Weeks ago, when the first wave of explorers set forth from Caledon, I was privileged to be among their number. I recall a clockwork doll of the most extraordinary and elegant manufacture, standing amidships wearing a maid's outfit and a chaingun, cheerfully announcing that she might even have some idea how to operate it.
This lovely automaton of war and house-cleaning was, of course, the ingeniously designed Seven of Seven, and it was my understanding that she was to be our only recourse, should danger lurk or tragedy befall us.
Today, I awoke to discover that my equipment was finally dry, and so I sent up one of my precious three signal-flares.
I had expected that Seven of Seven, watching from some unseen vantage point, would use the amazing (and highly experimental) telelocator to come and rescue me. That was the plan three weeks ago. But after the flare had gone up, (and I may add that it burned beautifully, another of Ordinal's triumphs!) I began to question the usefulness of a clockwork doll armed with plenty of firepower but only a single means of egress.
Many questions vexed me. Could a single telelocator move two persons at once? Would I be forced to telelocate to Caledon, thereby ending my excursion prematurely and losing all progress? Would I be forced to sacrifice an incredibly expensive mechanical lady in order to save myself? Could the telelocator even be used by me, or was it somehow built-into my spring-driven factotum?
As it happened, these questions were pondered entirely in vain. For I soon looked up and beheld a sleek, dark dirigible, parting the clouds as it descended. Truly, this was an awe-inspiring sight, symbolic of mankind's final and complete conquest of over the vicissitudes of life.
A man descended from a rope ladder, and the two of us exchanged tidings. I learned that he was Mr. Solivar Scarborough, of the Caledon Royal Air Force. I was overjoyed to meet Mr. Scarborough, until he informed me that he was only on the island for shore leave. Apparently his Captain had previously suffered a great grevience by a previous civilian passenger. I argued and pleaded my case, but the man was certian that his commander would hear nothing of taking on a passenger, and storing said ballast amid his precious cargo. And so it came to pass that after a brief smoke, Mr. Scarborough retired to his vessel, which then departed into the skies, leaving me to my discoveries.
Over the next six hours, I discovered many things. I discovered that Solivar Scarborough is a villainous n'er-do-well, a reprehensible bounder, and a disreputable cur of magnanimous proportions. I might have made even more discoveries, (quite possibly concerning Mr. Scarborough 's lineage,) but that's when a second airship arrived, this one piloted by Rafe Wilber of the Royal Caledon Navy, and bearing (as passenger or cargo, as you like,) my good friend and fellow explorer Excalibur Longstaff.
What a rescue! We immediately launched, and they flew me far to the west, carrying me forever away from that lake's twin demons of aeration and supererogation. I spoke with Captian Wilber 's crew, and was able to show their cartographer those spots on the mainland which I considered dangerous to fly over.
Not only that, but these adroit and stalwart gentlemen were good enough to accompany me on the next leg of my adventure! But more on that tomorrow.
Unfortunately, my thorough exploration of this island has yielded no great treasures or secrets. Instead, after two days, my only new discovery is how long it takes to dry out one's clothing and warm one's person when one's camfire blows out every five minutes like clockwork.*
Occasionally, a native will appear and either move towards or away from me. Invariably, these are "new residents," and they always know less about the island than I do. None can explain how they came to be on the island, or why they are here. Many do not even speak the same language as me.
I suspect that they are the output of the conservation effort I encountered in Warmouth. I believe this island may serve as a conduit… an outlet, if you will, through which White-shirted noobs are expelled, bewildered and blinking and tightly wrapped in freebies, into the world.
If that is the case, then I wish these persons the best of luck. This island is a wilderness, and it is barren, but on the mainland, the true jungle awaits!
Of note is the fact that, although they possess no great skill a building, these newcomers seem tirelessly motivated to rez great plywood cubes. This activity usually lasts about five minutes, before their hastily-contrived creations are demolished by the wind or other forces, and they become bored with the island and fly away.
I suggest that Desmond annex this area only if he wishes to harvest its rich bounty of plywood cubes and pine-cones. I am currently waiting for my signal-flares to dry out. They are Ordinal's, and of the highest quality, so I am confident that even their bath in the lake will not affect their color or great brightness.
