Batman – Arkham City (Review)

But hell, if I had super money, I’d pour it into R&D too. Who wouldn’t want to run around the city at night, gliding above the cityscape, swooping down on would be criminals and hanging them up on streetlamps?

Let’s face it. Anyone who KNOWS me, also knows I am NOT a DC Comics fan. I’m just not. If I had to pick one DC character, I would, or could enjoy reading; Batman would be the only one. Superman? Too boyscout-ish. JLA? To filled with whiners and conflicting egos.  But, Batman. Batman has his roots in reality. Um… More than the others, anyway. He’s human, that’s it. He doesn’t have super strength, super speed, super x-ray vision. He’s a human, plain and simple.  Ok, so he has super money. But hell, if I had super money, I’d pour it into R&D too. Who wouldn’t want to run around the city at night, gliding above the cityscape, swooping down on would be criminals and hanging them up on streetlamps?

Let’s get to the game though. Batman – Arkham City. First however, we have to start with its predecessor, Arkham Asylum. If you played that, you know what to expect. If you haven’t played it. Then I suggest you stop reading this right now, punch yourself in the face, and go buy it. You’re missing out on a super game.

Arkham City takes place a few months, years, days, weeks, whatever, after Arkham Asylum. Bruce Wayne is holding a press conference, denouncing the new Arkham City, knowing full well that the walls are NOT going to contain the mass amount of criminals housed on the other side. Especially when a loon is running the place. Namely Hugo Strange.  The game starts off with you in control of Bruce Wayne and within a few seconds, you’re stomping the crap out of bad guys and saving the day. And within a few minutes of play, you’re soon face to face with your alter ego, Batman. Upon which Wayne cleverly says, “I’m Batman.” And the crowd goes wild! Errr… Well, the fan boy in me did anyway.

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The Golden Age of Movies

In terms of story, plot and character development, I think this movie actually gives more, then the other two. This flick isn’t nearly as iconic as the others, but it gives more than mere images, it gives other movies that borrow from it heart.

Originally I thought I would write up a review for each movie. This task, as daunting as it would have been, would lose a major point behind what I wanted to look at. Namely it would have been a review and less about the movies themselves. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Reviews are designed to give you a brief outline of what occurs in the movie and an opinion of the actual film. How was it? Was it worth your time? All valid concerns for a review, but not exactly what I wanted to actually focus on, besides, if you haven’t seen the movie(s), I don’t want to be the one to ruin it. Instead, I intend to look at the movies themselves and the culture that surrounds them. Maybe even how they still function in an era of CGI this, and HD or 3D that. Do these movies, which defined Hollywood, enter the thoughts of the movie going populace? What makes them stand out? What makes them classics? Heck, am I the only one still interested in even watching these oldies?

Casablanca (1942)

This is the movie that actually started me on the path to answer the question, “What makes it stand out?” In fact, the movie didn’t even answer that question. It actually poses more questions, like why are movies like this no longer being made? I think that question could actually be answered by saying, “Because there is no one in Hollywood today, like Humphrey Bogart.” If I’m wrong, then I’d be interested to see who you think is. This actor oozes calm and cynicism in almost every line, and that’s just the first few minutes of screen time. Ingrid Bergman who also stars in the movie does a wonderful job playing opposite Bogart’s charm. The chemistry is solid between the two, and eventually their past history is told, than later resolved. To me what makes this movie a classic is the tale it weaves. Set in an exotic location, during one of the worlds darker periods, telling us there are still people that do what’s right. Ok, so maybe there’s more to it than that. The movie itself is beautiful, even in all its monochrome glory. The dialog is wonderful and the events believable. Let’s not forget, it also has one of the greatest lines in the history of cinema: “Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”

What, were you expecting something else?  I’m just messing with you. Actually, the movie is full of memorable quotes. It’s a testament the writing style that really has gotten lost through the ages. They wrote then, how they talked at that time. World War 2 was still going on when this movie was being made. Period movies today, to me, seem less… credible, because they lack this authenticity.

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Chapter 2 – Reflections of Nightmares

“Hon’shu!” He heard his commander’s voice yell over the roar of battle. “Get those Orcs BACK! NOW!”

“Hon’shu!” He heard his commander’s voice yell over the roar of battle. “Get those Orcs BACK! NOW!”

