Monday, December 12, 2011

Aether and Death: Chapters 2 and 3

Mid-term exams this week means no time to write a proper post till next weekend, which is the beginning of Christmas Break for me. (My Wizard101 time has been cut short, too.) But here are the next two chapters of Aether and Death to tide you over! :)


 The Jade Palace, Mooshu

     Mavis Rubyeyes kindly thanked the waiter taking up her plate as the main course of the Emperor’s luncheon came to an end. It had been quite a meal, as Mavis was now thoroughly stuffed, however she knew she would have to manage to save some room for what was bound to be a fantastic dessert.
     As she waited for the final course’s arrival, Mavis leaned back in her chair, closed her eyes, and listened to the array of happy chatter surrounding her. What a grand world Mooshu was! Its architecture, society, populace, and beauty had made it the favorite among the worlds the Grandmaster Pyromancer had visited in her and Duncan’s quest to defeat Malistaire, however, in light of that recent event, she had had little time to enjoy herself after leaving with the Dragonspyre key. Today turned out to be her chance to become reacquainted with this amazing world; she had received an invitation to a luncheon party hosted by Emperor Yoshihito himself. Upon arrival, the Emperor had officially thanked Mavis for the role she played in the rescue of Mooshu. She had then spent the remainder of that happy afternoon lunching like she had never before.
     The dessert arrived, a scrumptious-looking dish containing sugar cane as a main ingredient. Mavis was not familiar in the least with the dish or the other ingredients, but she greatly enjoyed what was possibly the most decadent dessert she had ever encountered. The highly content wizard was just launching into a conversation with the
Samoori next to her when a servant appeared by her seat.
     “A message for you from Marleybone,” he told her as she was handed an envelope with a seal displaying a bone.
     Curious, Mavis opened the envelope and placed it on the table. As she unfolded the parchment, she noticed its almost overly-fancy design, something characteristic of the only possible candidate to be sending her a missive from Marleybone. She could not help but smile when she found the handwriting to be just as classy:

Hello Mavis,

     How is the luncheon? The last I saw you, you were positively ecstatic over it. Did it meet your expectations? I understand the Emperor’s desserts are particularly delicious.
     Anyway, I was wondering if you may join me in Northguard this evening. I may have finally found the inspiration I was looking for. Thank you in advance.


     As tired as she was, Mavis was happy to join him. Duncan was a fantastic friend of hers; they had been partners from the moment the Undead had come into Unicorn Way. Neither of them could abstain from adventure for very long. And as she understood it, he was just as excited about his book as she had been her luncheon. What a day this was turning into! With her belly full and her mind in high spirits, Mavis stood up, said her good-byes to the other members at the event, and left the palace for the strange and wonderful village of Northguard.

     Duncan leaned against one of the many torches surrounding the arena in as the two bears in the center swung at each other with their wooden swords, practicing their fighting skills. They expertly struck out their weapons, trying hard to land one solid hit. Of course, both were so good that it would take a while for that to happen. The mock duel had been an exciting one so far, with many fantastic moves being displayed by both contestants. Duncan would have to remember some of them. He was somewhat skilled with a blade himself- fencing was a hobby of his- although he generally preferred the smaller swords of the Marleybonian gentleman to the giant, hulking weaponry that the warriors of Grizzleheim used.
     He turned his head to face the edge of the world, spying in the distance a large wooden ship, headed for the nearby dock. The bears on the wooden platform prepared the ropes for the oncoming vessel, and Duncan, coming forward, glanced over at the Spiral Door, wondering if Mavis had had to decline his invitation. His fears were uncalled for, however, for as the ship pulled up in front of the dock, the Door opened, a few wisps from the passageway spilling out, and Mavis appeared. Duncan smiled and waved her over. She returned the wave and proceeded towards the dock, where the bears had just finished mooring the ship. Turning back to the ship, he waved again, this time to the bear whom had appeared on deck, and stepped forward to greet him.
     Baldur Goldpaws smiled warmly. “Hello, my wonderful friends!” he bellowed kindly as Mavis approached, the hint of a happy chuckle present in his salutation. “It is a pleasure to see such fine young wizards as you! Tell me, what is it that brings you two to the once again prosperous world of Grizzleheim?”
     Duncan suppressed a chuckle at the Spiral merchant’s eccentricity. “Research,” he replied. “As you know, Baldur, I’ve been looking for some topic to cover in a book for the canines of Marleybone, and since I recently took an interest in the history of your world, I thought speculation on Grizzleheim’s isolation would provide a fascinating subject to focus on. Of course, it was you, Baldur, who found the key to escaping Grizzleheim by boat, and not only did it allow you reconstruct contact with other worlds, but it created an entirely new, more efficient method of trade in the Spiral. I, myself, am no merchant, and so I ask you now: how did you do it?”
     Baldur wiped his brow teasingly. “Whew!” he exclaimed at Duncan’s lengthy answer. “You, friend Daystone, have spent too much time in Marleybone!” Mavis laughed. So did Duncan. He nodded in agreement at the bear, who suddenly looked serious as he replied to Duncan’s inquiry.
     “To be honest, I’m not quite sure. I am a strong believer in the power of dreams to tell the future, and so my best response to your question is to say that the solution came to me during the night, when my body was relaxing, but my mind was obviously hard at work. I had been trying to figure out something for some time, so I suppose it only makes sense that such a dream would eventually occur. It had something to do with steering the ship, though I can’t quite remember what.”
     Duncan nodded again, somewhat surprised. He was a practical person, who believed that everything could be explained, even if that explanation entailed the use of magic. And in recent months, magic had explained almost everything. Dreams had never meant much to him- he rarely remembered them, and so the concept of a dream conveying a message was incredibly sketchy in his opinion. Nevertheless, he had seen too many fantastical happenings of late to doubt Baldur.
     As he was unsure how to continue, Mavis took over. “There must be something a little more concrete that you can tell us than that, Baldur, however I assure you that I do believe your account, and so does Duncan.” She glanced over at him, reading the dubious expression he was trying to hide like a book, allowing, he saw, the tiniest smile at his usual need for a tangible reason to all phenomena. “Tell me,” she continued, “is there anything particular or out of the ordinary that you may have done that day to bring about such a dream?”
     After a moment’s thought, Baldur turned to Mavis. “Actually, Miss Rubyeyes, there is. (Duncan smiled at the old-world tradition of calling women by their last name.) I had had to venture into the caves behind Ander’s Holt, to locate a material for a special cloak I was making. Aetherdust, it was, a very fine and coarse substance, the closest thing we have to sand here in this icy world. A bags full of the stuff, I remember, was surprisingly light, so I took plenty more than I needed, and it is a good thing I did. One week later, the Red Claw had pillaged the area. The aetherdust never made contact with my ship, however; I simply had an epiphany of how to steer it so as to deflect the invisible barrier surrounding our world at that time. I didn’t tell you at first because I did not imagine the two could be related. I treated it simply as coincidence.”
     Duncan beamed. This had been the explanation he was looking for. He didn’t think the aetherdust was the reason for Baldur’s ship breaking down the wall, let alone that of Grizzleheim’s isolation, but it was definitely a start. There was only one thing to do from there. They would have to go to the caves and find the aetherdust for themselves. He would also have to remember to thank Mavis later, for taking a handle on the situation when he was momentarily lost.
     Duncan thanked Baldur, who smiled and said he had been happy to help. Then, after taking delight at Mavis’ ready agreement to accompanying him in his spelunking, he turned to leave for the village of Ander’s Holt. The Grandmaster Thaumaturge glanced up at the sky. It was getting progressively darker, and Duncan knew that although tonight would be a long night, it would most certainly be an exciting one.


