Friday, July 13, 2012

Unseen Killers

“Perhaps the most frightening disease is the one that doesn't make its presence known until it's far too late to defeat it. It lies dormant, unseen for days, months, even years, hiding under the skin, undetected or ignored by the body’s natural defenses. Unlike many infections or viruses, which attack quickly and very noticeably, the symptoms of a dormant disease are so subtle, so quiet they hardly seem out of place. And that’s the danger - often a dormant disease will grow so slowly that we become accustomed to its effects without knowing we are doing so. It sits there, waiting for the proper moment when the right set of factors awakens it to fulfill its destructive purpose. Then, when we see this unseen killer for what it is, we can do nothing but watch it consume us, eat away at us, wishing too late we would have seen it for what it is in time to stop it while we could.”

- Doctor Gustaf VanHowzen, Alliance physician, “Social Ills: A Study of Diseases on Large Populations”

Friday, June 29, 2012

Finding Your Way Around

The story isn't dead. I promise. I mull it over in my head several times a day. It's still there, and it's still coming.

In the meantime, the world of Azeroth is a rich one. There's no denying that. Exploring the different areas and lands was part of the fun in playing World of Warcraft. The one time I got onto a public test realm (where the developers tested things before putting them in the game), I focused far less on trying out high-level abilities I hadn't gotten yet, and far more on exploring places I wouldn't get to see on my real character for a while.

What does it say that one of the first places I went to see was full of giant mushrooms and the walking dead?

Now, long removed from the game, I still enjoy looking at the maps and see where I've been and where I never got to go. The in-game maps are beautifully illustrated, made to look like an old piece of parchment, and have the given area's most important locations labeled.

Elwynn Forest....kinda makes you feel all Bilbo Baggins-ish, dunnit?
As great as the in-game maps are, WoW fans have taken Azeroth cartography a step further, making mroe interactive and detailed maps for players to use. The game's mini-map shows the layout of Azeroth in small but detailed-in-better-relief pieces, like so:

Some enterprising WoW cartographers took the technology behind Google Earth and put it to use. The result, essentially pieced together from the same graphics used in the mini-map, is a "satellite" view of Azeroth as it would look from the crow's eye:

Elwynn Forest as seen from the International Space Station

The following are, in my view, the best ways the Google Azeroth technology has been utilized:

Okay, this is the original in-game map for The Badlands.

- WoW Game Pressure offers "Google Azeroth" maps by region, handily organized to help you find the region you're looking for quickly. Each map labels key areas the in-game maps may not have, and has lists of the quests and NPCs that appear in the area as well.

This is WoW Game Pressure's Badlands Map with extra labels. Note NPC/quest lists below the map.

- MapWoW give the full "Google Azeroth" experience, allowing you to navigate and zoom in/out wherever you want. It also gives the option of labeling locations, resource nodes or travel paths.

MapWoW's satellite-esque view of the Badlands, pre-Cataclysm. Note the node display options to the right.

Wyrimaps has the most updated "Google Azeroth" maps, with the changes from the Cataclysm marked and mapped. The downside is that labels aren't an option for the time being.

Wyrimaps' satellite of the Badlands showing the effects of the Cataclysm.

Why do I mention this here? As I develop my stories, I use and throw out a lot of place names to give myself and the reader an idea of where in Azeroth the theater of action is taking place. I try to keep consistent with those already established in the game and Warcraft lore. But sometimes I feel the need to create my own location, be it a town, a port or a natural landmark. If I do that, I'll try to give an idea of where it is in relation to already-established landmarks. Using the above resources will help you know where the heck it is I'm talking about.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From the Diary of Altus Tien I

March 5
Near Strahnbrad

We're a day's ride from Strahnbrad and have set up camp for the night. King Terenas has asked Lord Uther and the rest of us to look into claims of attacks by orc raiders. On the road this morning, we were met by a family traveling to Andorhal. They told us the greenskins have been coming at night to take citizens and sacrifice them to their demon gods. We have no evidence of these claims yet, but each day seems to bring more reports of orcs escaping the camps. Having seen for myself the orcs' dark magics, I find myself believing the stories.
We are not to be alone in this fight. Lord Uther tells us Strahnbrad has little more than a token defense force, so King Terenas has sent his son to join us. I welcome the presence of Prince Arthas, but I admit I'm more hopeful to see a courier with some word from Naya. I've been away from her for two months now, I miss her terribly and long to hold her again.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

That's kind of what this story looks like. In my head.

There are plot threads and setting strands and exposition filaments and dialog strings and climactic yarns of a hundred colors, lengths, shapes and thicknesses strewn about the inside of my creative mind and making them work is like an impossible puzzle. They're constantly running, playing out up there- I can see them clearly, bright and vivid and vibrant.

Most of them are excellent (if I do say so myself) and would make a perfect addition to the narrative fabric I seek to weave; some are smaller and better suited to a decorative tassel, while others are more elaborate and fit to be woven throughout the tapestry.

I know who the protagonist is and what he does, but I don't know how it happens yet. I know his friends and enemies and what their relationships are like but I don't know how they get there.

Hence, the dearth.

Apologies if you feel abandoned. It won't last.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Free Writing 8/3

Nikolas rolled the thug leader’s unconscious form over on his stomach and reached beside him for rope to bind the man’s hands. As he did, he noticed a small patch sewn into the thug’s right sleeve. A few crossed lines and dots were embroidered into the patch, a pattern Nikolas didn’t recognize. He finished tying the bindings and moved on to the next man, rolling him and binding his arms together as well. A flash of color on this one’s right sleeve made him stop- he twisted the arm to get a better look, and frowned.

