As we enter the twilight months of the year, one of the things I enjoy doing is visiting the Calas Galadhon themed region. Every October and December, Tymus Tenk and Truck Meredith obtain a region from the Lab and use it to offer something truly extraordinary where Second Life users can join in the fun of celebrating first Halloween and then, from early December, the Christmas season – and 2014 is no exception.
Currently hosting Ty and Truck’s Halloween design, entitled Darkwood, this year’s region will open its doors to the public on Friday October 3rd, and will remain open through until Saturday November 1st inclusive. It will then undergo a makeover ready for Christmas, re-opening in early December. In anticipation of the Halloween theme’s opening, I was kindly extended an invitation to explore the region, which I was only too pleased to accept.
The theme for this year’s Halloween design is rooted in Tolkien’s tales – in the great forest of Mirkwood in fact. Once known as Greenwood the Great, the greatest of all the forests of Middle Earth, it fell into darkness as Sauron’s long shadow was cast over when he took the fortress of Dol Guldur as his own, thus making the great forest a place where, to quote The Silmarillion, “fear walked … in shadowy glades; fell beasts came hunting, and cruel and evil creatures laid their snares … for the nightshade lay deep there.”
However, this isn’t to say Darkwood is “all about Tolkien”; while it does draw on elements from The Hobbit (with a splash of The Lord of the Rings), these are only the foundations for the theme – there is much more besides, becoming a world very much drawn from Ty and Truck’s own imaginations, filled with creatures and being of darkness and horror from within and beyond Tolkien.
From the landing point, visitors are invited to accept the region windlight settings and turn on the specially selected music stream (featuring music from Peter Jackson’s Tolkien-inspired films and is worth enabling, as it suits the environment perfectly). Then it’s a case of taking a lamp and following the path to the Elven Pavilion which, throughout the month Darkwood will be open to visitors, will be the venue for a range of events. But all travellers should heed the words of Gandalf, “Stick to the forest-track, keep your spirits up, hope for the best, and with a tremendous slice of luck you may come out one day.”
Within Darkwood, the track is relatively easy to keep to; lamps periodically light the way and there are the occasional signs to help you. The problem for the traveller is that it won’t stay singular; instead, and like the trees under which it (mostly) passes, it keeps on branching, leading all around and through the region until you might feel – as did a certain group of Hobbit-accompanied Dwarves – that you may never reach your destination. But that’s all part of the fun – because each time the path divides, new discoveries await you, no matter which route you take.
So it is that as you wander you my find yourself beset by spiders, riding barrels down fast-flowing streams to a broader river or trying to slip past a group of Trolls who appear to have meat other than roast mutton on their minds. Elsewhere, darker things await hidden in rocky clefts or under the darkness of the trees, and not a few decidedly “un-Tolkien” creatures may take an interest in your passage!
There’s also a familiar scattering of Ty and Truck’s mischievous wit across the region; as you explore you might discover the reason why the Calas Galadhon parklands seem so bereft of staff nowadays… There’s also a lot of attention to detail and subtle nuances to catch the eye along the way.
Because the Darkwood path does twist and turn and divide, a suggestion is that visitor first take the Elven boat tour of the region. This can be found over the bridge from the landing point, and the boats will take you on a tour through, under, and even over the region. It won’t give away all the secrets within the woods – but it might also carry you to places you could otherwise miss should you avoid it or the barrel-ride. At the end of the tour, the boats will return you to their berth, allowing you to start your adventure on foot.
As noted at the top of this piece, Darkwood opens its doors to the public on Friday 3rd October (at approximately 09:00 SLT, although this is still TBC). Until that time, it is open to members of the Calas Galadhon group only, and people are asked to respect this. So why not take the time to dig out your drow / zombie / troll / beastie look and see how it fits so that when the gates do open, you can visit in a style to match the theme? Costumes aren’t a requirement for visits – but they do add to the atmosphere! Also, keep an eye on the Calas Galadhon blog for information on events at the Elven Pavilion and news on Calas Galadhon in general.