His commander was a stout, ruddy man with scars up and down his arms and across his face. His eyes blazed with fury and focused hatred.

Hon’shu’s sword sang its song of death as it darted in out and out of the greenish horde. A blur of steel, followed by the spray of blood showered his senses. The red liquid that dripped down his face narrowed his vision. Fear kept him moving during those few weeks.

“Argh!” He heard his commander yell, a spear had penetrated his breastplate, just below the ribcage. The monster that had attacked him did not live long enough though to see if his attack had done the commander in.

“Sir!” Hon’shu remembered yelling, just before his commanders head was lobbed off by a skeletal warrior.

They were hopelessly outnumbered. They always were. The more they killed, the more were raised the next day to fight in place of the fallen. Bodies were piled up in great pyres in front of the keep and burned in attempt the stem the tide of undead monsters that could be raised the next day. The foul, rancid stench of burning flesh could never be washed from his skin and hair. He began to shave his head in attempt to keep some of the smell from lingering. But it was no use. It is sweet, pungent odor had sunk into his nose and embedded itself in memory.

He blinked and cleared the vision from his eyes. The fireplace once again appeared before him and he took a deep drink from his glass before refilling it.

After those first weeks, he learned not to care as much. There was no room for compassion. He had to continue among the chaos of battle despite the open wounds in his soul. Nothing in all his training had prepared him for what he had seen at Fort Point. He executed each battle more and more efficiently and soon fewer and fewer people close to him died at the hands of the Fire Isle Mages and the horde of Orcs.

Years before. Before his time in the Swords of Justice, he knew the Mages had successfully invaded and conquered Xecu’tran, far to the north of Xonthian City. During the first years of war, the vile Mages occupied a small island south west of Xecu’tran where they pushed north east to occupy a small uninhabited section west of Cettera where they then launched an assault on the capitol city. The strength they had exerted to invade the northern continentcould have been Xonthians downfall, but they were spared the same fate.

The Clerics of Gate’har had agreed to assist in the war efforts after that. With their help, Xonthian was able to keep the Fire Isle Mages from pushing further then Fort Point and the Wall of Ages.

Because he was well learned in history and studied past battles as a morbid hobby as a child, he was well adverse in large scale strategy. He knew the importance of holding the pass at all cost. He and his men did so, with a growing amount of sacrifice that overshadowed the entire war from that point on.

Hon’shu swung back the liquid in his glass, his gaze falling to the fire, it’s tendrils of flame danced seductively in its stone prison, begging to be let lose. He filled his glass and took another long swig of his whiskey. Hissing between his teeth as the warmth stung his throat.

Life Lessons and Legacy

It’s about lessons learned, it’s about giving a little piece of me each day to my daughter. In the end this will be her legacy. It won’t be an empire, it won’t be monetary gain, but will be far more precious to her then both those things combined. Whose life will she touch growing up? Will she see things differently? Will she know what to do with these life experiences?

For the next few hours, I will post once an hour, an interesting experiment. Will you remember the things I will mention here? What do you remember? In what way have I, or the people I mention here touched your life? Keep in mind what follows is my own observations and thoughts and are intended as a top down perspective. If I forgot you, please keep in mind the list is long and having to remember all this stuff clearly takes time and brain power. It wasn’t intentional, I assure you. Also for ease and space constraints, I’ll be jumping forward a lot. This is kind of a “Highlights reel”, of those who made impressions and left me with a legacy.

We often times take what’s around us, and the people we meet along the way for granted. Do we ever stop and think exactly what roles those people took in our lives? When we’re asked as children who our heroes are, how many of us responded with, “My best friend” or, “My parents”.  I seriously doubt any of us did. I began contemplating a week or so ago, about what it was I’d would eventually be leaving my daughter with, what kind of Legacy would be hers to take up? It occurred to me that it wasn’t just me that would leave an impression on her life; it was everyone she ever comes in contact with. This line of thought, led me to my own life and the people I ran across in growing up. Many of these people are still in my life in some form of fashion, those that are not, left me with something. What they left behind isn’t tangible, you can’t hold it in your hand and its far more precious than anything physical could be.

Most everyone knows where I was born, so I’ll skip this part, especially since I was too young to remember anything. Let me start in New Mexico, 1985 or so. I was five years old and we moved into the apartments in Rio Rancho. I was growing to the point in my life when things would leave impressions and what happened prior to that, really isn’t what this exercise is about. The family members that helped get me to five will play a bigger part in this later, so we’ll return to them.

