Monday night, I logged in to game and reset the hearths for all of my characters, I took a stroll around Stormwind, killing Elementals as I went, and then I paused, thinking about all the places in the game world I'd spent time in. What was the one place I wanted to ride through, one last time?
Even though my Paladin is my main and will always be my favorite character to play, he wasn't my first. I barely remember the leveling process through Vanilla and TBC. I have fond memories of the leveling process in Wrath due to my leveling partner and all of the RP that came out of it, but that wasn't at stake here.
What was at stake here was the old world.
And I remember my first two attempts at leveling, they were confused, uncertain, fitful things. First a mage, then a warrior, both of which were left in the mid forties over some unquantifiable misgiving and so I rerolled for the third time, a Night Elf druid, and I began to level, with a bit more certainty and confidence.
Now that I knew how the game worked, I was able to focus on the lore, the stories, the environment. In my head, a story began to write itself about who this guy was, the world he came from, the confusion of waking up into a world so changed from the world he went to sleep in so long ago.
Teldrassil and Darkshore were fine and entertaining, but his story really hit me when I came to Ashenvale. It is likely the most Night Elfish of all the zones in the games, purely executed, and though it comes across like a bit of a new-age crystal shop at times, I can indulge myself and enjoy the music and lighting and the purple colors. I remember leveling as Feral and prowling through the misty glens and hiding in leafy bushes, running solo as I went, and the place carved a little space for itself in my heart.
There was a quest in Ashenvale, long gone now, I'm sure, and at the culmination of the quest, you were given a vial that would grant three seconds of invulnerability so you could defeat some elite boss, but I thought the vial was so amazing that I couldn't use it for a simple quest, so I saved it and saved it and saved it.
I remember when I began raiding, tanking the Prince in Kara, when I wanted to take the potion to save a wipe but I never did. I went on to Gruul, Magtheridon, Zul'Aman, pieces of the next tier, but never used the potion. It stayed in my bags.
It was like a piece of Ashenvale that I never got rid of, that stayed with me.
So, on Monday night, I rode from one end to the other, back and forth, over and over, until finally I sighed, bid farewell to the purple glen and hearthed for the last time.