It had the same patch- same size, same colors, same pattern on it. Almost the same pattern, Nikolas thought- this one only had two dots on it; the leader’s patch had three. Without finishing the binding knot, Nikolas quickly stood and examined the bodies of the dead thieves. Each had the same patch in the same place, though these also had only two dots. On the last man, Nikolas stared at the patch more closely- the longer he looked at it the more it resembled a bird, but he still didn’t recognize it at all.

“Alira!” he called, looking to where she and Bria sat under a tree. Bria was still crying, though silently now, but stayed by the tree as Alira walked over. She did so slowly, her revulsion from the corpse obvious. When Alira was close enough, Nikolas twisted the thug’s arm to show her the patch. “Have you ever seen this before?”

Alira bent down for a better look, careful not to touch the body, but after a few moments shook her head. “I don’t remember seeing it. What is it?”

Nikolas looked back at the thug. “I don’t know. They all have one, all in the same place and almost exactly the same...” He trailed off, a dozen questions hitting him all at once: who were these thugs? Were they a group by themselves or part of a larger gang? The patches on their sleeves supported that idea, Nikolas thought. Certainly they had been after Alira or something she had, but why? How did they know she would be here? Had they been following since Southshore? Nikolas hoped this last thought wasn’t true- he had tried to be careful after the outfitter’s warning, and if these thieves had been trailing them all along, their skill at staying hidden had to be considerable.

There are no answers here, Nikolas thought, not while these thieves are out cold, and waiting longer was potentially dangerous. Better to keep moving, he decided.

Nikolas stood up and looked to Alira, who had returned to her daughter’s side. “How is she?” he asked.

“Calm enough,” Alira answered, holding Bria close.

“Alright, let’s keep moving,” Nikolas said. “The longer we’re out here, the longer we’re exposed. We should get to the outer sentry watch by nightfall if we move fast.”

Acting on a sudden thought, Nikolas went to the dead or unconscious thieves and cut the small patches from their sleeves. He stowed them in a small pouch on his belt, then went to pick up the handcart. Another thought came to him as he did so.

“Put your daughter in the cart,” Nikolas told Alira. “We’ve stopped too much for her tired feet, and we’ll go faster this way.” He realized his words came out gruffer than he intended, and for a moment prepared to apologize. But Alira was already settling her daughter onto the rucksacks in the cart, and the impulse to say something went away. When Alira had finished and retrieved her own bags, Nikolas picked up the cart handles and the small party moved quickly off.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Free Writing 7/20

His weekly sermon over, Maleki silently ushered out his guests through his kitchen and out the back door. There were no clouds in the midnight sky, but the larger of Azeroth’s two moons was new tonight, and the smaller had not yet risen. That meant his listeners could depart through near-pitch-black allies to their own destinations, safe from any prying eyes out this late.

They had listened well, taking in everything Maleki had said and believing it, at least as far as he could tell. Others like him had sent word of dissenters and spies trying to find out his organization’s secrets, but with no success to this point. Maleki felt confident all those who came to his house each week were true believers, but was always careful to keep his guard up. He and his colleagues were too close to their goal to let anything slip now.

At his kitchen table, Maleki wrote a few letters to his colleagues and readied them to send the next day before going upstairs to his private room. Still fully dressed, Maleki laid down on his bed and shut his eyes, knowing sleep wouldn’t come for some time. It rarely did, and he often slept well into the morning. Maleki preferred it this way, though- the darkness of night felt safer, more comfortable than the shining sun. He had left his employment some months before, telling the curious it was because of his health. In truth, he and the others sharing his rank were well provided for by those they answered to. Maleki never asked where the money came from, and he didn’t care. He knew, as they all did, money would soon no longer be of concern to them. Or to anyone else, for that matter.

Soon, Maleki thought to himself, very soon. The supplies from Northrend would arrive in port in a matter of days in small parcels hardly worth notice. Still, Maleki knew, well-placed members of his organization would ensure they made it to Andorhal in confidence. A few days more and shipments would start going out all over Lordaeron. After that, it would be too late to stop what was coming, what had been coming for a long time.

Maleki’s sermons were to prepare the chosen for the future, for their destiny they didn’t until recently know they had. His was a shepherd’s role, watching over his flock and guiding them in their tasks, and he embraced it. Though Maleki longed for a greater calling, for a greater reward, he knew none would come unless he performed his duties with faith and diligence.

From far away the sound of a rooster’s crow came to Maleki’s window, and he realized dawn was approaching. Finally feeling sleep was near, Maleki changed into his dressing gown and got back into bed. He could hear the smithy next door give a loud yawn, then start stoking his fires for the day’s work. He heard the scratching of a cart on cobblestone as a dairy farmer made his morning rounds. His nose picked up the smell of fresh bread dough just put into the oven, and that made him smile. Appropriate, he thought.
The last thing Maleki remembered hearing before falling asleep was the butcher yelling at some cats lingering near his door, hoping for some breakfast scraps. His last conscious thought before drifting into slumber was that hungry cats would soon be the least of the butcher’s worries.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


As I write this I am safe from the reach of those who call themselves your friends. I will not reveal details, but with the help of others I was able to escape while on the road from the Monastery to Hearthglen. I have been doubly lucky to have my life today. I believe it was the intention of Falt Greyhaft, the commander of my escorts, to have me killed along the way, likely during a supposed escape attempt. He might have succeeded if not for my rescue. And of course I have you to thank for convincing your lords to spare my life. I know you must have many questions about why I was arrested and eligible for death in the first place. I promise to answer those questions as soon as is practical. For now, I want you to know I am alright. I will write to Mother as well, but if you are able please convey this news to her. I hope you are well, and I will write again as soon as possible.