When you talk about people that influence you growing up, often times it’s the first ones that last the longest as life goes on. This doesn’t really need to be just parents, often times its friends. When we lived in Rio Rancho we met a family of three. Each one of them left a mark in my life. The husband was a tall, rail thin man with a heart the size of Texas, drove trucks for a living, and would be gone for long periods of time. He loved his family and was the first to show me that work often required sacrifices. To this day the mother is like a second mom, who helped watch over me growing up at the apartments. She left me with the knowledge, that motherhood was more than a name; it was hard work and discipline. After all, she had, at times, three kids instead of just one.  Then there’s the daughter of these three fine people. Few things make an impact as a rock to the head. Although it wasn’t me that got hit in the head, it nevertheless makes an interesting way one enters another’s life. And so my second sister entered my life. As nerdy and carefree as I am, she was the kind of person that no matter what I did, she forgave me. Thus I learned humility and forgiveness.

Moving from the apartments to our house on Capri Court brought new life experiences. Here I met people that although left their mark on my life, didn’t stay on a path I could or wanted to follow. I did however meet one charismatic character who had a big impact on my life. We lost contact like most people do, but because I grew up and nostalgic, I perused finding him and only within the last few years have we reconnected. He taught me sacrifice and bravery, the kind of sacrifice made by jumping on a grenade. The kind of bravery one faces, when looking down the lions maw.

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Drawing Sketches and iPads (Update)

I can take it anywhere and don’t have to have a separate pencil and drawing pad if I want to bust out a sketch or something. One thing that I do fault with the App is the speed. Sometimes it lags and that can be a distraction.

A few weeks ago or so, I purchased a new toy. A Targus Stylus for my Apple iPad along with a slick App from Autodesk called Sketchpad. While the learning curve is more steep then I would have liked, it does work pretty well. Sketchpad doesn’t allow for detailed work, as much as Painter does. Although I think that’s more the fault of the stylus then the App. Still, what it lacks for in control over brushes and color, makes up for in portability. I mean it’s on my iPad. I can take it anywhere and don’t have to have a separate pencil and drawing pad if I want to bust out a sketch or something. One thing that I do fault with the App is the speed. Sometimes it lags and that can be a distraction.

So far, I haven’t done a whole lot. Here’s a work in progress of Catt. Once it’s finished I’ll post it.

UPDATE 8/10/11: I finished the drawing, and then exported it and finished it in Paintshop. Problem is, Autodesks format for PSD, which is used when saving the image, formatted the image weird. I was unable to read the layers with Paintshop, instead I had to first open it with Photoshop, re-save it, THEN I could edit its layers in Paintshop. Annoying, but not a major hiccup.

 

Catt WIP iPad 2011
Catt WIP iPad 2011
Catt ipad 2011 Finished
Catt iPad 2011 Finished

Top Ten Influential Films from my Childhood

Every kid had dreams about one day finding that mystical map in their back yard, telling their friends about it and heading out to seek fame and fortune.

When I first thought about writing something up about these movies, I began listing films and what they meant to me growing up. It then became clear, that this list can’t be contained with just 10… No, I needed more like 20. So I set about trimming the list down as far as possible. With the top 10 firmly in place, I realized I couldn’t just leave off movies. A fierce battle raged inside my head and finally, Honorable Mentions were settled upon. Feeling relieved to have quelled the heated argument with myself I set about reviewing WHAT each movie meant to me and placed them in a neat and orderly list. Fortunately, that part was easier.

Honorable Mention: Krull
Krull was one of the many fantasy themed movies that played a part in adolescence. It is also the only movie in this list, that I feel deserves a remake and update. This movie, while low on my list, worked to solidify the already growing thirst for medieval fantasy, swords, magic and good vs. evil. I recently re-watched this gem and must say, parts of it really didn’t age well. Regardless though, the life lessons learned from never trusting alien life forms stuck with me.

Honorable Mention: Ghostbusters
Oh man, talk about a movie that still echoes through the minds and hearts of those that grew up with this movie. Even to this day, twenty two years later since the second movie, the possibility of a third and final sequel gets tossed around entertainment news sites like popcorn. I ate up everything Ghostbusters related back in the day and I have to say, this movie holds up.

