Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dropping Prices

With the cold weather having arrived, the temperature isn't all that's dropped! I've lowered the price of several books for the winter.

There's never been a better time to grab a copy. And who says traveling has to cost you an arm and a leg? You can step into the fantasy world of Tal'Avern with the first book in the series, Province of a Thief, for just $0.99. You'll meet Jaelyth, a master thief who will steal your heart... and possibly your money pouch.

If you're into superheroes, you can travel to Angel City to see the sights, hang out and have a drink at Club Rave, go to the amusement park, or maybe catch a ball game. Don't worry about the deadly alien in the city. There's a superhero to keep you safe. She doesn't wear a cape or costume, and doesn't exactly follow the traditional rules of a superhero... but she still knows how to kick ass! While I'm working on the second book in the series, you can pick up the first book, Angel: The Mithista Incident, for a mere $0.99!
Finally, if you've got the courage, Celeste is an exiled angel with a foul mouth, an attitude, and has a tendency to break rules. It's forgivable, though. I mean, be honest... if you'd been struggling for ages to keep Lucifer from breaking out of his prison, you might drop the occasional F-bomb too. Oh sure, there's action, suspense, thrills and unexpected twists like the other two, but when you grab The Exiled for $0.99, you get strong language and even some steamy romance as well.

So whether you're a fan of high fantasy, something more urban with a superhero and a sci-fi theme, or paranormal romance, head on over to Amazon! The first book in each series is only $0.99! Kindle Unlimited members read for free!

Friday, May 26, 2017

All Grown Up

In less than 10 hours, my baby girl will be taking her final walk, getting her diploma, and becoming a HS graduate.

As I sit here thinking about what's about to happen in the morning, I'm starting to tear up. It seems like only yesterday I was in the hospital, holding my wife's hand as she was shaking her head and sobbing, saying "I can't do it... I can't do it," while giving birth to our daughter, encouraging her by telling her what an amazing job she was doing and how proud I was of her.
She had no drugs. No epidural. She gave birth naturally, pushed through the pain that as descriptive as I can be in my writing, I have no words to describe what it must have felt like. Nor would I, because that is an experience which is as alien to me as trying to describe a walk on the moon or some distant planet. I would be doing every woman who has given birth a disservice by attempting to describe what it must have felt like.
When it was over, the tears that ran down her face were not of pain, but joy and love as she held our daughter, who we named DeAnna, in her arms for the first time.

And then in the blink of an eye, DeAnna was no longer a newborn baby but an infant in her bouncy chair, smiling and laughing as she waved her arms back and forth, causing the bouncy chair she was in to scoot across the floor. Even back then it seemed she had my sense of humor, as the more my wife and I laughed at the almost comical scene, the more DeAnna would wave her arms up and down.

The moment she would walk across the stage and get her HS diploma was light years away back then. But now it seems like those years flew past at the speed of light. Where did the time go? I swear she was just a baby a minute ago! I look over my shoulder, and that infant in the bouncy chair has grown up into a young woman who is spreading her wings and testing them out.

I'm proud of her. So damn proud. That's part of why the tears are trickling down my face right now. I'm in awe at how intelligent she is. I'm amazed that as dark and dismal as this world seems to have become with everything going on in it, she's such a bright light within it. DeAnna knows who she is and who she wants to be.

The tears fall as well because I know that in when she spreads her wings in a few short hours, it won't be to just move them back and forth to test them out. It will be to take that first flight. And in the fall, those wings are going to carry her out of the nest and off to college.

She's not only intelligent, funny, and caring, but coming from a gamer family, she's been a gamer herself since she was probably ten years old. So it seems only appropriate to honor her in gamer terms: All Grown Up. Achievement unlocked!  ๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–

Monday, April 17, 2017

To Thine Own Self, Be True

With Angel: The Mithista Incident released, I have a bit of a breather. Not much, as the promoting aspect of this job is a never-ending task, but I have a little time before I return to Tal'Avern and get back to working on the last book in the Chronicles series.
As I sit here looking to my left where a paperback copy of Angel: The Mithista Incident sits, the reality of the past six months of work sinks in. With it comes the usual bouts of excitement that I've published another book which I hope people will enjoy, along with trepidations... nervously hoping that people will enjoy it.
Every artist goes through these feelings. That mixture of excitement and nervousness is universal, and it occurs to me that much of the reason behind those feelings boils down to something that can be summed up in a single word: style.
Every artist, whether musician, painter, sculpter, writer, actor, or any other which I haven't named, has their own style, their own unique flair. It's what sets them apart from all the others, after all. I suppose that's why I felt the need to write this, because that unique flair is what distinguishes each and every one of us.
If every musician played the same, we wouldn't be able to tell them apart when we heard their songs on the radio. If every actor used the same gestures and inflections in their dialogue, the only difference they'd have would be in their appearance. If every painter used the same kind of brush, canvas, colors, and methods, the only way we would be able to tell one painting from another would be by their signatures. And if every writer told their stories the same, the only difference from one romance to another, one fantasy to another, one sci-fi to another... would be the covers and authors' names.
What makes every artist unique is their own personal style. As a writer, like every other artist, I have my own unique style which is most easily seen by the amount of descriptiveness I use. In some places, my descriptions are full and precise, like watching a show on TV where everything is handed to you on screen, silently saying "this is how it is." In other places, my descriptions are very basic, almost like I was given a task and just did the bare minimum required to get that task done.
Why do I do that? Why am I very descriptive in some places and not in others? Shouldn't I keep things constant? Why not describe every blade of grass, every leaf on every tree, in order to give the reader that TV image in their mind? The reason is simple, and it's something which I've said quite often, which some will surely recognize:
I almost broke from my style with Angel: The Mithista Incident. I came close... closer than anyone will probably ever realize. For example, Dani, the main character, has blue eyes. I thought I needed to be more descriptive, so I looked up 'How to describe eye color' to get ideas. I found over a dozen ways to describe blue eyes based on the different shades from light to dark.
I started to look at the various descriptions. There was icy-blue, sky-blue, ocean-blue... just to name a few of them. As I sat at my desk trying to decide which would be the best one to use, it occurred to me that even those descriptions were vague. Icy-blue? That could be mostly white with just a hint of blue, to almost blue with a hint of white. Sky-blue? Which one? The morning sky that's very light? An afternoon sky that's a strong but beautiful medium shade of blue? What about right before the sun drops below the horizon and the sky turns a midnight blue?
At that moment, I realized that despite all the opinions I'd come across insisting eye color should be descriptive, doing so would change my style of writing - and I wasn't going to do that. So I decided not to follow those opinions. Not because I couldn't do it, but because that's not my style of writing.
Dani's eyes are blue. No more, no less. Why? Because that's not my part of the story to decide. It's the reader's. What one reader pictures could be the color of an afternoon sky. Another may see a deep ocean blue. Still another may think of the beautiful light blue eyes someone close to them has and so in their mind, Dani's eyes become that particular shade. I breathe life into the characters. But it's the reader who gives them their souls.
I almost stepped off that path. I almost took away one of the things that I hold so dear - my readers' ability to give the characters their souls... because I thought I needed to change my style and be more descriptive throughout the entire book, not just in some places.
It's that lack of description in places which allows my readers to see the story, not as I see it in my mind, but how they see it in their minds. This is my style. This is what creates an invisible, unbreakable bond between myself and my readers. What makes every writer different is that we each have our own unique style. Some will love a writer's particular style, others won't. That's just the way it is, and nothing can or will ever change it.
So to my fellow authors: Whether you describe every blade of grass and every leaf that falls from a tree or you give nothing but a basic description when you introduce characters on one page, since they just die on the next because they were wearing red shirts, never change your style. You can always improve your writing, but don't change your own unique, personal style. To thine own self, be true.
To my readers: I want to give you my most heartfelt thank you... not only for your continued support, but for making those decisions when the opportunities present themselves and seeing what you want to see in your minds. In so doing, you give the characters their souls.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Angel: The Mithista Incident

