Monday, August 22, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Project Feathers Update

Hey, everyone. I’ve been pretty busy these last two weeks, but I figured it was about time to tell you a little bit about what I’ve been doing.

Thaelro mentioned in the last post that I was working on another aspect of Project Feathers. Since he didn’t elaborate, I will: that other aspect is actually a small Flash game that doubles as a project for school.

Here are some screenshots of the in-progress game for your viewing pleasure:

Expect to see familiar faces.
Players are free to turn down the griffins’ initial offer, but don’t expect them to take “no” for a final answer.

Explore and interact with the world, and watch the story unfold bit by bit.

How does this game fit into Project Feathers as a whole? Well, as you can see in the screenshots, there are some familiar faces that play a role in the game’s story. In fact, the game’s timeframe takes place not long after the end of the stories planned for this blog. Think of the stories as a sort of prequel to the game.

For those who might be wondering, I fully intend to finish the stories when I find the time. However, because of the game’s status as a school project, it takes precedence over the stories at this moment.

And, with that, I’m off to write more ActionScript code!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day--Thaelro’s List of Lovable Things

I—Thaelro, if you’ve forgotten already—am in charge of bringing you a special Valentine’s Day post this week. I’m afraid this is in lieu of a regular post for last Saturday; Riel is busy with school work, including other parts of Project Feathers (hint, hint!).

Really, I’m not the best candidate for a Valentine’s Day post—romance and all that gushy stuff is not my thing. But there’re a lot of kinds of “love” other than the romantic kind. So, since it’s the day to commemorate lovable things, I’ve made a list of ten things that I love. Maybe you’ll find something on the list that you enjoy, too.

Thaelro’s List of Lovable Things

Love is….

1. Knowledge.
2. Making a discovery.
3. A new idea.
4. A good book.
5. A quiet, comfortable place to read.
6. Those who accept me for who I am.
7. Sharing thoughts with those I trust.
8. Tuna and milk.
9. That old book smell.
10. Clean glasses.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! Remember that life is filled with all kinds of loveable things that make it worth living.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

PoPP Profiles: Eldenore (Project Feathers)

Basic Profile:

Name: Eldenore
Sex: Female
Occupation: Field Archaeologist
Affiliations: Member of the Guild of Historian’s Archaeological Branch
Personality: Curious, brave, proud, commanding, a little arrogant, responsible
Likes: Adventure, history, knowledge, challenges, mysteries, snow
Dislikes: Inaction, slackers, hot climates
Magic Certification: Mage’s Permissions License, Rank A


Eye Color: Green
Feather Color: White and blue-green
Fur Color: White, blue-green, grey
Description: Eldenore is a large griffin with an eagle-like beak and lion-like tail. Her body is covered in freckle-like spots and she has two pairs of wings—the smaller pair is used mostly for steering during flight.

Author’s Notes:

Eldenore was the first of the griffin protagonists that I sketched out, but she also went through the most revisions. Her personality only truly fell into place after I fleshed out Benithew’s; originally she was going to be a much more arrogant character.

Eldenore appears in the following blog posts:

Saturday, January 29, 2011

PoPP Stories: "Doham, Council of Discord" (Project Feathers)

