"Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscrib'd
In one self place; for where we are is hell,
And where hell is there must we ever be"
- C. Marlowe
Killed by a wolf! I'd be the laughing stock of the entire guild. Never mind that I'd taken down two great cats -- solo -- and snagged their pelts. Killed by a wolf? And one who con'd gray to boot. Lag, I'd say. Yes, server lag. Blame the server. Maybe no one would find out. They'd be too busy with the raid on Big D.
"Wait for me, guys," I said over voice chat. "Be right there."
I quickly turned off the channel, not wanting to hear the replies. I guessed I had about an hour before they started. But what to do?
Just then, a white-robed figure appeared on the edge of the woods. I tabbed him. Avergil, Sorcerer. Con'd white. And a Lighter. The wolf snarled and leapt at him, but with a gesture he flayed it alive, the skin vanishing into his inventory before the corpse had even hit the ground. He saw me, /smiled and walked over to my corpse.
"ned hlp?" he typed into /whisper.
"yes," I /whispered. "wyw?"
"k wat then?"
I considered for a moment. If I ran back to the nearest safe respawn point I'd never make it to the raid on time, but if I reformed right here with a rez...
"unid purple dagger?"
"rez and I show."
With a /wave of his hands, color returned quickly to my vision... but not my life globe. I was alive, but barely. Lesser Rez. Stellar. It'd take twenty minutes to shed death debuffs now. I'd be a sitting duck for anything between here and the raid, even with all the health pots along the way. Unless...
"dagger?" he typed.
"You don't have voice?" I said out loud.
"no mic," he typed. "can here u tho."
Probably for the best; chances are he hadn't hit puberty yet. And what with the awful spelling... I shuddered.
"Dagger is on my mule," I said. "But I can't swap characters right now. I'm in the middle of a raid."
"Listen, why don't you walk me to my raid and you can have the dagger then."
"Big D," I said. "You can take all the kills and loot we get on the way."
He thought about this for a second.
"k. inv plz."
I /invited him, and he accepted. With no time to spare, I ran up the hill.
"no that way," he /said, heading towards the cliffs. "i led thru cave." I /followed, praying no Darkers would see me kowtowing to a Light Sorcerer...
* * *
A horde of players were clustered around the cave entrance, and my fps nearly dropped into the teens. Half of them con'd green. I /lol'd.
"nutrls," typed Avergil. "cant get in."
He was right, of course. You had to be aligned with a faction -- either good or evil -- to get in this new zone. The designers hadn't intended for anyone to stay neutral past the first few levels. No doubt they'd patch something in to get around it soon, but for now a sizable portion of the game population were unable to get at all the new loot in this expansion. How human, to be given a battle between good and evil, and yet be unwilling to choose either Light or Dark.
The channel filled with profanity, and I /muted a bunch of people as we moved past, feeding the gatekeeper a few gold for the privilege of passing into a red-lit safe area. Just inside was another group of idlers, but these weren't neutrals or noobs -- merely /afkers, some of them hours along, waiting for raids to start. The afk banners over their heads were acronym city: "afk," "lfg afk", "lfg 2 raid brb," and the bewildering "bbq snd tell."
I /followed Avergil out of the castle and into the first PVE subarea. Here, amidst a bad environmental effect approximating a rainstorm, there were actual active groups, the majority clustered around a few spawn points, waiting for the mobs to spawn in. As soon as one did -- a succubi, from the looks of it -- she was toast, one-shot, corpse stripped bare of weapons, gear and even clothes before the death animation finished. One of the players removed his armor to hump the face of the dead mob. Female avatar, but I knew better.
Why did I play this game again?
The next subarea was completely empty, a group of hard core gamers having evidently cleared the zone for us. I snuck a peek, watched them dice over the corpse of a helldog lying in the muck, but Avergil kept running, and I didn't want to risk turning /follow off, lest I lose him.
Avergil one-shotted the guardian mob for the next zone with a death spell, and we moved on into a rocky valley, filled with priests, both Dark and Light, all of them dutifully chipping away at the unholy stone that only they could mine. And then, at the edge of a thin band of swampland, we suddenly stopped.
"buffs," typed Avergil, /pointing. "wall."
Now I recognized it. The main raid entrance for Darksiders dropped you straight past into the pit, beyond that wall. It would have taken us at least twice as long to get around to this point if we had gone the other way.
Every channel was suddenly filled with profanity, people moaning about their ejection from the other side of the wall, the victims of PVP skirmishes where they caught the wrong end of the sword. A few merely sulked, /emoting rage and sadness, but most -- the youngest of the bunch, from the high pitched voices and bad spelling -- taught me some new four-letter words.
"rdy?" typed Avergil.
I /nodded and /followed him towards the wall, tabbing through a half dozen mobs, all of them conning red. Half casters, to boot.
"You sure about this?" I asked.
