart. To her, the greatest achievement was to help someone else.

So tell me, which is more admirable? And which is more palatable?

Another pair of examples:

Whitman spent pages and pages saying he was the greatest, the best, and that he would be read for generations. He called himself America’s poet. (No, thank you! He my poet is not!)

Emily wrote this in one of her most famous poems:
For love of Her – Sweet – countrymen –
Judge tenderly – of Me

Saturday, January 26, 2013

About the Lost City

This post is for the sake of any feedback for the Quest for Rinaria that anyone would like to offer. Any questions, suggestions, or favorite pirates can be put in as a comment. I will reply to every comment.

By the way, if have decided that some of these pirates will be continuing their journey into Graystone.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Birthday/Quest for Rinaria, Part V ~ Where the Sea Nymphs Rise

I meant to put this up yesterday to celebrate my birthday. But I was on the plane for most of yesterday, and when I got to the airport, something came up. Sarah and Em had got all my friends to come surprise me at the airport. I turned to look one way, and thought I saw John; then I looked over my other shoulder and everyone else was there. Best birthday surprise ever!

Anyway, the below story is the longest Rinaria story, primarily because it's told from the viewpoint of my favorite new pirate. Not my favorite old pirate, which would be Shartalla; my favorite new one.

So then, read the new Quest for Rinaria and enjoy!


The Quest for Rinaria ~ Part V
Where the Sea Nymphs Rise


At Eneng. Of course she could smile at anyone else, but – sea nymphs, sea nymphs, sea nymphs.
Perhaps the lateness of the hour attributed to Korep’s difficulty concentrating. He had a wandering mind by nature, but he had learned to keep it mostly in check. Telling himself over and over not to focus on something really didn’t work – the goal, after all, was to not think about it, and thinking about not thinking about it by default meant he was thinking about it. Instead he tried to find something in his desired vein of thought to cling to. That usually worked quite well.
Unfortunately, his oldest friend was a very distracting topic.
He was on this voyage for treasure as much as any of the others, but the treasure he hoped to find wasn’t in Rinaria. He had hoped to regain the friendship he’d used to share with Ksheygha. He’d met her when they were both serving aboard the same ship. He had been a deckpaw, usually stuck with menial labor, and Ksheygha had been a chronicler, which partly contributed to her fine speech. Aboard a ship, a chronicler was considered nothing more than an ornament; Ksheygha had been given no hammock, no share in the treasure, and certainly no instruction in how to handle herself in a fight. Korep, the youngest ferret on the ship besides her, began to teach her how to use a dagger and a crossbow. They would slip down to the large cargo holds and practice in the relatively wide space. As Ksheygha’s skill with weapons grew, so did her confidence. In turn, Korep had grown in ambition and determination – for there were few creatures with more determination than Ksheygha could wield, if she so chose.
After a long time, the captain of that ship was killed, the hull was nearly destroyed, and the crew dispersed at Myanka. Korep had struggled to get on a new ship with Ksheygha, but for some reason that he wasn’t sure of, she’d signed up to the crew of Wideprow without him. It had been so long – so long – since he had been aboard a ship with his dearest friend. But it seemed as if the many leagues of unrewarding toil she’d sailed since then had taken their toll.
What Korep wouldn’t give to see the old sharp, smoldering flash in her amber eyes that he remembered so well.
Certainly he would give every smidgen of treasure he would find in Rinaria to see her back to her old self, and that was why he found it so hard to concentrate on the task ahead.
He was sitting in a small storage space built behind his cabin. It was drafty because the portholes were flung open, but the sea breeze and the salt spray didn’t bother Korep. He had wisely left the paper copies of the clues behind in his cabin, and now he sat scrunched up in the close space, gazing at the night sea. He could see Searaider about a league behind and knew Seawraith was close behind that, even if he couldn’t make her out. One of the benefits of following this current was the fact that they could stay mostly together in a group.
“Where the sea nymphs rise,” Korep murmured to himself.
There was a loud whistle from topside. Korep straightened, surprised; then he scrambled through the hole back into his cabin. From there he hurried onto the deck.
He met his bosun almost immediately and asked, “Problem?”
The ferret shook his head. “Not really, cap’n. The current’s just goin’ beyond what it was marked on the map. We’ve gone as far north as the chart marks it. Truth is, not much of anything is charted this far north.”
Korep frowned and crossed to the pavilion set up in the middle of the deck. He had ordered this construction himself as a way to examine paper charts on deck without them being damaged by water. He bent over the charts now and saw the course his navigator had marked.
“How far north d’you think this current goes?” he asked the ferrets gathered around him.
At that moment, Ksheygha’s voice broke in. “To where the sea nymphs rise.”
Korep looked up and saw her standing across the table from him. He tilted his head back and asked, “Got any idea where that might be?”
She shrugged. “No, I cannot say I have. But then, I haven’t seen to many sea nymphs in my life.”
Korep smiled, not sure if she was joking or serious, and looked back to the chart. “Anybody else have any ideas?”
One of Korep’s crew leaned against the table and murmured, “Well, nymphs ain’t exactly un’eard o’ throughout the sea, but we’re s’post t’ look fer a specific place. The clues don’t identerfy which one, so it’s gotta be somethin’ that’s the same in all places where sea nymphs are ’eard of.”
Korep nodded decisively. “Seaferret, y’ve just earned yerself a spare spirit ration. Get it from the galley when y’er off duty.”
The ferret grinned.
“Any’n know of anything that would fit that description?” Korep asked.
There were general headshakes all around.
“We’ve been up ’ere afore once,” one of the surrounding ferrets put in. “Last summer.”
“Was that when we were carryin’ the silks an’ all the cloth?” Korep asked, trying to remember.
A few nodded. Ksheygha wrinkled her brow in surprise but didn’t say anything.
“We were chased by the two sloops that time,” someone else put in helpfully.
“Yeah,” Korep nodded, remembering. “We lost them in that mist, right?”
“You didn’t just turn and fire?” Ksheygha asked curiously.
“Didn’t need to,” Korep shrugged. “We found a huge bank o’ fog we c’d lose them in.”
Ksheygha nodded slowly, and Korep realized that he was staring. He returned his gaze to the map on the table. “That was right around ’ere, wasn’ it?” he asked, tapping the map.
“Further north,” his bosun corrected. “’Round about here.”
Korep checked the new location against the ship’s current location. It wasn’t far away.
“Let’s ’ope the mist is gone,” he said.

