Jewel Riders

Jewel Riders on Netflix

Happy New Year, everyone! Just a brief update before I return to recapping: Jewel Riders is now available for streaming on Netflix. I’m not sure if it’s the American or international version, though. You can find it under Starla and the Jewel Riders, but the show description has both Gwen and Starla’s names. At some point I’ll get around to viewing it….

Expect more recaps next week. I’m going on a short vacation.

Song of the Unicorns, Chapter 5: A Sudden Burst of Exposition

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is the last half of Chapter 4.)

Hooray! It’s Ozzie’s first adventure on his own! Let’s see how well he does!

… Or not. He runs away from a sudden tornado of wild magic that transforms the wrecked wagon into ice (and, in the new edition, some cacti into mush). And while hiding behind a rock — the safest tornado hiding place ever — Ozzie bumps into a strange creature!

For you Jewel Riders fans, you’ll be seeing a lot more of these familiar wild magic outbreaks throughout the next six books. I guess Ms. Roberts really wanted to make this second half of the series as similar to Jewel Riders as possible!

Meanwhile, Emily tries to contact Ozzie with her Rainbow Jewel, but can’t raise him. (Don’t you love how the girls’ Sparkly Rocks suddenly gained walkie-talkie powers?) So Emily rides off to find Ozzie, telling Sierra that she has to find her “pet” ferret. Sierra’s totally okay with this.

Emily finally makes it back to the canyon, and finds a massive puddle where the wrecked wagon was. (Again, major gripe here: it’s supposed to be winter! That ice should still be a block of ice! New Mexico is not in the southern hemisphere!) Oh, and she finds Ozzie arguing with a twiggy figure.

This twig-thing is Tweek, an Experimental Fairimental designed by the regular-type Fairimentals to specifically survive on Earth. (Remember, every other Fairimental we’ve encountered couldn’t maintain their form on Earth.) Apparently the Fairimentals now have a research facility (wait … what?) on Aldenmor in the formerly-nuked-out Shadowlands … and they spent their time making the second most useless character in the series. And I say second most useless because Tweek can calibrate portals and carries a handy-dandy Handbook of Rules and Regulations for Fairimentals (HORARFF — or, as I call it, the in-book encyclopedia). Don’t count on him to cast a well-timed Magic Missile, however. He has no combat skills whatsoever. You can depend on him to make ill-timed arboreal jokes, though.

Today, Tweek plays the part of Mr. Exposition — as he will for the rest of the series. He does this even more so in the new edition, where he gives Emily and Ozzie a magitechnobabble-laden explanation for how he came to New Mexico:

“I materialized my elemental byproducts in Ravenswood but I was attacked by a pack of brimbees so I had to triangulate on your jewels, construct a portal path–”

To make a long story short, Tweek came to tell the party that Avalon’s magic is missing. Gee, I wonder how that happened. But Tweek can’t explain too much, because more wild magic tornadoes are barreling towards the party! Luckily, Emily, Ozzie, and Tweek outrace the tornadoes and make it out of the canyon in one piece.

Status Update!
Tweek joins the party! (But you can’t use him in battle. At least the party can calibrate portals now….)

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Emily’s Rainbow Jewel glows crimson, not green, when sensing danger.

Next time: The party fights land sharks … or street sharks … or hockey-playing sharks ….

Song of the Unicorns: First Impressions

A long time ago, back when I finished reading the original Web of Magic series, I had no idea there was going to be a sequel. And then I walked into my local Borders a few weeks after completing the last book, and found a display for something called Avalon: Quest for Magic. I wasn’t sure if it was at all related to my favorite book series, since the series logo was in some generic font, but upon looking at the poorly-photoshopped cover and the description on the back, I knew for certain that the party’s adventures were going to continue somehow. And I say “somehow” because the original edition of Trial by Fire wrapped things up pretty nicely.

Song of the Unicorns is not my favorite entry in the series by any means. It’s like a filler episode of an anime series, except it serves to introduce new characters, new concepts, and a new conflict — the latter of which, in the original edition, is executed poorly. The only part of the book that excited me was that it took place in New Mexico, where I spent many a summer and winter in my youth. Unfortunately, my experiences were all in the mountains in the northern part of the state, where — gasp! — it snows during the winter. I know next to nothing about the Carlsbad Caverns and the surrounding area, where the story takes place. (What I can tell you, though, is that the party is severely underdressed for winter there ^_^)

In case you couldn’t tell, this is an Emily-centric book. She deals with a lot of family issues in this one, namely coping with her father’s remarriage.

