The part of me that has extreme attention problems has taken over at times. This has allowed me to work on a short story that I will be releasing in the next month. I do not have an exact date, but it will be soon. I wanted to write something within the world that I am creating, while keeping the story plot separate from everything else. Any feedback that I get on this writing will help me learn and grow as a writer. Please feel free to point out any flaws and my love obsession with the comma. Here is a preview of the beginning: “The true measure of a man is not counted by the number of battles won or riches gathered. It is measured by the line of women waiting when his ship docks.” - Captain Warwick of the Anne-Marie The boat swayed gently back and forth against the dock as waves brushed against the hull. After a long night of drinking in the small harbor town, the crew of the Anne-Marie moved slowly across the deck. Smitty, the first mate, barked orders from the upper deck while the crew struggled to keep up with loading the cargo. The cool breeze did nothing to suppress the heat from the summer sun. “Boy! I told you to move that crate to the other side!” Smitty yelled. He was a portly man with beady eyes. Not the brightest of men, but tough. Erik let out a deep sigh as he picked up the heavy crate and carried it to the other side of the deck. He had joined the crew three years ago to find a better life. Loading and unloading crates was not what he had in mind. It took a five year commitment to join the Anne-Marie and Erik had no plan of staying one day longer than he had to. “Boy!” Smitty had a way of getting under his skin, calling him a boy when he was clearly a man. “Hey, boy! Report to Captain Warwick!” Without looking up at the first mate, Erik made his way across the main deck to the small hallway leading to the captain’s door. He stopped for a moment to take a breath and attempt to straighten his clothes. The ocean salt prevented any such act from being successful, keeping his clothes stiff. He kneaded his calloused hands together nervously before lightly knocking on the door. Being summoned by Captain Warwick was never a good sign. “Come in!” The Captain’s voice boomed in great contrast to the knock. Erik pushed hard on the heavy wooden door forcing it to creak and moan as it opened. When he entered the small room the door slammed shut behind him. Erik jumped at the sound and Captain Warwick let out an evil laugh. No matter how many times he was summoned to that room, the door always received the same reaction. Captain Warwick was standing on the opposite side of a large mahogany desk that seemed far too valuable for the boat that carried it. He was a tall man with wild red hair that was untamed and windblown. Erik could not help but stare at the man as he loomed over the desk, his large hands holding open a map. "Always the scared little girl." Warwick extended his grin and motioned to the chair across from him. "When you are done pissing your pants, come introduce yourself to your next assignment." "I am not an assignment!" The young woman bolted upright from her seat. Her long black hair hung past her bare shoulders. The motion seemed to put Erik in a trance. Before he realized it, the woman had turned around to catch him staring at her. He immediately turned his gaze downward as his face turned red in embarrassment. "I don't care what you are called. Let's be done with this so you can be off my ship." Captain Warwick smacked his hands on the desk, drawing attention to the map. The woman turned back around as Erik slowly made his way forward. Erik stepped up to the captain’s desk to take a seat next to the woman. The captain remained standing, tracing lines on the map before he started to speak again. “Erik, this Lady Jaina Claymore, of the Noble House Claymore. Lady Jaina, this is Erik Steele, one of our finest deckhands.” The words that left Warwick’s mouth seemed to be forced. This was the first compliment that Erik had received from the old sea dog. Turning toward Jaina, Erik extended his calloused hand without looking at her face. “A pleasure for you, I am sure,” she said as she ignored his hand. “Captain, you must have someone more civilized for this task. You cannot expect this….” She gestured toward Erik with her hands, “… lout to escort me!” Lout! He might not have known the word, but he understood enough by her tone that it was not a compliment. Before he could respond, Captain Warwick spoke up. “Lady Jaina, you are a guest on my ship and you will control yourself.” The green in his eyes glowed a little darker and he lowered his voice in a serious tone. “I do not care who your father is. I will feed you to the sharks if you speak to me that way again.” Jaina sat in her chair with a scowl on her face. It was obvious that she did not like Warwick but she did not speak another word. When he was sure that she would remain quiet, Warwick continued. “Erik will escort you. I owe a debt to your father and this is my payment. Now get off my boat before I make you spread your legs for my crew.” Jaina stood up and stomped out of the room. The sound of her shoes clacking on the hardwood was drowned out a second later by the door slamming behind her. Erik did not move as he waited for Warwick to give him orders. “You will have your hands full with that one,” Captain Warwick said, breaking the silence. “She is to be escorted by you alone to Fedoria in the Highlands of Caelda. Nobody is supposed to know who she is and she is to be protected at all costs.” “Captain, you cannot be serious. That is all the way across the Shifting Sands to the Alteen Province. Going that far south will take weeks.” Erik started to protest but Warwick cut him off. “Do you forget who you take orders from, boy? I still own you. When I say you will do something, you do it.” The seriousness in his tone assured Erik that he does not have an option. Erik was not bothered by the fact that it would take him several weeks of travel to Fedoria and back. In fact, it was a nice thought to get off that