The current, which had been getting stronger, remained steady for the next several hours. This was a relief to many of the crew who feared they were sailing toward a maelstrom. After all, many of them reasons, if a maelstrom went all the way to the bottom of the sea, why shouldn’t things that lived on the ocean floor rise to the surface there?
Korep, like Shartalla but unlike most sailors, was only a little superstitious. He didn’t believe in nymphs, whirlpools, or ghost ships; in fact, before Winterblade showed him the manuscripts obtained from Lunep, he hadn’t believed in Rinaria either. But he wasn’t completely fearless. He had certainly been afraid of entrusting his beloved ship to the unknown current. That fear led him to sleeplessness; in order to force himself to relax, he slipped down to the currently empty cargo hold.
On the surface, Oceanflower appeared have a shallow draft – which meant that not much of the ship was below the waterline. Shartalla’s ship, Wynraser, had a very shallow draft. But appearances can be deceiving; in truth, Oceanflower had a lot of ship below the waterline, and most of it was a cargo hold.
Korep was a smuggler. He specialized in evading fees and hiding goods from inspectors. Hidden below the obvious cargo hold, which was divided into many compartments to conceal its disproportionate smallness, was another cargo hold. This one was usually full, and it could be filled with wine, silks, jewels, weapons, equipment, or even basics for everyday life. Most rulers weren’t as lenient as Queen Demeda, and some of them taxed the life out of their citizens. Korep smuggled supplies to these places, where he sold them cheap without paying local taxes; he then bought the local goods higher than anyone else in the area could pay, and went and sold them somewhere else.
Korep only “traded” – his word for it – in one kingdom that had reasonable tax rates, and that was the Wraith Mouse kingdom. When there, he paid all the fees he owed to Queen Demeda, and always threw in a tip for the dock workers. Elsewhere, he paid as little as he could, so he could then sell his goods for as little as possible.
He went down to the hold – the secret hold – and looked around. It was relatively empty now, with little in the way of cargo. The floor was curved because this was the very bottom of the ship. The curved floor also helped bring all the weight to the center of the Oceanflower, which made the ship more balanced. The wood was dry, which meant there were no leaks. The only cargo was a small box of pearls, two chests of swords, and a block of steel that could be turned into a sword or a shovel.
Korep inspected the floor twice, looking for any sign of a leak, and when he found none he went topside.
The sun was just showing over the eastern horizon. He saw Ksheygha leaning on the starboard railing, watching it, and wordlessly crossed the deck to join her.
She jumped a little when she heard his pawsteps on the wood, but then she relaxed. “Silk and cloth?” she asked skeptically. “You’re the sneakiest smuggler on the western ocean, and you smuggle silk and other cloth?”
“What exactly do y’ think smugglers smuggle?” Korep asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Ksheygha shrugged. “Jewels, or – aaaahhhh,” she said, realizing the truth. “The jewels were in the cloth, weren’t they.”
Korep smiled and gave no reply.
“Maybe if I ever become captain, I’ll look into smuggling,” Ksheygha mused. “Wideprow’s big enough to build some secret holds – what?”
Korep had looked away from her and back over the ocean. In answer to her question, he shrugged. “Nothin’ really,” he murmured.
“Are you afraid of competition?” Ksheygha teased. “You should be, I can outsmart you –”
“Apparently y’ ain’t as competitive as y’ used t’ be,” Korep interrupted quietly.
Ksheygha’s eyes darkened dangerously. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Korep turned to look right at her. “The Ksheygha I used t’ know would never’ve said ‘if.’ She would’ve said ‘when.’”
Now Ksheygha looked away. “I don’t know what to tell you, Korep,” she admitted.
“Y’ c’d start by tellin’ me that the hours I spent teachin’ y’ t’ fight ha’n’t been tossed overboard,” Korep replied mildly, “an’ then y’ c’d tell me why my company is less appealing than it used t’ be.”
Ksheygha must have expected such a response, because she didn’t seem surprised. She just shook her head wearily and murmured, “It isn’t you, Korep.”
Korep frowned. “That’s the worst possible scenario,” he growled.
Ksheygha looked at him in surprise. “Why?”
“Because if it ain’t me, there’s nothin’ I can do t’ fix it,” Korep scowled.
“You’re right,” Ksheygha replied sadly. “There isn’t.”
The whole world seemed silent except for the sound of the waves and the creaking of the ropes. Then Ksheygha, in an obvious attempt to make small talk, murmured, “Your crew keeps checking the water casks.”
“Just ignore ’em,” Korep replied. “It’s what I do.”
“Who do they suspect?” Ksheygha pressed.
“No idea,” Korep answered dismissively. “I quit askin’.”