     Throughout the village of Ander’s Holt, large fires lit up the already beautiful Grizzleheim night as the villagers, celebrating their return home after the long and dreadful siege by the Red Claw, cooked what were unusually hearty meals, singing and laughing as they did so. Duncan and Mavis were both tempted to stop and join the festivities, but, knowing there was work to be done, instead proceeded without hesitation to the three caves at the edge of the village.
     It became much darker as they got farther from the center of Ander’s Holt. The wide-open mouths of the caves greeted the two wizards like malevolent spirits of the earth. Spider webs were stretched across all three entrances, leaving little room for anybody to pass through. Duncan shivered. He had encountered spiders numerous times before, but such occurrences had been in areas of ample light, not a pitch black cave.
     He turned to Mavis, nodding in the direction of the webs. She nodded back to him, and tapped her staff lightly on the ground. The top was suddenly consumed by fire, and Mavis carefully stepped in front of each cave, tipping her staff towards the entrances. The spider webs instantly disintegrated; the large flames lapped momentarily at the Pyromancer. But Mavis remained calm; this was nothing she hadn’t done before.
     As the fire in front of the rightmost cave died away, Mavis looked back at Duncan, who smiled in amusement at how calm both of them were. He straightened his helmet by pulling on one of the horns, adjusted the knapsack around his shoulder, and studied the caves. The middle one appeared to be the largest. He started towards it.
     “Right.” Duncan gestured for Mavis to follow. “Let’s see where this takes us.” He tapped his own staff, causing a blue globe to appear, emanating light. Mavis’ fire staff provided her with a lantern as well. Not long after entering the cave, this strange orange-blue glow was their only light source.
     Naturally, Duncan had been in caves before, and this cave wasn’t much different than others he had visited. It was cold, damp, and, of course, very dark. The sound of water dripping was the pair’s only companion, and Duncan could feel them getting consistently deeper underground. Despite numerous similarities, however, Duncan’s instinct told him that this cave was unique, that it held secrets the likes of which very few souls had ever been privy to. Such an instinct sent a chill of excitement down the Ice Wizard’s spine. Perhaps he and Mavis would be the next two to whom those secrets were revealed.
     As they continued their trek, however, Duncan became less and less sure of this. They had been exploring for what, at the very least, must have been a good hour and a half, and so far nothing had turned up. The cave seemed to go on forever; Duncan had no idea how far they had gone.
     Mavis was also concerned. “You do realize,” she said, trying to urge Duncan to go back up, “that however far we travel, we will have to go the same distance on our way out. I find it hard to believe, at this point, that there is anything down here. It is late enough already. Let’s leave now, so we can have enough energy to explore one of the other caves tomorrow.”
     Duncan turned his head to regard her. The tone of his reply indicated that he knew Mavis was right. Nevertheless, he did not want to give up just yet.
     “We may yet hit upon something. It would be unwise to go back now. Five more minutes, then…”
     “Look out!” Mavis shouted, but it was too late. Duncan let out a startled cry as he became tangled in an impassable mess of spider web. He tripped and fell forward, the globe on his staff going out. Duncan reprimanded himself inwardly for not looking ahead; after all, he had known from the start there were spiders about.
     He sat up. The cave was suddenly filled with a disturbing pattering sound. Duncan quickly re-lighted his staff, in time enough to see a large horde of giant spiders, colored an ice blue after their school of focus, racing towards the two wizards. Mavis was slowly backing up. Duncan, getting to his feet, joined her.
     “Run!” he cried out. “Go!”
     In the next instant, Duncan and Mavis spun around and broke into a desperate run for safety, which Duncan knew would be a while in coming. He was relatively useless against ice spiders, and there were too many for Mavis to take alone. Their only option, as far-fetched as it was, was to try and escape.
     Duncan, however, was frantically trying to come up with an alternative. The spiders were quickly and easily gaining on him and he knew it would only be so long before they were run down. Suddenly, Mavis screamed and crashed to the floor. Duncan spun around, skidding to a stop as he did so. He noticed where she had tripped on a root. Before he could even think to bend down and help her up, though, the first few spiders in the group had reached her. For a split second, Duncan thought the worst, but the next thing he knew, Mavis had thrown the arachnids back with a great blast of fire from her staff.
     Impressed, Duncan offered Mavis his hand and pulled her up. They were about to begin their sprint again, when Duncan noticed something out of the corner of his right eye.
     “Come on!” he shouted, keeping his hold on her hand as he pulled her towards an alcove, somehow missed before. They huddled up against the wall. Thankfully, the spiders in the front of the group didn’t notice them, most likely due to the confusion Mavis had caused. The majority of the creatures rushed past, but a few clever ones spun around suddenly and lunged at the wizards.
     Once again, Mavis raised her staff. She uttered an incantation, causing a small but threatening fire snake to appear- out of nowhere, it seemed- and strike back at the spiders. Duncan looked on as the spiders, leaping towards them, were flung back in midair, emanating a tiny scream.
     But the snake wasn’t enough. No sooner did the spiders hit the floor than, somehow, they were back on their legs and lunging again. Mavis couldn’t keep up with the constant barrage of creatures. Duncan tried to assist her with his own serpents, but to no avail. They backed up against the wall again, the small group of spiders effectively beginning to overwhelm them.
     “What do we do?” The fear present in Mavis’ voice was all too evident. Worse still, Duncan could not even begin to envision an escape strategy now.
     Suddenly he heard a noise, like that of the ground breaking. And sure enough, it was. In the next moment, Duncan found himself falling through a hole which had suddenly opened up beneath them, Mavis and the spiders tumbling down the cavern with him.