10.) Top Gun
Egos, bad ass machines, speed and a moral to the story? Yes please! Who didn’t like Tom Cruise back in the day? It’s probably saying something that two of his movies are on my list, but I’m not sure what that is. At any rate, this movie was everything I wanted to be: Egotistical and flying around with death machines, and… Uh, wait a sec… I found out later what it took to have the right stuff and decided to settle on private pilot aircraft was more my level. Ego busted. Still, this movie has a special place in my heart, right next to the Phoenix missiles and the lucky bunny foot.

9.) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
I don’t think any of the movies thought me nearly as much about archeology as much as this one did. Who knew it could be so AWESOME! Then, only to find out as a young adult, it wasn’t nearly as cool. Bummer… Well, who wouldn’t want archeology to be as glamorized as much as Harrison Ford made it out to be? Of the three Indiana movies of the 80’s, this one stuck out to me as a kid. I think it has something to do with the fact that Short Round, the comedic sidekick of Indy, was living out every kid of that era’s fantasy. Going on an adventure! Or it could have been the fact that we saw some dude get his heart ripped from his chest, shown to him, then tossed in a fiery pit. Archeology is FUN!

8.) Back to the Future
There are few movies like Back to the Future. A classic, I feel, of the 80’s, that stood up to time itself. Sure there are plot holes, but WHO CARES? Growing up, I didn’t care about paradox’s and the consequences of changing the fabric of time so you could get a sweet ass truck. Hell, if it were me, I would do it! Being hit on by your mom? Ok, that’s pushing things. Still, Marty (Michael J. Fox) along with his cooky Doc (Christopher Lloyd), would take on time and space and show me it’s ok to F’up peoples timeline. Now if only I could get my hands on a Delorean…

7.) Flight of the Navigator
Not nearly as iconic as E.T., Flight of the Navigator had two things in its favor. One, a cute little fuzzy creature thingy and two, a FRIGGEN AWESOME spaceship. Yeh, yeh, so the voice of the Spaceship was Pee Wee Herman… But come on, that thing was sleek, sparkly, and FAST. Who didn’t want to zip around the world in that thing or dive underwater? I’d take that over a Reeses eating, lost, child scaring alien any day. This movie kind of disappeared into obscurity after the 80’s were over. There are aspects of it that didn’t age to well looking back on it, but is it enough to have disappeared?

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Duke Nukem: Forever

The games biggest fault has got to be the load times. The levels are linier. There is enough to see and interact with and even hidden area’s within this, to make it seem larger. This is likely the reason for huge load times, the game loads the entire area your in, interactive devices and all, which I’m sure, causes the waiting screen to take FOREVER. Maybe that’s where it got the subtitle?

What can be said of  this game, that hasn’t already been thrown out by hundreds of media outlets already? I’m sure very little. That’s not going to stop me however from putting my two cents in. Duke Nukem, probably one of the few games that will go down in both history books and infamy. And to those who caught my pun there, good for you, you’re in the right minds set to play this game and enjoy it.

Before we get into the meat of the review, a little history lesson is needed to setup the bases of my opinions. Duke Nukem, was born in the early 90’s as a side scrolling shoot’em up, akin to an adult version of Apogee’s  Commander Keen. Yes, I’m dating myself. I’ll give you  a moment to Google that one. Done? Good, let’s keep going. Duke grew up from there, to become a successful first person shooter (FPS) called Duke Nukem 3D in 1996. Back when FPS’s were becoming all the rage. Duke 3D took the FPS genre and made fun of it, made it a parody of the itself. It should have gone instantly into a sequel and in fact it was announced the following year that Duke Nukem Forever was indeed in the works. This is however, where it falls to both history and infamy.

Twelve years later, we finally get Duke Nukem Forever. Was it worth the wait? Possibly, but I’ll answer this in depth in a moment. Is it full of one liners, like it’s predecessor? Oh yeah. Is it filled to the brim with crude humor?  Hell yeah. Does it have pop culture references? Check. Does it have stereotypes? Yup. Is it a bad game? Yes. Is it a good game? Yes. Wait, what does that mean, you ask? Well, its so bad it’s a good game. Like I mentioned before, if your in the mind set to get my pun earlier, then you’ll likely enjoy the game. By no means is this game going to test your mental prowess, your FPS chops, or stimulate your visual cortex, but it will entertain you. Duke starts right off with some crude humor, it doesn’t waste any time. By the time you get to the actual meat of the game, things become less about the crude humor, and more about FPS and shooting alien scum. Puzzles don’t take much thought, combat can be pretty linier at times and I have run across a few bugs, and load times. Those are probably the only negative things I have come across, that could possibly warrant a bad review from anyone. However it doesn’t deter from the game play, or the game itself. I think that it has failed in so many critics eyes, is because they were expecting to much from a game, that took 12 years to develop. Did they forget the road this game took, to even get this far?