Angel: The Mithista Incident (Aetherian Chronicles, Book One)
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Official Release: April 15, 2017
Official Book Trailer:
Digital (Kindle) Pre-order:

The Story

Twenty-three year old Dani Taylor has a job, an apartment, and bills. She’s single. She loves pizza, ice cream, and hanging out with her two best friends. At the end of the week, she likes to go out with them both to unwind and have a night of fun at their favorite dance club. She has a typical, normal life.
That’s about to change.
What starts as a headache becomes an image burning in her mind that she discovers is no figment of her imagination. It’s a repressed memory. And there’s a reason why it’s suddenly been recalled.
What do you do when a repressed memory isn’t all that’s come back? When there’s a deadly Haragan alien hunting for you, and a mysterious, shadowy organization also wants you dead?
When you’re Earth’s only hope for survival, do you hide who you are? Or do you choose to fight, to embrace your true self…
And be the superhero the world needs you to be?

Breaking the Superhero Mold

She doesn't wear a cape or costume. She doesn't have a mansion or millions of dollars. She doesn't change her hair style, put on fake glasses, or change her voice. The traditional comic book superheroes do that. This isn't a comic book, and Dani's not your traditional superhero.
*   *   *
       “I can smell your fear, Aetherian,” Mithista growled, baring razor sharp teeth as Dani backed away and moved onto the dance floor. Mithista followed, flexing her clawed fingers with anticipation, and then charged forward faster than Dani thought possible.
       Mithista hit her with such force that Dani was knocked backwards across the entire length of the dance floor. She cried out in pain as she struck a support pillar with a bone-jarring crunch that sent bits of plaster raining down around her.
       Before Dani could recover, Mithista charged forward again and grabbed one of her legs. Spinning around, she sent Dani sailing through the air once more, sneering with pleasure when she cried out again as she slammed up against the bar and then fell to the floor on her hands and knees.
       Dani’s entire body felt as if it were on fire, the pain running through it was so intense. Gasping for breath, she attempted to stand as Mithista changed back into the human form she had taken and walked casually across the dance floor.
       “How many others from your world are here with you, Aetherian?” Mithista asked as she stepped up to the bar and put her hand around Dani’s throat, lifting her up as though she weighed nothing.
       “Dozens,” she gasped, fighting to breathe as the Haragan squeezed her throat with an iron grip. “The others will be here any minute.”
       Mithista’s eyes narrowed angrily. Leaning forward until her face was a hair’s width away from Dani’s, she inhaled another deep breath in through her nose - and then laughed.
       “You’re a terrible liar. There aren’t any other Aetherians on this world. You’re all alone here.”
       “I may be the only Aetherian,” Dani choked out. “But I’m not alone.”
       With all the strength she could muster, Dani flapped her wings as forcefully as she could. Not expecting the sudden move, Mithista quickly loosened her grip around her throat.
       But Dani was quicker. She grabbed Mithista by the wrist as she shot up into the air and then spun, whirling around several times before letting go.
       Mithista screamed with unbridled fury as she went careening through a large mirror on the wall to the left of the bar and into the security room that was hidden behind it.
         Every light in the club went dark and the pulse-pounding music stopped abruptly as Mithista crashed into the club’s main electrical box.
       Dani fell back down onto the floor on one knee, clutching her stomach and biting back the excruciating pain that was ripping throughout her entire body.
       After a minute, she slowly got back to her feet and on shaky legs, started to make her way toward the front doors of the club. In the distance, she could hear sirens coming closer with every passing second.
       As she neared the doors, Mithista came out of the darkness in her natural form once again and hurled into her from behind. Dani barely had time to throw her arms up in front of her eyes before she flew through one of the doors, shattering the glass and sending razor sharp shards everywhere.
       She cried out as the glass cut into her arms and legs and then hit the hard, unforgiving pavement of the parking lot and rolled like a tumbleweed for several yards before stopping.
       “Turn over, Aetherian,” Mithista growled, stepping through the shattered door and stalking over to where Dani lay on the ground. “In these final seconds of your life, I want to be the last thing you see. Every human is going to know that it was Mithista who destroyed their only hope!”
*   *   *
There's plenty of action, unexpected twists, humor, and some language (no F-bombs).
And of course, a kickass female in the leading role.  Welcome to Angel City.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Skyrim Story - Chapter Three

So far, Kylie has been yanked from her world and dropped into Skyrim. She's figured out a few things along the way thus far, such as Sneaking, Archery, and Alchemy (the third one has given her plenty of gold - it's a good thing her pouches are magical and can hold far more than they appear to be able to!). Last time, she also stumbled upon a fast way to travel to any locations she'd visited before. What's next for my favorite Shadow Walker from Tal'Avern with the red hair and green eyes? Let the fun, the tips, and the silly captions under the pictures commence!