Wynraser, in spite of not sailing on any wind, was still far ahead of the other ships. Shartalla had been standing on a railing, looking northwest, and when she heard Craic the raven approaching, she jumped lightly back onto the deck and ran back to the helm.
Craic alighted by the wheel, where Skorlaid was steering, but faced the captain and all but ignored the first mate. “I have seen all the other ships,” he reported. “Nothing is wrong, although Winterblade suspects she can see a ship following.”
“So she’s still trailin’ along in the stern,” Shartalla smirked. “Is it the Nygoan?”
“I have no idea,” Craic replied derisively. “Winterblade isn’t even sure it isn’t her imagination. Eneng seemed inclined to think she saw whales … what do you call it …”
“Breaching?” Shartalla supplied.
“Yes, breaching,” Craic replied. “I kept wanting to say beaching.”
“Nah, breaching is what whales do when they want to breathe,” Shartalla explained, “and beaching is what they do when they can’t tell water from sand. Is Winterblade worried?”
“No,” Craic replied confidently.
“Then no reason for us t’ be either,” Shartalla replied cheerfully.
Zuryzel, who had been leaning against the stern railing talking with Skorlaid and Dejuday before Craic’s arrival, gave Shartalla a puzzled look. “You’re in a good mood.”
“You bet!” Shartalla agreed delightedly. “I’m doing exactly what I’ve wanted to do my entire life!”
“Drift along northward on a current?” Dejuday asked, confused.
“No!” Shartalla exclaimed. “Let the sea take me where it will, while I just look forward to adventures ahead an’ don’t worry about the steerin’!”
“That would make most creatures a mite nervous,” Skorlaid grumbled. But he was grinning like his captain.
Shartalla laughed. “Tell y’ what, Skorlaid. Get down t’ the bow an’ look out fer anything we don’t want t’ hit. I’ll keep ’er steady.”
Skorlaid happily relinquished the wheel and Shartalla rested her paw on the wood. But before Skorlaid descended to the main deck, Craic cawed in an off-wing voice, “I heard some of Korep’s crew muttering about jellyfish in the water casks.”
Shartalla’s head whipped up. “Did they find one?”
“No,” Craic replied acidly. “The idiots were only looking. How would a jellyfish end up in a water cask, I ask you?”
“Some’n coulda put it there,” Skorlaid said easily. “Anything else?”
Craic shook his head. “May I sojourn to the raven’s nest?”
“Go right ahead,” Shartalla allowed him.
Zuryzel smirked as Craic ascended to the crow’s nest.
As soon as he was gone, Shartalla turned to her first mate. “Some’n coulda put it there?” she exclaimed.
At that, both pirates burst out laughing. “Well,” Skorlaid gasped out, “can you think o’ any other way?”
“We’re missing something,” Dejuday interrupted, still smirking at Craic’s allusion to the “raven’s nest.”
“It’s an old pirate superstition,” Shartalla chuckled. “Findin’ a jellyfish in a water cask is a sign that the captain is in love.”
Zuryzel and Dejuday both burst out laughing. “Why a jellyfish?” Dejuday gasped out.
“A’cause it sounds like jealousy,” Skorlaid explained, grinning.
“It does?” Dejuday asked while Zuryzel mouthed both words.
“Keep in mind that the creatures who came up with that’re the same creatures who think the Sunken Ship constellation looks like a sunken ship an’ not an octopus,” Shartalla reminded them.
“And pirates actually believe this?” Zuryzel snickered.
“Oh, it ain’t nothin’ new aboard Oceanflower,” Shartalla chortled.
“The crew actually catchin’ on is new!” Skorlaid argued gleefully.
Shartalla snorted. “Korep? C’mon, y’ know better’n that.”
“The crew thinks he’s in love with Ksheygha?” Zuryzel guessed. “Oh, come on. If he’s in love with her, then I’m a bird.”
Oceanflower’s crew’re summa the worst gossips on the seas,” Shartalla scoffed. “There’s been a dozen lady ferrets they think he’s fallen in love with. Maybe more. Now that I think about it,” she added brightly, “we don’t know it’s Ksheygha they’re thinkin’ of! It might be Winterblade!”
That caused the two males present to erupt into more howls of laughter. A few minutes later, Skorlaid took his leave saying, “I better get on watch a’fore I die o’ laughter!”
“I’ll go with him,” Dejuday grinned. “I’ll check out the raven’s nest while I’m at it!”
As soon as they were gone, Shartalla’s face grew serious. “In the defense o’ Oceanflower’s crew, Korep does think a lot o’ Ksheygha,” she murmured.
“Is he in love with her?” Zuryzel asked delicately.
Shartalla shook her head. “Nah. Nothin’ that transitory.”
Zuryzel looked at Dejuday, who was leaning against the mainmast. “Love isn’t transitory,” she gently disagreed.
“Not like y’er thinkin’ of it,” Shartalla murmured. “Not the sickness an’ health, poverty an’ wealth kind. Korep loves Ksheygha, I’m certain o’ that, but it ain’t romantic an’ it certainly ain’t covered by pirate superstition.”
Zuryzel gave Shartalla a sidelong look. “Why do you say that?”
Shartalla shrugged. “Hard t’ explain. Long story short, they’ve known each other a long time. When pirates change ships, their entire posse o’ friends changes. But their friendship didn’t die when they changed ships.”
Zuryzel remembered Ksheygha’s reluctance at the outset of the voyage. “I wonder if Ksheygha wishes it had.”
Shartalla tapped the wheel thoughtfully. “I been wonderin’ that, too. I ain’t sure why she would. She don’t have any friends as good as Korep aboard Wideprow, an’ her captain seems t’ go outta his way t’ make her life miserable.”
“When he isn’t drinking,” Zuryzel muttered.
“Or when he is,” Shartalla grunted. “I wasn’t sailin’ before she served aboard Wideprow, so I don’t know much about her past. But I heard that she used t’ have a fighting spirit t’ rival jus’ about anyone’s.”
Zuryzel drummed her paw on the railing. “Well. I wonder what her captain did to break her.”
Shartalla was about to reply, when there was a deafening, sucking sound.
The pine marten spun around wildly, her eyes going wide. “Whale pod!” she shrieked.
A moment later, there was a loud crashing sound, then the pattering of water splashing on the sea. Zuryzel clutched at the railing and watched as another whale, as big as an entire corridor in Arashna, broke the surface.
“Sail around ’em!” Shartalla shouted. “All paws on deck!”