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Thor (Review)

Marvel Entertainment has got my vote, regardless of how bad a movie can be. There have been times when I question that loyalty (I’m looking at you Hulk – 2003). Luckily for me, Thor wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

Marvel Entertainment has got my vote, regardless of how bad a movie can be. There have been times when I question that loyalty (I’m looking at you Hulk – 2003). Luckily for me, Thor wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

Probably one of Marvel better known comic hero’s, Thor delves into Norse mythology with wild abandonment. Such staples as Valhalla, Asgard, nine worlds, and near impossible words make a quick appearance or are spoken in terms of back story and filler. Thor then has its own mythology that are corner stone’s of the comic and its history on printed paper. For the most part, and for a film, it was true to the comics that inspired it. The characters that help build Thor up, all make an appearance in the movie. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Jana Foster (Natalie Portman), Heimdall (Idris Elba) , King Laufey (Colm Feore), Warriors Three, and even Dr. Donald Blake (Thor’s earth name).

Yes, there were a lot of players and at times that worked well. Looking at it objectively and not a fan boy, really puts its short falls in perspective, and proves that even if a movie is made for fans, it can under perform. All of the characters get screen time. Good in the long run, but feels kind of watered down. The Warriors Three and Sif held supporting roles, but were they really needed? Did they HAVE to be there? I doubt it. My biggest complaint is the how the battle between Thor and the Destroyer took place and ended. First issue is how EASY it was for Thor to kick it’s tin butt. Second, is HOW Thor became Thor once again. It seemed like, “oh shit, quick, let’s change the rules of the plot”.

I get that in a short time, (two hours in the case) you have to develop the characters, the plot, and the attachment to the audience. But when it sacrifices the plot you spent the first hour building, as an audience member, we lose that connection.

That’s not to say the movie didn’t have its good acting and humorous scenes. In fact, this movie had quite a few funny spots and to this end, the connection did help. The rollercoaster of tense and funny moments were well balanced even if by the end, a bit, “what the hell?”ish.  Chris Hemsworth made a very good and believable Thor and Tom Hiddleston made the perfect Loki, to the point you almost felt sorry for him by the end of the movie. In all however, the movie was good and worth watching. How could I possibly NOT be a fan boy, and get all giddy at the thought of such an iconic Marvel comic, coming to life on the big screen? I can’t. Because of this fault, I have to like the movie. It was good, and well deserving. It was well paced, good actors, fun, thrilling and quite the Norse mythology history lesson.  Really, the main issues I have with the movie are few, and really only pop up after the credits roll and you have time to think about it. So go see it, enjoy the movie with your kids, and just make sure you have popcorn and wait till the end of the credits to see how Thor ties in with Capt America. Oh yeh, I’ll be there for Cap too. Of course!

Lio and the Stone Flame (Part 2)

Krystal served everyone breakfast while Lio handed out mead, ale or juice to his patrons as they all enjoyed the food Krystal had prepared.

Lio stepped out of the kitchen to the bar to see Kallis and his friend talking amiably, oblivious to Lios extended disappearance. More of his overnight guests began to fill up the tables scattered around the room, waiting their turn. Seats began to fill and both Krystal and Lio got extremely busy.

Krystal served everyone breakfast while Lio handed out mead, ale or juice to his patrons as they all enjoyed the food Krystal had prepared.

The rest of the morning and through the afternoon things around the tavern began to pick up. Lunch was their busiest time of the day. Many of the guards, workers, travelers just getting in or the occasional aristocrat made their appearance at the tavern.

Lio had so far refused to hire anymore help, leaving him and Krsytal to work hard to keep up with the demand of such influential people, with deep pockets.