     Mavis frantically scrambled for a handhold as she tumbled off the rock surface she had hit, with nothing but a violent underground river swirling below her. But it was no use; the side of the rock was wet and smooth. For a split second, Mavis believed she was done for, but in the next moment, she felt Duncan’s hand, comforting and warm, wrap around hers, stopping her fall as soon as it had begun. She smiled up at him, having no idea how her friend had managed to catch her so quickly, but grateful all the same.
     She offered him her other hand, and he lifted her back onto the rock. The spiders struggled to stay afloat in the raging waters, but of course it was in vain. Mavis and Duncan watched as the eight-legged creatures disappeared silently beneath the waves.
     Mavis turned around and surveyed the area. To the left, a little ways away, was a waterfall. To the right, the river became even more violent as the water was concentrated into a small tunnel. Ahead, a wooden bridge, leading to a small hole in the cave wall where there was- of all things- a teleport stone. And on this little rock island, which had effectively saved the pair from a similar fate to that of the spiders, were mounds and mounds of black sand.
     For a moment, Mavis was dumbfounded, but then it immediately hit her.
     “Aetherdust!” shouted Duncan and Mavis at the same time. They glanced at each other, chuckling at their simultaneous conclusions.
     Duncan rushed towards one of the mounds, scooping up a great handful of the stuff. He passed some to Mavis. It felt surprisingly light and airy, and as the grains fell from Duncan’s hand to Mavis’, she could have sworn it was sparkling in the air. She tossed it up, confirming her assumption. Duncan watched in amazement.
     “How did you know it would do that?” he asked her.
     She smiled cleverly, replying in a slightly mocking tone, which was nonetheless friendly. “Observation.” She knew Duncan would understand what she was referring to- the process of logic and science of which he was sometimes infatuated with.
     Duncan returned the smile, indicating that he knew what she meant. He then turned his attention back to the aetherdust in his hand, scrutinizing it further.
     I wonder why it’s black,” he mused, producing a small vial from his knapsack. He filled it with the strange material, before placing a cork in the top and slipping it back into the pouch.
     “I can’t wait to test this,” he said excitedly.
     Mavis glanced around the area one more time, taking in the fantastic scene before gesturing towards the bridge, on the other side of the rock.
     “Shall we?” she asked.
     Duncan nodded. “Indeed.” The pair proceeded towards the teleport stone, thankful for its presence.
     “And you thought we wouldn’t find anything down here,” Duncan said teasingly. The two wizards’ laughter rang happily throughout the cavern as they began their return home.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Surprise! Aether and Death: Prologue and Chapter One

Hey everybody! Happy Thanksgiving!

Check this out! I've been debating for a couple weeks whether or not to start releasing this now or to wait some. But I'm just so excited to share this!

Enjoy! And let me know what you think! I'd love to hear feedback!

One thing. It is a little difficult to read, as it is single-spaced. I tried double-spacing it, but that was even more confusing. It shouldn't really take away from the story any, though :)

 By Duncan Daystone
     Valgard Goldenblade looked eagerly at his scribe, Erik Lorelighter, as he was presented with a rather large book. The cover was made of a fine brown material and was carefully etched with large golden letters that read, “THE ISOLATION PERIOD- PART I.” Valgard smiled at Erik and took the volume. He glanced at the title then looked up at the bear scribe.
      “Part One?” he asked. “What are you trying to say, Erik?” 
       Erik replied to the king of Grizzleheim with a look that said, “You know.”
      And Valgard certainly did know. Erik was one of many who believed that the terrible time of isolation that had befallen Grizzleheim would eventually end. Valgard himself was skeptical of the idea, but respected the opinion of the majority of Grizzleheemians. In many cases, it was the king’s tolerance that made him such a popular leader, and the current state of things in Grizzleheim was a perfect example. Yesterday, Valgard’s adviser had suggested that he send out an expedition to look for other worlds on the Spiral. A merchant, Baldur Goldpaws, had developed a way of leaving the realm of Grizzleheim not by using the Spiral chamber, but a boat. Valgard was currently in the process of deciding on the adviser’s proposition, one of the most difficult of his reign.
     Suddenly, Valgard’s thoughts were interrupted by Erik’s voice, asking if he may approve the new rune. Snapping out of his daydream, Valgard instructed the scribe to leave the throne room for now. He would get back to him with a response in due time. For now, however, he had a more serious issue to consider.
     The king was about to learn just how serious this issue was.
     Erik had just turned to leave when a page burst through the doors with a worried look on his face. “King Goldenblade!” he shouted. “The world of Grizzleheim is falling apart! The Red Claw has pillaged the village of Ander’s Holt, the grendels have laid siege to Draugarth Fort, and the Coven are headed for the palace at this very moment!”
     “What?” Valgard stared at the page in disbelief. “If what you say is true, then we all must leave immediately! Tell me, do you know if the Coven plan to sack Northguard?”
     “The scouts who sent me here say it is unlikely for now. The villagers should be safe for the time being, but you yourself must be gone before…”
     The page never finished his sentence. At that moment, the door burst open in a shower of death wisps. The page shrieked and dove into the corner. A skeleton hand followed the sparks, reaching out and grabbing Erik. He screamed aloud before he collapsed, dead as a doornail. “Your punishment for treachery was quite overdue, Erik.” A raven dressed in all black, except for the ruby red Mystic Talon around his neck, stepped inside the throne room. A sneering black beak protruded from his hood. The skeleton hands that had killed Erik receded into the staff he carried, which glowed vibrantly with the colors of death magic.
     “What do you want, Loki?” Valgard eyed the raven with a terrible gaze that was not characteristic of his demeanor. “I suggest you make it quick. I have a two score of guards collecting as we speak to haul you out of here.”
     Loki the Deceiver snickered. His staff glowed brighter, as did the pendant. “Your bluff, Valgard, is quite comical,” he replied. “Alas, even if your pathetic little threat was true, it would take much more than forty bear guards to take me down. I came here for two reasons. One has already been taken care of. The traitor Erik Lorelighter is dead. The second is a message for you. Let it be known, Valgard, that the bears’ dominance in Grizzleheim is coming to an end. Before long, it will be the ravens of the Coven who will be in control.”
     “Never!” Valgard roared. “The fierce benevolence of the bear soul will always win out over you and your vile raven clans!”
     Loki snickered again. “We shall see then, Valgard, who emerges as the winner. Will it be Claw- or Wing? We shall see.” He cackled menacingly and raised his staff into the air. Then, as quickly as he had appeared, Loki the Deceiver vanished in a cloud of skulls.
     The page, whimpering, peered out from under the corner table. He gasped at the sight of Erik lying on the floor. Valgard stared sadly at the lifeless form. For some time now, he had known in the back of his mind that something like this would occur. And now, whatever was happening to Grizzleheim had begun. It was at that moment that Valgard understood that things were truly bad. And even he wondered if the great world of Grizzleheim would ever be safe again.


