Afraid of the Dark

To celebrate the fact that it’s almost All Halllows Eve, I thought I’d write about the things which chill my blood and raise my heartbeat in-game. This list is by no means exclusive and perhaps my choices are a little strange at points but then think how boring life would be if we were all scared by the same things.

The Battle for Darrowshire.

I fully admit that this quest chain has always made me cry but at points it also has me looking over my shoulder. Turning on those you love, forced to slaughter those you swore to protect must be one of the cruelest fates ever devised and whilst the quest chain has changed since it’s epic vanilla proportions, it’s still a must do for all my leveling characters. The Cataclysm revamp also added an even creepier touch by allowing you to pick up a doll from the caravan once you’ve completed the Darrowshire quest chain. This gives you a buff whilst you’re in the Eastern Plaguelands which asks “Is somebody following you?”. The answer to that always sinister question is a yes, as every so often a small figure with plaits will slide into being beside you, follow for a while and then vanish into thin air.

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Old Gods

The first time C’thun whispered me, I stopped healing (almost killing our GM in the process) and generally panicked. I knew it happened, I just wasn’t expecting it to happen to me. Madness runs through my family like contour lines across a map and thus any form of insanity, even when in a video game sends chills down my spine. Too many of my relatives have heard voices (with mixed results) for me to be comfortable receiving the WoW equivalent.

Impaled Orcs

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After I terrified myself reading “The Vampire of Croglin Grange” whilst around seven years old, my Grandmamma told me all about Vlad the Impaler and his hobbies. Now whilst she managed to stop me waking screaming about long talons tapping on my bedroom window in the middle of the night, ever since then, I’ve looked at sharpened sticks in a whole new light.

The Whole of Hillsbrad Foothills

From the fauna

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to the flora

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Hillsbrad has scares aplenty. Whenever I’ve quested through there since Cataclysm, I can’t properly look at those bears whilst killing them. The whole idea of something using another living creature as a nursery has me fighting the urge to stand on a chair screaming my head off.

One touch I think is particularly nice (or nasty) is this crate of scourge grain left to rot in the middle of a little lake, it’s work already done.

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The Jade Witch

There is something about living flesh being turned into unfeeling stone which leaves chills down my spine. That coupled with the fact that I love the darkness behind fairy stories draws me to this particular quest chain whenever I level through the Jade Forest.

Chased

Who doesn’t love the chase, being chased on the other hand.. well that’s a different story. There are two stand out moments for me where I am the hunted, not the hunter.

The first is perhaps one of my favourite quests in the entire game. One which when I encountered it the first time, I panicked, not expecting to be pursued across country by a pack of what are essentially werewolves. With hindsight it’s charm increases as you see the breadcrumbs leading up to this point for what they really are, proper signposts yelling “run away now!”. Every time I complete it though, my heart is in my mouth, expected that once.. just once, those worgen might be faster than the horse.

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The other is the Halls of Reflection, where I find myself secretly half wishing that Arthas would catch us. My dark imagination playing all sorts of tricks in the half light.

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Maybe it’s just me but doesn’t this read like a bad romance? I can just see the cover now, a half naked Arthas, wielding his sword (of course), clutching Jaina to his “manly” chest. I suspect all the ice she’s been throwing about would have melted, leaving her dress clinging to her and possibly some artistic beads of water would be dripping down her cleavage. That said, despite this “cheese” factor, it’s still one of my favourite scary dungeons.

Stitches (and the rest of Duskwood)

Duskwood has it all, betrayal, murdered families and things no longer whole brought back from the dead. From the eyes gleaming in the darkness to the sheer number of tombstones, everything in the zone is geared up to make you glance over your shoulder.

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Rona Greenteeth

The shadow which lies behind the Faire. Another creature of fairy tale, like her name sake “Jenny Greenteeth” she pitches her camp not too far from open water and her goods… well, further proof that we should all be careful what we eat.

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Queen Aszhara’s puppetry
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Puppets like dolls are inherently creepy and being turned into one, even if it’s by  the “Light of a thousand Moons”, is not a pleasant prospect. Killing your group can be fun though.

