Menagerie Exhibit Brings Interest and Ire

                When the Ada-Kar Menagerie and Aquarium announced that its newest exhibit would include a manticore, the excitement was outweighed only by the outrage. Now that three months have passed, there has been little common ground to find between the two divergent factions. Indeed, the opinions of experts as well as the layman are as diverse as the people of Valhalla.

                On one hand, the opponents of the exhibit cite numerous reasons why housing a manticore is a bad idea. Perhaps the most outspoken of these objectors is Kira Meadows of PEToC (People for the Ethical Treatment of Creatures). “Of course, our primary objection is the same as it is for any caged wild creature. These beings should be loose in their natural habitats, not jailed for our entertainment,” Kira explains. “The normal range of a manticore covers nearly seven hundred hectares. Now these creatures are confined to only three. Manticore are known to be particularly hostile when they are cornered. So what is the wisdom of keeping them in cramped conditions where they are sure to lash out at the least provocation?”

                Maxine Headrow of the Ada-Kar Menagerie and Aquarium begs to differ. “The reason these creatures have such wide hunting ranges is that they are large creatures living in sparse areas. They have to continually hunt for food in order to maintain their body weight. This forces the creatures to roam far and wide for sustenance. Such will not be the case at the Menagerie. They will be well-fed, well-tended, and well-secured. They will have one of the most advanced enclosures ever made. When the exhibit opens next month the world will be gifted with the sight of one of the most rare and exotic creatures alive.”

                The exhibit itself is situated in the “deserts” area of the Menagerie. Though the enclosure only takes up less than two hectares, there is a cave complex along the western wall that extends the living area to well over three hectares. With 90% of this area viewable by portholes and remote cameras, there is little doubt that the Manticore can feel privacy while still being observable by the public.

                But the welfare of the creatures is not Kira Meadows’ only concern. She also indicates the danger of having such creatures in a major population center. “These wild beings have complex problem solving skills. They are alpha-predators. They don’t earn that title by being stupid. Studies have shown that they are able to solve complex mazes and puzzles with impressive speed and accuracy. They learn and adapt quickly. Any creature that can do that can learn to escape a cage.”

               As proof she cites the incident last year at the Khrushchev Zoo in Narodnaya Strana. A mastodon broke loose of its enclosure, trampling and goring ten people before it was put down.   “And that is not the only incident like this,” she continues. “Something similar could easily happen here. Is it really worth exposing our children to such a possibility?”

                “The walls are made of poured concrete,” Maxine Headrow retorts. “The glass is five inches thick and made of Polycrominite Glass . . . the same stuff Megalopolis used on the space station. Manticore may have sharp claws and wicked teeth. They may even be able to shoot their tail spikes over a hundred feet, or inject enough neurotoxin to kill two elephants, but they cannot shred, bite, pierce, or poison their way through Polycrominite Glass!”

                Despite the protests, the plans are moving forward. Two manticore have already been selected and plans for moving them into the enclosure are under way. The female, Tiamat, will be a permanent resident at the menagerie, while the male, Abzu, is on loan from the personal menagerie of King Nur-Adad of Babylon. Abzu will remain in Ada-Kar for two years. It is hoped that during this time Tiamat will conceive an offspring.

                The exhibit is scheduled to be completed in less than three months. As the time nears, there is little doubt that the conflict will continue. A candlelight vigil held outside the gates of the menagerie every Saturday night has been steadily growing over the last few weeks. The vigils have started drawing counter-protestors as well. It is reported that harsh words were exchanged between the two groups last Saturday, and that police will be on scene this weekend to deter escalation.

Adventurer Makes Fortune from Text Book

              Androv Tomovik was a typical student enrolled in the Ada-Kar Institute of Magick.  Smart, young, and eager to prove himself, yet tired of study and academia.  He was eager to make his mark on the world.  He hoped to learn enough about the magical arts to join the Adventurer’s Guild and become a treasured member of an adventuring party.  The only problem was that he rapidly grew tired of the study.

              It is a common problem!  Drop-out rates of young magic users, particularly Alchemists, is among the highest in any academic branch.  The learning curve is very sharp and courses are often created to weed out those who don’t have what it takes.

