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THE WINTER OF FORGOTTEN MEMORIES
A Remembrance of the 'Golden Age'

-Dewpaw Swiftwater
February 19th, 2005

"You were my best friend
And I never ever thought those days would end
But now it seems like they are gone
What more can I say
I never wanted it to be this way
And where the hell is yesterday
We sure had a blast"
- make it last, the ataris


Say what you want or what you will, but once upon a time you ventured forth and found something that drew you in and captured you. At one point for so many of us, that thing was the ROC. Known as the ROC, the Redwall Online Community was as far reaching as it was strong. People from everywhere were part of it. It was one of the friendliest and open minded groups of RPers there were.

And now it's dead.

Blame who or what you will, but it is gone. The 'Golden Age' has past us by and won't return again, unfortunately. Those who made it what it was have moved on, and now-a-days it's almost impossible to find a good, open, and updated club.

Many years ago, I played an ottermaid named Dewpaw Swiftwater who ran and played with her friends in a far away place called Camp Willow. She played all day and sang all night and went on missions and guarded the camp with all her friends.

Today, I talked to someone I hadn't talked to in years. Most of us knew her as Ariel Oceantear, the beloved Fleet Commander of Fort Ruddler. I knew her along time ago, when she was just an ottermaid who laughed and chatted at the Inner Fireside with so many more of us. She's not Ariel any longer, not really. Just like I'm no longer Dewpaw.

Now she's a woman, running around and living life like so many other people. Now, when she plays Ariel, like when I play Dewpaw, it's like coming home, in a way. It's like slipping on that old pair of shoes that were worn into just the right fit.

But, like that pair of shoes, it's no longer fitting just right and there are holes in the character or your ability to play the character. I found a midi called DKQRigging today. And it made me sad to listen to it, to know how many hours I spent listening to it as I navigated Camp Willow and as I managed to work my way into the lives of some amazing people.

I can still remember most of what we did then. I can clearly remember snow ball fights. I can remember having the 'older' ones chase several of us 'young' ones around with reeds and try and tickles us. I remember playing music with others. I remember being taught how to fight. I remember being protected when someone came from one of the rival Vermin clubs. There were always bunches of us at the Inner Fireside, doing something.

And there always were. Me, Arial, Sunswirl, Thrugg, Guimuss, Hazel, Jessup, Shoots, Etian, Swifta, Bella, Flux, Hurricane, Rudder, Tundra, Danfur, Nip, Sandfur, Jolt, Marty, Windstar, and many others that I can't recall so many years and seasons down the road.

At Salamandastron Dance there were probably a couple thousand characters. Many came only a few times, some were there for years. Towards the end something had happened. The quality of the role playing had gone down the creativity in the characters had gone down.

No longer were the days where the characters voyaged the seas together to fight off great evils. No longer did the clubs war with one another. Slowly, the characters that got killed off outnumbered those that returned. And slowly new ones stopped coming.

What ever the cause, and there are many theories on that, it happened. Slowly people disappeared and slowly our interests turned to other places. Camp Willow shut down while it was still going strong. A part of me grieves for it, because it didn't live out its life. But a part of me is happy and feels glad that it never fell into such disrepair as some of the others that I have stumbled across.

It's Friday night. Before InsideTheWeb shut down the original Sali (Salamandastron Dance) there would be plenty of people on there, ready to interact, ready to have a character pull up a bar stool and talk to you. Now, no one has posted all day, and my feelings say no one will. InsideTheWeb was a blessing and a bane. It paved the way for free message boards, made us expect them free, made us make sure there were free ones. But the service was horrendous and the boards were often slow. The down time was high. But everyone knew how to get there and everyone had the url tucked securely away somewhere.

When they closed, we lost a thousand souls to the winds. When they closed, I lost so many friends I didn't know I'd miss until I realized they were gone for good.

It's hard, sometimes, to realize just how long ago that was. I played in the ROC for several years, upwards of four I believe. I was a Captain on the ship the Spraydancer at Fort Ruddler, a place many of the Camp Willow alumni made the jump to. I made my mark in the map of the Roc, I put in my two cents and I tried to make friends with everyone.

I can spell Salamandastron in my sleep now. I can't spell much else, but that I can spell. I can tell you what you can and can't do if someone attacks you, and could reason out why. I still use actions when I talk to people on line. The pieces of my RPing days are there still, just waiting to be picked up. I don't know if I ever seriously will again though.

I saw a link for Dark Mouse Cove and I felt a flare of aggressiveness. They say old habits die hard, but I didn't know that five years after Camp Willow closed and I was no longer an enemy of the club I would still have that reaction. It made me laugh, to realize that I'd been so involved in the ROC. That I'd felt so strongly.

It was winter, when as a young Redwall fan, I found my way into Camp Willow. It was winter time, and it was cold, they said, and snow was everywhere and the ships were iced into the cove. I was taken up by Ariel Oceantear, Summer Snow and Jessup Orblan. Etain Whitewater became my twin, because we'd joined within hours of each other, were close in age, and acted alike.

Not very much longer, maybe a few years, the Commander of Camp Willow would step down. He would leave it in the very capable hands of his second, and he would disappear. Three months later, Camp Willow closed for remodel.

It never opened its gate again.

Slowly, every site has closed its gates or doors, or dispersed its players to the winds. Slowly, the ROC has been abandoned. Every now and then we might venture back, just as I have, and take a trip down memory lane.

The ROC's gate will never truly be closed to someone who wants to get there. But its gates are no long wide open, guarded by the hares and otters and squirrels and mice and foxes and rats and ferrets and weasels and wolves and wildcats and hawks and badgers who lived with in our imaginations. It's still there though, guarded by our memories.

-Dewpaw Swiftwater

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