Chapter Three

Magic and a Home

     Kylie awoke feeling content for the first time since being dropped into Skyrim. While there was still a trace of homesickness, it was less apparent. Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, she got up, walked over to the door, and headed down to the main floor of the Bannered Mare.
     Stepping outside into the crisp morning air, she took a quick look around. The marketplace was quiet, as it wasn't quite time for it to open. With her money issues solved, Kylie turned toward the palace and began to make her way up to it. She had promised Gerdur she would speak to the Jarl and request aid for Riverwood, after all. After that, she had another promise to keep - to steal the golden claw back from the thieves who had stolen it from the general store in Riverwood.
     Thieves don't steal from each other on Tal'Avern, her inner voice scolded her.
     "I'm not on Tal'Avern," Kylie reminded her inner voice. "So it doesn't count."
     Crossing the bridge that led up to the palace, Kylie opened the door, stepped inside, and made her way toward the man sitting on a throne who she assumed was the Jarl. As she approached, a dark-skinned elven woman wearing leather armor almost identical to Kylie's drew her sword and began walking toward her.
"You'd better have gotten the order right this time. I said
no anchovies. If you put anchovies on my pizza again..."
     "What's the meaning of this? Jarl Balgruuf is not receiving visitors," the dark elf said in a suspicious, threatening tone.
     "A dragon burning Helgen to the ground isn't  something you think he'd like to hear about?" Kylie asked. The dark elf balked at the mention of Helgen.
     "Let her approach, Irileth," the Jarl ordered. The dark elf reluctantly stepped aside, allowing Kylie to pass. "So you were at Helgen? And you saw this... dragon... with your own eyes?"
     "Yeah, I had a front row seat," Kylie answered. "With my head resting on a chopping block."
     "You're certainly... straightforward with your criminal past," Balgruuf commented.
     "There wasn't anything criminal about it. I was in a tavern, having an ale and playing Elemental Dice - which I was actually winning at for a change. The next thing I knew, I was half-naked on a cart with three men I'd never seen before, and no idea where I was at! And even though no one knew who I was or how I'd gotten there, the Imperials were still going to cut my damn head off!"
     "Elemental Dice? Is that a new tavern game I haven't heard about?" Balgruuf inquired, glancing at Irileth, who shrugged and shook her head. She'd never heard of the game either.
     "Not where I'm from," Kylie replied impatiently. "Look, for some reason, I was pulled from my world and brought to yours. I don't know who brought me here, but I'm trying to make the best of it. And incidentally, almost getting executed for no reason right after I got dropped onto this world wasn't exactly a warm welcome." Balgruuf snorted and shook his head.
     "Another world! I have a hard time believing..."
     "That makes two of us," Kylie snapped. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to calm down. "Whether you want to believe me or not, a dragon has returned to your world. And if there's one, there's bound to be more."
     "And what makes you think that?" Balgruuf asked, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
     "Because something similar happened on my world," Kylie answered quietly. "Maybe that's why I was brought here - because I've had to deal with them before. It's not exactly something I'm happy about having to go through again, but if that's what I have to do to get back home, then I'll help any way I can."
     "Assuming everything you've said is true, what can you possibly do to help against a dragon?"
     "I don't know," Kylie admitted. "From what I've been told, no one on this world has seen a dragon before. I wish I could say the same, but I've seen the kind of destruction they can cause on my world... and now here on yours as well."
     She grew silently thoughtful for a moment before she spoke again.
     "People are scared, and for good reason. They're looking to you for help, which is why I came here. Gerdur owns the mill in Riverwood. She asked me to come here to request aid from you, in case the dragon decides to attack the village."
     A heavy silence fell over the room while Balgruuf sat with a thoughtful expression on his face.
     "An interesting story," he said, finally breaking the silence, and turned to look at the dark elf. "I'll not stand idly by while a dragon slaughters my people. Irileth, send a detachment to Riverwood at once. They've asked for aid and by the gods, we'll give it to them."
     "Yes, my Jarl," Irileth replied, and immediately headed for the front doors of the palace. Balgruuf turned his attention back to Kylie.
     "As for you...?"
     "My name is Kylie. Kylie Destaine."
     "Where have I heard that name before?" Balgruuf muttered, glancing down at the floor and scratching his chin thoughtfully again as he tried to recall the memory. "Kylie... Kylie..."
     "Ahh, now I remember!" Balgruuf exclaimed, raising his head. "The bard, Mikael! It seems you've met him, from what I saw when he came to me wanting charges brought up against you. Black eye, swollen lip..."
     "I can explain that..." Kylie quickly started to say, and then stopped as Balgruuf waved his hand and chuckled.
     "No need. Carlotta down at the marketplace has already told me the full tale in your defense. And the young woman, Ysolda, added that you had also helped her as well. It seems you've been making an impression among some of my people already. Now, come with me, Kylie," Balgruuf instructed, getting to his feet. "Perhaps you can do me a service by assisting my court wizard. He's been looking into a matter regarding these rumors of dragons."
      Kylie followed him into the adjacent room, where a man in blue robes was hovering over a desk covered with books and scrolls.
     "Farengar, I think I've found someone to help you with your little dragon project," Balgruuf announced. "Go ahead and fill her in with the details."
"I knew I shouldn't have eaten that broccoli and cheese last night.
Hopefully no one comes in here. At least, not until the air clears."
     "So the Jarl thinks you can help me," Farengar said. "Perhaps you can. You see, when I first heard about the dragons..."
     Oh gods, Kylie thought, groaning inwardly. He's going to drone on for hours, just like Varik does back home!
     "The short version," Kylie quickly interrupted. Faregar gave her a perturbed look, but nodded.
     "I need you to go to Bleak Falls Barrow and retrieve a stone tablet that's rumored to be interred somewhere inside... probably in the main chamber," he said.
     "What's it look like?" Kylie asked. A smile crept to the corners of Farengar's mouth.
     "It's a tablet. Made of stone," he replied smugly.
     "Smartass," Kylie grumbled.
     "Do this for me, and you'll be rewarded, Kylie," Balgruuf promised. "This is a priority now, so don't delay."
     "You know, if you've got the aptitude, I have spells and incantations which may be of use to you," Farengar offered.
     "Do I look like a mage to you?" Kylie asked, and then sighed. "Fine. I suppose it wouldn't hurt to learn something new and expand my horizons a bit."
     "Excellent! Well, there are several schools of magic, and all of them have..."
     "Short version," Kylie quipped.
     Farengar grumbled but pulled out a small collection of books, suggesting several that may be of use. When he mentioned the school of Conjuration had spells within it that could call upon creatures to aid her, it made Kylie think of another girl she knew named Camila (spelled with one 'l' instead of two), back on Tal'Avern. Unlike the sister of the general store owner in Riverwood, however, the Camila she knew on Tal'Avern was a mage - a unique one, at that. She was the first mage in a thousand years to walk the path of the Summoner.
     In the end, Kylie purchased two books. One contained a beginning Alteration spell: Oakflesh. The other was a Conjuration spell: Soul Trap, which Farengar said was useful if she ever thought of delving into the field of Enchanting.  
     Thinking she was as prepared as she was ever going to be, Kylie closed her eyes, thinking of the Standing Stones. One of those stones had had a depiction of a Mage on it, and if she was going to fiddle with magic, Kylie figured it might be useful. But when she opened her eyes, she was still standing in the room, with Farengar and Balgruuf both giving her quizzical looks.
     "What the hell?" Kylie muttered. "I should have zapped to the Standing Stones near Riverwood!"
     "The travel ability which I assume you're referring to doesn't work indoors," Farengar stated. "In fact, I had written an interesting paper on that recently..."
     "No time, gotta go!" Kylie called out as she hurried out of the room. "Priorities and all, you know!"
     As soon as she stepped outside the palace, Kylie made another attempt, and in a flash she was by the trio of Standing Stones. She walked up to the Mage stone, pressed her hand against it, and felt a wave of evergy ripple through her, just like when she had touched the Thief stone before.
     Confident that whatever the stones did, it was beneficial, Kylie zapped to Riverwood, rather than walk. She went through the village and across the bridge on the other side, then began making her way up a small dirt path that wound its way up the mountain, taking down a lone wolf along the way.
     In short order, a tower rose up in the distance before her. As she got closer, Kylie noticed a figure leaning against a tree, while another one appeared from within the tower and crossed the small bridge just outside of it.
     "They must be lookouts," Kylie muttered, crouching down. "Easy enough to sneak by them."
     She was almost out of earshot when she overheard part of their conversation.
     "... don't see why we need to wait. Look, there aren't even any guards down there. We could raid the village and be back before dark," the man leaning against the tree was saying.
     "You mean just the three of us, while the others are all up at the ruins? Are you crazy? If anyone from the village saw us coming, they'd run to Whiterun and we'd have this place swarming with guards within a matter of hours."
     "Then we'll just have to make sure that we don't leave anyone left alive to go for help, won't we?" the man suggested darkly.
     All thoughts of sneaking past undetected vanished from Kylie as her blood began to burn. They weren't thieves. They were bandits.
     Bandits had come into her village when she was twelve. Kylie's father had told her to hide in the woodpile behind their small house when the raid began. When she had crawled out afterwards, nothing remained of the village. The bandits had looted and burned everything, and killed everyone in the village as well... including her entire family. In the smoking ruins of the village that day, another fire had been lit - one inside Kylie. A fire that burned to see that justice was done.
     The bandit leaning against the tree barely had time to push himself away from it before Kylie ended his life. The second bandit shouted a warning and was pulling an arrow from the quiver on her back when Kylie buried both of her blades into the archer's chest. Hearing the commotion, the third bandit came down from the tower, and though he was wearing heavy armor, it did little to protect him from Kylie's vengeful wrath.
     She was death to anyone who crossed her path. The fire grew hotter within her as Kylie made her way up to Bleak Falls Barrow, where three more bandits added to her kill count outside the entrance. Throwing open the doors, she stepped inside and stalked purposely through the room, cutting down another two bandits mercilessly before heading down a set of stone steps.

"This is your idea of a romantic first date?"
"What? We've got a nice fire, I brought some wine..."
"The floor is littered with dead rats! You're so not getting to second base."