Fifty Years Later
The Royal Museum in Marleybone
     Smash! Thump! “Ouch! That smarts!” Clancy Pembroke hopped around on one foot as a result of the gigantic book Theories of Marleybone landing on top of his toes. Pembroke cut quite a comical figure for the curator of the Royal Museum, and the wizard Duncan Daystone couldn’t help but chuckle as he watched the spectacle.
     Realizing the fool he was making out of himself, Pembroke quickly regained his composure before looking embarrassedly at Duncan and the third member of their party, Albert Quickhammer. Some time ago, the Thaumaturge Duncan had helped recover the various unabridged history books in Marleybone. Now he wanted to relocate them to the museum, a task easier said than done. Albert, being a furniture vendor in Wizard City, had a few tricks up his sleeve when it came to moving large, heavy items, which was quite useful, especially considering that the books had been scattered all over the city. Now however, the three had almost finished their work, moving the last book into place in corner in the museum, when Pembroke, the weakest of the trio, had let go of the side of the pedestal that he had been holding. The book and the pedestal had come crashing down, and this had started the sudden hoopla in the usually serene museum. The book itself had not suffered any damage, but the pedestal was ruined.
     Albert bent over to pick up the pedestal’s pieces. As he did so, he looked at the embarrassed Pembroke and smiled. “Don’t worry about it, Mr. Pembroke,” he said jovially. “I have plenty of spare pedestals at my shop. Let’s clean this debris up and then I will head back to Wizard City as fast as I can to grab one.”
     “I do apologize for my blunder,” Pembroke said. “I am not usually this clumsy.”
     Duncan smiled that soft, all-knowing smile of the Grandmaster Wizard at Pembroke’s tiny fib. “No matter,” he replied. “We shall not be set back too much. If you will hand me a broom and dustpan, John?” Duncan turned to Albert’s apprentice, who raced to collect the tools asked for by the well-liked and respected wizard, the Savior of the Spiral that he was. He returned a moment later. Sweeping up the remnants of the pedestal, Duncan lifted the dustpan and dumped its contents into a refuse bin nearby.
      “You’d best be off, Albert,” he continued. “Clancy can attend to his foot, and I think I will go explore a bit.”
      Ever since he had first set foot in Marleybone, Duncan had been looking for a chance to enjoy a thorough exploration of the Museum. Alas, he had been so busy lately, what with Draconians and the like, that it was not until now that he had gotten a chance. Along with being able to learn more than ever before about Marleybonian history, Duncan was also looking for inspiration for his book. Because he was seen in Marleybone not only as a hero, but an academic as well, Duncan knew that any nonfiction book he published in Marleybone would be successful, if only he could figure out what to write about.
      The main exhibit in the museum was on the various fantastic artifacts that had been discovered by archaeologists visiting in Krokotopia, however exhibits also existed containing items from MooShu, Grizzleheim, and even the fall of Dragonspyre.
      Duncan gravitated toward the Grizzleheim exhibit fairly quickly; he had recently developed a great interest in the recent history of this barbarian world that, somehow, had a charming touch to it nevertheless. What was it that had sent them into that terrible period in their history during which they had been cut off from the rest of the Spiral for years on end? How had they come under siege by the ravens and grendels the way they did? Wait a second! That was it! A book on the isolation of Grizzleheim would be the perfect way to begin his writing career! Sure, the research would be a little difficult, but Duncan was one who greatly enjoyed a sliver of mystery and adventure. And after the research had been finished, then writing a book would be the perfect way to settle down after the wild experiences he had had since first setting foot in Wizard City.
      Duncan whipped out a pad and pencil and began to intently study the Grizzleheim exhibit, looking for anything that might get him started. Hundreds of ideas were already racing around in his head, and he couldn’t wait to sit back and take it all in. There was much to do before that, however. After he finished helping Pembroke, he would have to get to Grizzleheim right away. For such a mysterious topic, field work would certainly prove the most efficient method of research. 
     Looking back, Duncan would be very grateful he had involved himself in it all when he did. Otherwise it might have been too late, for all the Spiral.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ah We Mo Wa! Ah We Mo Wa! Ah We Mo Wa! Ah We Mo Wa!

In the jungle.
The mighty jungle.
The Lion sleeps tonight.

Be glad you can't hear me singing this.

Jambo, everyone! It's been a while. I went for longer without posting than I'd realized. I know I'm starting to sound a little like a broken record, but I have never been so busy in my life. The first grading period in my school district ended on Friday, however, and these first nine weeks have a history of being my busiest, so hopefully between adjusting to what I've discovered will be a year starkly, but thankfully, different from last year, and- of course- the increased amount of free time provided to me due to the upcoming holiday season, I can get into the habit of posting at least once every two weeks.

But enough on that. There is so much going on in the Spiral right now! I'm so excited, and I have a lot to report on!

I'd like to start by saying how impressed I am with Kingsisle's timeliness in relation to major updates; they have come a long way since the mess that was a six-month wait for Celestia last year. Look at Wintertusk, which took just two months- a third of the time- to release from the time it was announced. Then you have Wysteria, which was a total surprise, sprung on us completely out of the blue by KI, probably as they were putting the finishing touches on Zafaria. Way to multitask, KI! Now, with Zafaria out on the Test Realm just two weeks after the release of the first mystery picture, I think I can safely say that W101 fans are extremely pleased, if exhausted, by the barrage of surprises we have received in what has been quite an eventful third year.

Now, all the timeliness in the world isn't worth anything if the final product is lacking in quality, but of course that is not even an issue for the wonderful folks at Kingsisle :) Zafaria is fantastic! The African theme is incredibly well-executed, and I do enjoy seeing another ancient but current society. That is, the African culture represented in Zafaria is one of ancient history, much like the Egyptian, Japanese, and Norse cultures of Krokotopia, Mooshu, and Grizzleheim- the other "current ancients"- but this culture is, within the contex of W101 and the Spiral, a living, breathing, continuing culture that can be witnessed by Wizards, Marleybonians, and Wysterians- who represent more modern or recent cultures within the Spiral- in real time. Celestia and Dragonspyre, of course, fall into a third, post-apocalyptic category, which, despite the release of WT and Wysteria, has seem more proliferated over the past year due to the greater size and importance of CL and DS as worlds. As Wizard101 gets underway in its fourth year, however, that is changing. That said, I think Celestia and Marleybone remain tied for my favorite worlds, thanks mainly to the strong steampunk themes in both, and, in regards to Celestia, the simple fact that everything is cooler underwater.

Now about Zafaria itself. I have already said that the African theme is very-well exectued, causing me to get off on a tangent which I just don't have heart to delete. In addition, the story is strong so far (I am a little ways into Zamunda), and I appreciate the stark differences between each individual area, from the dry grasslands of Savannah to the lush green jungles of Zamunda. Which, incidentally, I feel might be the source of some of the contention between the zebras and the lions; the zebras seem much more privileged :) I love the animated rock art to detail Zafaria's backstory. It's a clever take on the traditional history book quest. The sock monkeys to represent the Monkees are hilarious. And I am (Slight Spoiler!) intrigued by the Goliath beetles popping up in huts and barracks all over the place, not to mention the duplicious nature of the zebra shamans.