wretched boat for a while. However, traversing the Shifting Sands while being weighed down with a woman is a burden that would likely get him killed. When he did not respond, Captain Warwick continued. “Gather your belongings and take this map. I have marked the way for you. Horses and supplies are waiting for you in town.” The Captain’s voice changed to one of efficiency instead of anger. “Deliver the girl and meet us in Southport in three weeks. We have a load to deliver there. Do not make me wait on you.” With the map rolled up in his hand, Erik found himself on the other side of the door as it slammed shut causing him to jump. Damned door. Erik spent the next hour gathering the few items he had in the bunks and trying to get his mind set for the road. The only reason the Captain chose him for the job is because he is the more civilized among the crew, which does not say much. He would try to make the best of this trip but he had a feeling that would be more difficult than he would like. Erik made his way through the boat to the docks where the woman was waiting. She was standing there with one hand on her hip and the other twirling a lock of dark hair. Erik rolled his eyes as he stepped off the boat, thinking to himself, “This is going to be a long trip.” Jaina made a huffing noise while he stumbled onto the dock. His bag hit the wood in a solid thump. He could feel the tension between them, thicker than the salt in the air. "Glaring at me with your eyes will not make me move faster, Miss Claymore". He could not remove the ironic tone from his voice when he spoke her name. "I did not ask for your opinion. We may be forced to travel together, but that does not mean I have to like it,” she snapped back with her own haughty tone. Shouts of laughter burst forth from the boat. The crew had been listening to every word, enjoying the misery of Erik’s assignment. “Hey, boy!” Smitty shouted. “At least you have another woman to talk with!” The crew laughed louder at the comment. Erik made a rude gesture with his hands before scooping up his pack and walking past Jaina. Regardless of how the crew treated him, he felt a little sadness leaving behind the Anne-Marie, which was properly named after Captain Warwick’s daughter that died many years ago. The ship had been his home for three years, it was only natural that is had become a small part of him. Jaina outpaced him, her long legs making longer strides. “My father has arranged all of our supplies. We must hurry if we want to travel today.” Jaina’s pace picked up as she walked toward the center of the small town. “The sun has almost reached its peak and we only have 6 to 8 hours of light left.” “Fine, lead the way.” Erik replied with more than a little sarcasm. Even though it was his job to lead this trip he apparently did not have control over where they were going. It did not take long for them to walk across the small port town to the stables. Jaina was true to her word. Supplies were waiting for them set against the wall of the stable. Beside them, two of the most beautiful horses that Erik had ever seen were tied to a post. The stable master was carefully checking them one last time before their departure. When he saw them approach, he hobbled around the horses to greet them. He had a hunched back and a bad limp, favoring his right leg. That did not stop him from smiling widely as he welcomed them. He was obviously good at his job. “Lady Jaina,” the man bowed a little lower than one would expect his body to allow. “I have been expecting you. It has been far too long since you have graced us with your presence.” “Good to see you, dear Tagron. I would love to stay and talk, but we must be on our way immediately.” Without complaint, Tagron went to work on loading the horses practiced efficiency. He introduced the horses as he worked. “This fine beast is Brannon. He is very strong, but stubborn. You have to watch your supplies because he likes to steal food.” Tagron turned to the other horse with a beautiful brown coat, “This is his beautiful girlfriend, Briella. She is more elegant but will keep Brannon in his place. Together they will be a great team and you will travel fast.” Erik took a step forward, admiring the tall strong creatures. He reached out to place a hand on Brannon’s neck. The horse responded with flapping lips and stomping one foot. “He likes you.” Tagron said. “What is your name?” “Erik. My name is Erik Steele,” he replied. Tagron squinted as he looked at Erik curiously from head to toe. “You are not related to….nevermind. You have to excuse an old man.” Erik silently gave thanks to Teylon for the man not pressing him further. Steele was a common name in the Gaena Province. Very few people would draw the connection between him and his father Devlin Steele, Leader of the Assassin’s Guild. Erik did not look like his father which helped him deny any relation. Where is father was tall and lean, he was short and muscular. His father had long black hair, a well-trimmed beard and dark brown eyes. Erik had light brown hair, no facial hair and blue eyes. In fact, if they were in a room standing next to each other you could only seem a small resemblance in the nose. “Thank you again, Tagron.” Jaina said in a sweet voice. This was definitely a side of her that Erik did not expect. Jaina reached up to kiss Tagron on the cheek. “My father would be most pleased.” “Anything for the daughter of House Claymore,” Tagron smiled and bowed again. Once Tagron was finished fussing over the two horses he took a step back nodding his approval. Jaina mounted Briella with the ease of a practiced rider. Erik fumbled with the reins and barely pulled himself up in an awkward manner. The short laugh from Jaina caused his face to turn red. Jaina turned the horse, giving it a swift jab with her heel. Off she went down the narrow street in a full gallop. Erik looked over to Tagron who shrugged his shoulders in response. He rolled his eyes and started off after Jaina. If this was any indication of the trip to come, he was going to be frustrated for weeks.