      Kylie's blades slashed out again when she came upon yet another bandit who was standing in a room, looking at a locked gate before him. As his body crumpled to the ground, Kylie glanced at the locked gate, and then down to the lever that was on the floor by her feet.
     None of the bandits she had killed had the golden claw on them, which meant whoever did have it was further below, somewhere past that locked gate. With another few moments of looking around, Kylie caught sight of three stone pillars on the left side of the room, along with two symbols which were set into the wall above the gate. The third clue to the puzzle had fallen off the wall, but Kylie could still see the depiction. It was a simple puzzle.
     "Idiot," Kylie said, kicking the lifeless form by the lever as she walked over to the trio of stones. Turning them to the proper positions, she went back and pulled the lever. Once the gate opened, she continued on down a circular wooden staircase, deeper into the barrow.
     "Is someone there?" a voice called out as Kylie approached an area that was filled with cobwebs. Cobwebs meant spiders... and from what she'd seen during her escape from Helgen, the spiders on this world were not something one could merely step on and be done with it. A bit of extra protection couldn't hurt, Kylie thought, and pulled out the book that contained the Oakflesh spell from her pouch. Opening it, she gasped as a surge of power flowed into her, while the book crumbled in her hands.
     "If learning spells is that easy, I might have to learn a few more!" Kylie exclaimed before slashing through the mass of sticky cobwebs in the doorway that were keeping her from continuing on.
     "You! Over here! Cut me down!" a dark elf exclaimed from the far end of the room, struggling to free himself from the cobwebs he was trapped in as he caught sight of Kylie.
     As she began making her way over to him, a shadow fell over her. Kylie leapt back as the largest spider she had ever seen before dropped down from where it had been hiding. She retreated back through the doorway, where the spider couldn't follow because of its immense size.
     "Where are you going? Help!" the dark elf screamed frantically. Kylie ignored him as she sheathed her weapons.
     "Okay, how do I cast this spell?" Kylie mumbled, bringing her hands up. Instantly, a light blue glow appeared in each of her hands. "Whoa! That's awesome!" she exclaimed.
     Clenching both of her hands into fists, she felt the magical power swell up in each of them, and then unclenched one. The spell went off, and a thin aura of shimmering magical light surrounded her entire body. She repeated it with her other hand, and then attempted to cast it yet again, but nothing happened. She had drained her magical energy reserves.
     "Don't leave me!" the dark elf cried out desperately as Kylie made her way back up the passage toward the circular wooden staircase. When she was almost there, she sat down on the floor, too weary to move, and not really caring at the moment if the spider finished off the elf.
     After waiting for an hour, Kylie ventured back down, where the spider was clicking its mandibles excitedly. Kylie brought her hands up and cast the Oakflesh spell upon herself until her magical reserves were gone again, moved back up the passage until she felt safe enough to rest for another hour, and repeated the process until she felt as though she were halfway to mastering the Alteration school of magic.
     Remembering why she'd come there in the first place, the fire blazed up once again within Kylie. She stepped back into the room to face the gigantic spider, and slashed out repeatedly with her swords until the elephant-sized arachnid fell to the ground and lay unmoving.
     "You certainly took your sweet time! That thing could have had me for lunch while you were off fixing your make-up! Now get me down from here!" the dark elf repeated insistently.
"Hurry, cut me loose! I have to go to the bathroom!
I had Baco Tell for lunch and it's going right through me!"
     "You're the one who stole the golden claw from the general store in Riverwood," Kylie growled venomously. It was a statement, not a question.
     "Yes, yes, I have the claw! And I know how it works!" the dark elf replied. "Cut me down and I'll share the treasure with you!"
     Kylie brought her swords down, one on each side of the dark elf, cutting him free. He dropped to the ground, sighing with relief. After a moment, he stood up and chuckled.
     "You fool! As if I'd share the treasure with..."
     He never noticed the hatred burning in Kylie's eyes. He was a bandit, nothing more. That was all she needed to know. It didn't matter that she was on another world. She was still a Shadow Walker.
     Kylie thrust both of her swords all the way to their hilts into his chest. As the dark elf's eyes widened in shock and he sucked in one last, gasping breath, Kylie pressed her body up against his and placed her mouth next to his ear.
     "Justice has been served."
     Pushing him back, Kylie yanked her blades viciously out of the dark elf's body. He was dead before he struck the floor.
     After wiping her blades clean, Kylie sheathed them and then searched the dark elf's body. Finding the golden claw, she slipped it into one of her pouches. Seeing the other spell book she'd purchased from Farengar in the pouch, Kylie brought it out and opened it, relishing the feeling of power that surged into her as the book's  knowledge burned into her mind, while the book itself crumbled away.
     "I should have tried this Soul Trap spell on you," she said, glancing down at the dark elf's body.
     As if in response, a black and purple light appeared in both of her hands, surprising her momentarily. Curiously, she clenched her fists, felt the magical power gather in her hands, and flung one of them out like she was throwing the energy at the body.
     Despite the dark elf already being dead, a faint purple aura appeared around his body. Kylie released her other hand, and the effect was not only repeated, she felt a little more knowledgeable in the Conjuration school of magic.
     She spent the better part of the day practicing. At first, she could only cast the spell a few times before needing to rest for an hour, but at one point, her understanding gave her added insight and she was able to cast it repeatedly before needing to rest. Given enough time and patience, Kylie knew she could master Conjuration and cast any spell within the school once she'd learned it.
     "Alright, if this thing leads to some kind of treasure in here, I might as well explore a bit further," Kylie decided after awhile, pulling the claw out of her pouch for a moment to take a look at it.
     She delved deeper into the barrow, discovering that it was an ancient burial tomb - one where not all of those who had been laid to rest were content to remain at rest. It took her only moments to realize that the undead weren't like those on her world. These were faster, able to move as easily as they had in life. Some even had magical abilities. Still, they proved to be little more than a nuisance, as were the few traps she came across along the way. Eventually, Kylie entered a rectangular room with a large circular bronze door at the far end.
     "Oh look, another puzzle," Kylie muttered, seeing the carvings set into the door. Pulling out the claw, she turned it over and found the door puzzle's solution on the back. Within moments, she had turned the carvings on the door to match what was depicted on the back of the claw, inserted it into the holes in the center of the door, and gave it a twist.
     As the door unlocked, Kylie pulled the claw back out and slipped it back into her pouch. She had promised to return the claw to the owner of the general store in Riverwood, after all. The door rolled sideways, revealing a large, long cavern behind it.
     Kylie made her way to the far end, where a single stone sarcophagus rested on a platform. A curved wall etched with markings that Kylie guessed were some form of ancient writing stood behind it. However, it was the large chest next to the sarcophagus that Kylie was interested in.
     Opening it up, Kylie was disappointed to find only a few items of any value inside it. Some were magical however, which made her think of Farengar having mentioned something about Enchanting. 
     Kylie grabbed the items she was interested in, closed the chest, then paused and cocked her head slightly, hearing a faint, almost undetectable sound - almost like chanting, except there were no words. Turning around, she took a step toward the wall with the strange writing on it. As she did, the sound grew a bit louder.
     "Weird," Kylie said, and cautiously stepped closer to the wall.
     Suddenly, several of the symbols flared brightly, and a blinding light shot out from the wall, striking her in the forehead. She cried out in alarm as the symbols seemed to sear into her mind, and then with a booming crash, the lid of the sarcophagus flew up as the occupant within awoke and crawled out, hefting a giant two-handed sword as it did.
     The undead was considerably stronger than the others Kylie had encountered, but within minutes she had put it down for good. Sheathing her weapons, Kylie saw almost immediately what it had been guarding: A large tablet. Made of stone.
     "This is what Farengar wanted me to get?" she asked in disbelief, looking it over with a critical eye. "It looks like a map that's probably nothing more than the locations of all the best taverns in Skyrim!"
     Shaking her head, Kylie pulled the magical pouch from her belt. Loosening the drawstring, she opened it up. The pouch expanded until it was the size of a large travel bag, which she slipped the stone tablet into before pulling the drawstring closed. The sack shrunk back down to the size of a pouch, which she tied back to her belt before heading up a set of nearby stairs and through a short passageway. To her relief, the passageway led back outside to a small ledge on the side of the mountain.
     Out in the open once more, Kylie didn't hesitate for a second as she called upon her travel ability, zapped to Riverwood, and headed for the general store.
     "You're back!" the owner exclaimed when Kylie stepped through the door. "Did you find my claw?"
     "Yeah, it's right here," Kylie replied, taking it out of her pouch and handing it over to him.
"Everyone thinks I don't know why this thing is so special.
Joke's on them, because I've known for awhile:
It's a back-scratcher! Duh!" 
     "Thank you! I'll... I'll never forget this!" the store owner said and handed Kylie a small pouch filled with gold. Kylie smiled and nodded before heading back to the front door. As she opened it and stepped outside, she glanced over her shoulder and saw the store owner grab the claw and use it to scratch the middle of his back, a blissful expression etched on his face.
     Kylie zapped to the front gates of the palace next and stepping inside, headed over to the room where she'd met Farengar. He was speaking excitedly to a woman who was leaned over his desk, skimming through a book as Kylie walked in.
     Despite wearing a hood, along with leather armor that looked identical to hers, Kylie recognized the woman easily enough. It was the innkeeper from Riverwood. Catching sight of Kylie, the woman cut off Farengar during what was probably about to be a long-winded, boring explanation.
     "You have a visitor," she said quietly.
     "Hmm? Ahh, it's the woman who was going into Bleak Falls Barrow!" Farengar exclaimed. "You didn't die, it seems."
     "Bite me," Kylie replied, handing him the stone tablet. "Here's the rock you wanted. And if my reward is a long, boring story about how it was made, why it was in there, and what an amazing paperweight it's going to make for your research papers..."
     "Farengar!" Irileth called out insistently, rushing into the room. "A dragon was sighted near the western watchtower! The Jarl needs to speak to you immediately." She flicked a quick glance at Kylie. "You should come too," she added.
     "A dragon, how exciting!" Farengar exclaimed as he headed for the doorway.
     "Yeah, real exciting," Kylie muttered under her breath as she followed the other two up a nearby set of stairs to where Balgruuf was waiting.
      After hearing about the dragon sighting from a guard who had been stationed at the tower, Irileth went to gather some men, while Farengar returned to his room, leaving Kylie and Balgruuf alone.
     "You have more experience with dragons than anyone else here, Kylie. I'd like you to go to the watchtower with Irileth. If that dragon shows up, I'm sure they're going to need your help," Balgruuf said. "But I haven't forgotten the aid you've given us already in retrieving that..."
     "Paperweight?" she offered. Balgruuf chuckled.
     "It seems like little more than that to me, too," he admitted. "Farengar believes it to contain vital information about the dragons, though. In any case, for your help, I've instructed my steward, Proventus, to allow you to purchase property within the city. If you're so inclined."
     "A house? Here?" Kylie asked, bewildered. The thought that she might be stuck on this world had crossed her mind before, and she'd considered doing such a thing... but she knew that Skyrim could never be her home. She didn't belong on this world. Deep down, she wanted to return to where she did belong - Tal'Avern.
Cheapest house on the market
No electricity, running water, bathroom, washer or dryer,
refrigerator, microwave, television, dvd player, computer,
radio, Playstation, Xbox, cable, cell service, or Netflix.
     "I know you miss your own home," Balgruuf said, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "And I believe you'll find a way back there. But you have a home here as well now, Kylie. You've earned it, as far as I'm concerned. Talk to Proventus, and he can make the arrangements. Get yourself some rest, and then meet Irileth at the watchtower tomorrow."
     "I... thank you," Kylie replied, not knowing what else to say.
     She went down the steps in a daze. Why would she want to buy a house in Skyrim? But then the answer dawned upon her. Having her own home meant her own bed, not a rented room. It meant a place she could return to whenever she needed to take a break. It meant a place where she could store things safely. And though it was hard to admit, if she couldn't find a way back to her world, at least she would have a place of her own on this one.
     And if you meet anyone you're attracted to, you can go there to...
    "Shut up," Kylie muttered. Her inner voice didn't finish the sentence, albeit reluctantly.
     Reaching the bottom of the steps, Kylie decided that it probably was a good idea to have her own place. Seeing the Jarl's steward, she walked over to him and purchased the house that was for sale next to the Blacksmith's shop near the front gates of the city, along with all of the furnishings. No sense in having a house without decoration, she thought.
     Taking the key Proventus held out to her, Kylie left the palace and headed back through town, stopping outside the front door to the house... her house.
     "Breezehome," Kylie said, looking down at the small inscription on the key. "Gods, I hope that doesn't mean the place is drafty."
     Unlocking the door, Kylie stepped inside and was pleasantly surprised with what she saw. Though it was a small house, it was comfortable. A fire pit burned in the middle of the room, while a long table rested behind it near the right wall, which had been piled with food as a welcoming gift. Behind the stairs, the single room to the left held an alchemy table, several ingredients and books, and a large storage chest.
     Heading up the stairs, on the left was a small loft room, and down a short hallway to the right, the doors opened up into a fairly large room with a dresser on either side of a double bed. Another storage chest sat against the left wall, and just to the right of the door was a small circular table with several chairs. Sitting on the rightmost dresser next to a bottle of wine was a large, delicious looking sweet roll, which Kylie immediately gobbled down.
     "Now I don't have to worry about anyone stealing my sweet roll!" Kylie laughed.
     Opening the storage chest, Kylie removed the gems she had 'liberated' from the Argonian near the shipwreck the day before. She had planned to make use of them, but other things seemed to keep coming up, pushing those plans back.
     "Tomorrow," Kylie insisted. "Tomorrow, I'll go help fight that dragon, and then..." She paused and glanced down at herself. "And then get some better armor and weapons."
     Kylie unbuckled her armor and took it off piece by piece, unstrapped her swords and leaned them up against one of the dressers near the bed,  then crawled into the double bed and pulled the thick fur blankets up around her.
     There's enough room in the bed for...
     "Shut up," Kylie muttered. Her inner voice grew silent, once more leaving the suggestion unfinished.
     It had been another day filled with several things that had been familiar enough reminders of Tal'Avern to cause the homesick ache within her to return. But there were other things that were new experiences for Kylie as well, which helped to dull that ache. Slipping her arms out from under the blankets, she took a look around the bedroom.
     She had a place to call her own. It was something new, something she'd never had before. Looking down at her hands, Kylie called one of the spells she had learned to mind, and a light blue glow surrounded them. Balling her hands up, Kylie felt the power gather in them. When she released the spell, a shimmering layer of magical protection surrounded her. That was something new for her as well.
     The dull ache disappeared, understanding that she needed to focus on something else: the new things that she'd found on this world which she'd never had before on hers.
     "Magic and a home," Kylie murmured softly, a small smile touching the corners of her lips as she drifted off to sleep.
* * *

