Aurore

CDC2 Ancient Wonders: the Moonbird Mausoleum [Chronicles of Embervale Episode 2]

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I thought I'd never been able to finish that build in time for the challenge...It's my biggest MOC so far, and hands down my most complex one. I don't even know how many trials and errors it took before those wings actually looked like wings!
Anyways...here is my entry to the GOH Anniversary 2nd count down challenge, in the "Ancient Wonders" category.

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The build:
A druidic mausoleum, deep in the Enchanted Forest of Avalonia...

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The story: Chronicles of Embervale Episode 2 - the Moonbird Mausoleum
Read the previous episode

Featuring…
Alrune                  The Elf Maiden, Lady of Embervale, mage
Dresghar             The Chronicler, her uncle, erudite
Evrart                    A soldier
Ancient heroes, long forgotten


"Uncle, would you please pay attention?" Alrune cried out, desperately trying to drag him away from the lute he was tuning. "I’m reading you a message from mom!"
"What does my august sibling want?" he asked, out of pure courtesy.
"She wants a heart."

How great, this time he did react: he was raising an eyebrow.
"A heart? Well, I knew she didn’t have one, but I thought she was unaware of it," he sneered.
"And not just any heart. She wants the heart of some girl named Lloergan. It seems to be important for her - she even says please. Twice! As if I had nothing better to do than…"
"Lloergan, you said?” Dresghar interrupted. "That’s interesting. What else does she say?"
"Nothing. She has just included an antique map, with a red..."

He snatched the map from her before she could finish her sentence. She rolled her eyes – with him, there was no such thing as a middle ground. Seconds ago he did not give a damn, and all of a sudden he was like a kid on Midwinter morning. 
"Druidic. From the First Era, I’d say. Most probably authentic," he mumbled, inspecting the map.
"So what?"
"So it’s likely to show the actual location of Lloergan’s mausoleum, sweetheart."
"Holy pretzel, Uncle! Am I supposed to understand what you’re babbling about? Who’s that girl?"

He cast her a bemused look.
"What, you’ve never heard about her?"
She let out a sigh as a few notes suffused, and he began to sing an hour-long epic drama – the story of Lloergan.

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It was a rather classic legend, featuring an impossible romance, feuding families, and many curses. But in the end, it all boiled town to a shapeshifter, a druid of ancient times, who gave her life protecting her people from an – of course – evil sorcerer.
After her tragic fall, struck by a wicked spell, nothing intact remained of her but her heart. The druids of her circle embalmed it and placed it inside a mausoleum built in her honour, somewhere deep in the ancient forest, in a place long forgotten.

"And that’s the heart your mother is coveting," Dresghar concluded. "Given the remote location of the mausoleum, there is a chance it has been preserved from tomb raiders and other inquisitive adventurers. Especially when youngsters like you have so little knowledge of ancient lore!"
"Whatever. I’ll send Evrart. He’ll retrieve that heart and mom will leave me alone."
"You’ll go with him, sweetheart, this mission may require finesse! Besides, it will do you a world of good to go gallivanting around the forest. You spend way too much time inside with your books and your cats."

---

The Ancient Forest was tinged with gold and speckled with rust, yet still full of life and sounds: the joyous trills of lively birds, the gentle babble of puckish pixies, the rustling of leaves in the fresh breeze. Before long, morning mists would enshroud the lakes. Valleys would echo with the roar of mighty stags. And nature would slowly fall asleep, in a flamboyance of light and colours.
Valiant heart and noble spirit, the Elf Maiden had set forth for the mausoleum of the legendary Lloergan with a single guard. They had ridden for days, following broad paved roads, then proceeding on narrow paths winding through the forest, and finally making their way through the undergrowth.
And soon, in a beautiful glade bathed in sunshine, they reached their destination.

[Excerpt from Dresghar’s later telling of the journey in the Chronicles]

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The druids had built Lloergan’s mausoleum in the shape of her favourite animal form, a moonbird. Its wings spread around a terrace, finely sculpted, the large figure was still pristine centuries later. At its heart, framed by opalescent stones, were a massive silvery urn and three delicate statuettes: Lloergan herself, and her two closest companions.