Oh, and also, the island across from this one appears to be one of the over-developed Mainland sprawls.
I think I prefer to take my chances on this barren one.
*Rather longer than one might hope or desire, that's how long!
Land! At long last, I have reached land! I was certain that the swimming would finish me; that my arms and legs would snap off, rent apart by the mighty tides and the weight of the water ahead. But at long last, I have reached land, and at this moment I can imagine no sweeter embrace than that of the mud and sand beneath me.
Allow me to explain.
This morning I was trekking across Owasco, making great time as I picked my way through the sprawl that has come to characterize the Mainland. I came upon a great body of water, one so vast that it stretched all the way to the horizon.
At first, I was elated, for I thought that I had reached the northern sea, and that I was now ready to make my way towards the northern continent where Darkmere lurks. But according to my compass, the stars, and my maps, I was much too far south.
Also, the water was fresh, not salty.
I had encountered no ocean, but a mere freshwater lake.
But what a lake! I sought to travel around it, but it seemed like a great wide hole in the middle of the Mainland, preventing me from going northwest, which was my intended direction. I traveled west for some time, but there seemed to be no way around it. I flew up, and I began to see how truly wide the lake was.
Clearly, the only way ahead was by crossing the lake.
Which of course, brings us to the boat.
It sat there, innocently enough, brightly colored and loosely tied to its moorings by a short length of white rope. It dawned on me that the boat was inadequately bound, and that it could easily be stolen, and so I did what anyone in my situation would have done.
I began to carefully look about for the boat's owner, so as to inform him of his vessel's insecure anchorage. I circled his house twice, carefully looking into all of its windows, so as to identify the owner, whom I was sure I would know on sight. I crept quietly, so as not to disturb any occupant of the house who might be sleeping, but no-one was home.
After this, I again considered the boat. It floated gently in the placid waters, looking as if the very wind might blow it away from its dock. I decided that I had no choice but to set the matter right, and so I made my way down to the dock, again moving as quietly as I could, so as not to disturb any of the neighbors, who at this time of the morning would no doubt still be sleeping.
I drew closer to the rope fixture, and I could see that it was indeed slipshod. I attempted to right this, by tightening the knot, but it was so poorly designed that it came apart in my hands. I could see that the boat would drift away in the wind, so I leapt, quietly, onto its deck. That way, at least I could prevent it from washing away by steering it towards the shore. But what next?
I decided that the only decent thing to do would be to sail the boat to the nearest sufficiently equipped port, and there to purchase a new rope and use it to re-fasten the pleasant vessel to its rightful owner's dock. I could only assume that the nearest such affair was on the other side of the lake, for I could see nothing of the sort on my side. Additionally, several weeks of adventuring had taught me to trust my explorer's instincts.
And that was the situation as I settled into the delightfully appointed deck-seat and brought my hands down upon the rudder, at which point the boat informed me that I was not the proper owner, and it flung me into the sky at breakneck pace.
It is only by the grace of the creator that I survived my sky-ward arc, and the subsequent plummeting of my person into the lake's icy depths. I would like to meet the man who owned that boat, for I believe it to be defective. Plummeting passengers into the water is not the general behavior of boats where I come from, and as you can immagine, I very urgently wish to inform that gentleman of his machine's great flaw.
In the meantime, I have an island to explore. It looks to be largely uninhabited, covered with trees and devoid of people, but I shall explore it none-the-less. I have come to learn that Mainland sims tend to be either overdeveloped to the point of extreme duress, or else naked and devoid of any human activity or interest whatsoever. This isle appears to be land of the latter variety, but time will tell whether this pine-studded shore holds any secrets. For now, I must rest.
What luck! This is indeed an auspicious day for my fellow Naturalists and aficionados of Mainland Wildlife! For it turns out that I have stumbled across a sort of nature preserve, where one can observe the life-cycle of the White-Shirted Noobie in its natural habitat!
The Nerditorium, centrally located in Warmouth, was apparently set aside at the behest of Governor Linden as a Noob Preserve. I should note that this is not a gaming preserve; it is not legal to harvest Noobies using a firearm, nor to capture White-Shirted Noobies with cages, bear-traps, or other contrivances.