The helm aboard Oceanflower saw the whales breach and threw all his weight against the wheel, turning the Oceanflower as much as he dared.
“Set the sails!” he shouted.
Korep saw the whales a moment after the Oceanflower veered, and he shouted, “Alter course and steer due north!”
The Oceanflower wasn’t nearly as agile as the Wynraser. She couldn’t avoid the whales in the middle of the pod the way Shartalla’s ship could. Their only chance was to avoid the whales entirely.
Ksheygha came racing up the stairs, and Korep’s first mate was hard on her heels. “There’s another one to starboard!” she panted.
No sooner had she said that than a whale burst out of the water close enough for the spray to reach Korep and the others by the wheel.
“Make that course due west!” Korep shouted.
The Oceanflower turned just in time. Barely had she moved when another whale breached right where she used to be!
The ripples from the whale’s re-submergence caused the Oceanflower to rock violently to port and nearly capsize. Korep’s heart sped up in panic when he felt the ship sway; then he was thrown off his paws and hit the deck hard.
As the ship swayed back to starboard, he saw the helmsferret, also lying winded on the deck. Half-blinded by panic, he tried to scramble to the wheel, but the violent swaying motion kept him sliding around.
“Bear King!” he yelped, unable to say anything else.
The ship began to sway back to port, but this time when the bottom hit the water, the keel stayed submerged.
He managed to get the helm in view and saw Ksheygha, half-lying on her side and clinging to the wheel. She had turned the rudder so that it steadied the ship.
Korep struggled to his paws and made it to the wheel, helping Ksheygha to hold it steady. When the violent swaying stopped, he extended a paw and pulled her up.
“I owe you one,” he grinned.
Inexplicably, surprise covered her face. It was only momentary, because she turned away quickly to help another ferret stand. But it was there, and Korep couldn’t account for it.
“So,” Korep said, “do you see any more?”
The other three ferrets scanned the sea with him, but the whale pod was swimming south.
“Sail north,” Korep muttered to the helm.
“Shouldn’t we be sailing back to the current?” Ksheygha asked him softly.
Korep looked wryly at her. “An’ which current would be the right one? There’s four o’ similar strength in these waters. We musta sailed half a league since that whale almost knocked us over.”
Ksheygha whirled around, looking at the two ships to their stern, and saw that Searaider and Seawraith had also veered away from the current.
“Maybe Wynraser kept to the Whale’s Eye,” Ksheygha suggested hopefully.
Korep descended the stairs to the main deck, Ksheygha hard on his tail. He saw that Wynraser, which had sailed straight through the whale pod, appeared to have changed course very little.
“Sail toward Wynraser,” Korep shouted back to the helm.
The helm shouted out the heading and the command to set the sails accordingly.
“Look fer anyone that fell overboard!” Korep yelled again.
“By the way,” Korep said quietly, leaning close to Ksheygha to be heard over all the shouting, “if y’ ever hear any’n’ mutterin’ ’bout y’ bein’ bad luck, jus’ remind ’em that you kept Oceanflower from capsizin’.”
“They think I’m bad luck?” Ksheygha asked, surprised. “Why? You’ve got other she-ferrets aboard.”
“No, not ’cause y’re female,” Korep corrected. “It’s ’cause y’re another cap’n’s first mate.”
Ksheygha shook her head. “Listening to your crew is like listening to Old Squidded again,” she murmured.
It was the first allusion she’d made to the ship they’d both served on, and Korep couldn’t help but feel encouraged.
That evaporated quickly when Craic alighted on Oceanflower’s railing and cawed, “Shartalla saw you follow and said to warn you that she doesn’t think she ever left the current, but she isn’t sure and if she’s wrong, we may have to go back to where the current is marked.”

