I was off back to Neverending, the Homestead designed by Jayden Mercury and Valarie (Zalindah), to see it in its latest iteration: The Dark Tower.
I’ve no idea if the region’s name is a reference to Stephen King’s series of of eight novels genre-crossing (dark fantasy, science fantasy, horror, and westerns) series of novels regarded as his magnum opus (or indeed the 2017 film they in turn inspired, or the 1952 narrative poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came by Robert Browning said to have been King’s inspiration). Nor do I know if the likes of Tolkien’s Barad-dûr may also have influenced the naming of the region in this iteration; however, there are faint echoes towards both King and Tolkien writings to be found within the setting.
The focus of the setting is a high tower towards which we are encouraged to travel just as King’s protagonist, Roland Deschain, is also drawn (essentially following in the footsteps – metaphorically speaking – of Browning’s Childe Roland); although in his case, the Dark Tower is both physical and metaphorical, whereas here the tower is very much physical.
Rising from a domed island, the tower within the region may not be the centre of the universe, as per the tower of the film, but it does sit as the hub around which most of the rest of the setting has been built. It is ringed by a series of stone and wood bridges that sit wheel-like around it, with stone causeways connecting them both to it like the spokes of a wheel, and which extend outward to reach other points of interest.
One of the latter offers the Tolkien reference: a tall volcano that issues forth lava and billowing smoke just as Orodruin did as it stood apart from Mordor’s Barad-dûr. A second outlier tops a pinnacle of rock to provide a lover’s hideaway within the hollowed trunk of an aged tree, whilst a third presents a walk through rain and dancing leaves that pirouette around frozen umbrellas periodically lit by lightning, to where a grand piano sits. Beyond this, across the water and within a curtain ring of stone and trees, sits a house on its own, a private residence.
From the low-lying landing point with its warning about AFKing whilst there, its Torii gate and off-shore orca that play in the shallows, it is possible to climb to the first of the high causeways as it leads to the tower. From either side of this causeway, the ring of stone and wooden / rope bridges spans outward from either side for those who wish to follow it (but be warned; some of these may not be as stable as they might first appear to be!).
In keeping with King’s novels and the film they spawned, the tower appears to be a place of mystery and power for those who dare explore (there is even a “door” that will return visitors to their beginning – or at least in this case, the landing point). A dragon guards the entrance to the tower, although it appears willing to allow visitors passage through the great gate and doors and explore within. It is not the only such creature standing guard – a point to which I will return in a moment.
While the great hall to the rear of the tower might at first appear to be little more than a place nature is attempting to reclaim, careful eyes and hands might find a secret route by which the tower might be further explored, from top of highest tower through hidden room, and more as noted above. Others might simply content themselves with finding their way to the upper room, where sits the Book of Magic.
Not all of the regions secrets await discovery above ground, either. Those who explore carefully enough should find their way to a garden where creatures of the sea swim and play, and tunnels lead to where a water dragon awaits those wishing to sit and converse with it.
Like the iteration before it, Sakura Tales (see here for more), this version of Neverending continues a narrative that first started with Jayden Mad Wonderland build (see here): the tale of an artist, with chapters of the story awaiting discovery throughout the setting as they lie as pages waiting to be found. When discovered an clicked upon, these pages will present their part of the story to you on a private channel, and (perhaps) offer a clue as to what is to come next.
Rich in detail (although the default EEP settings can make this difficult to appreciate – I actually opted for Bryn Oh’s Bluniverse, which comes as standard with EEP, so that I could appreciate the setting better without going too far from the intended environment), with lots of opportunities for photography, discovery and simply appreciating the creativity of Jayden and Valarie whilst following the third instalment of Jayden’s tale, The Dark Tower is an atmospheric and engaging visit.
- Neverending: The Dark Tower (Neverending, rated Moderate)