The shadows of Gilneas

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I love wandering around Gilneas which is why I tolerate making Worgen characters but every so often you’ll catch a flicker of movement out of the corner of your eye. These two screenshots are of the same house taken mere seconds apart so what with casement windows opening and closing, curtains fluttering in an invisible breeze and the ghosts of Gilneas watching from the window, how can you not feel a chill in the air.

Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the game though, is the fact that it highlights the darkness inside ourselves. We slaughter with impunity, we turn a blind eye to torture and mass murder. Genocide is embraced and we fight to the death for sport. Perhaps this is Sprout’s real face.

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Haunted Azeroth: Tol Barad

I love watching horror movies from behind sofas and then having nightmares for weeks afterwards. In fact as a child, I often had to sleep with the lights on because the strangest things could pray on my imagination, Sweeney Todd (possibly understandable), a butterfly getting stuck in someone’s ear, a shadow flickering against a wall or a story read under bright lights, casting shadows long into the night. Even playing WoW with headphones on, I’ve found myself jumping in certain areas so I thought I’d start to share with you some of the places which leave me with a distinct sense of unease.

Tol Barad

No wonder the inhabitants of this prison are hostile.

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Cooped up in the dark and the damp, I suspect I wouldn’t be in the best frame of mind either.

On a slightly different topic, Matty raised an interesting question the other day. I’ve never had a character I actively disliked before, even my slightly strange damaged ones have had a side which redeemed them (at least in my eyes). However this left me wondering, could I make a character whose choices in life I found repugnant? The obvious choice to experiment with would be a Death Knight but given my track record …… that’s probably a definite no.

Burning Anger and Broken Hearts or why I learned to pity Staghelm

Throughout Classic WoW I was always firmly in the “Staghelm is a jerk” camp. A combination of his attitude, standing up a tree bare-chested being rude to passers-by, the obsession with morrowgrain and his whining about Tyrande meant that  I watched at least one Horde raid group slaughter him without lifting a finger to help. This morning I completed the Smoke-Stained Locket chain and now I find myself feeling sorry for him.

He couldn’t prevent the death of his wife in childbirth, he couldn’t prevent the death of his only son during the Qiraji war and his behaviour as a direct result of those losses meant that he wasn’t in a position to protect his grand-daughter. Yes, a large portion of his problems are self inflicted but still he seems a tragic figure. Just like Aristotle’s idea of the Tragic Hero, Staghelm starts out as a good man (not necessarily a nice one), one who is respected by his peers and given positions of command (both in war and peace). Then circumstances start to spiral out of his control. I know that according to the book “Stormrage“,

“the archdruid had not been responsible for Valstann’s demise” (pg 70)

but as his son’s commander, he must have felt partly to blame. Add to that being forced to witness Valstann’s death and I imagine his guilt would be almost overpowering. The quest “Tragedy and Family” eludes to this when Staghelm says “Time passes, yet the sting of his death will not fade”.

Again his downfall is textbook Aristotle. His major character flaw is hubris (with a side order of jealousy), he puts his own desires (for his son) and his own beliefs (in the superiority of Nightelves) before all else. The fact that he was one of the main architects of Teldressil against the wishes of at least one of the Aspects reinforces that sense of hubris. It’s sort of the Azerothian equivalent of thumbing your nose at the Gods. His choices were steered by this need to save his son but can we blame him for that? It’s an all too understandable flaw, the response to protect those we love, whatever the price. With Xavius playing the part of the fake medium, offering hope when in reality there was none, Staghelm was doomed from the outset. Although it’s hard to believe that on one level or another, he didn’t see the truth behind his actions. That he couldn’t see the madness in his chosen path.

“Valstann will know just what! My son will have the answer” (pg 255)

However it seems that his clear need to believe must have superseded everything else. His arrogance is also shown in the end-game he and his nightmare child are planning.

“Valstann and I will show our people the way and they will be the better for it! Teldressil will be the instrument of a new, glorious Azeroth!” (pg 262)

 No doubt that’s a brave new world with himself at the head regardless of the wishes of any of Azeroth’s people.

This also highlights the differences between Staghelm and Tyrande/Malfurion. The latter two are portrayed as selfless leaders of their people. Staghelm is the polar opposite, everything he has done is driven by his selfish desire to undo his son’s death all those years before and of course, by his own quest for power.