Decades of running the tavern honed their skills to a fine, well worked and effortless mechanism. Because they were the only two that worked the tavern and accompanying Inn, they could afford to make the place look extravagant, yet remain affordable. Aside from the atmosphere, the food and drink they offered was the best in town. Each meal was prepared with care and love that each bite reflected. A staple of the Stone Flame that showed the level of compassion the owners had for their guests and patrons.

The morning gave way to the afternoon crowd and slowly, as the sunset, evening settled on the tavern. New guests checked in, while a few of the previous days guests left.

“Krystal, is room twenty four clean?” Lio asked over his shoulder as he studied a ledger.

“Yes.” His wife replied. “Just finished it a few minutes ago.”

Lio wrote down the new guests name and turned the book to him. “Please sign here.”

The man did so and paid Lio, thanking him before disappearing upstairs to settle in.

“Ok, we’re full.” Lio beamed proudly, setting the funds in the usual lock box under the tavern.

Krystal came out of the kitchen at vanished into the crowd. It was an unusually busy dinner rush. Many of the taverns current customers were mercenaries, hired by the king to help keep pressure on the Dark Army at the Wall of Ages, miles away from Xonthian City. They ate ferociously and drank deeply from Lio’s kegs.

“More ale over here, sweety!” One of them yelled boisterously.

“Just a moment!” Krystal replied, undeterred.

The man grumbled and returned to the conversation at his table.

Lio wiped off the bar top and then washed out the empty mugs left behind by their previous users. He took one of the mugs and filled it with Ale before setting it down for Krystal to take to the loud man who had demanded it a few minutes ago.

She smiled as she walked over to retrieve the mug and then returned to the chaos surrounding them.

Lio heard more then saw, the tone of the chaos change. He looked up from his work behind the bar, to see the man who had growl for a new round of ale, making lewd gestures at his wife. He knew his wife was more then capable of handling the unwanted advances. This man however, was letting go and moving on. He was getting rougher. The crowd around the man and his friends, began exchanging concerned glances at the commotion.

Worried things might escalate further, Lio walked over to the table and looked around. “Is there a problem here?”

“Aye, this pretty thing won’t sit with me an my friends, keep our laps warm.”

Lio looked at Krystal who shook her head and stepped beside Lio.

“I think you gentlemen have had enough.” Lio suggested. “Why don’t we consider your tab settled and you guys head on home.

“What do you think of that, Bo?” One of the men sitting at the table jeered.

“I think he’s not thinking clearly.” Bo replied, glaring at Lio.

“Just leave.” Lio replied coolly. “Now.”

Bo laughed evilly and upended the table his friends were sitting at. Sending ale, food, and flying through the air.

Lio had dealt with his share of inebriated misfits. Bo was no different. He was unbalanced and over compensated his swings.

Lio and the Stone Flame (Part 1)

Bottles of liquor, juices, fruits and breads were stocked on shelves behind him, read to be served. The smell of fresh eggs, potatoes and meats wafted in from the kitchen. Everything was set.

 Lio and the Stone Flame (Part 1)

     “I don’t need to apologize for anything.” Lio growled, pointing an accusing finger at the large, burly man in front of him. “You RAPED my wife!”

     Lio was shorter than the man yelling at him in the full view of dozens of witnesses. He was well stout and completely hairless, Bo was the total opposite. He was tall, strong and covered with dark brown curly hair. His companions were similarly built though with lesser degrees of hair and not as broad his their leader.

     “Are you going to take that accusation, Bo?” One of them jeered.

     “You threw me out of tavern for no good reason!” Bo shouted at Lio. “Your wife deserved it!”

“You deserve to be hung by the neck!” Lio growled angrily.

“You are an arrogant, sniveling old man!” Bo snapped, shaking a fist at Lio. “Let us back in, or you’ll regret it!”

     “No, I refuse to serve you anymore. Go find another hole to drown yourself in.”

     Before Lio could react, Bo covered the short distance between them and punched him across the jaw, sending him reeling back in pain.

     Chaos exploded around them as people began screaming and scattering like rats.

     Bo jumped on him, throwing punches into head and chest in rapped succession. Lio was not a warrior, but he knew how to defend himself in a street fight. Bo’s surprise and superior size and speed however took him off guard. There was little use in fighting back, and all he could manage was to throw his arms up, and hope the guards would show up soon.

