So here we were, 40 beleaguered players split into two groups (20 on one side, 19 on another), waiting another ten minutes for Nilhouse to run through a city of insectoid goo and egyptianesque bugs. As soon as he got in line, these two streams of 20 started to run, perfectly-spaced from one another, into The Final Room, the chamber where C'thun's all-seeing sixty-foot-tall eye bulged over the top of pulsating fleshy tentacles and black smoke. For a moment, it was ballet. Synchronized digital running, a fifteen-minute fight, perfected over the course of months. Sleeze the Warrior got too close to the guy in front of him, which triggered the giant eye to send a lightning bolt careening at his face.
Killing us all.
The trick to getting inside is not standing too close to the person in front of you, and trusting the person behind you. Not the easiest thing in the world, if they've been subbed out at the last minute.
Ezbake sneered, “Focus, cocksuckers! On my mark!”
Followed by a mystery bong hitter.
Then laser beams would shoot from the gaping eye in the center of the huge, black underground temple. Anyone hit would probably live, if barely. But then the laser would arc to any other player too close to that first guy. Since it did double damage to the second guy, their chances of living were pretty small. If it hit a third person, it doubled its damage again, so that third person was more or less assured destruction. Ever since our first attempt, where the fucking laser had arced to near every single one of us, ultimately doing something like four million damage to the last recipient, the importance of experience had been made pretty plain.
Once inside, the room was bigger, but there were 40 of us. And that first laser could fire off any time. Which got problematic, when C'thun also created an entire wall of red lasers that he rotated 360 degrees. A trick that would melt anyone who so much as tapped the thing.
Giant eye-stalks also sprung up from the ground, and needed to be killed fast, lest they do that extra bit of damage when that main laser hit, very nearly killing someone.
To say nothing of the giant fucking Eye Deity in the middle of the room.
It was rumored that taking him down would require about 15 solid minutes of fighting. No fucking up, no dying, playing at the very top of your game for 15 intense minutes. These days it's considered courteous to pay a visit to youtube, and watch someone else die to all a monster's lethal little quirks. That way, when you're in it for the first time you're not, say, trying to jump through a big red wall of lasers. When we were fighting C'thun, the Eternity Dragoons were among the very first guilds to see some of these bosses. Those that were ahead of us (on other servers) weren't exactly publishing notes. They weren't sharing the love because it was a big fucking race. To be the first, worldwide, to take down C'thun would be A Big Deal. Even being the first on our server would be something. On some level, we didn't really know what would work and what wouldn't. Part of what we tried came from word of mouth – friends of friends on other servers – people anywhere on the internet with an idea of how to kill this ugly son of a bitch.
This time, I knew something was different when C'thun swallowed me.
My first thought was, well fuck. They'd told me what to do if I got swallowed. I hadn't been listening. I knew that even as a very squishy, very weak healer, I was expected to actually kill something. It was a pretty big deal. That I was standing next to the beating heart of this digital god. At first I balked, spending all my mana just keeping myself from being dissolved by his stomach acid.
Fucking attack it someone shouted over voice chat. Maybe they were talking to me? So I start. And I do absolutely, positively, zero noticeable damage. Then I realize I'm nearly dead. I heal myself more. I'm about to die. I had a one-in-forty chance of getting sucked in here. The fight's almost over, and we've made it as far as we ever had. A few of us are already dead, and I really shouldn't die. I've got the ability to bring a more useful player back to life. Suddenly Sleeze the damage-dealing warrior is in here with me. He's hacking at this thing in the center of C'thun, and I'm ejected back out into the fight. I make it another couple minutes.
This is the farthest we've ever come. I think it's been longer than 15 minutes, but nobody is sure. Everyone is nearly dead, including C'thun. I resurrect someone. I get cornered by an eye stalk. With a shriveling feeling in my stomach, I watch as my character falls out of the fight – dead.
And a few seconds later, I watch as C'thun sinks down into a pool of his own steaming, black blood.
As one, the Dragoons erupt into the upper decibels. It sounds like a football game, forty people bellowing. The elation of six, six whole months working on this City of Ahn'Qiraj, two on C'thun himself. It's over. It paid off. We did it. We're the first in our class. It's done.
I join in, scream a little, and hear my parents stir.
Then remember I’m not in Hawaiʻi anymore.
Then look around, and have the curious thought that the room seems vaguely familiar. It’s pretty dark, really, but the computer monitor lights up the general shape. I take off my headphones, and it’s quiet enough that my ears ring. I think it’s been three months since I lived in Hawaiʻi, but I’m still not quite officially graduated. And then I think,
I’m right back where I started.
Which lasts a couple moments, before I’m back at C’thun’s smoking corpse, posing like some sunburned fisherman in front of a gutted trophy marlin.