Once thought to be an endangered species, the White-Shirted Noobie has recently made a remarkable comeback. Recent studies estimate their number in excess of some 2 million Noobies, with more being born every day! Naturally, this raises some troubling questions. It is not known whether the White-Shirted Noobie population can be sustained at this level indefinitely. Some experts fear that the White-Shirted Noobie will outstrip their food supply within two years if the current trend continues.
There is also the concern that the predator-prey relationship that has long existed between the White-Shirted Noobie and some other Mainland species, such as the Flaming Forum Troll, the Spotted Snot-Nosed Griefer, or the Northwest Silver-Tongued Scammer, could result in a subsequent population explosion within these less benign species as well.
Indeed, some have argued that this has already happened.
Rather than thinning their numbers, though, the conversationalists I spoke with seemed more committed than ever to helping the White-Shirted Noobie stake its claim in the wild. While investigating the Preserve in Warmouth, I discovered that Mainland conversationalists were attempting to use a cheaply-produced substance called "freebies" to camouflage Noobies and provide some rudimentary protection against predation. I have even heard descriptions of what I believe may have been some sort of captive breeding program, called "Gor."
Certainly the White-Shirted Noobie is of no interest to poachers. Their plumage is rough and unattractive, and their meat is bland and grainy. While they can be taught to speak or used as pack animals for building, most of the time you just end up with lots of questions in the case of the former, and giant plywood cubes in the case of the latter. Nevertheless, the White-Shirted Noobie is quite a gentle beast and is easily domesticated.
Overall, the prospects for the White-Shirted Noobie can be considered quite good. Students of Naturalism and the Environment are advised to head to Warmouth if they desire to observe the White-Shirted Noobie in its natural habitat.
Scantily-clad natives. They are everywhere on the Mainland. Flitting about with their arms, legs, and midsections exposed, seemingly immune to the elements and indifferent to the wandering eyes of others. Even in an age when we, the proud Victorians of Fair Caledon, purport ourselves to have risen above the base urges and imperatives of our predecessors, it seems I find myself using some of my precious paper and inks to record every detail of my hosts' perpetual state of undress.
For it turns out that I have stumbled deep into the very black heart of this barbaric and backward practice! Even now, as I write these words, I am surrounded by the glowing glass plaques owned by Mainland couturiers, depicting what I can only describe as women in that state of undress which Mainlanders, uninitiated into our proud culture of manners, inexplicably consider to be a state of dress.
Doubtless, those readers who happen to find themselves in possession of a Duchy have already ceased to read these words, (probably upon reading the legend "~Scantily-Clad Natives~" at the beginning of this body of work,) and will have long-since discarded these pages into the nearest fire-place. For those Gentle Readers of a less pyrogynistic nature, it is in your interests that I press on.
One might ask how a respectable gentleman such as myself happened to find himself within the confines of an establishment that produces clothing of such unseemly excess in every conceivable area of haute couture except for volume of fabric. It is a fair question, which demands an honest answer.
In lieu of one, let it be known that the exterior of this establishment, which the locals would refer to as a Maul, presents so elegant and refined an appearance as could easily infiltrate the ranks of our own quiet shops and boutiques, were it not for the ingeniously illuminated picture-graphs of the naked women clearly visible through the building's front-doors at all hours of the day or night.
My first thought upon seeing the building's brass facade and iron dome was that a team of airships must have penetrated the Mainland weeks ago, and established this salon as a mid-way amenity for us beleaguered explorers. The plaque above the door even read "HAUTE COUTURE!" I dare say that any one of my countrymen, were he in my position, would have explored the place as thoroughly as I did, checking every nude and scantily-clad panel for some trace of what was surely a Caledonian enterprise.
Unfortunately, all of my inquiries led to naught; it seems that this Maul's architecture, which at first glance seemed distinctly Victorian, is in fact merely a superficially similar style which must have evolved independently on the Mainland. I finally surrendered my cause when I noticed a bit of the wallpaper which had peeled back, and discovered that underneath was not plaster or stucco, but that most hated hallmark of all Mainland architecture: the plywood.