It's occuring to me as I write this that I am so taken by Kingsisle's work on Zafaria that I haven't thought much about the individual pluses that make it so wonderful. Nevertheless, I can safely say that I am enjoying myself very much as I test out the new world. When I logged off last, I had just reached Level 64, and so I am itching to get on and collect the first Astral spell quest.

One thing about Zafaria that has stood out to me. I seem to be leveling up very fast. I mean, yeah I've been playing quite a bit the past two days, but I'm barely into the third zone, and yet I'm already at level 64. Now, this may be due to the fact that I ended up doing Trial of the Spheres twice in the Test Realm before I even began ZF, but it's not just what level I'm at. There seems to be a shorter amount of time between each Level Up that there should be, and there are barely even any side quests- unlike Celestia and Wysteria, which were chocked full.
EDIT: In one of life's great ironies, I found myself juggling three or four side quests at a time within an hour of posting this and logging on. So there is a satisfactory number of side quests in Zafaria; they just don't really start up until after you get underway in Zamunda.

Enough of the semi-negatives, however. I still love Zafaria :)

A couple interesting moments for me over the course of my adventures so far:

Nemean Rock
The name "Nemean Rock" is a reference to Greco-Roman mythology- specifically the myth of Hercules. For those of you who don't know, in the myth, the goddess Hera/Juno, who hated Hercules, put him in a violent trance and forced him to kill his wife and children. Hercules was so shocked and saddened by what had happened that, having gone to his cousin Eurystheus, he agreed to perform 12 near-impossible labors given to him by his cousin in order to gain redemption. The first of these labors was to slay the Nemean Lion, whose skin he wore like so:

The lion skin is Hercules' trademark; most ancient art depicting him features it.

I also thought this was chuckle-worthy:

Nice job giving away your location, Ravager. Lucky for me these guys don't seem to be the smartest of all the henchmen I've defeated over the past couple years.

Although I'm not much of a Doctor Who fan, I'm excited to see what comes of this new NPC in Regent's Square, The Professor, which is an all-too-obvious spoof of everyone's favorite alien time traveller :)

He doesn't seem to be quite ready to send wizards through time yet.

Now to log on and resume my adventures in Zafaria!

"Everything the light touches." Oh, yeah, I am definitely having a Lion King moment right now :)

Until next time, Ponder on!     

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Quick Update on my Affairs

Hey all!

So this is more or less a pretty short post; just gonna recount real quick my recent in-game adventures and share a couple screenshots. My take on the current Test Realm updates, as well as the new houses (which I only explored for the first time Wednesday) should be forthcoming. There is also that special surprise which I promised at the end of my last post; I've been indecisive about when to put that up, but more and more eager to do so over the past few days.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago, I finally finished Wintertusk, defeating the Sons of Ymir in Nastrond in a battle which was actually much easier than my friends and I expected. Their cheats were little to sneeze at; only one of them (can't remember which) gave us trouble, with his 90% tower shield. Of course, chain hitting him with seven and eight-pip spells soon solved that problem. The fact that I could effectively hit for the first time (due to the fact that everything prior was Ice, and I'd had bad luck with prisms) and that I actually succeeded in tanking (whereas in the previous battles I had been somewhat distracted by a funny show on TV) helped as well.

I've also been doing a lot of work on badges recently; I added to my every outstanding creature badge I have right now, aside from the ones for Ninja Pigs, Draconians, and Samoorai, and I plan to complete Blood of the Giants, as well as my first Plant badge, later this evening, followed by adding enough to my first Goblin badge and a Bear badge to complete those on Monday. (I get bored after defeating ten to twelve of any one creature; I have twenty left Bears and twenty Goblins left.) I'll probably add to Shark Jumper as well, although I still have a while to go before completing that. I've really enjoyed rediscovering Celestia recently; now that I no longer have quests there, I am finding it easier to stop and enjoy the scenery.

A few pictures from my adventure in Nastrond:

I've been meaning to get a good shot of Grandmother Raven.
 In addition, my tribute to Autumn Duskhunter- an unharvested elder dandelion, as requested by her.

How fitting that I should be able to set that up in the Mausoleum of the Death House which I won from Autumn's House-a-Palooza contest. Of course, a "Tenure for Dworgyn" slogan will be going up somewhere in that vicinity once the signs go live. Autumn is certainly missed; a little over month on, I'm still getting used to not routinely checking Homework. However, I am glad that the spirit of HiaG easily lives on in myself and in my fellow Community bloggers.

I still get the Wizard101 version of "Safety Dance" stuck in my head from time to time :)

Until next time, Ponder on!


Saturday, September 17, 2011

That Darn Celestia Wallpaper (And Back to Normal)

Hi, everybody! It's good to see you again!

So, as you all know, it's been a good two weeks now since I've posted, and a week and a half since I've tweeted, or even played Wizard101. Sorry about that. The past two weeks have been incredibly hectic for me, between finishing summer assignments which I procrastinated on a bit too much, starting my Junior year of high school the day after Labor Day, and adjusting to all my new classes (three of which are AP). Today is the first time in a little while where I feel truly relaxed; I have finally made sense of my world once more and am ready to reintroduce more leisurely and/or recreational activities such as blogging. Things are slowly getting back to normal :)

Anyway, a few weeks ago, as you may or may not recall, I mentioned something about a "wallpaper review." I didn't care to be particularly clear in that post about what I really meant by that, but in fact my meaning was this: a one-off criticism of one particular world wallpaper about which there was quite a bit of hubbub last year, but which ultimately, in my opinion, was somewhat of a disappointment at the point of its final reveal. You guessed it (or you read the post title). It's the Celestia wallpaper.

Was awesome when we didn't really know anything about CL. Not so good now.
It occurs to me that the people at KI, wonderful and clever people though they are (Happy 3rd Birthday, Wizard101!), didn't quite think the whole wallpaper reveal gimic through. The gradual reveal of each character present in the wallpaper from silhouettes lasted over several months- six, to be exact- from April to October, when Celestia was released. This means that Kingsisle was likely still working on much of the world as they conducted the reveal, with detrimental effects. Okay, maybe not detrimental, but I am a little worn out from the past two weeks and don't want to bother to think of a better word.