The sun was setting when Ksheygha approached Korep.
“You were right,” she reported. “Some of your crew think I’m bad luck.”
Korep nodded absently. “Is it any problem?” he asked.
Ksheygha gave him a puzzled look. A moment later his head snapped up. “Hm? What?”
“I was joking,” Ksheygha sighed. “What’s on your mind.”
Korep frowned back at the sea. “Ksheygha, d’you remember what Squidded used to tell us when we were off duty?”
“All the old wives’ tales about the sea,” Ksheygha replied. “That old fool was an encyclopedia of marine mythology.”
He gave her a puzzled look. “A what?”
Ksheygha smiled. “It’s a kind of book that mentions everything on one subject.”
“I thought ’e was just an old squid head,” Korep smirked.
The phrase “squid head” was the original version of the nickname Squidded. He had been a veteran sailor aboard the ship they both served on. Neither Korep nor Ksheygha had served aboard the ship long enough to know where the nickname came from, but they both used it gleefully.
They also spent many long nights off-duty listening to his stories.
“What about what Old Squidded said are you thinking of?” Ksheygha asked.
“The tales about the sea monsters,” he murmured. “’Specially the nymphs.”
“‘Nymphs’ aren’t the same thing as ‘monsters,’” Ksheygha pointed out.
“They killed sailors,” Korep shrugged. “Monsters don’t all ’ave fangs ’n’ claws. But, my point is, all ’is stories al’ays ’appened on misty, foggy nights.”
“So?” Ksheygha asked. “That’s just theatrical.”
“But it wasn’t,” Korep countered. “I asked ’im one why that was. ’e said it was b’cause darkness an’ fog were most like the bottom o’ the sea, where they all live. ’e said they only rise in mist.”
“So?” Ksheygha protested. “Do you think we have to wait for nightfall to see a landmark or something?”
“No,” Korep replied slowly. “It said where the sea nymphs rise, not when the sea nymphs rise.”
Ksheygha waited for him to continue.
“We’ve only been this far north once,” Korep murmured. “An’ las’ time, we saw a huge fog bank.”
“Aye,” Ksheygha replied. “I remember your crew talking about –”
She broke off sharply. Korep looked at her and saw her gaping.
“Korep,” she said when she found her voice. “Mist isn’t a landmark. It’s weather. It will be gone.”
“But if it isn’t,” Korep pressed. “If it’s still there –”
Ksheygha frowned. “So if, when this current ends, we find ourselves on the edge of a massive fog bank, you think we should just sail straight in?”
“Aye aye,” Korep replied. “Exactly straight.”
“Why?” Ksheygha exclaimed. A moment later, amazement spread across her face.
“Of course,” she murmured. “The next lines of the poem.”