When it comes to the punishment, I find myself defending him like Antigone defends the actions of her traitorous brother, Polynices. What Staghelm did was wrong, corrupting the World Tree surely goes against everything a Druid should stand for. Attempting to keep Malfurion trapped through the use of Morrowgrain also counts as treason I would imagine but what price did he pay? To lose your child once must be terrible but to lose that same child twice must be mind destroying, even if the second time around was merely smoke and mirrors. Add to that fact, that when his granddaughter (all that was left of his son) needed him the most, he was a broken man, locked up in prison and unable to save her must have ripped away what little sanity he had left.

No doubt it was inevitable that his jealousy and dislike of Malfurion and Tyrande would spill over into a desire for revenge once he was rescued from his prison cell and restored to some semblance of sanity. Yet, he still goes looking for his daughter-in-law. A convenient response would be that he’s just recruiting allies into his new order but I find myself wondering if that’s the sole truth. Most of what he’s done has been motivated by family and Leyara is all that is left of that family. I know that tragic heroes are meant to learn something during their fall but I’m struggling to see what the moral of this story is other than the dead tend to stay dead (only in Azeroth that really isn’t true) regardless of what we wish for. Going back to Antigone, this seems so appropriate:

Blest, they are truly blest who all their lives have never tasted devastation. For others, once the gods have rocked a house to its foundations the ruin will never cease, cresting on and on from one generation on throughout the race— like a great mounting tide driven on by savage northern gales,

Which in turn brings to me back to Leyara.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t particularly like Malfurion’s tone. Did he do anything to stop Leyara’s rage consuming her? It appears not. No one seemed to do anything to stop Staghelm staggering down the path of disaster either and Malfurion’s words could equally describe Fandral as much as Leyara.

“the bonds of family are often stronger than  the power of reason,”

I am glad we get to keep the locket because part of me thinks that the bonds of blood should be more powerful that reason. Leyara and Staghelm are not much different from ourselves, but grief and anger allowed them to become twisted. In Leyara’s case targeting her rage not the Horde who were ultimately responsible for her daughter’s death, not at Staghelm for managing to get himself locked up when his family needed him the most but at the outside world. In the ex-Archdruid’s case becoming a monster like those he started out by fighting against, by letting hatred and jealousy rule.

It serves a reminder that but for the grace of Elune, there go I.

The Mysterious case of the vanishing soup kitchen

The first time I saw it was just before the WotLK went live. I was running around Shattrah and out of the corner of my eye I spotted it. A table loaded with food for the refugees and the hungry.

Then came the call to head out to the snowy wastes of Northrend and I forgot about it for a while. A trip to the Lower City in search of a recipe reminded me some months later but no matter how many times I rode back and forth I couldn’t find it. Thinking it was perhaps a figment of my imagination or maybe just something they added for the run up to the expansion I left, slightly saddened.

I next returned the Lower City on my druid a few weeks ago, to pick up the heroic key from the reputation vendor. Much to my surprise, there was the fabled kitchen once again. Still handing out food to the lost and starving. This time I took a screenshot as tangible proof.

Of course my trip back a few days later yielded nothing but a ripped tarpaulin and empty stand (or at least I think that’s where it goes) but it exists, even if seems to vanish for days on end.

Unknown and Unseen

Another use of the Day of the Dead Marigolds is to see a couple of hidden ghosts sneaking around Azeroth. The Unseen of Raven Hill for example can only be seen when the veil is pulled aside.

ravenhill02The poor lingering dead of Duskwood, their presence unfelt (unless you are in the habit of aoeing empty houses) by the living still wander the ruins of their homes. Makes you wonder how many other “hidden” features there are scattered around Azeroth.

My warlock might have to go a wandering with detect invisibility.

Darrowshire – 101 things to see and do

Ever since Vanilla WoW I’ve avoided questing in the Plaguelands, too many annoying mobs and too many annoying diseases. However with our hunter/paladin team we thought lets revisit old haunts and old hauntings whilst working our way through all the quest chains. To say I’m glad we did is an understatement, instead of slaughtering our way through countless mobs for a few pieces of gold we were following a proper story line and doing something worthwhile.