     He felt warm, sticky blood run down his neck and face. His thoughts began to cloud over and his vision began to narrow. Visions of his wife, happy and content, smiled at him. His arms finally gave way and they fell to the cobble stone road. Blood pooled under his head as he lay there. He felt the weight of Bo being dragged off him just before he lost consciousness.

The previous day…

Lio Smithin opened the tavern as he had every day for the last twenty-three years. He washed the mugs, goblets and plates, stacked them carefully and scrubbed every surface in the place. Being one of Xonthians largest and most prestigious tavern inns, his patrons expected a cretin level of cleanliness.  The Stone Flame, lovingly named by his wife, was an establishment merchants and heads of state frequented. It was one of the better respected places in town, and boasted the most comfortable rooms in all Xonthian.

     Lio stood at the bar, looking around to ensure every candlestick holders had fresh new candles. The few guests he had staying upstairs in rooms would be coming down for breakfast soon. Bottles of liquor, juices, fruits and breads were stocked on shelves behind him, read to be served. The smell of fresh eggs, potatoes and meats wafted in from the kitchen. Everything was set.

He walked to the door and unlocked the two heavy bolts and then opened the door to peer out into the early morning light. The shade from the second floor blanketed the cold grey cobble stone road that lead north into the hard of Xonthian City.

“Good morning.” A man called across the fairway.

“Good morning, my friend.” Lio replied, waving gingerly to the cobbler.

Lio stepped back into the tavern, allowing the cool morning air to seep in. It was pleasant and smelled of baking bread and early morning freshness.

He inhaled deeply. “It will be a beautiful day.” He thought to himself.

“Good morning.”

Lio looked up to see a notable merchant from Port Orlins stroll down the stairs. Long dark blue robes clung loosely on his body.

“Good morning, Kallis.” Lio replied, nodding slightly. “You sleep well?”

“As always Lio, thank you.”

Kallis was one of the more prosperous merchants. Even though the war has put a strain on shipping goods of any kind, Kallis has managed to remain a very wealthy man.

Lio turned to enter the kitchen and nearly ran his wife two decades over.

“Oh, I’m sorry hon!” Lio said, smiling and placing his large hands on her slender shoulders to keep her from falling over.

“It’s ok.” Krystal smiled warmly, planting a kiss on his lips. “Everything all set out here?”

“Yes.” He said, following her into the kitchen. “That food smells wonderful. Bacon? Potato’s?

“New recipe I’m trying. The idea came to me last night as I was trying to fall asleep.”

Lio frowned. “I must not have done my job well enough.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that, I was properly swoon and weak limbed after.” Krystal grinned, placing a finger on his lips as they stood beside the stove.

“Oh, good. Don’t want to step out of practice.” He said, kissing her finger.

“I’ll take a plate out to Kallis.”

Lio turned and left her to plate the food. He returned to the tavern to see Kallis sitting at the bar talking to another patron, Lio couldn’t recall the second man’s name but greeted him pleasantly nonetheless.

“What can I get you gentlemen to drink?”

“Mead for me.” Kallis replied.

“Same.” His companion responded with a smile.

Krystal entered and the men’s heads perked up to the intense smell of bacon, and herbs.

“Oh man, that smells great.” Kallis grinned eagerly.

She set the plates down and turned to leave, smacking Lios rump playfully as she passed.

He grinned over his shoulder and before setting the goblets of mead down in front of their guests.

“Excuse me for a moment.” Lio said to his guests before leaving them to their meals.

Lio entered the kitchen and walked over to where Krystal was cleaning some dishes in the back of the room. He walked up behind her and pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her, just under her plump breasts.

“Hey now, what do you think you’re doing?” She squirmed playfully.

“I better make up for last night’s drab performance.”

Krystal giggled and turned around. “Right now?”

Lio ran his hands slowly down her back to hold on to her nice and ample buttocks.

She squeaked slightly. “We have guests!”

“So you better be quit.” He grinned, as he hiked her dress up.

Krystal’s hands moved down to Lio’s breeches and untied them, before sliding her hand in.

“Mmmmm…” He moaned. “Your hand is wet.”

“I was doing dishes.” She purred.

He pulled her around to the stack of wheat and rice bags, pinning her against them as she rubbed him lovingly in her hands.

Lio leaned over and kissed her passionately, pulling her skirt up he stood between her legs. She guided him to her and he pushed in. He watched her as she her bottom lip, in attempt to contain a moan of pleasure.