“No.”
Winterblade had jumped to her paws, slammed her wine goblet on the table, and spat out the denial sharply.
“The current is taperin’ off now,” Shartalla said in a more reasonable tone. “It can’t last much longer. There ain’t any fog around.”
The four ships were riding on anchor; Ksheygha had suggested that Korep should offer up his logic face-to-face, rather than via Craic, who couldn’t even remember terms like “crow’s nest” and “breaching.” The captains had gathered in the open-air pavilion on Korep’s deck. Ksheygha stood behind Korep, her face calm.
“It ain’t at the end o’ the current,” Korep replied. “It’s two leagues northwest.”
“Through the whale’s eye, then league and league both north and west,” Shartalla murmured.
“All right,” Winterblade snapped. “I’ll give y’ that. But mist is weather! Weather! Weather changes! Y’ can’t make a map based on that!”
“But it makes sense,” Ksheygha murmured. “In fact, it makes perfect sense.”
Shartalla frowned. She mouthed some words soundlessly for a moment. Then she murmured, “Korep, if the mist is still there …”
Zuryzel’s face lit up with sudden understanding. “No sun, nor star, nor moon to guide! That’s what that line meant! We’re sailing through mist.”
“An’ it explains why the mapmaker used landmarks instead o’ typical directions,” Korep added excitedly.
“Because typical directions wouldn’t work in a fog bank,” Ksheygha picked up.
“There was a specific place by the Gray Shore we’re supposed t’ land on,” Korep explained. “Y’ ’ave t’ sail exactly northwest from a specific spot – too specific fer stellar navigation!”
“That way, the ship just sails in a straight line through the fog,” Ksheygha clarified.
The other captains were looking at them with a mix of expressions. Shartalla was the first to stand.
“I agree with them,” she said quietly. “It makes sense.”
“It’s a wild seagull chase!” Winterblade cried. “A salty theory an’ barely that!”
“Then it’s no different from the rest o’ this voyage!” Shartalla flashed back, her eyes glinting. “Everyplace we’ve sailed, we’ve sailed on hunches. They’re bound t’ get more an’ more obscure as we build on ’em. Except, unlike the other places we’ve landed, this one actually ’as two clues backin’ it up!”
She straightened her sword resolutely. “I say we sail for it!”
“As do I,” Eneng murmured. “’Blade, y’re welcome t’ go off somewhere else, but I wouldn’ advise it.”
Winterblade gaped at him.
“But I’m thinkin’ we should get back t’ our ships so we can reach the fog by sunrise,” Eneng added.