          Doham’s meeting cavern was undeniably spacious and gaudy. The dome far above was painted with carefree clouds and gliding griffins circling the sun-like insignia of the nation, and the walls were draped with tapestries displaying the proudest moments of our history. I suppose these stitched and painted griffins served as a contrast to the real ones; while the fake griffins were heroic, stretched out, and enjoying the freedom of life, the griffins in front of me were cantankerous and stiff from sitting still for so long.
“I will not support you on this matter, Eldenore, and that is final.”
That was Fenlad, of course, in all his stogy, grey glory. He hardly had a chance to finish before the cavern exploded with outcry. The other griffins in the council were leaning forward, their wings spread aggressively and their beaks moving to make furious sentences. From where I was sitting in the middle of the circle of twenty-five griffins, it sounded like a bubble of cacophonous, unintelligible rage.
No surprise, really; this was the heart of the Department of Heritage and Magic, where everyone ate, drank, and breathed discord. It was just more infuriating this time. Only one more vote. I needed only one more, and then I would be free to start the excavation in Heja.
It did not look like I would get that vote today. Knowing Doham as I do, it was unlikely I would get it for weeks. Alas, the problem was rarely a matter of convincing the council of the merits of the work. Nor was it a matter of our preparedness for the danger ahead—my team and I always researched each dig site extensively before we brought it before the council. No, the difficult part was winning the straggler votes that belonged to those griffins who did not care a whit about our history. They only wanted to know what sort of favors you were willing to offer in exchange for their support.
That was usually the case, at least. I was not quite sure this time. Fenlad, in particular, was a fairly upstanding griffin by Doham’s standards.
Old Varl was trying to quiet the ruckus now. He looked so frail and was perpetually molting these days, but somehow he always managed to get things under control. He cleared his throat and rapped his claws against the steel plate in front of him, and that was all it took.
Varl gestured with an unsteady paw in my direction. “Good Eldenore, you have been quiet for some time. Is there any more information that you can offer to the council regarding the merits of your proposal?”
I fanned my wings to make sure they were still there. This meeting had already whittled the day away, and I doubted there was much I could add now that would change the outcome. If I could, I would let someone else on my team go to the meetings in my stead—Tarna, maybe—but Doham always requested me.
“I know that our records of the Heja area are meager, and that this concerns the council; the excavation could be dangerous in ways that we have no way of predicting.” Some of the griffins were nodding curtly and watching me over their raised beaks. I think this is why the council’s platform is raised—so they can look down at you without any extra effort on their part. I sighed.
“However, this is also the main reason why we should investigate this site now. The Heja area, and the desert in particular, is not very well protected at this time. If the site is discovered and explored by our regular citizens or members of the unaffiliated tribes, any potential dangers are multiplied. Let us archaeologists be the first to enter the site; we have the training and the resources to safely clear the place of any lingering magic.”
“Perhaps you think too highly of your team’s skills,” said a slender griffin with slits for eyes. “I still cannot give you my vote.”
           That was Woth, and her disapproval was perfectly fine by me. She was really the worst kind of griffin on this council—the power hungry, self-serving kind. I avoided dealing with her whenever possible.
           “I, too, must withhold my support,” piped a jumpy griffin near to Woth’s side. I did not recognize this one—he was new and young. No older than Benithew, certainly. Yet I could see in the way his eyes shifted from me to Woth that he was looking for her approval. He was her pawn—or apprentice, if you prefer a softer term. Benithew would have made an infinitely better addition to the council than a power-starved whelp like him. But that was no surprise, either. Doham had lost sight of its purpose a long time ago.
           A bright-eyed griffin shook his head. “Woth, Eldenore’s team has proven time and again that they are extremely capable archaeologists. If Eldenore believes this dig is safe, there is no reason to doubt her.”
