Setting the Scene

In early 2004, at a friend's apartment, I witnessed a beta-testing that captured my imagination. The game, of course, was Final Fantasy XI. The friend, a Mithra Thief named Juggalo, was on the verge of death in East Sarutabaruta. A robed figure appeared nearby and, out of pure kindness, cast Cure and rescued Juggalo. I knew at that moment I wanted to be a White Mage. What I hadn't yet recognized was the manifesting, indelible mark that was to be left on my life.

A few generous birthday gifts later, I had what I needed to join the American FFXI community. Phoenix was my portal, Kiddoe my vessel. Tortured with excitement I set down in Port Windurst. Airships, restricted to me at the time, soared overhead. After familiarizing myself with Windurst's layout, I nervously ventured forth in to Sarutabaruta. I'd no inkling as to what lay ahead but in no time I was clubbing down Rarabs and braving the occasional Mandragora.

A mission from Windurst's guards saw me traversing the outer sanctums of Horutoto - my first dungeon. At level 3 an enemy Bomb in the ruins saw to it that experience-leeching KOs would no longer remain a foreign occurrence. At level 5 I sought revenge and tasted my first sense of accomplishment within the new world.

It would not be long before a debilitating KO would find me again - this time at the claws of a renegade Yagudo on the steps of the Sarutabaruta Outpost. I was resuscitated by a level 25 Hume, who offered me a Link Pearl. Following the Hume's instructions, I equipped the Pearl. I was officially a member of The Grey Order, a Linkshell that unwittingly specialized in the training of new players.

Exclusive to Windurstians, The Grey Order was led by the kind-hearted yet elusive Haplo, a Galka Ranger, and featured among its ranks the likes of Evilkairi (Elvaan DRK), Vojna (Elvaan DRK), Karath (Hume WHM), Mojo (Elvaan MNK), Ridell (Hume SAM) and Stormshank (Hume DRK later reinvented as Hellstorm the Elvaan BLM). Through quests and missions I developed strong friendships with all of them. Many became mentors, supporting me through Vana'diel's more formidable trials.

I remember very distinctly discoveries of new zones. I loved getting lost and encountering new dangers. I first ventured beyond Sarutabaruta with Kiengo, the playful Black Mage Tarutaru. Tahrongi Canyon was daunting, but conquer it we did. Sometimes we'd stumble in to a new town... or even a city. Setting foot in San d'Oria was a truly magical experience - at the time it was the farthest from my home in Windurst I had ever traveled.

Once acquiring the license to ride Chocobos from Jeuno, I foolhardily followed a band of higher level adventurers through the Sanctuary of Zi'Tah and in to Ro'Maeve. Astonished by the ancient Zilart architecture, I didn't notice when two Killing Weapons leaped out. I was instantly KO'd. The higher levels were forced to dispatch the Weapons and were nice enough to Raise me. They also offered a Warp 2. Helpless otherwise, I had to accept... and back in Jeuno I decided that Ro'Maeve was my goal. One day it would be mine.

Through Qufim Island and Yuhtunga Jungle... past Crawler's Nest and the Boyahda Tree all the way through Cape Terrigan I leveled my White Mage to 62. In the meantime I took frequent breaks from the grind to tackle quests, missions and events. I absolutely adored spending time with my friends and lollygagging about our favorite locales. I became partial to Xarcabard and Fei'Yin. At level 62 I could finally hold my own against their demons.

Of all my friends, the most dear was easily Altia, the Mithra Black Mage. I had risen to second-in-command of The Grey Order but resigned to form Unforgotten with Altia. To us, friendship and adventure were the two most important aspects of Vana'diel and on that principle was the new group founded. The Grey Order was eventually taken over by none other than Juggalo.

Due primarly to a silly decision by yours truly to merge with another, differently-minded linkshell, Unforgotten eventually collapsed. Altia and I parted ways. I ran with Stabby (Hume BRD) and his Elite Mercs, tearing through the beginnings of the Chains of Promathia and bringing some of the greatest satisfaction I've ever felt. She joined Freakbeacon (Hume WHM) and Grawl (Galka PLD), leveling ahead of me and going on quests I had never even heard of. Several months after Unforgotten's disbanding, Altia died. No justifiable words come to me to describe the loss, which was felt nearly server-wide.

I delved deep in to solo play, abandoning linkshells and therefore, any hope of completing further endeavors. I became a ghost. I did conquer Ro'Maeve, and spent more time than is probably healthy meditating in the Hall of the Gods. I even lingered in less threatening areas, frequently recreating the scenario that motivated my job selection by helping lower level adventurers... but the things I loved about Vana'diel, particularly the sense of community, were crumbling. Eventually, along with a new friend named Strawberrie (Hume WHM, originally Scarlette the Mithra RDM), I jumped ship.

Restarting on the Fenrir server, Strawberrie and I founded the Iron Musketeers out of Bastok and took in members such as Pilot (Hume Jack of All Trades) and Gllew (Tarutaru BLM). I took on the guise of an Elvaan named Lajon, barreling through the level grind and bringing Monk to 61 and Thief to 42. After being a physically weak mage for so long, the melee side of things worked well but I was, pretty much from the beginning, sour with the decision to ditch my inaugural server in spite of the issues I had with it.

By the time I left Fenrir behind, my companions on Phoenix had surely leveled and quested far beyond my accomplishments as Kiddoe. I wasn't about to become a newbie all over again. Even more souring than my existence on the other server, however, were the years I spent away from Vana'diel entirely. When I got an itch, I tried entering the World of Warcraft. That lasted about a week. Later, I picked up Everquest 2, subsequently putting it down. I even looked to Guild Wars and Age of Conan in attempt to recapture my glory days as the spell-wielding White Mage.

Finally, I have decided to quit dealing with sourness. Through the Return to Vana'diel program I am rejoining the Phoenix server. There have been major changes to the world's landscape since I left and I have plenty of catching up to do. Thank you for listening to this adventurer's diatribe. Thank you for being along for the ride. The new chapter begins now.

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