Winterblade was about to protest, but then she seemed to change her mind. “Fine,” she snapped. “Korep, let’s make a wager. If y’er right, I’ll hand over all the spirit ration on my ship. If y’er wrong, I get all the rum from the Scattered Stones Keys.”
Korep smirked at her. “Y’ll have a mutiny on yer paws by this time t’morrow,” he replied confidently.


Korep was exhausted. He hadn’t slept the previous night. He returned to his cabin to look over the clues and fell asleep before he knew it.
He woke up around sunrise when a gentle paw started shaking his shoulder.
“Mm,” he mumbled. Then he jumped in his chair. “Wha’?”
Ksheygha was kneeling next to his chair, smiling. “You,” she murmured, “were right.”
Korep rubbed his eyes. “What?” he asked. “You mean there are real sea nymphs?”
She rolled her eyes, disdaining his sense of humor, and then her smile broke through and she laughed.
“No, you idiot,” she smiled. “The mist is exactly where it used to be. Come on, Captain, and behold your triumph.”

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tolkien's Greatness, Part 1: Tragic vs. Triumph

How many of you are familiar with the structure of the old heroic tales? Basically, the saga focuses on one hero, usually a warrior or a king. He does many amazing things, but he has one fatal flaw that leads to his downfall. This was prominent in Greek literature - Antigone, Oedipus, and Achilles all come to mind - and also in Medieval England among King Arthur's knights. That was also true in Steinbeck's The Pearl, just without the amazing feats. Long story short, most of the heroic tales are tragic in the end.

Tolkien's stories - not necessarily his writing, and not just the Lord of the Rings - have been my favorite stories since fourth grade. Many people have asked me why that is, and usually my answer is, "They're just plain epic!" In my defense, fundamental things sometimes can't be explained, and to the world of fantasy writing, Tolkien is to a large extent fundamental. I mean, come on, the guy redefined fantasy writing!

Anyway, ever since seeing The Hobbit in December, I've been considering why exactly I like Tolkien's stories. The just plain epic contribution does a lot to make his stuff fantastic. Then there's his indications that just anyone can have an adventure, but I'll comment more on that later. For me, in order to like a book, it is absolutely essential that there be good characters. That is where I began tracking down why I like the world of Middle-Earth so much. From there, my thought process went something like this:

Who are my favorite Middle-Earth characters? Aragorn, because he does eventually save the kingdom of Gondor; Boromir, because he believed in his people and in all the members of the Fellowship, including the hobbits; and Thorin, because Thorin was an exiled king like Aragorn, but unlike Aragorn he believed in his people.

Actually, Thorin is really a lot more like Boromir. I guess Tolkien liked Thorin so much that he wanted him, or someone like him, back in the trilogy, and so he came up with Boromir. They're very similar; after all, both of them are very proud of their people, and both of them struggle with temptation - Boromir with the Ring, and Thorin with the Arkenstone. They both overcome their temptations to die heroes.

Hey, unlike a lot of the "classics" out there, when Tolkien's characters get bugged by temptation, it's not always their downfall; in fact, more often then not, their temptation becomes their triumph.