Woth tilted her beak upward. “Need I remind the council of Eldenore’s last excavation? It is true that she is one of our star archaeologists, but there is also a reason why we prohibit the creation of new spells by all but the most skilled mages. That she would so quickly disregard our laws does not reflect well on her.”
           Why did she have to bring that up again? I took a deep breath to let my anger cool. “May I also remind the council that I have been acquitted of all charges of wrongdoing.”
           “Yes,” said Woth icily. “But who cleared you, hm? Certainly not this council. The papers said it was a direct request from the Peacekeeper himself, but…”
“Come now, Woth!” a raspy voice called out, drowning out her complaints. Almost in unison, the council and I looked up toward the arched opening of the southern balcony. A small and pitifully bedraggled griffin that I had never seen before sat there, picking at the feathers of his mottled coat. He waggled a claw in our direction. “There is no reason to voice such doubts in these halls.”
           Varl’s claws rang out against steel and he craned his neck to see the unwelcome visitor. “You, up there!” he called. “This is a private meeting. You should not be here.”
           “Oh, I think we can be wherever we like,” said the visitor. He pulled a small metal object from the bag tied around his shoulders. It glinted in the low light as he glided down from the balcony to our chamber.
He offered the little object to Varl. From where I was it looked like a small metal carving of the nation’s insignia. Varl muttered a spell under his breath and the object glowed.
Varl gasped. “This is an official seal of the Circle of Advisors!”
“Indeed.” The visitor nodded and snatched the seal out of Varl’s claws.
Varl studied the visitor’s unprofessional appearance. “Who are you?”
“Just an auditor—called Sevl, if you like. The Advisors have to check up on the branches of government every once-in-a-while, you know.” He inattentively plucked a feather from his neck; much of his body was covered in bare, featherless spots.
“I believe we are close to adjournment today,” said Varl. “You are free to watch the remainder of the meeting, but please do not interrupt again.”
“Of course…but in a moment.” The auditor turned to look at me. “Ah, Eldenore. Another dig, is it? And in Heja this time? My, my. Please be extra careful.”
I bowed my head, slightly. “My team intends to take every precaution available.”
“Good. You’ll need them.” The strange griffin shook his wings and then sauntered off the council’s platform. He settled into a spot near the fringes of the chamber, far out of the way and partially hidden by a shadow.
“Now,” began Varl. “Shall we take a vote?”
The vote came out exactly the same as before: eleven in favor, five undecided, eight against. Only one more vote; I needed only one more.
           “The results are inconclusive,” Varl observed. “I believe we should postpone—”
“Wait.” Fenlad held up a paw. “I never said my vote could not be won.” Muttering rippled throughout the council. “May Doham act as witness—I would like to defer my vote to the Advisors.”
My beak fell open. The other griffins of the council appeared to have similar reactions, which soon turned into more arguing.
Varl patiently silenced the council. Unlike the others, he was calm and collected. “Would you like to explain, Fenlad?”
Fenlad shrugged and sat up straighter on his scruffy haunches. “I believe this is too uncertain an excavation. I cannot run the risk of this measure passing without the Advisors being made aware.”
Varl nodded, apparently satisfied. “Very well, then. Auditor Sevl…” He turned toward the auditor’s position and stopped. Sevl was no longer there. “Where has he gone?”
A griffin at the end of the council shook his head. “He slipped out a few minutes ago.”
“Hm.” Varl rubbed the underside of his beak with a claw. “Then I will schedule a meeting with the Advisors myself.” He looked toward me—or, rather, in my general direction because his eyes were not very good. “Good Eldenore, you will have to garner the approval of at least six of the Advisors to proceed with your excavation. Do you understand?”
           “Well…” I blinked. “Yes, I understand.”
           “Good.” He nodded and called for the meeting’s end. Together we recited the National Oath and then filed out of the cavern.
           For the rest of the night I tried to puzzle out Fenlad’s motives, but nothing I devised seemed satisfactory. Perhaps he really did think this issue was too big for Doham to handle alone, but I certainly did not. Then again, in all my years I have never before seen one of Doham’s meetings audited. It was possible the Advisors had already taken an interest in this case, and Fenlad was trying to gain favor.
As an afterthought, I wondered if Fenlad knew that my cousin was an acting member of the Circle of Advisors. I doubted it; if he knew, I am not sure he would have made the move that he did.