Alas, by this point my psyche was so deeply invested in the idea of a Caledonian enterprise couched in Mainland pretensions, that I had begun to imagine obscure traces of Victorian heritage everywhere. I found that if one imagined the model's nude skin as a backdrop, and the clothes themselves as decorative trim, several of the Mainland's abysmal fashions suddenly begin to make sense. Surely, I thought, the use of fine furs and finely worked leather, and yes, even what looked to be fabric spun of gold, could be put to great effect in the design and sewing of proper Victorian corsets and dresses.
Could it not?
After I left the building, I found that I could not get thoughts of those weird, diminutive garments out of my head. So much potential. So little fabric…
Now I think that I must go, and speak again with some of the locals. Fortune may again see fit to provide me with accommodations for the evening. : )
Students of Architecture wishing to appreciate the mystery of a faux-Victorian boutique mired in the cubist nightmare of a Mainland Maul would do well to discreetly investigate that structure in Pickerel which has the audacity to call itself "Haute Couture." Sadly, I can think of no such appeal to draw the general public of Caledon. There is nothing to see here but the over-priced, under-warm, garishly-coloured women's-wear for sale here, and the Mainland women of unknown virtue who are wont to purchase said attire.
I set out early the next morning, eager to explore more of the surrounding… countryside is the wrong word for almost any spot on the Mainland… cityside? Suburbside? Yes, that will do. I found myself tearing through the surrounding suburbside with a vigor and a single-minded purpose that I would not have thought possible the day before.
Perhaps, having survived such a torrid and shameless affair, my subconscious had finally given up and resigned itself to this business of walking up to a complete stranger, greeting them as one would an old friend, and firing a salvo of whatever conversation sprung to mind. Now more than ever, I was keenly aware that Natives were just people, and that these natives who I had called my hosts were good people.
Whatever the reason, I was downright jovial as I soared into the air, all but whistling a happy tune as I dodged skyscrapers and obnoxious floating signs. As I was passing over one particular building, I felt a wave of lag coming on, and sure enough, looking down, I discovered another group of strangers. They were visible through the glass ceiling of the public-house below me.
I dropped down to say hello.
The beer was strange, tasting more of water than of yeast or hops. The music was strange, a cacophony of a thousand booming notes accompanied by the raucous cries of an anguished native. And the dances I learned from the locals seemed almost designed to invigorate the dancers rather than provide merriment and entertainment.
But as I collapsed into the corner booth, my heart pounding in my ears, drowning out the incessant music with its own whisper-quiet throbbing, I could not help but think of the whole experience as joyous.
I had finally gone native!
Continuing my journey towards the northwest, I entered the sim of Winyah, whereupon I finally came across an area that reminded me of home. Here the streets were well laid-out and tidy, and the houses and shops were arranged neatly and well-maintained. By far the crowning jewel of this quaint plaza, though, was Moshi Park.
As I approached the park, I discovered a sort of early-evening picnic in progress. As I looked around, I could feel my pensiveness about the mainland slipping away. Perhaps it was the happy sounds of the locals engaged in spirited conversation. Maybe it was the wrought-iron works of the park fence and the way it reminded me of my beloved Caledon. Whatever the inspiration for my mood, I felt glad as I approached Moshi Park, and I would discover that my instincts had not led me astray.
For it turns out that Moshi Park is the hub of a thriving and friendly community. Neighbors here meet casually to eat, drink, and be merry. Words cannot describe the lengths to which these people went to make me feel welcome… Perfect strangers greeted me warmly and entreated me to sit; I was offered a brew of local origin but of the highest quality; my tales of Caledon were met with great enthusiasm, and my Victorian mannerisms were accepted as they sought to ease my sensibilities. By all accounts, I was welcomed into their midst.
I was later overjoyed to discover that one of my benefactors was in fact Miss Firiel McGann of Caledon! My hosts extended an open invitation to Caledonian residents, most of whom were probably long since aslumber by that time, but Mr. Excalibur Longstaff was good enough to be an accomplice to the late-night revelry in that public park.
I will not attempt to recount all that was said that evening, nor all that occurred; suffice it to say that the residents of Moshi Park are pleasant, friendly folk. Some of them would be right at home in our fair community, while others (such as the puppy-girl creature cavorting frockless in the flower-beds nearby) might be seen as a bit uncouth, but without exception I have found them all to be kind, friendly, and generous with gifts.
