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!