We're going to Maraudon! For some reason, I expected the dungeon in Desolace to have more centaurs and fewer trolls, and for it to be an indoor, rocky instance. But it turns out that we're not quite ready for Maraudon, and Zul'Farrak is more in our level range, so we're in the Tanaris desert instead. We head towards the instance as Vulzerda tries several times to pick up a quest already in her log, such is the Filesystem Checkwits way. It takes me a while, and when I finally get to the swirly entrance of Zul'Farrak I uncover the last portion of the map to get the Explore Tanaris achievement. It's always the last place you look. A quick use of the summoning stone, some buffing and nudging of Livya to get a soulstone applied, and the troll slaying begins.
The first few pulls go well enough. It is a little perplexing to find that trolls bottle their sweat, but maybe it's actually designer fragrance with a pretentious name, marketed to cover the smells the dry desert heat is bound to produce. No one volunteers to put on a few dabs of this 'sweat' to see what it smells like, though. Once we get a little deeper in to Zul'Farrak I find I am spending most of my time as a frog. Despite my amphibious form, the party continues to make good progress, prompting suggestions for me to reroll a frog for next week. I would prefer the hex to be removed, if that's okay, but it turns out to be a magic effect and only the paladin in the party has the ability to remove magic effects. And as I'm the paladin, there is not much that can be done. I'll spend half the instance hexed as a frog if we don't quickly kill the mobs responsible. It must be the scarabs, they're everywhere! Sneaky little buggers, pretending to be neutral but creeping up as adds in the fights. What makes a good critter go neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or are they just born with a heart full of neutrality?
Sadly, I spend half the instance as a frog. Luckily, I am in my natural draenei form when we get to the ziggurat, the site of one of the most epic and memorable encounters in classic Azeroth. Releasing prisoners at the top of the ziggurat spawns dozens of mobs, standard and elite, that storm their way up the steps. The advancing waves of mobs have undoubtedly caused many a wipe in their day, and as we are striving to relive the old times there is really only one possible result. When I wonder aloud that the allied NPC boss should by now have told us to advance down the steps, towards the hostile boss, I am forgetting that all the old instances have been rebalanced to be easier to complete, to take in to account the lack of available characters at the lower levels. We are ploughing through the assault easily, the pauses between waves making the encounter feel longer than it actually is.
'I'm heading down', I say, hoping to prompt the climactic battle. I certainly manage to escalate the conflict, pulling extra mobs and the boss before anyone is ready. The allied NPC boss rolls his eyes and says something about probably coming down to help, or maybe that was Vulzerda, but I am quickly swamped by trolls stomping my pretty face in to the sand. Qattara quickly finds that running to help me is not always a good idea, as the trolls then jump on her. With our healer also killed, the trolls head further up the ziggurat to Vulzerda and Livya, and it looks like a wipe. And indeed it is, but Filesystem Checkwits can't even wipe properly. Qattara uses the warlock's soulstone, somehow still active, to revive herself, and then brings me back to my feet with her rebirth spell. With the trolls now under control, mostly thanks to the allied NPCs, Vulzerda reincarnates to rejoin the fray, and we prevail against the troll hordes. Only Livya fails to pull her weight, remaining a corpse for the rest of the fight, but we get her back to life soon enough.
We ask the goblin to blow the bloody doors off the gate ahead, after which he makes his escape from the inevitable NPC betrayal. We fight the NPCs, then the boss beyond the exploded gates, and move on to catch up with the leaving goblin. As is typical for a Zul'Farrak run guided by myself, we have proceeded anti-clockwise through the instance, and as the goblin runs out also in an anti-clockwise direction he still has all the trolls to fight through. That leaves fewer mobs for us at least, as being a frog is getting rather tiresome. After defeating Gahz'rilla, we decide we've had enough. We use our hearthstones to return to Stormwind, letting Livya's imp loose to clear the rest of the instance, something he's clearly wanted to do for a long while.
Back in Stormwind, we sell troll sweat, probably repair armour if we remember, and look for familiar faces. Livya is heartbroken as Lorr hasn't been seen for weeks now, but there are a few characters that stand out. When a night elf walks past, Vulzerda recognises her and sneakily throws a few snowballs her way. It's a little difficult to pretend you haven't just pelted someone with snow when you have an armful of snowballs, recently bought from the goblin vendor, but the night elf takes it in good humour. She buys some snowballs herself and throws them right back at Vulzerda. This means war! 'Anyone walking is a target', announces Vulzerda, pointing out the easy way to spot RPers. Some more snowball exchanges happen in the market square, some excellent throws following mounted characters around corners. But being in Stormwind on an RP server means we're missing a golden opportunity. To the cathedral!
The cathedral in Stormwind is where all serious RPers gather, as its imposing architecture and relative peace compared to the market district makes more serious rôle-playing possible. It is also the ideal place for Filesystem Checkwits to have a snowball fight. On the way, we're compelled to stop and pelt a scantily clad draenei, Vulzerda putting extra effort in to her throws. 'That's for clogging up my blog with 'draenei porn' search engine hits, damn you', she curses, her soft, luscious draenei hands lovingly caressing each snowball before tossing them sexily forwards with a bounce of her pert bosom, icy cold wetness melting down the front of the other's skimpy top until it is so moist the fabric becomes sheer, and blushes cannot cover her embarrassment.
In the cathedral itself, we strike RP gold! There are paladins bowing at the altar and characters having earnest conversations, all of whom are unfortunately interrupted as our playful snowball fight is brought inside the church. Snowballs pepper anyone and everyone, although somehow mysteriously never hitting ourselves. We get some nasty glares emoted at us and a few mistyped suggestions to leave, which we do once we run out of snowballs.
The goblin in the market square has plenty of snowballs for sale, though, so we buy armfuls more. Vulzerda has another idea. The centre of activity in any city is the auction house, and it includes characters who may be paying more attention to the auction window and not their surroundings, which will surely present some ideal targets. Stormwind is rather well-suited for auction house snowball fights, because the stage a couple of the auctioneers stand on is also occasionally occupied by PCs. And we're in luck, as an epic-looking character is standing on the stage next to an auctioneer, almost with a target painted on him! 'If anyone asks', Vulzerda tells us, 'we're going for an achievement'. Snowball after snowball bombards this poor character, each one rocking him back slightly, all four Filesystem Checkwits unloading on him as quick as the GCD will let us.
We unsurprisingly attract some attention with our constant pelting of this hapless night elf. Vulzerda says she is trying to knock him off the stage so she can 'win the big teddy bear', and we repeat the assertion that we are going for a guild achievement. It isn't long before our target also notices the dozens of snowballs bouncing off his epic armour. He turns to face us, but that just gives us a more satisfying target and we continue to throw snowballs as he tries to talk. He can take no more, and throws something back at us. We don't mind, we're enjoying this snowball idiocy and giggling like schoolgirls. But we don't quite expect what happens next, as a mohawk grenade lands right in the middle of us, turning all of our pretty features in to those of Mr T! Bravo, sir, for such a masterful counter. We cannot help but bow before the night elf who outfoxes us.
The snowball fight in Stormwind has been remarkably silly, surprising, and hilarious, and once again we are shown that it is the players who help make the game enjoyable. Our next adventure will be heading in to Maraudon, but not before we stock the guild fridge for a surprise Summer re-enactment of the Christmas of 2009.