Death knight needs a companion. None of the pets I had as a paladin follow me to Acherus when I become a death knight, and I miss having a fluffy follower. But I know where to get them. Grabbing a friendly mage helps, starting in Dun Morogh then teleporting to Exodar and Darnassus to send me some pets. Then I can visit the crazy cat lady in Elwynn Forest, and pop in to Westfall where a cock of a night elf druid kills the chicken I woo, but there are plenty more chickens. Venturing down to Booty Bay ends my initial pet shopping. I have a bunny, three moths, two hawks, four cats, a chicken, and two parrots, as well as the account-bound baby bear, core hound pup, chilly penguin, and Onyxia whelpling. My dearth of pets becomes plenty of pets, which highlights another issue.
None of my achievements as Kiska are recorded against my death knight. There is nothing as effective as pointing out the impermanent nature of achievements to make me stop caring about them. I like getting achievements, they give a similar feeling to gaining a level and a sense of continuity with a character, but losing that continuity removes some of the attraction to achievements in general. Leaving the achievements of Kiska behind is a reminder that all I do here is ephemeral, which is good in its way. I can relax and have fun instead. So, with fun in mind, when I find out that we're missing Qattara tonight and look to do something fun yet relatively unimportant in her absence, I agree to Livya's enthusiastic call to return once again to Blackrock Depths. But maybe I just want to get the Shadowforge Key, to stand a chance of completing the 'Keymaster' achievement.
We meet up in Searing Gorge, and it looks like one of us is feeling the heat. Missing our duid, Vulzerda is happy to heal and hunts around for healing gear picked up along our adventures. It turns out that boots are all she has accumulated that affect her healing abilities. When Livya suggests that boots are all she needs, Vulzerda takes this as a challenge. She is a bit concerned about her obvious tan lines, though. Considering her normal skimpy underwear, the white marks around her delectable buttocks suggest she's been wearing granny pants out in the sun. Despite my overly pale complexion, I am about to get a tan too.
I tell Livya and Vulzerda that I am off to kill myself to talk to the ghostly dwarf, who gives the quest for the Shadowforge Key, which I do by jumping recklessly in to the lava in Blackrock Mountain. Although this lets me talk to the dwarf and pick up the quest, I haven't entirely thought this through. I wasn't in the dungeon when I die, so entering it again won't revive me and I instead need to find my corpse. And I left my corpse in the middle of a sea of lava. I have little choice but to jump back in and accept my resurrection, swimming as fast as my cloven feet will allow me towards the ledge out. Luckily, I am returned to life with enough health to survive the short paddle.
I don't have any quests for Blackrock Depths. I didn't anticipate coming back, nor do I care to run through the tedious quest chains again so soon. However, there is one quest on the way in to collect, Attunement to the Core, the old quest to enable quick access to the first raid dugeon of Molten Core. We have been too low-level to be eligible for the quest before, and it is with this new goal that we jump through the portal in to Blackrock Depths.
To get the Shadowforge Key we can't bypass the early stages of the dungeon. We can at least ignore the cell block, rushing straight across the entrance to the Ring of Law, where monster Grizzle drops some nifty mail armour healing shoulders. Vulzerda dons them suggestively, Livya commenting that slowly getting dressed is 'more sexy than undressing, yet another reason, as if we needed one, to love this dungeon'. Surging forwards, we get past the subdued Ring of Law audience and towards where Ironfel needs to be dropped once retrieved, which awards the Shadowforge Key. Pyromaster Loregrain is guarding the Shrine of Thaurissan, and although he's noted as being a rare mob he has been here every time I've visited that I can remember, making me think he's not that rare after all. Vulzerda suggests that maybe he's medium rare, and Livya agrees, pointing out that 'he is a cow'.