It was a challenge to think of which Jewel Riders episodes this book was inspired by. It’s like mix of “Home Sweet Heartstone” (in which the Jewel Riders hang out with lots of young magical animals and sing songs) and “Morgana” (the start of the second season, which introduces a new villain and a new quest). Starting with this book, the Jewel Riders comparisons start to become more obvious, since the party is eventually charged with collecting Mineral McGuffins.

Not much to say about the covers: they both feature the party surrounded by unicorn colts and fillies. I don’t like the original cover, mainly because the girls don’t look like a cohesive party. Adriane’s looking off like there’s danger somewhere (or she’s on a rock album cover), Emily’s having fun with unicorns, and Kara looks like she’s having an unpleasant bowel movement. At least on the new cover the entire party’s enjoying their cute, My Little Pony-esque overlords. (Also, Dreamer makes another cover appearance.)

What to expect from this book:

  • More Fletcher family issues!
  • An even more annoying character than Ozzie!
  • A minor character we won’t see again for a long while!
  • Kara casting Polymorph like it’s going out of style!
  • A new quest!
  • Obnoxious unicorn bleating!
  • An Evil Council of Evil!
  • More fun with the original party!

Next time: Look, two new characters!
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Credit where it’s due: original cover from the official Avalon site, new cover from Amazon.

Trial by Fire: First Impressions

A long time ago, back when the original editions of Avalon were published, I bought the first six books all at once, thinking that that was the entire series. (The Quest for Magic / second half of the series hadn’t been released yet.) So when I finally got around to Trial by Fire, I thought, “OMG! This is it, the end we’ve all been waiting for! Everyone will fulfill their part of the prophecy, Avalon will be found, and the Sorceress will be defeated! Yay! This will be so freaking awesome.” And believe it or not, all of that happened, and I thought it was a satisfying end to my favorite guilty-pleasure series. Granted, that was before a) Quest for Magic was published and poorly tacked on that BS with the Power Crystals, and b) the new editions came out and added information on the original party and the Sorceress’ past that better connects both halves of the series.

So, if Avalon was a video game, Trial by Fire would be the Disk One Final Dungeon, which looks like the end, but totally isn’t. I mean, come on, the party raids the Sorceress’ lair, Kara reaches the Gates of Avalon, Stormbringer sacrifices herself, and the party defeats the Sorceress … and then in the next book (or at the end of this one in the new edition), the party discovers they have to collect Mineral MacGuffins and save the Magic Web. It’s like Final Fantasy VI, where you blow up the sky fortress … and then have to run around in the World of Ruin to find your party and defeat the big bad for good.

Trial by Fire doesn’t fit any of the series’ naming conventions, but it’s a party-centric, arc-ending book like Full Circle. And it totally makes up for the suckitude that is Spellsinger.

I can’t really think of an episode of Jewel Riders that corresponds to this book exactly. The closest I can think of is probably “Jewel Quest”, because in that episode the Jewel Riders raid Kale’s castle, Gwen gets her Sunstone, and the girls kick off their quest to find the Crown Jewels. Anyone else around here who’s watched Jewel Riders and read Avalon can chime in with their opinion, because I’m stumped.

original coverBoth covers do a decent job of showing that things start getting serious at this point. The original cover has Kara in possession of a Fairy Map, with the Sorceress watching her menacingly. Again, this is one of the few times we see a non-party member on the cover — and the only time in either edition that a villain makes a cover appearance! I actually kinda like those weird cat eyes she has. I’ve always liked the border around the image on this cover, too. The design of the Fairy Map … not so much. (Especially after you’ve read the entire series and discovered that the Magic Web looks like a random jumble of pathways, and not like a spider’s web.)

new coverNow, the new cover shows that things might not be in the party’s favor. The party is surrounded by all sorts of dark beasties mounted on giant black horses, and our heroes look like they may be screwed. Look at how freaked out the girls and Ozzie are! (Yay, Ozzie appears on a cover again! Oh, and this is Dreamer’s first cover appearance, too — if you can find him hiding behind the book’s title.) How’re they gonna get out of this mess?