"I was expecting something more impressive," Alrune mumbled – in blatant bad faith, Evrart judged, given that she was staring at the mausoleum with her eyes wide open.
"And I was expecting a ruin, my lady," he retorted. "Could the heart still be in the urn? This seems way too easy."
"We’ll know it soon. Let’s go and check!"

The heart, skilfully embalmed, was still in the urn.
And there was not a single trap protecting the mausoleum.
No warden.
No protection spell Alrune could detect.

The situation was quickly getting on Evrart’s nerves. His conscience already bothered him about desecrating the grave of a hero and, somehow, seeing said grave be so cooperative with plunderers made their mission feel even wronger to him.

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"That’s ridiculous!" he grumbled at the end of the day. "How can a centuries old, so-called forgotten place be so…immaculate? Apart from a few leaves on the ground, it’s impeccable. No wild grass, no creeper, not even a proper crack in the stone! And the heart is still there, just like the stones and the statuettes!"

Alrune shrugged.
"We’re in the ancient forest. Maybe some hermit comes from time to time to clean up? Anyways, no-one remembers that place and no-one ever passes by. There’s no-one to damage the mausoleum and loot its riches."
"Well, that is, except from us. Aren’t we precisely here to loot the most precious relic from this place?"

A frown crossed the elf’s face, and she did not answer. 
As she spent the rest of the day sulking, giving her guard one-word orders and replies, he began to suspect his remark had hit a nerve.

---

In the middle of the night, while he was sleeping fitfully, he was suddenly startled awake by a harrowing cry shortly followed by a low rumbling. Still drowsy, he drew his sword and rushed towards a faint halo gleaming in the direction of the mausoleum.
As a second thundering noise resounded, he spotted Alrune firing some kind of shockwave at two spectral beings hovering and wailing around her.

"What happened?" he shouted, rushing at her side before realising his bland steel weapon would have no effect on their opponents.
"I don’t know! I was in the mausoleum, and they attacked me!"

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One of the ghosts brushed past him, cold and distressing, and he felt his strength failing him. The constant howling of the creatures kept ringing in his ears, clouding his judgement, slowing his moves. He stumbled, struggling to keep his balance.

He suddenly sensed a sharp discharge of energy, and his sword became colder in his hand. It occurred to him that the blade was now enshrouded in a shadowy, ethereal mist: the elf had cast something on it.
He heard her yelling something indistinct, seconds before the rumbling of one of her magic attacks rolled again.
One of the ghosts vanished in a last shriek.

Evrart pulled himself together and attacked the other one. He had been a man-at-arms since he was strong enough to wield a weapon, and his combat reflexes came back quickly. Already weakened by Alrune’s spells and vulnerable to the now magic sword, the second spectre soon disappeared like the first one.

"Why the heck were you alone in the mausoleum in the middle of the night?" Evrart asked more harshly than he actually intended, while glancing around to ensure that no threat remained.
"I was putting the heart back in the urn. I can’t…do that anymore. Obey orders I don’t understand. Do fishy things on the whim on my mother. I’m fed up with her caprices and dubious plans!"

Evrart remained silent for a moment. The lady’s words sounded somewhat bratty and unclear to him, and he had no idea what kind of things she had done before he got to know her. Anyways. Whatever her reasons, her decision of putting the heart back seemed fair to him.

"If you were setting things right, then why did the ghosts attack you?" he finally asked. "They were Lloergan’s two companions, weren’t they?"
"I think so. But they were probably not protecting the mausoleum anymore. Most spirits fade after un-death, losing conscience and memory. They might not remember who they were, nor where they were. Then nothing heroic remained in them, only the cold and despair at being trapped in between worlds."

---

When they left the place at dawn, Evrart turned back one last time before entering the woods behind the elf.