Anyway, allow me to go over some of my grievances with this wallpaper, which in many ways does not at all accurately reflect Celestia. We'll start with the most obvious one: Thurston Plunkett is not even present. Well, not exactly. As many of you may remember, Plunkett started out in the Test Realm looking like the droopy-faced prospector beagle in front of the mechanical man Praxis and the robot fish. Not a very flattering look; I was quite relieved when they changed him to a Balestrom-style frog. Granted, this was after Celestia went live, so a part of me can pardon KI for never making the change, although seeing the frog version of Plunkett standing proudly in front where the lantern-holder is would have been nice. Even better would be Edith Benchly, who is standing a little too un-prominently behind the lantern holder on the right. After all, it is Edith who first greets you when you enter Celestia Base Camp for the first time, and sends to you on your adventures in all the various areas of Celestia. I'd even go for Thornton Lewis (who can be found in the District of the Stars) in front; he was one of my favorite characters, and he did seem to have a slightly larger role than most of the Marleybonian NPC's. But what is with the lantern holder? The only NPC is Celestia of that design is Captain Fogg- who, as his title suggests- is captain of the airship SGS Explorer which the Marleybonians reached Celestia by. He is found at the back of the wrecked airship in the Floating Land; his role does not extend beyond Pierce Stanson needing to know he is safe and sound, and giving you permission to take submarine parts. He does give a single side quest, but it is nothing more than defeating a few mobs. Early on during Celestia's time in the Test Realm, Pierce Stanson, the main character for the Floating Land was also a lantern holder, but his design was changed within the first week or so to a more generic design which actually comes from Marleybone as opposed to being unique to Celestia. I don't know if one of these two guys had role that was rather significant to the CL storyline as a whole back in April 2010 (the lantern holder silhouette was obvious from the beginning), but they obviously don't now. I have a feeling there were a few members of KI who were secretly cringing as Fogg was filled in in the weeks after Celestia's release.

The background with the wooden platform isn't very accurate, either, but that's insignificant enough that it doesn't bother me. I did, however, expect to see a little more done with the submarine to Stormriven, given its prominence in the background. Whatever happened to the "Boat Ride to the Krokosphinx" instance concept? The submarine was a perfect opportunity to create something like that; I was a little disappointed when I went through to Stormriven the first time and realized there was nothing. That should be a patch the next time the Test Realm comes out; if they can create Grandmother Raven and Malistaire cutscenes, and Krokotopian Boat and Marleybonian Balloon Car ride instances, they can do one for the Submarine to Stormriven.

But I'm getting off topic. That has little to do with the wallpaper.

There are a few other things that bother me; all having to do with character placement and prominence. First off, what is with all the little critters surrounding the characters? I know they are all Celestia pets (aside from the Red Gobbler), but what is the point of including them in the wallpaper? All they do is take up space, but they were included because they were a good way for KI to keep the reveal going after they realized Celestia would not be out in August like they had thought and had to add in some characters. Then there is the fact that you have three different types of crabs, which do represent that aspect of the Celestia story well, but where are actual Celestians, or even the Morgantine soldiers and Shadow Weavers? I don't see Alaric Moonsunder, Karolack Nightspinner, or Vassek Shadowspike anywhere. Instead, the wallpaper is inundated with underwater mob creatures who have little significance to the storyline- a Water-Lurker, a Crustacean Clawcutter, a Water-Maton, Blue Bart. I like the Piscean, although he could stand to be a little closer to the front, and I like Praxis, because he is a good representation of Celestia's steampunk theme, and I admittedly became twice as excited about the world when he was revealed. The prospector Marleybonian works too, because the divers in the Grotto have that design, and Queen Calypso works. As I said earlier, I would have really liked to have seen Thornton Lewis, though, even if he was not at the front. And one of the two orange crabs could go; they are both obviously crabs of noble standing- the only difference between them is their outfits. Pierce Stanson would be nice to see, as would a water-mole such as Tupa Taua. A steam-trowler wouldn't be bad, either, but only if there was room. More necessary would be a Stellar Protector like Thule Landshaper. One of the great things about Celestia is the seamless combination of four more or less unrelated themes: Underwater, Steampunk, Astrological, and Tropical. But when two of these themes (the latter two) are completely absent from the wallpaper, there is no way it can be considered a good representation of the world. Okay, I suppose you could pass on the Tropical and still be good; I did like the surprise associated with discovering that there actually was an above-water area in Celestia. But the total absence of anything relating to Celestia's legacy, to the grand and intelligent world that it was before the Storm Titan flooded just doesn't work.

I know I must seem awfully picky to have written so much in the course of criticizing a wallpaper of all things, but you must understand: a wallpaper like this, which is designed to promote somthing, in this case, Celestia, is more like a movie poster than a picture for your computer desktop. It embraces that which is Celestia and tries to generate interest and excitement about it. It does this, but it is not accurate, and, as a result, one if left feeling confused when that dog in the captain's uniform, standing grandly and prominently at the front of the group, lantern in hand, seemed so cool and epic, but ultimately has barely anything to do with the story. Also, a quirk of mine is that I have this imagined scenario which I like to entertain, in which, following my putting the wallpaper up on my computer, the other members of my family (none of whom play Wizard101; I am the only one), walking by, look up and notice the wallpaper, and briefly wonder what it is all about. Not that this would generate enough interest that they would start playing or something, but it would at least get them to stop and use their imaginations for a moment :)

Is there anybody else out there who feels like I do about the Celestia wallpaper? I've always been curious to know!

Thanks for reading! It's good to be back!

Until next time, Ponder on!

P.S. I may have a little surprise coming up for you sometime this week. I'm still deciding if it is ready to be released, or if it needs a little more work first. Regardless of when it comes out, I think you'll all greatly enjoy it!            

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tweet Tweet!

Well, I'd promised myself before I wouldn't do it, but now that I'm more involved with the Community, I suppose it was inevitable. I got a Twitter account.

I don't really know why I ever had an aversion to Twitter. I guess it's a good thing that I finally got over it.

Like I said, now that I'm more involved with the Community, I figured being on Twitter only made sense. Not only am I better able to keep up with what is going on now, but I have a good way of making it known when I have a new blog post. Because I noticed a glitch on various Blog Rolls where my site doesn't appear near the top until 24 or so hours after I post something new. Normally, this wouldn't bother me, but since I've been gone for a little over a week, I wanted people to know that I am still blogging.

It's actually kind of exciting, immersing myself even further in the workings of the Wizard101 Community like this. I feel good about it. See you around!

Until next time, Ponder on!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Music of the Day: Land of Beauty

Hi everyone!

I know, the posting has been sparse these past couple weeks. As you know, I was out of town from last Wednesday through Monday. Upon returning on Monday, I attempted to log into Wizard101 and, for some reason having to do with the patcher, couldn't connect. On Tuesday, I began having problems with the Internet itself; then everything worked itself out and I got in some play-time Wednesday night, only to have my problems resume yesterday. I think I have everything solved for good at this point; the fact that I'm able to watch a video on Youtube is a good sign.

Anyway, I asked you all before leaving to vote on what you wanted the next Music of the Day to be, and the answer was overwhelmingly that of the Jade Palace- a piece I have named Land of Beauty:

(Credit for the video goes to Youtube's kellybro.)