Take for example the epic questline that is the Battle of Darrowshire. It has everything a story needs, a hero who loses his way, evil doers, ghosts, a little girl hunting for her dolly and of course a dragon pretending to be gnome (never quite got that one myself, but who is going to argue with a member of the Bronze Dragonflight).

Darrowshire, named from the Darrowmere Lake to its west, is a village tucked into the southern foothills of Lordaeron.

It sounds idyllic enough and indeed it probably was until war came ravaging its way across the landscape corrupting everything it touched. The chain begins in Winterspring, where Jessica Redpath of the Argent Dawn begs you to find her little sister Pamela.

I fled Lordaeron during the great war, and was lucky to escape before the Scourge swept through my homeland and turned it into a plagued nightmare! I was lucky, but my family was not. I fear they were all killed during the battle of Darrowshire.

It sounds easy enough, head off to the Plaguelands and look for a little girl. Hardly taxing for a seasoned adventurer. Yet I assure you, even the hardest hearted amongst you will find cause enough for tears in Darrowshire. On arrival the village is deserted or at least it appears that way at first glance, skeletons lie where their owners died.

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Listen for a second as you look around, perhaps whisper a prayer of thanks that this isn’t your village, that you know where your family sleep tonight.

As you work through the chain, misery confronts you at every turn. Betrayal, death and anguish will dog your footsteps. You will see things better off unseen, yet continue you must, for little Pamela if nothing else.

Breadcrumb by breadcrumb, the terrible details of that battle come spilling out.

I wish Joseph could again be with his daughter, but it cannot be so. His soul was twisted by the Scourge, and he became a monster. Oh, he is doomed!

Search the graves outside for Joseph’s monument. His body’s not there, for it was trampled and destroyed years ago, but under the monument is his wedding ring. Take that ring to Chromie… a strange gnome with very strange powers.

It seems that Pamela’s loving father has a dark secret and no real grave. There is however something tempting about changing fate, altering the path of time (hmm wonder if I could snag a job with the Infinite dragonflight).

The Annals of Darrowshire tell us the full tragic story:

The battle continued, and Captain Redpath led his militia bravely.  And it might have been won, had the captain not been corrupted by the death knight Marduk the Black.

~~~~~~~

The corrupted Captain Redpath then spread his evil taint among the defenders of Darrowshire, who betrayed their allies and slaughtered them.  They then turned on the town of Darrowshire and killed all who hid in their homes.

Part of the reason why I like this chain so much, despite the fact that it makes me cry everytime I do it is that it reinforces what we are fighting for. Running around Northrend, especially with this new Coliseum its easy to lose sight of our history. Of the terrible things that happened during the wars that litter Azeroth’s past and why we have so much to lose as we fight our way up to the doors of Icecrown. Joseph Redpath wasn’t a bad man, yet he was twisted into slaughtering his own people, his own family. That kind of darkness, that kind of evil has to be wiped clean before it ruins anymore lives. Besides, its the only quest chain in game which gives as a reward a cup of sugary tea made by a ghost no less.

The questline begins with either :

Sister Pamela from Jessica Redpath in Winterspring.

or

Little Pamela from Marlene Redpath’s ghost in Sorrow Hill

The chain then goes:

In case you need any further encouragement to see this epic quest line before Cataclysm sweeps it all way, watch Cranius’s awesome video on the subject, dry your eyes and head off to Darrowshire. Save the ghost girl, save the world!

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Fading Shadows

I love Darkshore, there is something slightly melancholy about its foggy shores and crazed wildlife. Naturally I level every single one of my alliance alts through its dark and dangerous forests so I was rather surprised the other day, when I spotted this.

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In the four and a half years of running through Auberdine, of questing here, of grabbing the fight, I swear I’ve never noticed her before. There are plenty of ghosts in Darkshore, the Highborne down at Ameth’aran springing first to mind but who is this little elf, standing besides a cottage, saying nothing. She offers no quest, tells no sad story just watches from the shadows as the world goes by.

I hope when the cataclysm rips the world asunder, Blizzard will finally get around to telling the stories of the “ghosts” that dot its landscape. The NPCs just abandoned, mute in far away places who never got to demand that adventurers rushed off in search of treasures or heads in return for a fancy hat or some gold.

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