Yes! I have figured out why Tolkien's work is so special! His heroes are burdened with weaknesses, pride and selfishness prominent among them but not the only ones unlike Greek literature, and they nonetheless overcome them and go on to be heroic. Their glory is that they overcome the weaknesses within.

Need examples? Consider:

Boromir - pride and coveting the Ring, but in the end he did let Frodo and the Ring go, and he died saving Merry and Pippin.

Aragorn - fear that led him to live a life in exile instead of taking his mantle as king, but he also overcame his weakness and became King of Gondor and Arnor.

Eowyn - her weakness was despair, but she overcame that (with the help of Faramir)

(...while I'm thinking about him)
Faramir - he was so desperate to earn his father's love that he nearly did what he knew was wrong to earn it. But he also defeated his weakness and allowed Frodo and Sam to continue.

Not all of Tolkien's tempted characters overcame their temptations - namely Denethor and Gollum - but what a change from so many other epics! Tolkien's heroes don't fall prey to their temptations; instead, they fight back and emerge victorious. And isn't that what a hero is, after all?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Bug

I've heard that there's a really bad flu going around the country this winter. Whether or not it's nationwide, my parents have both come down with it. Any prayers for their healing are appreciated. If anyone else has sick family members, put their name in a comment, and I will say a prayer for them.

On a lighter note, I have a friend who is on a trip in the British Isles. According to her latest messages, she's having a fantastic time and is off in Ireland now. Stay safe, friend!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Actors...

Actors are a group of the most disappointing people I have ever encountered, Lord of the Rings actors especially. In movies like that, people play great heroes who put honor and the right thing ahead of their lives. A while ago I Wikipediaed (the past tense of the verb Wikipedia - when did search engines become verbs?) the actors on Lord of the Rings, and many of them could not have been more different than the heroes they played. One of my favorite characters was played by a man who was married four times and then arrested for stalking his fourth ex-wife.

To anyone who lives and breathes Lord of the Rings as I used to, I do not recommend researching the actors.

My two new favorite characters on LOTR are now Saruman and Eowyn. Both those actors have only been in one marriage - one, in their entire lives! Which is more than ninety, NINETY years for Sir Christopher Lee (Saruman.) Miranda Otto, who played Eowyn, quit doing full time work, (or as much work, or something like that) so she could raise her daughter. (Seems quite different from the character she played.)

Anyway, I evidently didn't learn enough from the experience of researching those actors, because tonight I researched the actors on NCIS. And guess what?

I was most pleasantly surprised. My top three favorite actors:

Cote de Pablo, who plays Ziva - nothing remarkable, except that she's never been divorced, which is cool for Hollywood. She studied music at Carnegie Mellon University, and is both a singer and an actress.

Sean Murray, who plays McGeek - again, nothing that goes up in the sky in lights, but still cool. He married Carrie James in 2005, and apparently they're still married.

Mark Harmon, who plays Gibbs - he's been married to the same woman since 1987, and they have two sons, one of whom was a guest star on NCIS. From what I can tell, Hollywood hasn't leeched his brain enough for him to think he's so much better than everyone else. In 1996, he pulled two teenage boys out of a burning car wreck, saving their lives. You rock, Mr. Harmon!

If any of my stories ever get made into movies,  I want my heroes to be played by heroes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Welcome to 2013!

So - it's a new year! New chances, new possibilities. I don't do the New Years resolutions, because it seems like I'd forget them in about a week, but I encourage anyone with more dedication than me to go for the resolutions! I would really advise you to make some of those goals related to school. Teachers can't help you learn if you won't make yourself learn.

I am glad it's a new year. 2012 was kind of a bad year for some of my friends and family. Most notably, one kid at my old school almost died in a skateboarding accident; a kid I went to school with for nine years lost his brother to cancer; and another one of my friends from elementary school lost her mom. I seriously hope that 2013 will be a better year than 2012 was!

On the positive side of 2012, it had its good moments. I graduated from high school; Pasadagavra got published; and I started college. It's important to focus on the good stuff in life!

Did you get a Kindle for Christmas?   Both Darkwoods and Pasadagavra are available on Kindle. To get Darkwoods, go here: Darkwoods.   To get Pasadagavra, go here: Pasadagavra (Darkwoods)