I think my favorite aspect of the Mooshu music in general is the almost constant combined undercurrents of sentimentality and melancholiness. With this piece, the main goal is to sound as beautiful as possible via plucking strings and playing flutes, thereby illustrating the beauty of Mooshu itself. The fact that the entire piece only requires three or four instruments (no big band like the Marleybone musics) is an indication not only of the simplicity of the world- the people of Mooshu, in their appreciation of its beauty, have only devoloped as much as is absolutely necessarry, and no more- but of the fragility that is beauty's constant companion. The afore mentioned sentimental undercurrent, which becomes obvious every time the strings take over, tells you that you are in a world that is heavily steeped in history and tradition, and isn't changing any time soon. And while that history has had its ups and its downs, the people of Mooshu perservere, successfully overcoming whatever challenges have confronted them in the past. But now a new challenge has arisen- a plague of problems which has encompassed all the land, hanging over it like a dark shadow. Different peoples in different areas of the world are sick, war-weary, and depressed. Mooshu is in greater danger than it has ever been before, and many wonder if things will ever get better again. It is this sad, melancholy, and even somewhat violent world which you have entered for the first time. And yet don't realize that right away. There is a short, bell-like beat at the beginning of the piece, which "strikes" you auditorily in the same way that the sheer beauty of Mooshu, even inside their Spiral Temple, strikes you visually. As you first set foot into the Jade Palace, the lovely flowing melody of the flute helps to sweep you away in the bright blue sky, the slight and comfortable breeze, and the lush green grass. Although staccato-like, the string solo that follows reinforces this. This feeling of beauty, of happiness, of sentimentality continues until you are about halfway through the piece, ending with a subtle, quiet string solo. This is immediately followed, however by a lower-pitched, somewhat violent melody, in which a loud low drum is obvious. Then the flute resumes, and the strings, and you feel happy again, but as the third of the string solos plays, sounding off what will later be established as the Mooshu them, you can't help but what wonder if the situation here is in fact as troubling as it has been in other worlds. The piece finishes with off with no real melody, but it doesn't matter. By this point, you've gotten already gotten the message: Mooshu may easily be the most beautiful world in the Spiral, but even here, things are not what they seem.

Until next time, Ponder on!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Wizard-less Week (And Music of the Day Poll)

Hi all!

Just want to say that my family is going on an RV trip for a few days, so from Wednesday the 17th to Sunday the 21st I will be in a location without Internet. In the meantime, please answer my poll on the right! I plan on doing a music review either Monday or Tuesday of next week, and I thought it would be nice to have my readers decide which theme to discuss. The choices are the Jade Palace theme, the Celestia Combat, and the Dragonspyre Combat. I will also review the new houses next week, which I am really excited about, but I have yet to see them.

Until then, Ponder on!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Something's Fishy

Okay, not the cleverest title in the world, but still appropriate :)

So I was over on Homework in a Graveyard, and I noticed an interesting pet Widget which actually occupied me for a good five minutes. I've been looking for a cool little Gadget to add to the blog, so...

I'd like everyone to meet my new pet fish, Alistair! Just scroll down to see him. He's a rather intelligent fish; he follows your cursor! Unless, of course, you decide to click some food into his tank. Anyway, if you're ever bored one day and happen to be on my blog, Alistair is always looking for somebody to play with!

Until next time, Ponder on!

Music of the Day: That Which Is Marleybone

Hey all!
So this is the first in a series of reviews/celebrations of the many amazing music tracks that Nelson Everhart has composed for us to enjoy as we play Wizard101. I've mentioned before my grand appreciation of fine instrumental music, including the music of Wizard101. Music of the Day is my way of giving readers some insight into the way I view the "universal language."

The honor of being the first Music of the Day goes to a particular favorite of mine from Marleybone. And if you're wondering, I came up with the title :)
(Thanks to Youtube's Deathshard for the video)

Ah, yes. Few tracks, even within Wizard101, seamlessly combine such a range of vibes or feelings, easily flowing from one to the next to the next. The piece starts off with a quick transition from high to low, as if something heavy is falling. It lands, hard, and right away you wonder, "What have I gotten myself into?" In the next instant, everything is very slow and quiet, but not in a nice way. No, this slowness and quietness is rather unnerving. You feel lost and uneasy. Something isn't right. And yet, something about the piece seems very easy and happy. As the music picks up tempo, and undulates in a rather wispy fashion between high and low pitches, you wonder if it is you, and not the environment, that isn't right. After all, you've been in dangerous situations before, and it's been a long time since you've felt this on-edge. It's as if someone is telling you, "I know something you don't know." And they are laughing at you, because of it.
The music suddenly becomes very low, loud, and ominous, like a thunderbolt. And with that bolt, suddenly everything seems to make sense. The piece slows down again momentarily, then picks up and flows, nice and easy, for a few moments. But that someone is still laughing, and although you understand now what is going on, half of you still feels tense. The other half, however, is excited and intrigued at the realization of your peril. It is laughing as well.  Then it occurs to you, this easiness can only last so long. And you are right. The chords break, the fluency ends, and for a moment, everything is mysterious again. Then the Marleybone anthem kicks in, and you smile, for you know that you are no longer in the dark about things. You know that this is Marleybone. And in Marleybone, there is a certain veneer of nobility and easiness which often hides the mystery, peril, intrigue, and high adventure that exists within the world. The thunderbolt strikes again. This time, there is no momentary slow-down. Almost immediately, the fluency from earlier plays again; however, it is not so nice and easy this time. In fact, it quite dark and ominous, proof of the peril beneath Marleybone's veneer. But you don't care. You can handle it. For you have had this adventure before, and you are quite looking forward to having it again.

Each of the themes described above- mystery, peril, intrigue, adventure, uneasiness, easiness, nobility- is almost constantly present in the general atmosphere of Marleybone. Hence, my title. For although this does not necessarily emulate Marleybone as a whole, like the anthem, it does succeed in recreating each of the individual aspects that make Marleybone magical. It is that which is Marleybone.

The piece is also a great example of how instrumental pieces (good ones, anyway) can tell a story. And although I have given you my interpretation of that story, the best part about the piece is that you can interpret it in whichever way you wish. You may or may not use my view of it as a springboard, but whatever you do, you are nevertheless correct in your interpretation.

Thanks for reading :)

Until next time, Ponder on!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ravenwood Motto


So right now I'm trying to decide whether my next post should be a review of one of the many amazing (and some not-so amazing) music tracks to be heard in Wizard101, or of one of the world wallpapers. In the meantime, I present you with a translation of Ravenwood's motto: Veneficus Iunctum. En Magus Nos Fides.

It translates as: "Wizards join. In magic we trust." Not too difficult.

Latin is a bit of a hobby of mine. I've studied it in school for three years (getting ready for a fourth), and I'm pretty good at it :)

I was going to translate the Pigswick motto as well, but I couldn't find a banner that I could easily read anywhere. The words were not very legible in any of the pics I took. I love how the motto is a Pig Latin version of Latin, though. Very clever.

Until then, Ponder on!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

We Are the Champions!

Hi all!

No real new post today. Just wanted to mention that I finished Wysteria last night, and also to share a few shots that I took while finishing up what is likely only the first chapter of this amazing world:

Pigswick Tournament Champion

My newly aquired Spiral Cup!

