Thursday, March 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday

by Gimmlette

I've talked briefly before about how the game can provoke an emotional reaction by how something is executed. I was on the Thandol Span between Wetlands and Arathi Basin to take a selfie for the Field Photographer achievement and a memory washed over me, a remembrance of a quest chain I hadn't thought of in years. 

Blizzard is known for dropping cultural references into the game and this was no different. At the game's development, interest in the US Civil War was at an all-time high thanks to Ken Burns and his documentary. The themes of lands torn apart by war, of brother against brother and the sheer loss of life resonate within the game as well as without. One of the more poignant quests was a little known one by the Thandol Span. 

There used to be a quest where you had to find out what happened to the dwarf stationed on the left side of the span. What you can't see in this selfie is that the left side of the bridge is shattered. There is a column leaning precariously over the water. Inside was a dwarf who was manning the post as he should be. In order to get to him, you had to jump from the Arathi Highlands side (behind me) to a ledge on the pillar. Missing the ledge meant you fell into the water below. Once you completed the quest, the only way to get back to the mainland was to jump into the water and swim to the ramps leading out of the water. It was in the water that the Sully Balloo Letter quest was obtained. 

It was hard to find this quest. Sully is dead, crushed by bridge sections. If you didn't know he was there, it would be extremely easy to miss him. You would see a hand, outstretched, from under this massive block. When you moused over the hand, a cog wheel would appear. Clicking on the hand gave you a letter with instructions to take it to Sully's wife, Sara, in Ironforge. There was no quest to lead you to the body. You either had someone who told you about it or was one of the people who moused over everything so you found it or you read about it. I had someone who knew about it take me to find the letter. 

Sara was and still is, in the Military ward, standing silently on the porch of her home. When you handed her the letter, she would weep, thank you, give you some coin and ask you to take a letter to Magni Bronzebeard, the then ruler of the dwarves. He would accept the letter and the text said that he "looked past you, struggling with his emotions". He thanks you and gives you some coins and that was it. 

I can't find the text of Sully Balloo's letter, but it was very similar, though not as long due to game constraints, to the letter written by one Sullivan Ballou before the first Battle of Bull Run. 

July the 14th, 1861
Washington D.C.
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the brightest day and in the darkest night—amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for me, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

This letter was well-known to any Civil War buff who played the game. This was probably the first time the game and the things I was asked to do resonated emotionally with me. You cannot get the quest anymore. It was removed with Cataclysm. I'm not sure why Blizzard considered it obsolete and removed it, but it's gone. As I stood overlooking the bridge, I remembered that this simple 2 step quest solidified the game as something I wanted to play. Sara stands in Ironforge still, waiting for word from her soldier. 

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