Tips in Chapter Three:
1.) Alteration to 50 - a bit time consuming, but well worth it, as at 50 you can have 2 points in the tree's Magic Resistance perk - that's +20% MR on top of any other racial bonus you may have, depending on what race you initially choose. Also at 50, you can put a point in Adept Alteration, which will be extremely helpful in the next chapter (does that technically count as another hint?) ;)
2.) Conjuration to MAX (if you so desire and have the patience) - Soul Trap works on dead bodies, and can be done basically anywhere. Initially a bit slow, but once you put a perk point in Apprentice Conjuration (25), it cuts the magicka cost in half.
3.) Buying Breezehome - Yeah, it's small and doesn't offer much, but it's worth getting for several reasons. First, sleeping there for any length of time (even if it's just an hour!) grants you the Well Rested bonus for 8 hours (game hours, not real time), which gives you an additional +10% skill speed increase if you have either the Thief, Mage, or Warrior stone active, bringing those affected skill increases up to 30%. Secondly, you have 2 chests for storing things like crafting materials or items that you craft and want to enhance with enchantments before selling. Lastly, location. It's right next to Warmaiden's, which makes it perfect if you've got things to buy or sell there but are carrying so much that they weigh you down. Having to walk all the way up to the Skyforge to sell stuff just sucks, and if you're overburdened, fast travel isn't available.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A Skyrim Story - Chapter Two