This is the second Project Feathers story. Click here to read the first.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

PoPP Profiles: Benithew (Project Feathers)

Basic Profile:

Name: Benithew
Sex: Male
Occupation: Griffin Historian
Affiliations: Low-ranking member of the Guild of Historians
Personality: Shy, studious, naïve, easily flustered
Likes: The city, truth, history, research, a good story, old scrolls
Dislikes: Politics, being without the comforts of the city, long flights, turbulent wind, lies
Magic Certification: Mage's Learning License, Rank C


Eye Color: Dark purple
Fur Color: Brown, dark brown, orange (spots)
Feather Color: Dark brown and red
Description: Benithew is a moderately statured griffin with a leopard-like tail and a small, owl-like beak. He wears glasses.

Author’s Notes:

Benithew began as a doodle in the margins of a notebook, and ultimately retains the basic appearance laid out in that sketch. Originally, I wanted Benithew to fill the role of the removed historian, recounting a story in which he was not personally involved. However, as the other characters took shape, Benithew became more directly connected to events. 

Benithew appears in the following blog posts:

Friday, January 14, 2011

PoPP Stories: "Kensim, City of Citadels" (Project Feathers)

A Traveler’s Introduction to Kensim
By Benithew, a certified scribe for the Guild of Historians

For griffins who have never before seen our capital city, arriving for the first time must come as quite the shock. It is called the City of Citadels for a reason—on most days it looks like a single, giant castle resting on top of the clouds. The buildings are not thatched or wooden, or even made of bricks huddled close to the ground; Kensim consists of nothing but tall, vaguely triangular earthen spires that jut far into the sky above. Their style and make are unlike anything else found in the Griffin Nation—and indeed, if a visitor were to suggest that griffin paws could not make such a place, they would be on to something. Historical records tell us that our longtime allies, the wyrms, raised the city from the earth as a gift of good will. As any new arrival will soon realize, these structures were designed for function rather than visual impact—though it is true that they simultaneously serve this second purpose, as well.
There is only one sensible way to reach Kensim safely, and that is by air. The location was originally selected based on strategic merit, not ease of access. At the time Kensim was chosen to become our nation’s capital, the Peacekeeper was still deeply entrenched in the Pre-Nation War. Because the capital is situated atop a tall cliff surrounded by canyons, climbing to the city is dangerous if not impossible, and made even more so by the thick cloud cover that usually surrounds the city’s base. Even flying can be hazardous as there are many strong currents that run through these canyons, some powerful enough to smash an unsuspecting griffin into a craggy cliff side.
In wartime, these attributes were highly valued for their importance in fortifying the city from attack, but today they mostly serve as nuisances to city dwellers and visitors alike. Anything that cannot be grown or manufactured on the cliff must be flown in on the backs of griffins. Visitors, also, are strongly advised to take a sky map of the area if they are not accompanied by someone who is familiar with the air currents here.