What to expect from this book:

  • Awesome displays of badassery!
  • More fun in everyone’s favorite magical nuclear wasteland!
  • More thinking with portals!
  • Kara finally getting a Sparkly Rock!
  • Zach, the Token Male Character!
  • More powerful and annoying bosses!

Next time: Moonshadow tries to get out of a tiny net.
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Credit where it’s due: old cover from the official Avalon site, new cover from Amazon.

Spellsinger: First Impressions

Spellsinger. Oh my f’ing god Spellsinger. I’m probably echoing 90% of fandom by admitting how much I hate this book. Basically, Kara acts really bitchy — like, out of character bitchy — and (in the original edition) gets rewarded for it. At least the new edition explains her OOC-ness and makes her face the consequences of her actions, but it still doesn’t wash out the bad taste this book leaves in my mouth.

This is also the Obligatory Musical Volume that I’ve been referring to on occasion. Usually when a show resorts to a Musical Episode, it means the showrunners are totally out of ideas. However, Spellsinger has been hinted at since Book 2, so it’s existence is more organic and less “Oh, wouldn’t it be fun if all the characters broke out into song for an entire book?” Of course, you could argue that it exists solely to introduce young readers to Be*Tween songs….

Anyway, this is one of the inter-party conflict books; you can tell because the title is the name of a character class. I know, spellsinging is technically a talent a magic user in the Avalon universe can have, but whatever.

It took me a long while to figure out which Jewel Riders episode this book reminded me of, until I remembered that it followed the plot of what has to be the worst episode of that series: “Fashion Fever”. In that episode, Gwen/Starla is given a shapeshifting dress to wear at the royal fashion show. However, said dress brainwashes the princess into infiltrating the Jewel Keep, obtaining the locations of the remaining Wizard Jewels, and handing the information to Kale and Morgana. Luckily, the other Jewel Riders stop Gwen/Starla from reaching the Keep. The only redeeming part of that episode is that there’s an actual sword fight — which, honestly, I wish there was more of in Jewel Riders.

I don’t have too much to say about the covers, other than that I hate the original one. The girls’ hair colors are badly painted in, Adriane’s wearing a weird silver tracksuit and playing a Daisy guitar (I remember picking up a catalog for them when I first got the book), Kara’s vaguely pointing at something (a Fairy Map, which I didn’t notice until recently), and Emily’s just hanging out. At least the new cover shows the girls playing the correct instruments — Adriane with her Fender Stratocaster, and Emily with her flute. Oh, and Ozzie makes a rare cover appearance.

Just a heads-up: My recaps for this book are going to be very media-intensive. Expect a truckload of video clips — because it’s not a true musical unless there’s music. Also, almost every fight in this book can be illustrated by clips from the Scott Pilgrim movie or video game, and the music from both are way better than Be*Tween’s stuff. (On a side note: am I the only one who hates Be*Tween?)

What to look forward to in this book:
* OOC Kara and Adriane!
* Video clips galore!
* Pimped-out Kara Outfits!
* Really bad music!
* Skrulls!
* Everyone’s favorite German commander-turned-magic koala!

Next time: Kara has mommy issues.
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Credit where it’s due: old cover from the official Avalon site, new cover from Amazon.

A Digression: The Music of Avalon

Since Spellsinger introduces about half the songs that appear in the Avalon series, I thought I would whip up a quick article about them. Below you’ll learn about the songs, who performs them, and where you can find them (if they are available at all).

Who performs these songs?
In the Avalon universe, most of the songs are sung by Be*Tween, a trio of powerful fairy spellsingers. (Technically, one of their songs is covered by Be*Fuddled, a Be*Tween tribute band.) Johnny Conrad, a teen idol who appears briefly in Spellsinger, performs a couple of his hits for the girls and writes special songs for Kara and Adriane. The party composes a few songs towards the end of the series, all of which have very plot-specific use. And then there’s Lorelei’s special song, which Lorelei taught Emily; and a jingle for the Shopping Realm, which is sung by a group of fairy creatures when Kara first visits said realm.

