Monday, October 30, 2023

The Spirit of Black Keep, Chapter 5

Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7

Pharazon opened his eyes to cold daylight. Above him stretched tangled, budding tree branches, and past them a cloudy sky. He had no idea what he was doing lying on a muddy forest floor. Where was he? Not home—these were not the cypresses and olive trees of his Altador, but oaks and birches of a more temperate climate.

Like the Meridell region.

Everything came back to him like a sock in the gut and he sat up from the shock, earning himself a head rush. Celice lay nearby – breathing, thank goodness – sprawled awkwardly across dead leaves, her hair and clothes in disarray.

But Pharazon had gotten them away from the Dark Faerie Sisters—for a price. As he picked himself up, he felt woozy and weak, like he’d gone days without sleeping or eating. His body seemed hollow, and he knew he’d exhausted his magical reservoirs.

Friday, October 27, 2023

The Spirit of Black Keep, Chapter 4

It really was like stepping into another world. The thick wall behind them muffled the sounds of the city, leaving the ruins eerily silent. Overgrown thickets of brush carpeted the ground, and gnarled old trees, their bare branches devoid of the slightest hint of spring, pushed their roots against cracked stone like they were attempting to escape.

And the whole place was drenched in magic, of a weird and dark flavour that set Pharazon even more on edge.

The ability to sense magic was not exclusive to mages. Just like hearing or smell or any other sense, some people had a better aptitude for it than others for various reasons. Pharazon’s Grundo brother, who had spent most of his life in Dr. Sloth’s galactic military where Neopian magic was nearly unheard of, was almost completely numb to it. Their Zafara sister Blynn—well, Pharazon rarely understood how her strange brain worked, but she seemed to have an uncanny intuition for just about everything, including magic. While Terra did not practise magic, she seemed to be just as sensitive to it as Pharazon. And for a trained magic user such as Celice, learning how to recognize and tune in to mana frequencies had been a necessary part of her education.

But strong enough magic could be felt by anyone, as evidenced by Guildswoman Griselda. The Kau’s ears flicked uneasily, one after the other, as she led Celice and Pharazon down an overgrown path that took them around roofless outbuildings and yawning gaps in the flagstone that led to who-knew-where. Pharazon knew she didn’t like the feel of this place, either.

Monday, October 23, 2023

The Spirit of Black Keep, Chapter 3

The augurs were right—the next day was still overcast and cold, but the clouds looked much less likely to rain as Celice rented a carriage to take them to Market Town.

As the carriage bounced over the dirt highway that connected Brightvale’s communities, Pharazon fingered the thick woollen scarf Celice had given him. It sported a striped pattern of browns and greens, perhaps more suited for autumn than spring, but it was the largest, warmest scarf she had. He had wanted to merely loan it from her, but she insisted that he keep it, as recompense for accompanying her. After supper the night before, she’d made no further mention of Pharazon’s magical skills. It seemed as though he had at least won that round.

Now she once again sat across from him, one elbow propped on a windowsill, her fingers interlaced in front of her muzzle as she watched the trees pass by. Today she wore cream-coloured robes under a forest green, ivy-patterned cloak that complemented her snowy fur nicely. Her golden eyes gleamed, the Lupe sorceress lost somewhere in her thoughts. She emanated power, and not just in appearance alone—Pharazon could feel her magic buzzing around her.

Saturday, October 21, 2023


I've started doing paleoart illustrations for Wikipedia! I keep getting badgered by them for monetary donations, which I understand, but I decided I'd rather give back something a bit more substantial--quality original artwork for underserved species!

Here's Xiushanosteus, a newly described placoderm. More are coming soon!

P.S. I may sneak off to the Idaho Museum of Natural History to do some sketching based on their fossils. Also everyone should visit them because they are way rad.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Spirit of Black Keep, Chapter 2

Five days later, on a grey drizzly afternoon, Pharazon stepped off the gangplank of the sky-ship liner and into Brightvale’s bustling skyport. He pulled the hood of his travelling cloak closer around his face to protect himself from the chill air, watching his breath pool in front of his snout every time he exhaled. Spring was just getting under way here in the Meridell region, which meant the snows had left for another year, but it was still too cold for Pharazon’s liking and he envied furred and feathered Neopets in this weather. On days like today he would much rather be curled up on a couch with a good thick book.