Eldenore sat across from me at the table; her white wings were pressed against her side so that her wingtips did not touch the floor as she sat upright. The scribbling that made up my manuscript was spread out in front of her, held in place with the palm of a large, weathered paw. Her eyes darted across the first page with exacting precision.
I waited as she read through the introduction of my first historical account for the Guild. I found it very difficult not to fidget—I couldn’t will my tail to stop twitching, and at times I noticed I was absently rubbing my claws together. I couldn’t help it. It’s not every day that the Guild of Historians asks a young and inexperienced scribe like myself to write an official account, and I was extremely excited.
Eldenore paused and scratched the curved tip of her beak with a claw. She glanced up into my eager eyes with her more impassive, fern-colored ones. She hadn’t even finished reading the first page yet.
“Well?” I prompted, a little worried.
She crossed her forepaws matter-of-factly on the table. “I do not think the Guild will like the fact that you called the city’s fortifications ‘nuisances.’”
That was Eldenore; I could always count on her to speak her mind. That’s one of the reasons why I asked her to review my manuscript, and not someone else. Still, I couldn’t help but frown as my elation left me.
“Should I remove it?” I asked tentatively.
She smiled as she shook her head. “Of course not. It is the truth.” She set the first page aside and began to read the second. I watched her read for a while longer before realizing that I was starting to feel apprehensive. I needed to distract myself.
Our table was positioned on a platform above and to the side of the restaurant’s entrance—a large round opening cut out of a spherical section of the tower that was high above the ground. Most of the restaurant’s patrons preferred to fly into the building rather than climb up all that way; thus, the opening was large and well suited for regular air traffic.
I looked out past the landing area and even past the towers that marked the sky harbor, where a group of muscular griffins were swooping in with large burlap bags filled with something-or-other that the city needed or wanted. Beyond the harbor there were only clouds and vague glimpses of the canyon’s edge—the mark of Kensim’s great entrance, and the only angle from which it was safe to enter the city.
I hardly ever left the city, and I preferred it that way. I belonged here and had everything I needed here, so I never desired to leave. The trip is a pain, anyway. While the winds within the city are usually tame and mild, many of the currents that surround it are difficult to navigate—even when following the safe path. I was never very good at flying, and there is really nothing out there worth going to all that trouble for. Kensim is the hub of the nation. Anything of importance to a scholar eventually comes through the gates here. I’ve never missed out on anything.  
Eldenore would disagree, no doubt. She prefers to be out there instead of in here. Despite all the wonders and conveniences of the city, she leaves at the first opportunity.
A thought came to me.
She looked up. “Yes?”
“How long do you expect to be in Kensim this time?”
She shrugged her wings. “Not as long as usual. Doham is reviewing my next dig in a few days.”
I tried to hide my disappointment. “You’ve already requested a new dig? But you just got back a week ago.”
“This is a special case. Our last excursion provided us with an intriguing lead, and my team and I are very eager to follow up on it.”
“Then you’ll be leaving again soon?” I felt a bit put out.
Eldenore tilted her head and cooed. “Come now, Benithew. You know as well as I how Doham functions. Even if I push harder than usual, gaining the approval necessary to proceed could take months. We will have plenty of time to chat between now and then.”
“Promise me you will not worry, at least for right now. This dig is not even approved yet.”
I studied her. She seemed as confident and knowledgeable as always, but it seemed forced, somehow. “All…all right.”
She attempted to reassure me with a smile before she returned to reading.
I guess that would have to do, but I still wish she could be around longer. She is something of a mentor to me, and there are many occasions when I’m overwhelmed and in need of her experienced and calm guidance. However, she is rarely there when I need her most.
 Still, I cannot fault her for her interests. Just as I have a passion for research and could not dream of being away from the Great Library, Eldenore cannot stand to be away from her excavation work. I think in a way we embody the opposite extremes of the Guild—I am the scribe who collects and interprets known history, and she is the adventurer who discovers the unknown and returns what is lost. I understand her role is important. In fact, I enjoy many of the stories of the present and past that she brings home.
Eldenore set the final page of my manuscript to the side. She seemed irritated.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Benithew, are you okay with this assignment?”
“What do you mean?”
“Essentially, you are writing a simplistic tourist guide—and just the introduction, at that. It is an insultingly small project for someone with your talent and passion for history.”
“Everyone has to start small.”
“But not everyone does.” She nibbled at her paw. “It bothers me that they think so little of your passion. Goodness knows they need an honest soul like you among their higher ranks.”
This was one thing I could never understand about her; she seemed to have a great distrust for the Guild, even though she and I were as much a part of it as anyone else.
“The Guild wants to be sure I can write to their standards,” I pointed out. “It’s a safety system—like how you need Doham’s approval for your excavation.”
Eldenore tapped the table with a claw. “If that is their purpose, then neither is very good at its job.”
“Maybe the system isn’t perfect, but it works well enough.” I frowned. “Look at it this way: at least I don’t have to go before the council at Doham to get my manuscript approved.”
Eldenore laughed. “Ah, yes. Be grateful for that.”
I smiled, glad to have made her laugh. “So, for your dig…you never said where you were headed this time.”
It looked like the change of subject caught her off guard. “Ah…” she paused. “Heja.”
My feathers prickled. “The desert? Isn’t that area dangerous?”
She waved her paw dismissively. “No need to worry. My team has already studied the area extensively, and we are preparing with the utmost caution.”
“But why Heja? That place is a wasteland…”
She leaned forward and rested her head on her paw. “You are aware that the area was once fertile grassland, correct?”
“Yes—it was long before recorded history.”
“Maybe it was not as long ago as we previously surmised.” She flashed me a smile. “During our last dig, we came across an account that suggested a large settlement was thriving in that area as late as 100 BF.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “Just because there were griffins living there doesn’t mean the area was still grassland at the time. That the place would become a desert in less than a hundred years is preposterous.”
“Exactly.” Eldenore seemed invigorated by my skepticism. “But this is what carvings in Lafnic suggest, regardless.”
I fanned my wings. “How, then, is it possible that this event was not recorded by the historians of the time?”
I expected her to pipe up with her latest theory and make me feel foolish for not realizing it myself, but she didn’t.
“That I don’t know.” Eldenore sighed and looked contemplative. She saw that I was shocked and swished her tail. “Oh, I have a few ideas, but none are satisfactory.” She spread her paws out on the table. “Benithew, if we manage to find that ancient city in the desert, I will not pretend to know what lays in store for us. However, I know this much—this will be my longest and most extensive excursion yet. When I am gone, I will be gone for quite some time.”
I was starting to feel uneasy. “But…”
She held up a claw in warning. “Shush for a second. I want you to know that you are perfectly capable on your own—and so am I. You have absolutely nothing to worry about.”
Contrary to her assurances, this is when I really began to worry. I’d known for a long time that digs often carried an element of risk, but Eldenore was one of the best—she had been practicing archaeology since before I was even old enough to join the Guild. I was always concerned when she left, of course, but every time she reassured me. That was nothing new.
What was new, however, was her destination and sense of uncertainty about what she would find there. Never before did she show such trepidation for an upcoming dig—and her anxiety was probably warranted. Heja was one of only a few places in the nation that was still completely uncharted—the area was inhospitable and difficult to navigate.
This time, I wasn’t reassured in the least.

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