"y," typed Avergil. "been thru here lots. u need 2 draw aggro b4 they summon."
Taking him at his word, I switched into my tanking gear and rushed the mobs. It was suicide in the best of circumstances.
"summoned. on the wya i hop."
But his spell finally fired off, and searing white light flared as a winged avatar charred the demons to black ash, its ghostly pair of wings sweeping them away and evaporating all their drops. Irritating, but now we could move inside the wall. Besides, soon enough there would be sweet, sweet raid loot.
I /followed Avergil through the gate.
* * *
PVP land. A sea of corpses and tombs, stretching to the horizon. Here and there, a ghost made a run for its corpse, griefers in pursuit, cackling all the while. We quickly moved on, lest we join the dead.
The field became a slope as it transitioned into the subarea below. Horrible level design here: a minotaur boss with bad AI (which Avergil one-shot), a river of blood, centaurs, black dogs, talking trees, burning sand, a waterfall... I had built better mods in my sleep. Yet there were still players here, and more than a few ghosts. In their midst, a few sad, suicidal players /ooc'd their intention to "quit the game 4evr", and explode all their loot on the ground. Griefer trap, no doubt. Moot, anyway, since Avergil just kept running.
Soon we were at the chasm, within which Big D awaited. I was tempted to just surf down the slope, but Avergil summoned a demon to fly us down, and before I knew it we were standing at the foot of the cliff.
Here I took the lead, avoiding the annoyances I'd run into the last hundred times I'd been through. Guys pretending to be girls to get loot. Flatterers saying how cool our gear looked and hey, did we have any greens to spare. Parasites, building mule characters they'd never use. Healers who had never healed, Sorcerers who had never cast, each existing only to hold loot.
Then there were the gold farmers, the ninja looters and kill stealers, pouncing in to take what was not theirs, the level 70s who got rushed without learning to play, and yes, plenty of griefers, who would gleefully destroy all your gear just to spite you. And, at the bottom of the heap, the haxors and dupers, taking advantage of loopholes in the game rather than playing it properly.
Fortunately, the boss was in an instance, and when we entered things quieted down. We quickly moved past the corpses of the giant guardians slain by my guildmates and onto the lake of ice, where I toggled my guild chat back on.
"On my way!" I said.
"Hurry," said the guild leader. "We got him under five percent."
Out in the middle of the lake, I could see only three people still engaged with D. It looked like another wipe, but there was a chance. If I used all my cooldowns I could probably get a crit chain going, take him out before he one-shot me. It would be glorious, and I'd be the hero.
Without another word, Avergil and I ran towards the center, through a veritable sea of corpses, over thirty of them scattered about, frozen into the ice by D's frost attack. I could almost feel the cameras turning to watch me as we ran by. Me, their savior, at long last.
We'd never killed D before, but we'd made so many attempts that I knew every piece of set dec by heart. Ah, the memories. Back there was where the guild had had the big purge, dumping all our useless Druids and Necromancers. And right over there was where we decided to purge the foreigners from our midst, making us an English-speakers only guild. Keke.
And right here was where I killed Avergil.
"You coming or what?" asked the guild leader.
"One sec," I said.
I stopped, just out of the boss's aggro range, and let Avergil catch up.
"Av," I said. "Let me give you some mana pots."
He dutifully opened a trade window. I moved in close, closed the window, and stabbed him in the face. One-shot kill.
"wtf?" he typed.
"Sorry Av," I said. "I want the kill."
But it was a costly delay. As I turned to close with him, Big D took out the last of my guildmates, and with no one actively engaging him, he wiped the instance clean. There was fire, and then ice, and then my screen went black and white.
* * *
I /released from my corpse and found myself back on the surface, in the dark forest's only respawn point. Avergil, of course, was nowhere to be seen. I doubted I'd ever see him again. Probably for the best.
I had a very short Friends list. But who needed Friends anyway, when you had a Guild?
As if on cue, my guildmates spoke up.
"Nice wipe, Dante," said one.
"tyvm," typed another. "u suk."
"Sorry guys," I said. "Really bad lag today. And then that Lighter tried to aggro me..."
"What were you doing with him anyway?"
"Dunno," I said. "He just /followed me."
"Whatever," the guild leader said. "We can get another attempt in."
I massaged my eyes. How long had I been playing? I looked around for a clock, but there were none in sight.
"Maybe we should call it a night," I said.
"Oh, so you're quitting the guild then?"
"No," I sighed.
"Good. We'll get him this time. Everyone meet at the hill."
I looked up the hill towards the sunrise, but a figure on the edge of my screen caught my eye. I tabbed onto it. Great cat. Leopard, by the look of it. And just beyond, a lion. Blue, but I could use the skins to craft that cloak I'd been wanting to make. Besides, it would only take a second.
"You coming, Dante?" asked the guild leader.
I ran towards the leopard.
"Yeah," I said. "BRT."