And there, in the morning mist floating over the mausoleum, he distinguished the faint figure of a beautiful lady all clad in white, watching them leave with a smile on her pale face.

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Spoiler

Bonus photo : meet the cast!

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And if anyone's wondering, the background I used for the illustrations photos is a painting from 1870, the "Autumn of the Hudson" by Charles Wilson Knapp, here on wikimedia commons.

 

Edited by Aurore
Removed the first spoiler section

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This gave me Dragon Age vibes, and I *love* getting Dragon Age vibes! Not that they have a monopoly on ancient magical ruins, far from it. Perhaps it's the colours or something. :dhappy:

The moonbird looks amazing, the rocky wings look like actual wings. You hit a very nice balance with the translucent blue pieces too! And I also think that you have done the terrain very well. I especially like the fallen leaves on the ground, they look great on the rocky steps. 

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This is incredible.  The Moonbird is just gorgeous, your building skills are really on display here.  As said by @Frike it does look like a scene straight out of a video game.  Great story and ghost figs look menacing.  I like the fall foliage around the build too.  The chronicles of Embervale are coming along nicely.  

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The moonbird looks fantastic and is very eye-catching, and definitely looks like it was challenging to get it looking so good. I also like the fountain and curved staircase, they really tie together the front of the monument. And the fallen leaves and fall colors throughout the landscape really make the whole scene pop!

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Amazing sculpting, the wings... perfect protective curl.  Incredible work getting them to look feathery and fluffy and the head is also top notch (except maybe from straight on... if it had been me I would have taken all the shots from at least a slight angle).  I'm running out of adjectives to express how impressed I am by the moonbird, it's breathtakingly lovely and from the little I've tried to build this kind of thing I know how difficult it can be!

Also a great layout with the curving stairs.  And the pictures with a background are so good--if that's an edit it's super impressive, or did you shoot against a screen?  This is totally worthy of the "ancient wonder" category, so glad you stuck with it, it turned out fantastic.

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That shaping for the wings is amazing, and the fig posing and other details too, lovely work here! Indeed a wonder :wink: .

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@Frike Thank you so much! The Dragon Age vibe might not be entirely coincidental (yet subconscious), as I designed the scene and began the build while re-playing Dragon Age Inquisition... :laugh:

@zoth33 Thank you very much! So glad you also appreciate the story.

@LordDan Thank you so much! I'm somewhat relieved the moonbird ended up looking good... :sweet:

@Kai NRG Thank you so much for all those kind words! I'm sure I just blushed (but no-one can see it, so it's not really a problem). I agree with you that the head looks quite...square and flat viewed straight from the front - but I have not managed to make it better. 
PS : the backdrop I used for some of the pictures is a painting from 1870, the "Autumn of the Hudson" by Charles Wilson Knapp!

@W Navarre Thank you very much! I have to admit I had a lot of fun with the posing of the minifigs... :grin:

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1 hour ago, Aurore said:

PS : the backdrop I used for some of the pictures is a painting from 1870, the "Autumn of the Hudson" by Charles Wilson Knapp!

Oh I see, so you literally used the painting, that's really cool!  I was thinking maybe you'd digitally edited it in or pulled it up on a monitor and stuck that behind your build... I'm such a millennial. :laugh:

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4 minutes ago, Kai NRG said:

Oh I see, so you literally used the painting, that's really cool!  I was thinking maybe you'd digitally edited it in or pulled it up on a monitor and stuck that behind your build... I'm such a millennial. :laugh:

Aaah, OK - now I understand better! :laugh: I indeed used a physical reproduction of the painting as the backdrop (with a little bit of good old printed paper underneath the build to blend with the scene).
I had initially thought of using a screen as a backdrop too (I'm a millennial too!), but from a logistical point of view, it was easier to use a basic paper backdrop...

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This is special Aurore! Can’t imagine the trial and error to get the plumage right, but it has definitely paid off. Even the plumes of the cheeks are spot on. The swoop/curve of the wings around the platform is really organic, too.

