Even as Pippin gazed in wonder the walls passed from looming grey to white, blushing faintly in the dawn; and suddenly the sun climbed over the eastern shadow and sent forth a shaft that smote the face of the City. Then Pippin cried aloud, for the Tower of Ecthelion, standing high within the topmost wall, shone out against the sky, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, tall and fair and shapely, and its pinnacle glittered as if it were wrought of crystals; and white banners broke and fluttered from the battlements in the morning breeze, and high and far he heard a clear ringing as of silver trumpets.
– J.R.R Tolkien “Minas Tirith”, Chapter 1 of Book V of The Lord of the Rings
Jaimy Hancroft’s Hope’s Horizon is, for me, one of the visual high points of this year’s Fantasy Faire.
Any tackling of Tolkien’s world-famous mythological fantasy of whatever kind, be it from The Hobbit through The Lord of the Rings to an aspect of The Silmarillion or The Lost Tales, is never going to be easy. Courtesy of Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema et al, in the case of The Lord of the Rings (and now The Hobbit), we have some very clear mental pictures as to how things “should” look which may even have supplanted years of imaginings when reading the books; so any attempt to re-imagine any of the more staple elements from the history of Middle Earth is a gamble.
But with Hope’s Horizon, Jaimy has, despite limitations of scale and space, presented a fabulous homage to Tolkien and the magnificent walled city of Minas Tirith – the Tower of the Guard (or Watch) in the elvish Sindarin tongue.
Obviously, trying to recreate the entire city in an area just 256 x 256 metres in size and which remains large enough for avatars to explore with ease isn’t really possible in SL (unless we all opt for really tiny avatars!), but almost all of the key elements of Minas Tirith can be found within Hope’s Horizon, which still maintains its own identity which allows it to set itself apart from the inspiration behind it and stand as a beautiful build in its own right.
From the arched entrance of the Great Gate, guarded over by the ever-vigilant Dwarfins on behalf of the city folk, one can wander the broad stone streets of the city, lined with shops, then climb slowly up the stairs, level by level, perhaps resting awhile on stone benches or taking time to look down over the lands below. The stairs wind slowly up the shoulder of the hill upon which the city sits, sometimes rising with side walls to prevent you stepping off into space, sometimes clinging precariously to the face of naked rock.
Careful footing is required if you wish to ascend to the top of the high hill. But if you take care and remain sure-footed, you’ll eventually arrive at the Citadel atop the great rock, which has been flattened and paved and where the White Tree stands tall near the far end of the long out-thrust shoulder.
This is more than an homage to Tolkien however; as Jaimy reveals the build is dedicated to her father, a huge Lord of the Rings fan, and who lost his battle with cancer a few years ago. Given the scale and beauty of the build and the way in which it captures the spirit and essence of Minas Tirith, it is a more than fitting tribute.
Blackwater Glenn sits away to the west from Hope’s Horizon and is a realm of a very different nature and colour – or perhaps more correctly, colours.
The description of the region doesn’t sound all that encouraging at first reading – talk of decay and swaps and general ruination as nature seeks to reclaim an old town. But this is a region born of the fertile minds of Marcus Inkpen and Sharni Azalee of The Looking Glass fame, and so all is not as it seems.
Yes, there is the encroaching waters and yes, the tall reeds are alive with the chirping of crickets and one is advised to keep to the wooden board walks in places if one wants to keep one’s feet dry; and yes, the buildings are in a state of disrepair. But this is also a place of vibrant colour, which bursts out across the region in the form of multi-hued fungi and plants, new life growing to replace the old, giving a sense of renewal and hope for the future. And anywhere butterflies turn and play in the air can’t be that bad, now can it?
Nor is the place as dank and one might expect. The sun can still shine here and the buildings, although decrepit and aged, retain their own colour such that as the sun falls on them, a sense of welcome surrounds them.
Follow the wooden walks far enough, and you’ll eventually find the Trade Winds tavern, a place perhaps to take a seat and rest a while from the hustle of the Faire and simply enjoy a drink and a chat with the locals. Just keep an eye – or better yet, a hand – on your purse! The tavern was leased by a group of pirates to raise the funds they need to repair their ship in order to sail home. How far they may go to achieve their goal, and whether or not any are still working in or near the tavern is open to question – but just in case some are still around, caution while drinking might be on order!
Don’t worry about getting lost as evening turns to night either; lamps light the paths, whether on firm ground all along wooden piers, and the locals will always help a lost soul and point them in the right direction. So don’t be put off by the name or thoughts of pirates, Blackwater Glenn is a place of hidden beauty, waiting to be discovered!