I've never told this story before, mainly because the end of it was a painful memory for me. That time has passed now, and I think it's time to tell this chapter of Rangerphile history. The Chat Pack started pretty much by accident. Chris (Dale) Birkett and Stacey (Chipette) Hunt were on the Off-Topic Board with me one late December night in 1998 and we were eager to talk with each other. IM wasn't an option then, so we took over Julie's board and chatted on there all night long, literally knocking everything else off the page.
The Founding of the Pack
Julie kindly didn't hold a grudge, but gave us enough of a hint that we should find a place of our own for such talks. So it was that Dale established the Chat Pack on InsideTheWeb. At first, it was just the three of us, and since we were still in the "discovery" stage of finding out things about each other it was a glorious time. Dale and I would go 8 hours at a time some nights. Fact. In fact, I'll prove it by showing you the archive I have of our all-night Monopoly Tournament where I had a Monopoly board with all the pieces and we developed rules that allowed us to play the game online. It was a blast.
The Town of Chateau Pax
As more people became aware of the Pack and more Rangerphiles joined the community, we gained the comradeship of Shao and Waythorn. I know they're no longer around, but they're both people who earned my respect and I'd like to chronicle them as part of the summary. Shao was (at the time) a student at Colorado State and Waythorn was working in Florida at a haunted castle in the middle of theme park country.
When those two joined the Pack, something rather unique happened. Many nights when I would be alone on the Pack and looking for anyone else to talk with, I'd do some narration--often about being on a dusty street in the middle of a ghost town. Well, that idea spread and the town of Chateau Pax was born--mainly due to Waythorn. We began writing collaborative stories about the town. It started with the Chateau Pax Hotel, and I helped to "build" the town from there with such places as the Five-Star Final, The Sazerac Saloon (no alcohol), the old jail, the mining office, the candy shoppe, etc.
Soon, we were developing stories around the town, which gave the town even more definition. We learned that the hotel had secret rooms, extra floors beyond what looked possible, a floor where the "Ranger Elite"--those founding but unseen members of the Rangerphiles--now stayed, and a portal to the basement of Ranger Headquarters (described in "Trite Fright Night") that allowed us to access the Rangers directly.
Waythorn loved the tales of Redwall, and brought them into Chateau Pax in the form of The Fairwoods--a world where rabbits were sentient and there were no humans. All of us (including the Rangers) had several memorable adventures in the Fairwoods, and most of those I have saved as well as the adventures in Chateau Pax.
The Chat Pack Stories
As time passed, the group drew closer together. We would often have arguments over the details of the town, particularly when it came to adding new things. Waythorn--who was a rabbit in the collaborative stories--was an environmental conservative, and often he and Chipette would butt heads when it came to adding things like swimming pools. Still, we managed to find compromises that suited everyone.
The collaborative stories were wildly creative, and included such characters as the Rangers, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Fantastic Four, The X-Men, and original characters like the mysterious Indian Three Crows and the villains like the mighty X and the odious Canadian lumberjack villain Avalanche Le Shock. Perhaps I'll post some of them in the future, if the others say it's okay.
Often, I spent time writing with Chipette, who had an even larger imagination than I did. We both had superhero characters (E-Man and Animollie, respectively) and they'd often clash or do team-ups in varied adventures. From those, we created E-Man's home world of Idelia, Animollie's home planet of Novarus, Chipette's world of Nuttaria, and challenge after challenge for all the main characters. It was a fun time to look back on, for sure.
The sad part came when our collective world came to a crashing halt. It's not easy for me to say it, but for the record I will. The downfall of the Pack was primarily my own fault for not thinking out my own actions. Waythorn and I were an excellent writing duo, and because of that I allowed myself to write stories with him that were much darker than I was comfortable with. One day, I realized I couldn't in good conscience go any further, so I pulled back, but I overreacted and ended up causing a lot of personal pain for Waythorn and everyone else there as well. I'd betrayed a friend's trust, which is just about the worst thing I think anyone can do. It created a rift in the Pack that never really healed and it's never been the same since.
There is a good part to this, though. I made peace with Shao and about a year later, Waythorn and I talked and we made peace as well. I was grateful for that, because I felt that what had happened didn't need to happen and if I'd been a little more mature it probably wouldn't have. In fact, I matured a great deal because of that. Still, that's in the past. There was a brief revival of the Pack for a year or so at another site, but now that too has gone the way of history.