Many have mentioned previous visits to our balmy isle, while others have expressed a desire to see firsthand the wonders I spoke of. I daresay there may be an invasion soon, of residents from the mainland. But if they hail from Winyah, do not fear them. They may dress like a mainlander, and they may speak like a mainlander, but in their hearts, where it counts, they are civil.
Today I hiked through several more sims of clutter and mess. I followed the roads for a bit, ending up a bit east of my initial destination. I fear I was so inspired by my initial success that I anticipated a cloistered community of Ladies and Gentlemen hidden around every corner. Instead, I was disappointed to find more of the same garish dance-temples and empty, slapdash cities.
One notable exception was a most singular structure occupying the majority of the sim called Hjalmer. Unlike the surrounding countryside, this area was uniform to a fault. Very large, very grey, and very rectangular, this collection of structures seemed to serve no purpose that I could discern. Yet it possessed a proud, stately, quiet demeanor that somehow drove me to investigate it.
Occasionally, I would chance a glimpse of a man standing atop one of its great, staggered walls. I was forced to shout my hellos at these persons, for they were at such a great distance and height. They seemed disinclined to come any closer, nor would they return my greetings. For a moment, I wondered if they had heard me at all.
Then, in the sapce of an instant, they were upon me. Not just the one or two lone silhouettes I had spotted, but some six men and one heavy vehicle. They surrounded me with their weapons in hand… black, elegant firearms of a design more elaborate and a manufacture more precise than anything I have seen at Ordinal's.
The strangers all wore black, and their bodies were covered from their necks on down, which was a relief. Everything else about these men, however, suggested a vulgar and unrefined manner. Their faces were unkempt and their hair disorderly, and in general they presented a very rakinsh appearence. They swore and they spat, and they did not so much speak as bark guttural commands. They frowned continusouly, and for all their objections, later, about being refered to as "natives," they never once put down their weapons. Civility seemed an alien concept to them.
For a while they pointed their guns at me, uttering their strange, spare words to each other while ignoring my questions. Words like "check," "safety," and "copy," which make no sense to me outside of any context. They all seemed to understand each other, though, for they moved in unison and acted instantly and with like purpose.
Finally, a figure strode forward and commanded these others to stand down. He did not introduce himself, but I learned from the card he gave me that his name was Rico Roizman, and his title was that of "Black Market Wolf." I learned that he was a purveyor of firearms, ammunition, and equipment. From what I could tell, his workmanship was above reproach, as not one single weapon discharged prematurely, locked, or backfired during my visit. However, this apparent quality of manufacture was underlined by a distinct lack of form; every firearm, and indeed, most every object on the premises was plain smooth cylinders and rectangles, colored either pitch-black or the most dismal of greys, and not in the slightest bit decorated.
Our conversation was interrupted more than once by the work that these men were apparently doing. They seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time running to see who had just entered their territory. This made conversation extremely sparse, to say the least.
I learned that these people represented a standing army, and when I asked for what purpose had their countrymen sent them to this location, they replied that they were there to fight other armies. I learned that the oppressive grey structure was called a "military base." It took me quite some time to figure out that the way these men used the term, it was not a garrison or a defensive structure, but rather a single place for militaries to gather and engage each other. (One can speculate that this practice may have come about as a means to settle millitarily disputes between rival nations, without destroying civilian lives and property, which strikes me as remarkably civil, in a barbaric sort of way.) Also, I learned that these men were after something called "frags," which I gather are an important local resource. It is my thinking that frags must be quite scarce, indeed, to be worth dying for.
Any Caledonians interested in the purchase of advanced mainland-style weapons are encouraged to contact Rico Roizman, Black Market Wolf. However, I do not advise a visit to Hjalmer under any circumstances. The view is bleak and depressingly regular, the locals are crude in every conceivable manner except their mode of dress, and deadly battles with firearms are a routine occurrence. A bored noble might send a regiment of hardened soldiers to fight for him only if he is extremely interested in accumulating "frags;" otherwise he would do well to stay at home.