I must say, Pigswick Academy on Wysteria is a wonderful place. I felt nice and cozy there, and some of the professors were quite interesting. In the end, however, Pigswick has nothing on the Ravenwood School of Magical Arts. That is my true home :)

Until next time, Ponder on!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fun Night Last Night :)

Hey, I'm posting two days in a row! Yay for me! Lol :)

So after completing my barbarian costume:

Wolf Barbarian- I ended up changing from Fire colors back to blue and white later.

I headed down to the Life School, arriving nice and early for the port bus to Kestrel Shadowthistle's party, held in her Life house. It was pretty fun- nice and simple and not too big or crazy like some parties. We did a little scavenger hunting, and a lot of chatting. We also attempted to take a picture of the entire group, although I'm not sure how well that worked out :) I got a few good pics, though:

The blue and white version of the wolf suit pretty much ended up being my costume.

I also made some new friends, including Kestrel, Talon Thunderblade of The Heroic Pyromancer,  Victoria Spiritblossom of The Smart Allec Wizard, Arlen Dawneyes of The Two-Headed Wizard, and Donna Spellthorn of The Diary of a Life Wizard. I also met Thaumaturge legend Kevin Battleblood. In short, I had a great time :)

The party ended around 11 o'clock EST, after which I logged onto the test realm to get a little more of Wysteria done. I'm making pretty good progress, having gotten underway in Tanglewood Way last night. A lot of people seem to be finishing within a few hours; however, I've been pacing myself such that I can get at least three nights' worth of enjoyment out of Wysteria :) And with the multitude of side quests there, something GH is, as I said yesterday, lacking, that's not too hard. Nothing particularly blog-worthy happened to me in Wysteria last night, but I will mention that I really liked the Library Archives. Like most of Wysteria, they have a surprisingly cozy feeling. They also remind me somewhat of Harry Potter.

Also, a shot of the map of Wysteria, illustrating what I discussed yesterday about the possibility of opening more and more of the world over time.

Will we see more of Wysteria in the future? Come to think of it, the same could be said of Marleybone:

I'd particularly like to see some of the actual streets of Marleybone.
While I'm posting, I'd also like to give a shout-out to Kestrel's fantastic writing skills- displayed on her other blog, The Musings of a Wizard, and to her keyboard playing :)

Wow, I'm kind of big on smileys today. I must be in a pretty good mood :)

Until then, Ponder on!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wonderful Wysteria!

Before I go praising Kingsisle immensely for their wonderful work on the new paralell world Wysteria, which is currently up on the Test Realm, I'd like to note that my Extracurricular Activities Reviews, which I started a couple weeks ago, will be put up at my convienence, instead of adhering to a schedule of any kind, therefore allowing me to devote my time to (currently) two other, more meaningful projects, one which is W101 related and one which is not. I'd also like to apologize for the lack of posting over this past week. Still getting the hang of posting regularly.

At any rate, Wysteria is an absolutley fantastic world! Unlike Grizzleheim, which can feel a little skimpy or lacking at times, mainly in the way of story, KI has put together an amazing and intriguing storyline for Wysteria- from the wizard tournament, to the history and concept of Pigswick Academy, from the mystery of the Spiral Cup, to the problems on Pegasus Place and Tanglewood Way, from the snobbishness of many Wysterians, to defending Ravenwood's honor. Not to mention that we learn of the existence of two other worlds with magic schools- Weirwood and Mirage- which I imagine we may visit someday! I don't want to give too much away, but I must say I am thouroughly impressed!
Along with the story, the landscape of the world itself is fun and well put-together. It has a certain cozy feeling, particularly Pigswick Academy, which I appreciate. It seems to me as though the world is loosely based on Renaissance Italy- considering the design of the buildings, with balconies and terraces, and the fact that it is inhabited by the Pegasi- a piece of Greco-Roman folklore which would have likely been revived in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In fact, when I looked up at one the buildings yesterday, I saw a balcony which reminded me of the famous line from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: "But, hark! What soft light through yonder window breaks?!"

Definitely Renaissance Italy, although there is also a bit of a Spanish flare

I also looked at the map of Wysteria, and found that it does not, at this point, show the entire world. Could this mean KI is planning to add on to Wysteria in the future? It would certainly make sense. Imagine, when a character reaches level 25, that they go and do the current Wysteria storyline, along with Marleybone and Grizzleheim. Then, when they reach level 35, they go back, and do a second, unrelated storyline- essentialy a sequel. This continues throughout the character's advancement, with new adventures to be had in Wysteria every time a player reaches a level ending in 5, with the difficulty of each corresponding to the minimum level. The same is the case with Grizzleheim- each area opens up at a different level, regardless of where you are in the quest line. Hence, if you were to reach level 35, and then play exclusively in GH until you finished Mirkholm Keep, then you would be unable to continue to Nidavellir until you reached level 40- you would have to resume the main story. The same would be the case with Wysteria- the main differences being that each visit would not contribute to some larger story arc (or maybe KI could make that work) and that each area is created and released by KI one at a time, over time. This gives them more time to work on the story and the design of the new areas, creating not only better main quests, but more side quests. Therefore, some of the mistakes that were made with Grizzleheim are prevented- the story is ultimately more whole. It's funny, because when I first came to understand the concept of the paralell world, I thought KI would do well to create a second paralell world, before adding new chapters after Dragonspyre/Celestia.
Again, I am very impressed with Wysteria, and would like to heartily congratulate KI for a job well done! Here are a few shots I took of little pieces which I particularly liked.

That's Malistaire's scepter sitting in the middle window. What is it doing in Wysteria?

The Brunching Club (top left) is a spoof of a classic 80's comedy called The Breakfast Club.
I found that particularly entertaining.

The professor of Frost- Quentin Burble. I love that he is a gobbler!
Although, knowing the history of Pigswick, I'm not surprised.
And finally, my new favorite NPC is  Professor Velma Pepper! I was absolutely blow away when I realized how KI had decided to design her; she is the classic, quintessential steampunk chick- from the leather jacket and gloves, to the cool-looking electric device in her hand! She even has a pair of goggles hanging around her neck! Bravo, Kingsisle! We needed a cool steampunk NPC!
Notice the Resonating Omni-Audio Graph to her left

I am, I would gage, about halfway through the main story at this point- perhaps a little less- although I have seven different side quests at the moment which I want to attend to before continuing the main. I may get on the test realm tonight; however, at 9 EST, Kestrel Shadowthistle's Summer Blowout begins! I'm off to cut the grass now, but once I finish I'll be logging on to complete my Barbarian outfit, as it is a costume party. In other words, we have to dress as something we are not. I usually dress and act the part of gentleman, so I figured the opposite of that would either be a Barbarian or a slob, and with a wide range of Grizzleheim clothing to choose from, I knew Barbarian would be easier :)

Until then, Ponder on!