It was with some trepidation that Zoso and I packed our adventuring gear (Sat nav, spare sat nav, iPods, wallets, umbrellas, chewing gum, chain mail vests and six-foot claymores) and set off on a dreary, wet and windy Saturday morning with the aim of undertaking the quest to travel to Mount Doom and destroy the One Ring that had been entrusted to us, but that all seemed a bit like hard work so instead we took the somewhat easier quest of making our way towards Chichester, seeking out other like-minded adventurers and then unleashing hell on the chilli people of West Dean.
I mentioned that our journey commenced amid an atmosphere of some trepidation and the reason for this is that getting lost in real life or in MMOs is not just a mere possibility for the duo of this tale, there are legends of their lostness scribed in lore, ancient dusty tomes will be found by future generations who will read tales to their unbelieving children of two curious souls who have managed to get lost in their own living rooms on occasion.
So it was with some surprise that we found ourselves close to our goal about an hour later and with only a few minor unintentional detours.
It must be noted here that on the long and tiresome journey, for what quest is complete without an inordinate amount of travel time, we did pass through the village of Cocking. Good old English village names, if ever you thought that an MMO had curiously named villages and that perhaps they were slightly too fanciful and unbelievable, just run through a few English place names and you’ll suddenly realise just how mundane your MMO really is.
And so, after arsing about in Cocking for a brief while (which would get you arrested in more conservative countries) the mini map announced that we had reached our destination. Having reached the festival we abandoned our trusted mount and equipped ourselves for a glorious time out in the countryside on an English summer’s day: Zoso with his waterproof jacket and industrial size umbrella and myself in a snowboarding jacket and woolly hat. Once we had stacked enough water resistance gear to get us through the day’s raiding schedule, we made our way into the Chilli Festival instance proper.
It was with some dismay, however, that we realised shortly upon entry to the instance that there was no summoning stone available in the West Dean area to enable us to gather all party members together with our usual consummate ease. Also, Zoso had failed to scribe and memorise any teleportation or telepathy spells for the day, and so it was that we stood outside the nearby temporary tavern, myself sipping on a rather pleasing pint of ale while Zoso desperately tried to force his thought waves into the brains of passing mobs in the hope that one of them was friendly to our cause.
Apparently West Dean is to mobile phone signals as black holes are to light, which is kind of unfortunate when you’ve arranged to meet everyone by standing near the beer tent and then giving them a quick call. There was so little signal that my phone, which is temperamental and stubborn at the best of times, basically imploded in on itself and started to transmit various lethal radiations over a wide spectrum, hence why everything relied, as always, on Zoso performing some minor miracle to get things back on track.
We did eventually find the rest of the group, thanks in the main to Changling Bob’s stand-out hat, and a lucky answerphone message which Zoso managed to pick up after somehow getting a signal on his phone for a few seconds, I’m not quite sure how, but apparently it involved assuming the martial arts posture of the praying mantis whilst simultaneously pointing his umbrella at a tangent to the Silbury Meridian Line. I thought that he’d just eaten a rather explosive chilli and was trying to work it through his digestive system.
Having met up with the splendid band of merry folk who were our adventuring partners for the day, and avoiding my plan of going up to the Tannoy operator and getting them to make a “LFG for the quest Where the hell is Van Hemlock?” announcement, we started on our quest to drink, eat chilli and try not to have embarrassing explosive bowel movements. We certainly managed the first two with great aplomb, and I’m assured that we also achieved the latter and that the noise I heard was just the rumble of thunder from the storm passing overhead; I still think that certain party members looked a little sheepish as they gave this explanation, but it was only part of a sub-quest and not the main quest line of the day, so I let it pass.
We made relatively quick work of the instance, taking on the forces of chilli in their various guises without too much trouble, the jam and relish minions were little bother, and although we were thrown somewhat by the tactics of the fudge generals, they too eventually fell to our gaping maws. I once had a bit of trouble with a particularly nasty elite chilli dog, and Van Hemlock was at one point caught unawares by a stealthed kiwi fruit assassin who was hiding in plain sight inside a rather innocent looking dipping sauce. Jon, Zoso and Changling Bob were unassailable however, and the chilli horde was soon left reduced in strength and numbers as our group made our way to the rallying point under the shelter of a large tree so that we could take stock and attend to our maw wounds.
Alas, it was at this point that Changling Bob, perhaps buoyed with confidence with our successes so far, decided to single-handedly attack the boss of the chillis: the Capsaicin King. It was with horror, and not a small amount of awe, that we watched Bob sacrifice himself to the chosen of the chilli deity so that the rest of us might live.
There are World of Warcraft rogues who have lost loot rolls on epic +Agi +Stam swords to a warlock, who have looked less pained than Bob did at that moment.
Bob got a rez, and after a little more banter under the Tree of Suitable Shelter, the group decided to quit the instance, instead finding a safe retreat to undertake some crafting, which predominantly involved Van Hemlock and Jon skilling-up their podcast trade skills some more. After which we all mounted up and made our way across the local lands to find a tavern where we spent an enjoyable evening reminiscing about old times, and the potential future adventures that lay ahead, before heading off to our respective bind points and logging for the evening.
And what’s most impressive is that Zoso and I even managed to find our way home afterwards without getting lost.
Although we did take a short Cocking detour.