With a sigh, he heaved his trunk into an upright position in order to sit on it and wait for Celice.

Before he could, a voice called out, “Pharazon!” He turned to see a familiar white Lupe waving at him from the window of a Uni-drawn carriage. “Get in before you catch Neomonia!” Celice said, gesturing inside with a smile.

“Coming!” Pharazon said, dragging his trunk across the wide dock where other Neopets unloaded cargo or boarded carriages. He should have brought a scarf, he decided. It had been deceptively warm back in Altador.

Monday, October 16, 2023

The Spirit of Black Keep, Chapter 1

Rather typically, it seems, for my story construction process, this tale came together from several originally separate ideas that I realized would work really well in a plotline together. 

Pharazon had gone through some very interesting character development during Worth Searching For, which also introduced the idea of him starting to use magic. The fact that his unlocking his magical potential came about during a traumatic experience begged for some follow-up. What to do when you're a budding wizard whose first experience with magic went horribly wrong? Get sent on a quest of self-discovery, of course!

I'd also been writing quite a bit about Terra, Hyren, Blynn, and Isengrim, so I wanted to challenge myself to write a story where they don't appear at all in-person, so I could focus on giving Pharazon some overdue development. I admit I was feeling a bit bad about basically giving him the short end of the stick in Worth Searching For as an utter liability of a protagonist (turned accidental antagonist), so I wanted to write about him overcoming some of his weaknesses, not repeating past mistakes, and becoming the hero of his tale. It was also nice to give Celice a bit more development, as well as being able to write her and Pharazon actually palling around, since in her debut story they got off to a quite rocky start, while they were separated for most of Worth Searching For.

I had also been wanting to try my hand at writing Jhudora; I like the idea of her not being an evil faerie, just a rather grouchy and solitary one. I thought that sort of personality would play nicely against Pharazon, as well as giving him a sketchy mentor figure to offer him vague and frustrating - but ultimately helpful - advice. And no spoilers about the other member of the main cast, but his appearance and character arc came from some musings I had about the Battle for Meridell plot, the abilities of The Three, and what exactly happened to Lord Darigan between Champions of Meridell and Battle for Meridell. I felt like these characters and what I wanted to do with them worked really well in this particular adventure.

I should mention that this fic was nominated for Most Heartwarming in the 2016 Neopian Times Awards. I'm very pleased that people enjoyed it!

As far as revisions go, there wasn't a whole lot I drastically changed about this one from what got into the Neopian Times. Besides the usual prose fixes, I toned down Celice's personality a little in the beginning chapters to make her less snide (she's still plenty bossy, though), and I also slightly altered a few conversations and inner monologues to better bring home the points I was trying to get across.

The reason he’d gotten himself into this, Pharazon decided, was because he could never say “no” to anything.

The faerie Draik perched on the edge of the bed in his cabin in a Shenkuuvian sky-ship, staring at the letter in his claws, not really seeing the words so much as coming to the realisation that he was hopelessly wishy-washy.

He’d go along with anyone just to avoid a quarrel—and even then he’d peter out somewhere along the way, retreating to the safety of merely existing. Really, he just wanted to sit and read all day. No adventures for him. The world was so much safer from the library of his family’s Neohome.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023


Happy autumn from Terra and Isengrim!

Speaking of Neopets stuff, I'm putting another fic up on the blog very soon, so keep an eye out for that! 

Also, I've just finished writing another Neopets fic because I just can't seem to stop. :) This one is just a silly little idea that wouldn't stop badgering me so I thought I might as well execute it. I don't want to spoil too much, but let's just say you know you have a well-developed cast when you can write an entire Christmas Giving Day pantomime starring most of them. I had way too much fun with it and I will put it on the blog eventually, once I get through uploading everything else. (Also I just really wanted to write Blynn wearing a black cloak and laughing maniacally.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Did I never upload this to the blog?! What even is my life.

Here's an illustration of Plateosaurus that I did for a defunct paleontology blog. Basal sauropods can be so underappreciated. It's thanks to them and their descendants that we have the Sinclair Oil Corporation logo!

Monday, October 2, 2023

Enough author opining--here's some Cookie Run fan art of two notable Parfaedian alumni.