In real life, Be*Tween’s songs are performed by Debra Davis. Two of Be*Tween’s songs (Supernatural High and Golden) and both party-composed songs are written by her. The rest of Be*Tween’s repertoire originally appeared in Jewel Riders, where they’re credited to Jeff Pescetto. The original edition of Spellsinger has lyric credits for Johnny Conrad’s songs, but don’t mention who actually wrote them. As for the other songs in the series, there are no credits listed for them, so I assume Rachael Roberts wrote them.

What are these songs?
Here’s a quick list of the songs, organized by when they first appear in the series:

* Lorelei’s Song [Lorelei]
* Supernatural High [Be*Tween]
* Take a Chance and Dance [Johnny Conrad]
* Friend in You (original edition only) [Be*Tween]
* Better [Adriane]
* The Door / Shine Your Light (name and lyrics are changed in new edition) [Kara]
* I Put a Spell on You [Johnny Conrad]
* Spirit of Avalon [Be*Tween]
* Feel the Magic [Be*Tween]
* Music by Heart [the party]
* Earth Song [the party]
* Golden [Be*Tween]
* Shopping Realm Theme [a random group of magical creatures]

Where can you hear or obtain these songs?
Recordings only exist for Supernatural High, Friend in You, Spirit of Avalon, Feel the Magic, and Golden. You can download them from the official Avalon site, or listen to them on YouTube. Even though Music by Heart and Earth Song are credited to Debra Davis, I haven’t found recordings of them yet.

When Spellsinger was originally published, you could get a CD with Supernatural High, Spirit of Avalon, and an excerpt of Circles in the Stream if you bought your copy from Borders. I’ve seen the CD floating around on Amazon, and I’ve heard of people getting this album from Rachael Roberts after writing fan letters to her.

If you watched Jewel Riders, three of the above songs will totally be recognizable to you — unless you were unlucky like me and didn’t have the last two episodes of the series air in your region. Friend in You played in “Full Circle” (around 6:30 in the first clip), Spirit of Avalon could be heard in the background in “Spirit of Avalon” (around 3:15 in the second clip), and Feel the Magic was prominent in “Song of the Rainbow” (1 minute into the third clip, and it repeats often throughout) — albeit all with a different band singing them:

In addition to the songs above, there is an “Avalon Orchestral Suite” that was available on the audiobook. That, too, is available for download on the official Avalon site.

That’s just about everything I know about the music in the series. If I missed anything, you’re free to correct me.

Secret of the Unicorn, Chapter 14: The Shout

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 11.)

In the aftermath of the Unwinnable Boss Battle, Emily — with the help of some refugees — dispels the rest of the party. At least Emily’s smart about who she dispels first: she snaps Kara out of her trance, then uses an amplified Dispel to aid everyone else. With everyone back to normal, Emily suggests that the party follow Lorelei and the harpy through the now-closing portal in order to save their new unicorn friend. The party is skeptical about the whole venture, but they eventually agree to follow Emily through the portal. As Adriane succinctly puts it: “One jumps, we all jump!”

And so Emily, Adriane, Kara, Ozzie, and Ghyll jump into the portal, and find themselves on the Magic Web.

Okay, a quick digression here: this is the first time we get to see the mechanics of traveling on the Magic Web without direct portals. In the Avalon series, magic users can follow strands of the web, usually by floating around in protective magic bubbles. Later on in the series, the girls figure out how to calibrate portals so they can reach their exact destination without all the floating around. The method is similar to that in Jewel Riders, in which the main characters wear magical armor to protect themselves when riding in the Wild Magic. However, in that series the characters use Travel Trees (similar to the portals in Avalon in that they’re marked by natural features) to reach certain locations on the portal network; it isn’t until the second half the series that they learn to glide around freely.

Anyway, the party find Lorelei and the harpy on a nexus, a location on the Magic Web where many strands (and thus portals) meet. The harpy is forcing Lorelei to open a new portal, but gets distracted by the party’s arrival. She takes the opportunity to reveal a secret: Ghyll isn’t a flobbin, and he wants Lorelei’s magic. This pisses off the party enough to resume their Boss Battle!

Boss: Harpy (take two!)
Do I need to repeat myself here? Oh, this time her spells do radiation damage, too.