              Androv was about to quit, more due to a lack of funds than a lack of drive.  As a Newbie coming to Valhalla, Androv had very little money.  In fact the only thing he really had was an interest in the Occult.  This interest flowered once he learned that real magic was a daily event in Valhalla.  Eventually he decided to study Alchemy, while working full time as a warehouse guard.  Even with student loans, however, money was running short.

              While working the graveyard shift, he reviewed the long list of components that he would need for the coming semester.  That was when the idea came to him.  If he was able to gather the many strange items needed for his course himself, he would be able to avoid the huge sums needed for his education.  Thinking more deeply he determined that he could actually sell these goods to his fellow students and make money on the side.

              Over the next semester, the idea never left his thoughts.  After the semester was over he took some time off and joined the Adventurer’s Guild.  He waited and was patient until he found just the adventuring group to join.  It was a group going deep into Xa’cor dy Yelpheet.  Armed with a few textbooks, a chest full of alchemic concoctions, and a rapier, Androv laid his life on the line in hopes of good fortune.

              His gamble paid off.  The adventure was successful, but his plans were even more successful.  The components that he gathered, everything from specific roots, herbs or rocks to giant’s blood, managed to generate almost as much money as the crew gathered from the main adventure.  In fact he did so well that the crew decided to go out again.  They slew fantastic beasts for their pelts and picked wild daisies by the light of the morning star.

              Now, four years later, Androv says that he is done with adventuring.  A close call with a manticore made him opt for early retirement.  With a full purse, a long list of adventure stories, and a solid understanding of how magic is used in practice and theory, he is going back to school. 

               “I am rich enough to retire if I wanted to,” he proudly boasts.  “My company is the major supplier of magical goods throughout Ada-Kar and the Imperial Nations.  Instead I will go back to school to complete my studies.  I choose to dedicate my life to the Art of Alchemy.”

The World’s Greatest Hippocampus Race

                I am not much of a sports fan, but when I heard about the Yamm Hippocampus Race I was intrigued.  As I watched part of the race, I found myself totally drawn in.  Afterward I had to research it and find out everything I could.

                This race started twenty years ago by necessity.  The Sea Elves had purchased four hundred of the creatures from the Phoenicians.  Due to bad weather, shipping mishaps, and other unanticipated problems, it looked as though the Phoenicians would default.  This is a costly prospect with the Sea Elves.

                Fortunately a group of daring, young Phoenicians decided to ride the creatures in a great herd from their homeland.  All the way to the Amazonian port of Anun Dilla.  This port is roughly half-way between the two civilizations.  It was the agreed-upon location for completing the transaction.

                Together, fifty Phoenicians drove five hundred Hippocampi from their homeland to Ada-Kar, then through the Greek island chain, across to the Minoans, and finally down to Xa’cor dy Yelpheet, a journey of over three thousand miles!  It took them the better part of a month to complete the trek, but they managed to do it with minimal loss of lives and livestock. 

                As tribute to the gods, the Phoenicians sacrificed half of the remaining animals.  They then each kept one of the animals for themselves and set the rest free.  Decedents of those freed hippocampi can be found there still. 

                The men who returned from this trek became national heroes and were awarded money, lands, and property.  Eventually the surviving members created a group called (translated from Phoenician) “The Brotherhood of the Waterhorse.”  Upon their deaths, each member could pass its membership to a person of their choosing.  The brotherhood survives to this day.  It is filled with prominent members of society.

                 In its present state, the race is run in three parts on consecutive months.  The first runs from Phoenicia to the Greek islands.  The second goes from the Greek islands to Minoa.  The last runs from Minoa to Anun Dilla.  Together they are known as the Yamm Trident.

                This year’s victory by Itthobaal Hamilcar marks the first time in history, that one person has won all three prongs of the Yamm Trident in the same year.  As it so happens, Mr. Hamilcar is a direct descendent of one of the original members of the Brotherhood.

                Congratulations Itthoobaal!

New Boxing Champion is a Robot???

                When Divine Technology Associates, Inc. pitted its newest Series 4600 Boxing ‘Bot against Giles Murphy, the world’s top-ranked bare-knuckle boxer, nobody believed that the robot would win; least of all Giles Murphy.  So much so that before the fight he said that he would “renounce my title if that piece of tin can beat me.”