When we last left Kylie, she'd accepted the fact that she had been taken away from her world and dropped onto an entirely different world, in a land called Skyrim. Without knowing how she'd gotten there or how to get back, she'd decided to make the best of it. She practiced her Sneaking abilities during her escape from Helgen, made a few friends in the small village of Riverwood, (one of them, Faendal, wasn't exactly the brightest star in the sky, and gave her some basic training in Archery which - with some 'trading' - she was able to get for free) and even crafted herself some leather armor so she wouldn't be mistaken for either a Stormcloak or an Imperial soldier. After promising the general store's owner she would get back a golden claw which had been stolen from him, Kylie had gone over to the inn, paid for a night's lodging, and ended her first day in Skyrim.

Now, for the disclaimer: Same as Chapter One. Pics are taken from UESP under creative commons license, and captions are not actual gameplay dialogue. They're just there for laughs, because I have a warped sense of humor and have fun coming up with silly captions! Also, in case I didn't mention, many of the tips that are given are assuming you have Hearthfire and Dragonborn expansions. With that being said, time for chapter 2!

Chapter Two

Show Me the Money!!


     Kylie awoke to the smell of food drifting into her room from under the door. For a moment, the feel of the straw bed made her think she was back in the Thieves' Den, and everything that had happened over the past several years had all been a dream. But when she opened her eyes and saw the small room, reality came crashing back down around her.
     She hadn't awoken in the barracks room of the hidden Thieves' Den in the Province's capital city of Silvergate. She wasn't even in the Province. Hell, she wasn't on Tal'Avern, for that matter. Sighing, she swung her legs over the side of the bed and grudgingly got up.
     Opening the door, she took a quick look around the main room of the inn. It was empty, save for a burly man wearing an apron who was standing behind the bar to her left. She grabbed a quick bite to eat, and then headed for the front door to the inn.
     Kylie had barely stepped outside when she caught sight of a woman a short distance away who waved and began walking toward her from the nearby mill that stood behind the blacksmith's shop.
     If she wants me to give a letter to some guy she's been fawning over, Kylie thought, I swear I'm going to...
     "You must be the friend Ralof told me about," the woman said as she approached.
     "Friend?" Kylie asked hesitantly. He couldn't possibly have forgotten what she'd done during their escape from Helgen!
     "He said a friend who wasn't from around here helped him escape Helgen yesterday. I'm his sister..."
     "Gerdur," Kylie guessed, recalling Ralof having mentioned he had a sister, to which the woman nodded.
"Brother! What are you doing here?"
"Hiding from the Imperials."
"But... you're wearing the same thing every other Stormcloak does!"
"I would have changed, but none of your dresses fit me anymore."  

     "Thank you for helping my brother," Gerdur said gratefully, and then reached into one of her pockets and pulled out a key. "Here, take the key to my house. Stay as long as you like, and if there's anything you need, just let me know."
     "Um... thanks," Kylie said, unsure how else to respond. No one in the Province was so trusting toward strangers that they would just hand over the key to their house like that! For all of their similarities, her world and this one certainly had their differences.
     "It's the one right over there," Gerdur said, pointing toward a nearby house. "There is something else you could do for me," she added, lowering her voice and taking a quick glance around as she did.
     Uh huh, Kylie thought. Here it comes...
     "The Jarl needs to know that there's a dragon about. Riverwood is defenseless! If you'll let him know, I'd be grateful."
     Kylie started to object, then clamped her mouth shut and nodded. Whoever this Jarl was, he was obviously an important person. And important people were usually generous with their rewards.
     Gerdur gave her directions to the nearby town of Whiterun, where the Jarl's palace was located, before turning around and heading back to the mill.
     "Well, if this Jarl lives there, Whiterun must be a decent sized town. Which means it's got at least more than a general store," Kylie murmured, thinking back to the day before. The road she had come down had a stream running alongside it, and there had been one place in particular where she'd seen salmon jumping out of the water as they tried to swim upstream. She recalled another place where she'd seen what looked like some kind of stone ruins poking out of the water near those standing stones.
     Flicking a quick glance down at the key in her hand, Kylie made her way over to Gerdur's house, and unlocked the door. After a quick look around, she caught sight of several braids of garlic hanging from one of the rafters.
     "Salmon roe, garlic..."
     A smile spread across Kylie's face. If those ruins she'd seen were a home for the one other ingredient she would need, her money problems would soon be gone.
     Taking the garlic, she stuffed it into an empty pouch that hung from the belt around her waist and went back outside.
     Within a matter of minutes, she came across the section of the stream where the water spilled down a short way. Sure enough, the salmon were still trying unsuccessfully to make their way up.

Fish eggs, fish eggs... roly-poly fish eggs...
 The Leaping Salmon is like playing Pokรฉmon, just with better graphics.
Gotta catch 'em all, gotta catch 'em all!