Emily remembers that Lorelei was able to break the harpy’s spell by singing, so she tells the party to do the same. Ozzie and Ghyll chime in, Adriane sings a Wolfsong, and Kara … well, just watch the clip below.

Apparently Kara’s utter lack of singing ability is Super Effective, because it stuns the harpy — but not before the harpy counters with a radioactive shout of her own and disintegrates the strands of web under Kara’s feet. Before Kara falls into nothingness, Ghyll manages to save her — thus redeeming him of whatever wrongs the harpy accused him of.

Lorelei is freed from the harpy’s spell by Kara’s singing, and interrupts the battle by agreeing to take the harpy to some secret location (her home in the original edition). The harpy’s all like, “Yay, at last I’ll reach Avalon, where all dreams come true!” Lorelei opens a new portal, and the two enter.

But the boss battle can’t end this way, so the party follows them.

Status Update!
Emily learned Dispel!
Kara learned a new spellsong that I need a name for!

Next time: Let’s bring this singing battle to a close!

Secret of the Unicorn: First Impressions

Yay, I found a computer!

It’s harder to detect Emily-centric books by their titles: this book and Song of the Unicorns make it obvious, because they both mention unicorns; but then you have Heart of Avalon and (arguably) Circles in the Stream, which break the pattern. I guess what marks them as Emily books is their general themes — basically, Emily has to face some challenge that involves healing or controlling magic in some fashion. She at first has her doubts whether she can aid an animal, but after a while she finds the inner strength to succeed at her task. My only problem is that Emily doesn’t encounter anything especially trying until very late in the series, when she discovers that she can also cause harm; then she spends the last book realizing that she must find a balance between healing and killing. And since none of this development occurs until the last quarter of the series, the earlier Emily books are kind of boring for me to get through. (Not as bad as most Kara-centric books, however.)

Secret of the Unicorn is the first book to blend together a few Jewel Riders plots. Here it’s “Shadowsong” (in which Tamara follows a mysterious song that leads her to a distressed unicorn) plus some elements from “Song of the Rainbow” (in which Tamara is charmed by a magic harp when playing a certain song) and “Jewel Quest” (well, only the parts in which Sunstar doubts her ability to fly).

I can’t really comment on the covers, since they are very similar. They both show Emily and a unicorn hanging out in vaguely wintry places. At least in the new edition Emily remembers to dress accordingly for the weather. The original edition cover places Emily’s Sparkly Rock (which has been called the Rainbow Jewel since some point in Cry of the Wolf) in the forefront, but … I hate how it’s depicted. It’s some sort of rainbow-banded stone, instead of the color-changing crystal dandelion it’s usually described as. And isn’t it supposed to be in some sort of silver bracelet now? Whatever, the differences are just cosmetic; the essence of the covers are the same. Oddly enough, this is one of the few times I prefer the original cover to the new one….

What to expect from this book:

  • Emily healing many animals!
  • More Fletcher family issues!
  • Marching band!
  • The party’s first foray onto (into?) the Magic Web!

Next time (whenever that is): Emily considers auditioning for the marching band.

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Credit where it’s due: original cover from the official Avalon site, new cover from Amazon.

Cry of the Wolf, Chapter 14: Behind Enemy Lines

Adriane comes to in a sack that’s apparently being carried into some subterranean vault by Scorge. How does she know this? Because a) she’s going downhill, and b) Scorge hums a rather distinctive tune. Okay, it’s not much of a tune, just a bunch of pathetic hummmawahwah.

Eventually she’s dropped, and the sack is opened. Adriane has an oh crap moment: she’s in the Dark Sorceress’s lair, and Scorge is groveling like an idiot (talking just like a Dweasel from Jewel Riders). Apparently he was supposed to bring Drake (which he thought was a gigantic Sparkly Rock) to the Sorceress. The Sorceress gets pissed and gets her Yuan-ti Reptilicon guards to send Scorge to the dungeons. (The book doesn’t give a name for the guards’ species, but it’s up on the original series’ site.)

Now alone with Adriane, the Sorceress interrogates her. The Sorceress soon learns that a) Drake hatched and is hiding somewhere, and b) Adriane has fully tuned her Wolf Stone, so the Sorceress can’t steal it. She then goes at length about how a bond between a human and a magical animal lasts for life, and then tries to coerce Adriane into summoning the mistwolves. This plays out differently in both editions; I went into depth on the subject in the comments a few weeks ago, but if you missed out, here’s how it goes down in the original.