Around the corner is the Black Vault. Livya is sure we must have enough relic coffer keys by now, from all our visits to the dungeon, until I remind her that my inventory has effectively been reset. But we still have enough, Vulzerda holding most of them. With all the coffers open, Watchman Doomgrip throws himself against our weapons, leaving us to pick up the heart of the mountain. Thankfully, the quest item respawns after a few seconds, instead of only one party member being able to collect it per visit. We move on quickly and defeat Fineous Darkvire to grab Ironfel from his corpse, and I trot back to the shrine to get the Shadowforge Key. Rather than retreat further, I aim to see if we can defeat all the bosses in the dungeon in one session. We stomp back over Darkvire's twitching body and in to the next room, where Lord Incendius awaits. Down a corridor from him is Bael'Gar, who summons little helper spawns, which none of us remember him doing before. And then we're back at the entrance, and can use the key to progress deeper in to the dungeon as before.
It's a shame that I have to double-back from Darkvire to deliver Ironfel at the shrine, because doing so thoroughly undermines what I can now see as quite elegant dungeon design. It has taken me years and many frustrated visits, but storming through this first section of Blackrock Depths and deciding to continue onwards shows me how it all fits together. There isn't the sprawl and unconnected feeling that I have always maintained, but a clear and graceful path. Having to retrace our steps to the shrine is a design blunder, breaking the smooth flow of the dungeon with a needless time-wasting journey. It's not as bad as having to exit the dungeon to hand in a quest that brings you straight back, which we did with the quest to save the princess, but it's similar. The initial run through Blackrock Depths draws a graceful curve, a curious combination of a figure-of-eight and a spiral, whose nature is lost when forced to double-back. But now I see it, now I appreciate the design, because we're back at the Shadowforge. We had to divert away from the Shadowforge to get the key, fighting through the bosses in order, and now with the key we can fork the other way to fight the rest.
The path forwards is quite familiar now, and in a good way. General Angerforge and all his little minions are despatched smoothly. Golem Lord Argelmach runs off to get gnomish assistance, and his and his golem's immunity to my death grip stretches our assailants too far apart for our reach and we wipe. A quick soulstone recovery later and Argelmach's dead body is left in our wake. Dark Iron Ale is fed to the dwarf in the Grim Guzzler and Phalanx is defeated, leading us on to a quick fight with Ambassador Flamelash. We're speeding through the depths now.
I am really enjoying being a death knight, powerful and active, even though at 58th level I am still missing some key abilities. Runic power lets my frost strike hit the mobs hard, and a critical strike of 1337 damage seems appropriate. To celebrate a hit of 1080 damage I kick-flip off the mob to indy-grind down a ramp. But this is nothing compared to when I fight molten war golems. The first golem loses over half his health before I have even swung my weapon, making me wonder if the mob is bugged or if their health varies and I have missed noticing this on previous runs. The second golem drops even more quickly, and I examine my combat log to see what's happening. The molten war golems are vulnerable to frost damage, and my opening spell is a frost-based attack. I can kill these elite mobs with one hit. But there are only so many molten war golems, and we move on to the Summoner's Tomb.
Seven ghostly dwarves are defeated easily enough and now we can finally take a diversion from our previous visits, heading down a ramp away from the Lyceum. Across the bridge at the bottom of the ramp is the entrance to Molten Core, which holds little interest to us beyond curiosity or nostalgia. But there is a rock next to the entrance that, if a sample of it is given to the elf in Blackrock Mountain, will complete the quest to attune us to the Core. With the quest complete, we won't have to fight this deeply in to Blackrock Depths to enter Molten Core, our attunement will provide a short-cut. The quest is unnecessary for us, but it provides some easy experience points for such a short diversion. We collect the rock sample and wander back to enter the Lyceum.
The swarms of dwarves pose some problems for us. We have no paladin's consecrate spell, and the shaman's fire totem attracts a bit too much attention towards our almost-nude healer, and as we're learning how to get through in our newly constituted group the dwarves overwhelm us. On the way back, we serendipitously discover that the Molten Core attunement quest can be handed in to the elf outside the dungeon when we are dead and on a corpse-run, bagging the XP early and meaning we don't need to travel back to him later. No resistance is encountered on our way back to the Lyceum either. With a bit more care, we collect the two torches and light the beacons that open the exit, and we stride ahead to Magmus. One dead giant later and we're clearing out the Imperial Seat again before facing the emperor, Ironforge's princess once more by his side. It's sad to see someone so badly affected by the Stockholm Syndrome, we really must correct the situation once and for all.
'Let's go and tell the king his daughter's dead.'