     Kylie jumped into the stream and waded over to where the salmon were at. After almost a half hour of snatching, grabbing, and cursing, she managed to obtain almost a dozen salmon eggs.
     She climbed out of the stream, followed the road back to the standing stones, and then made her way down the rocks to where a hunter had set up a small camp with a tent and bonfire. Seeing the ruins she had spotted the day before a short distance away, she didn't bother to stay and talk to the hunter, who seemed friendly enough, and instead waded back into the water and swam over to where the top pillars of the ruins were poking out of the water.
     Taking a deep breath, she dove under the water. Within seconds she caught sight of what she had been hoping would be there all along: clusters of small barnacles along the stone. She gathered up almost a dozen of them, and then once more made her way back to the standing stones and down the road to Riverwood.
     As she entered the village, she saw Sven come step out of a nearby house. He gave her the same glare he had the night before in the inn, waved his hand at her in a dismissive motion as if she were an annoying fly, and with a flick of his hair he headed toward the inn.
     Kylie bit back the insult that was on the tip of her tongue and glanced at the door he had come out of. She'd seen him lock it, but that wasn't a problem. She had been a thief at one time, after all.
     In moments she was crouched by the door, studying the lock as she reached down into the top of her armor and pulled out the lockpick she had hidden there. In seconds, she heard the satisfying, almost inaudible click as she picked the lock and slipped quickly inside.
     She could have taken anything, but seeing nearly a dozen garlic cloves (some were hanging from the rafters and the others were on the table underneath, sitting on a plate), she ignored everything else and slipped them into her pouch.
     Her next stop was Faendal's house, where she found a few more braids of garlic to add to her growing collection.
     With enough of the three ingredients she needed, she headed for the inn, where she'd seen the last thing she needed: an alchemy table.
     Kylie opened the door to the inn and was met by the sound of a lute playing, while Sven's voice was raised in song. Unable to resist the temptation any longer, Kylie walked over to him.
     "Do everyone a favor and shut up, Sven," she said. "You sound like a banshee wailing."
     "How dare you compare my exquisite voice to that!" Sven exclaimed. "A banshee's wail could kill a person!"
     "So could your singing," Kylie smirked.
     Without waiting for him to respond, she made her way to the other side of the inn to the alchemy station, and then changing her mind, went behind the bar instead and grabbed the garlic she saw hanging from the rafters.
     She was on a mission. She had enough ingredients to make almost a dozen potions (assuming they wouldn't blow up in her face, as her inner voice had considered might be a possible result on this world), but Kylie wanted to solve her money problems in one shot.
     "Time to head to Whiterun," Kylie muttered. "There's bound to be plenty of places to get more garlic, and I need to go there to talk to that Jarl person, anyway."
      Leaving the inn, Kylie turned right and began following the road. Glancing up at Bleak Falls Barrow in the distance as she crossed the bridge reminded her that she'd promised to head up there, find the thieves who had stolen the claw from the general store, and get it back for the shop owner. She made a mental note to do that as soon as she came back from Whiterun.
     The road twisted and turned, gradually sloping down the further she traveled, continuing to follow the stream. Kylie saw several places along the way where the water cascaded over the rocks, creating small waterfalls that were teeming with leaping salmon. She didn't let the opportunity go to waste, and within a matter of hours she had a pouch full of salmon eggs.
     When she saw Whiterun finally appear in the distance, Kylie knew immediately it was no tiny village by the high stone wall that surrounded it. Seeing the wall caused a wave of homesickness to pass through her, as it reminded her of Silvergate - the capital city of the Province, back on her world.
     Upon reaching the outskirts, Kylie paused for a moment beside a carriage.
     "Do you need a ride somewhere?" the driver asked.
     "Home," Kylie replied longingly as another wave of homesickness passed through her.
     "I can take you to any of the holds here in Skyrim," the carriage driver offered. "Windhelm, Riften, Markarth, Solitude, Dawnstar..."
     "Thanks, but I don't think just hopping on a carriage will get me home," Kylie said, sighing heavily.
     "Well, if you change your mind, I'll be here!" the driver called out as she continued on up the road to the city.
     As she approached the city gates, a guard stepped away from his post and held up his hand.

"I tell people I used to be an adventurer, but then I took an arrow in the knee.
That's not really true, though. I used to be a knight - until I saw
a rabbit that scared me so much, I soiled my armor...