                After an eight round bout, Giles was knocked out by a vicious upper-cut.  When he fell the crowd grew hushed, but when it became obvious that he was not getting up the crowd went mad!  Some were delighted to see history being made, but others were outraged.  Afterwards, a raucous mob set cars on fire and threw stones at the police.  Over a dozen people were arrested.

                Mr. Murphy’s promoter and manager were outraged and immediately declared that the machine had been tampered with.

                Fred Southerly, a spokesman for Divine Technology declared, “We have not cheated.  Our new advancements in cognitive and adaptive robotics are just that good.  We have already turned the 4600 unit to the Boxing Authority, who will review its logs and ensure that everything is on the level.”

                Whether or not Murphy has lost the title is a different matter.  The V.B.A. guidelines specifically state that only bipedal, living, and sentient beings within the class weight limits may challenge for a title bout.  As the Boxing ‘Bot only meets the last of these criteria, the robot cannot gain the title.  The question remains, however, as to whether or not Giles Murphy will keep his word and renounce it.

                His manager had no comment.

Controversial Book Hits #1!

                When Ivan Davidenkov’s book, Stranded on the Razor Reef, hit the shelves last month there were some reasons to believe that it would be controversial.  Not least among those reasons was the fact that Mr. Davidenkov wrote the book while in prison.  A suspected member in the Russian Mafia, he was convicted of weapons charges, extortion, and racketeering.  While you might think that this would be the heart of the controversy, you would be wrong.

                Stranded on the Razor Reef is being marketed as a work of fiction about a ship that gets too close to the well-known reef in the middle of the Einherjar Ocean.  As often happens with ships that venture too close to those parts, the main character’s ship strikes the reef and sinks.  The remainder of the story is about the survivor’s long and arduous journey back to civilization. 

                Many wild and interesting tales fill the pages, where the main character, a newbie from Soviet Russia, takes center stage.  Throughout the book the character is instrumental in overcoming many obstacles; from Sea Scags to a variety of islands harboring dinosaurs, dystopian tribes, and even the undead.

                The problem isn’t so much that the story is fiction, but that people are coming forward and saying that it is actually true. 

                The accusations started in an unusual corner.  A Gorgonian Alien, by the name of Kuzar Dugachz, raised objections with the publisher.  After that, an American professor of Botany, Dr. Elizabeth Carpenter, and a former sailor, Bert Longsmith, affirmed that the stories were based on fact.

                 When I contacted Mr. Longsmith about the book he claimed that “the only fiction in that book is the part that the Russian played in it.  As I remember he was more interested in looking for lost treasure and trying to get into Dr. Carpenter’s pants than actually helping us.”  As to the strange islands that they found, however, Mr. Longsmith claims that those were “dead on target.”

                According to Dr. Carpenter the survivors told their tale to the INSL when they were eventually rescued, but she doesn’t think their story was believed.  “Someone took notes,” she says, “But the officer in charge didn’t really seem to care.”  A search into the INSL files has turned up no corroborating evidence to back this claim.

                “I don’t care what you think,” Dr. Carpenter insists.  “I don’t even care if Ivan makes a million V-bills off of this.  What I care about is that somebody takes that island of undead seriously!  They weren’t just mindless things out there.  There were skeletons that were plotting and preparing something.  There was something happening on that island.  Something bad!”

Musical Genius Releases New Album

               If you don’t know Vasa Pyruth’s work, you should.  If you don’t care about Sea Shanties, you have never heard Vasa Pyruth.  If you have heard Vasa Pyruth and still don’t like him, you are no friend of mine.

              I first heard of Vasa a few years ago when I happened upon a bootlegged copy of one of his live shows.  At first I wasn’t sure what I was listening to, but after an hour I was hooked.  His delightful melodies tell stories of the heart, of adventure and, most importantly, of the sea.

              A Sea Elf by birth, Vasa has spent the majority of his life aboard ship.  He has also, however, delved into “Acoustic Magic,” a means by which magic can be tapped into through music.  This rare form of magic cannot be recorded, but just hearing him play is magical enough.

              This album, entitled, “Ocean Bard,” is his first produced album and has some amazing new tunes.  It is ninety minutes long, fifteen of which are dedicated to the tearful and heartrending opus, “The Ballad of Arden.” 

              If you only buy one album this year, make it “Ocean Bard.”  You won’t be disappointed.