I especially like that shot where the blue sprite is visible out of focus in the background.

Perfect use of the heart decorated 1x1 round brick. 😁

One minor criticism, I felt the background image from Autumn of the Hudson didn’t really match the text. It sounds like the build is within a forest glade/undergrowth. But that doesn’t go to the build itself.

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@Eyrezer Thank you so much! It feels so motivating to read your feedback about the wings!
And for the landscape...now that you say it...that's right! I've looked for something big enough to use as a backdrop, representing a landscape with colours that would complement the build....and did not update the story. :facepalm:  :ugh:
Hrm.
You know, those old maps often contain information that's not relevant anymore nowadays. And Dresghar has the unfortunate tendency to write what he has in mind regardless to the reality? Makes sense, right? :innocent2:

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Wow.  This thing is impressive.  The stone bird is magnificent!  The time you took to build it was well worth it!  Love the story that goes with this.  Lots of imagination, and it compels the reader.  The fall scenery is gorgeous, and I love the symmetry and detail you have in the stairs.  Nice touch with the painting background as well.  What is that lute piece in the library picture?  I don't recognize it.  And the heart piece?  I didn't even know they made that.  I think the spell casting scene is my favorite.  Lots of implied action!  The minis are awesome, as usual.  You have a great eye for them and some nice parts!  Keep up the great work!

Edited by Grover

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Gorgeous work, I love the color scheme and the beautifully sculpted mausoleum. Really enjoying the story as well. Keep up the great work!

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Excellent work on this whole build! It's great to see your characters' stories continue.

As always, your minfigures are top-notch. I especially like the use of that Xialing torso on Lloergan's ghost!

That "trial and error" on the moonbird wings really payed off. The whole model looks very organic - something that's hard to pull off in LEGO!

I really like the mausoleum stairs, and all the trans light blue elements, from the fountain to the repurposed Leia hologram and everything in between. I also love the creative parts usage on that urn, the fallen leaves all over the ground, and the pearl gold leaves on the trees. I have some pearl gold leave pieces at home - I've had no idea what to do with them! I always worried they would look out-of-place (ie. not organic enough) on plant life - I'm glad I was wrong!

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Wonderful colors!  The muted color of the ground and grass works well with the leaves (both on and off the trees).  The pictures with the edited-in sky work well too.

The wings are terrific and the curved steps work well around the fountain.

The story was engaging and brought your scene to life!

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So lovely!  The curves in the structure aren't easy from the start, but you really blew us away with all of the ways you created the feathered effect in the bird!  Epic work!  :pir-wub:

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On 10/21/2021 at 10:47 PM, Eyrezer said:

Nice save 😂

Phew! :grin: 
More seriously, thank you for the feedback : I'll keep it in mind next time and have the story proof-read after the photos have been taken, not weeks before...

 

@Grover Thank you so much for this detailed review! The lute comes from the Trolls World Tour theme (sets 41254 and 41258 for the flat silver version). I'm really eager to see the new mould that will come with CMF Series 22's Bard! We'll never have too many musical instrument moulds. 
Also, the heart brick comes from the Monsters Fighters theme (and POTC apparently). I did not know about it either, until I stumbled upon it in the inventory of one of my favourite Bricklink sellers...

@The Stad Thank you very much! I'm so glad you enjoyed the story too! 

@socalbricks Thank you so much! I was skeptical at first with the pearl gold leaves as well, but ended up very happy with the result. They don't look metallic at all, and not even really "pearly"...On the other hand, I tried to use the orange leaves as well but thought their colour was way too saturated for this build. 

@jtooker Thank you very much! I'm definitely relieved the wings do look good to you (and to other commenters too)! 

@mrcp6d Thank you so much for that incredibly motivating comment! :blush:

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this is really good! The shaping of the wings are really nice. The yellow really makes this build pop! Just Wonderful.

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@Servertijd Thank you so much! I'm so glad this contest happened in the beginning of autumn, I was so eager to use the yellow foliage parts...:laugh:

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