     "City's closed with the dragon about," he stated.
     "Fine, I'll just go back to Riverwood and tell everyone there that I couldn't let the Jarl know they were worried the dragon might attack the village because you wouldn't let me into the city to talk to him," Kylie said. The guard shifted nervously from one foot to the other.
     "Riverwood's in danger, too? You'd better go on in," the guard decided and unlocked the gate for her. "You'll find the Jarl..."
     "In the big palace overlooking the city," Kylie finished for him. "I'm not stupid."
     The first thing Kylie noticed when she entered the city was a woman wearing a blacksmith's apron and a man in heavy armor standing outside a blacksmith's store.
     "We must have more swords for the Imperial Legion," the man insisted.
     "I can't fill an order that large!" the woman replied.
     "Just keep moving, Kylie," she muttered to herself and quickly walked past the two, continuing up the street toward the city's small business district. Several stalls were set up, with people calling out their wares - everything from jewelry to fresh produce. A shop on the right had a sign which read Arcadia's Cauldron. Perfect, Kylie thought, a touch of a smile appearing on her face.
     As soon as she stepped inside and walked up to the counter, the woman standing behind it looked her over with a critical eye.
     "You look rather pale... I have a potion for that," she suggested.
     "I'm fine," Kylie replied. "I just came in to see if you knew where I could get a certain ingredient I need for a potion."
     "Ahh, so you're an alchemist!" the woman replied. "I'm Arcadia. This is my shop."
     "I kind of figured that," Kylie said wryly. "I'm not really much of an alchemist, though I do know how to make one particular potion. But one of the things I need to make it isn't exactly easy to come by... I need barnacles."
     "Have you been to Dawnstar?" Arcadia inquired. "There's an old shipwreck just northeast of the town that's practically covered with them. Hela's Folly, I believe the ship was called."
     "Thanks for the tip, I'll check it out!" Kylie replied before heading back outside, recalling the carriage driver outside the city had mentioned that same town.
     "Fresh produce!" a woman behind one of the stalls in the marketplace called out as Kylie shut the door behind her and made her way through the marketplace. While she wasn't interested in getting anything to eat, the strings of garlic cloves hanging on the stall did interest her, as they were one of the other needed ingredients for the potion that Kylie suspected was going to be quite profitable.
     "How much for the... what's wrong?" Kylie asked, the question coming out before it registered in her brain.
     "I've gotten proposals from half the men in this city," the woman replied with a sigh. "Mikael is the worst of them, though. He's a bard who sings at the inn right over there."
"Yes, I know there's a song with lyrics that suggest boys seem to like a girl
who gets undressed before the second date. The men in this city
certainly do. I'm getting asked out left and right!"
     "Gods, what is it with bards in this world?" Kylie asked, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. "Look, I'll talk to him, if you'll let me have any garlic cloves at no cost whenever you have them in stock."
     "If you think you can get that braggart to leave me alone, that's more than a fair deal! I'm Carlotta, by the way. And you are...?"
     "Kylie. Is he there right now?"
     "I don't think he ever leaves," Carlotta grumbled.
     With a curt nod, Kylie started toward the inn, and then paused as she noticed another woman in a blue dress wandering slowly around from one stall to the next. If it weren't for the way she was dressed, Kylie would have thought she was a thief casing each of the stalls, except for the fact that she was being too obvious.
     "If you're planning on stealing from any of these stalls, be more subtle about it," Kylie muttered quietly as the woman began to walk past her.
     "Why would I...? Oh no, I'm not a thief!" the woman exclaimed. "I'm only trying to learn some of their tricks! I want to have my own business some day. I even thought about buying the Bannered Mare from the current owner, but she won't even speak to me. I think the only way she'll talk to me is if I have something to impress her with, like a mammoth's tusk."
     "The Bannered Mare?"
     "Yes, the inn just behind us," the woman replied.
     "The owner sounds like a stuck up snob," Kylie commented. "If I find one, it's yours."
     As she headed over to the nearby inn, Kylie wondered why she kept getting off track and offering to help people instead of focusing on her own goals. She was supposed to be concentrating on making money, and helping people was taking time away from that!
     No, it's not, she realized. As profitable as the potions that she had in mind were, she had a limited number of the required ingredients. The potions could potentially net her plenty of gold, but she had to be able to make them. By helping others and making friends (with the exception of Sven... but he was an ass, so stealing the garlic from his house didn't count!), she was making it easier to reach her own goals.
     Opening the door to the inn, she caught sight of Mikael strumming his lute and going through some kind of warm-up routine immediately upon entering, and made her way over to him.
     "You must be Mikael," she stated. "Carlotta wants you to leave her alone."
     "She put you up to this, didn't she?" Mikael asked with a chuckle. "Sorry, but she's mine - even if she doesn't know it yet!"
     "How did I know you were going to say something like that," Kylie replied, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "Fine, then let me put it this way: if you don't leave her alone, your face and my fist are going to get very well acquainted."
     "I don't have to take that from you!" Mikael exclaimed.
     Kylie gave him time to put his lute down on the floor, and then connected with a hard right hook.
     "Fight! Fight!" someone called out, seeing the two begin exchanging punches.
     Mikael got a few lucky hits in, but he was no match for Kylie, and within a matter of minutes he fell to one knee and held up a hand in defeat.
     "Okay, enough!" he begged.
     "Now, are you going to leave Carlotta alone, or do I need to kick your ass some more?" Kylie growled, keeping her fists up.
     "I'll... I'll leave her alone," Mikael promised.
     "You'd better," Kylie replied, letting the threat hang in the air for a moment longer before heading over to the bar. Noticing the large curved bone 'trophy' sitting on top of a shelf behind the bar, she walked casually around the bar, pretending to be browsing the items on the shelves, and then crouched down. The moment she was out of everyone's line of sight, she snatched the mammoth's tusk from the top of the shelf, as well as the garlic cloves hanging from the rafters, and then headed back outside.
     Seeing the woman in the blue dress still in the marketplace, Kylie walked up to her and held out the tusk.
     "You found one! This should turn that old goat's head!" the woman exclaimed. "Oh, forgive me, I never introduced myself before. My name is Ysolda. Thank you so much!"
     "You're welcome," Kylie replied, and then walked over to Carlotta's stall. "Mikael won't be bothering you again, Carlotta. He'll probably have a black eye and a swollen lip for a good week to remind him to leave you alone, too."
     "I wish I could have been there to see that!" Carlotta exclaimed, laughing with relief. "Please, take as much garlic as you'd like!" Kylie smiled and grabbed what she had hanging from the stall.
     "Arcadia's shop and the general store seem to be the only two places in the city that I can sell potions at. I don't suppose there's anywhere else in the city that will buy them, is there?" she inquired.
     "No, but everyone restocks their wares and such every two days. If you have potions to sell, you could take the carriage to Windhelm. There are two stalls right by the alchemy shop that I know buy almost anything, and of course the alchemy shop itself would certainly buy any potions you want to sell," Carlotta replied. "There's also a used goods shop on the other side of the city that will buy them, now that I think of it."
     "Really? Thanks for the tip!" Kylie replied and with a wave, began heading for the city gates. She still needed to speak to the Jarl, but her money issues had been put on hold long enough. She had plenty of salmon roe and garlic. Now to get the last item she needed - and thanks to Arcadia's advice, she knew just where to go.
     She made her way back to the carriage just outside the city, told the driver she wanted to go to Dawnstar, and hopped in the back, handing him the coin for the trip.
     The days went by quickly, and soon she was standing outside a small village far to the north where the weather was chilly, with a light snow falling. As she reached the outskirts of the city, she stopped and turned around, realizing she hadn't asked the driver to wait for her. But the carriage was nowhere in sight.
     "Oh, wonderful," Kylie grumbled. Sighing, she turned back toward the town. She'd figure out what to do later. After she found the shipwreck.
     Skirting the outer edge of the town, she kept on a northeasterly direction, stopping when she reached a point where the land gave way to the cold waters of the sea. The water was tolerable, and more importantly, it was fairly shallow where she began to swim. Within a matter of minutes, she saw the rotting timbers of a shipwreck appear in the distance that she hoped was the one Arcadia had mentioned.
     Sure enough, when she reached it she saw the faded nameplate which read Hela's Folly. She set to work right away, and with a deep breath, plunged under the water.
"It's not my fault! One of the passengers was sitting on the bow of the ship
having her portrait drawn while wearing nothing but a necklace!
And it was cold out!
Do you have any idea how distracting that was??"
     Arcadia wasn't kidding. Kylie had to surface several times for air, but when she had gathered every barnacle clinging to the ship's remains, she had well over thirty of them in her pouch.
     She climbed out of the water, cold and shivering... and silently thankful that the pouches she had were magical in nature, not only allowing her to carry far more than the small bags appeared to be able to hold, but just as importantly - they were waterproof.
     Seeing a fire burning nearby, Kylie walked over to it, slowing down when she saw a lizard-like creature with a human shape asleep on a small mat a few yards away, which made Kylie even more wary, as there were similar creatures on Tal'Avern called Slaath. They weren't known for being overly friendly, which kept Kylie on guard.
     As she warmed up by the fire, Kylie took a quick look around, and seeing several valuable gemstones sitting on top of a barrel, along with several more resting a small crate near the creature's head, Kylie relieved the Argonian of the gems and slipped them into her pouch. She knew they would sell for a good price, but Kylie had no intention of selling them. She already had other plans for the precious gemstones.
     "Now, how do I get back to Whiterun from here?" she muttered. With a flash, she was gone. The next thing she knew, she was standing just inside the gates of the city, near the blacksmith's shop.
     "I'll be damned!" she exclaimed, a mix of shock, amazement... and excitement rushing through her body. She still had her shadow walking ability, and didn't even need to be standing in any shadows to use it!
     She ran down the street to Arcadia's shop, nearly crashing into several people along the way in her excitement. Throwing open the door, she hurried over to the counter.
     "Can I use your alchemy table?" she asked breathlessly.
     "Of course," Arcadia replied.
     Going over to the table, Kylie took out one of each of the ingredients she needed: salmon roe, garlic, and a Nordic barnacle. Now came the moment of truth.
     "Please don't blow up in my face, please don't blow up in my face," Kylie pleaded as the potion churned, bubbled... and then turned a deep red color as the three ingredients mixed into a potion that would sell for a nice amount of gold.
     With the knowledge that the ingredients mixed properly, Kylie set about making as many as she could, making small adjustments as she went along which made the potions increasingly more powerful - and profitable.
     When she was done, Kylie thanked Arcadia for letting her use the alchemy table and stepped outside.
     "Now all I need to do is take the carriage..." With a flash she disappeared. A moment later, she was standing near the carriage outside of Whiterun. "Gods, that's awesome! I'm starting to like it here!" she exclaimed.
     "Where would you like to go?" the driver asked.
     "Windhelm," Kylie answered, handing him the coin he wanted for the trip as she sat down in the back.
     When the carriage rolled to a stop outside Windhelm, Kylie didn't even care if he left. She was flying among the clouds with the knowledge that she could travel anywhere in Skyrim that she'd already discovered.
     She spent the next several days in Windhelm. She would sell as many potions at the Alchemy shop, the two stalls just outside of it, and the used goods store on the other side of the city as the merchants could afford. Kylie even sold a few for a bit less than they were worth, because the merchants didn't have enough gold to cover the full amount.  Then she would wait around for a few days. When they'd restocked their wares (and replenished their gold) she'd make another round of sales.
     By the time Kylie had sold the last potion she had made, her money problems were at an end. And if she needed money later on, Kylie not only knew right where to go to get the ingredients to make more, but she could travel to those locations instantly.
     In the blink of an eye she was back in Whiterun. She made her way to the Bannered Mare, paid for a night's lodging, and went up to the room she'd rented on the second floor. Closing the door, Kylie fell down onto the double bed and sprawled out, feeling giddy. After a moment, she sat up and untied one of the pouches from her hip.
     "Show me the money!" she exclaimed happily, loosening the drawstring and tipping the pouch sideways. And the gold began to fall.
* * *
Tips in Chapter Two:
1) Ingredients for a profitable potion: Salmon Roe + Garlic + Nordic Barnacle
2) Gathering ingredients: Salmon Roe from stream; garlic from houses, inns, and stalls; great spot for barnacles at Hela's Folly. The ruins a short way from the standing stones I believe has 11, and there's also another 10 or so under the bridge up at Dragon's Reach which Kylie didn't grab, since she didn't go up there... yet. Maybe when she wakes up ;)
3) Selling potions - 4 spots in Windhelm!
4) Ysolda's request - easy way to get her that tusk!
5) Swiping gems near Hela's Folly - hold onto them for Smithing! Those DO respawn, by the way ;)