“The truth is, Avalon doesn’t exist.”

[...] “Oh, there are are places of magic out there and that’s what this fight is all about. We all want magic. But this mythical place, this home of all magic — it’s all made up, just like your fairy tales. [...] So you think very carefully about whose side you are on. What you really want.”

One problem with this: if Avalon doesn’t exist, why are the girls searching for Avalon? I guess you can argue that the Sorceress didn’t pass the test at the Gates of Avalon (i.e., she didn’t see the Gates), but that doesn’t mesh with what happens at the end of the series. The revised edition changes this entire conversation as so:

“Avalon is not what you think it is.”

[...] “You are afraid to be here. You think this is all some perversion of the precious magic that binds you to these animals. Now amplify that fear a thousand fold and you have a small sense of what Avalon truly is. The only chance you have of actually entering Avalon is by working with me. [...] Give me what I need — what we need — to open the gates.”

A little spoiler: the Sorceress is totally telling the truth. And the only way she would know this is if she had been to Avalon before, thus contradicting her statements in the original edition.

Anyway, Adriane refuses to summon the mistwolves, so she’s thrown into a dungeon with a bunch of irradiated (or dead) animals, obviously the failed results of whatever it is the Sorceress is up to. This is the rather anvilicious anti-animal-testing part of the story: “Ah, the Sorceress is evil because she does horrid experiments on cute animals! Oh, and she magically nuked a good chunk of Aldenmor, too — but still, THINK OF THE ANIMALS.”

Adriane finds a mistwolf amongst them — Silver Eyes, the missing pack leader (who mysteriously has gold eyes in the original edition). She frees her from her glass cage (because mistwolves can only be trapped in glass), but Adriane contracts radiation poisoning due to making magic with a bunch of irradiated animals. She resigns herself to a slow death with the others….

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • The Sorceress claims that the Fairimentals have used humans, not human magic users, to help them find Avalon.
  • The pegasus in the Sorceress’s prison doesn’t address Adriane as “magic user” when she arrives.

Next time: A proper dungeon crawl!

Cry of the Wolf, Chapter 7: It Wasn’t a Rock!

Jewel Riders fans: if you were wondering where the hell all the references to the show were hiding, you’re in luck. This chapter has a few.

So Adriane and Rocky get saved by some dude (Zachariah, henceforth called Zach) and his griffin (Wind Dancer). Zach’s never met another human before, especially a female, so there’s some awkward poking around (be glad this is a children’s book!) before Adriane learns the truth. There isn’t much time for commiseration, though: the party’s being tracked by something nasty. Zach pilots Wind Dancer through the Serpent’s Teeth, a treacherous gorge full of spikes and mist and other hazards. If this sounds familiar to a Jewel Riders fan, that’s because it’s totally a reference to this scene from the episode “Travel Trees Can’t Dance”, where Gwenevere and Sunstar fly through an equally treacherous gorge full of spikes and other hazards (first minute or so only):

Anyway, the party safely arrives in a very pretty — and not irradiated — valley. Zach gives Adriane some food, and Adriane washes Rocky in a nearby stream. Adriane immediately finds out that Rocky is actually a stunningly beautiful speckled rock, and not a boring brown possibly-irradiated rock. There’s a scene similar to this is the Jewel Riders episode “Shadowsong”, in which Tamara washes the titular Shadowsong upon first meeting him and discovers he’s a blue and purple-striped unicorn. (Sorry for the lack of video: there’s no clips on YouTube. Check out the full episode on Kidlet, or just take my word for it.)

Oh, but Rocky isn’t a rock! It’s a rock lobster magic egg of some sort! No wonder everyone wants it!

After Zach goes on about his parents dying when he was little and being raised by a bunch of animals, he runs off to put the food away. Adriane takes this opportunity to contact Stormbringer again. At least Moonshadow has the courtesy to tell Adriane why she’s not invited in the mistwolf pack: a human killed the former pack leader!

But wait! Isn’t Zach the only human on Aldenmor? Dun-dun-dun!

Next time: Adriane finally gets in touch with the rest of the party.