It had been another lonely afternoon in Lower Jeuno. A young Tarutaru named Foobar stared longingly at his invite flag in the chocobo rental stable and sighed. Still no invites, not any real ones, anyway.
"No one wants me," he thought to himself, sulking as he loitered in the stable. "I'm alone."
And he was alone. Many members of his very first linkshell (a guild) had retired and dissolved the group, returning to more normal lives and away from the rigors of adventuring. Almost a year of being with his friends and now they were gone.
Foobar had braved his way from Sarutabaruta and all the required adventurer stops between there and Jeuno to prepare himself for the trials of Crawler's Nest. All this to gain the Warrior skills he needed to further his career as a Dragoon, but now his moral support was gone. He had even left his pet wyvern, Muffin, in the care of the moogles so he could train, but it left him all the more lonely.
Foobar was a mighty warrior a with great, big axe. The axe was huge to him, at least, even if it was a tiny hand axe to a Galka.
Every now and then, someone would solicit his aid from a distance and then realize they didn't have to take too many steps to see how small Foobar was. He had faced goblins, living bombs, blood-sucking bats, the undead and killer crabs, but right now his biggest enemy was urban legends and being called an "ankle biter."
"You can't tank, your HP is too low," they would say or tell him or "You don't have enough strength to use that axe."
Another had the audacity to tell him, "Tarutarus are best left to casting magic."
It really made Foobar mad to hear that, he knew a spell or two, but he had yet to find a class of magic that had every kept him interested enough to hear the professors in Windust drone on and on about it. White Magic was useful to him in some cases, but it wasn't enough by itself.
Foobar was more interested in the ways of melee combat. He had tanked and shown his prowess with the axe before - why did no one want him now? Even when he tried to pull a group together on his own, none were patient enough to stick with the small warrior and left. You could always count on red mages or bards to let their profession go to their heads, as they were the most impatient and would ditch at the first sign of a more promising party.
A chocobo looked over at Foobar and gave a sympathetic "kweh." Foobar sighed and smiled, got up from the corner he was sitting in and approached the stable vendor to rent the chocobo for 200 gil. Some crisp, night air and a swift ride would help him feel alive again. At the very least, he would have a companion for the remainder of the evening.
And so they roamed and explored each corner of the Rolanberry Fields that they could reach. They watched the vicious malaboros from a distance; they found some old, abandoned shack and snatched a berry or two along the way to eat. Foobar even fed the chocobo some gyshal greens and it inspired the bird to do some digging.
A bone chip here, a log there, a beehive chip...
It was all junk save for the beehive chip, but the chocobo was proud and Foobar smiled approvingly all the same.
As it grew later Foobar grew tired and his armor heavy. He decided it was time to return to the stables and to his rented bed in the residential area of Jeuno. No luck tonight, but at least he had some company and a nice ride.
And then as they neared the stables the call came from the night air, in /tell, from a Hume.
"We need a tank," he told Foobar, who was taken by surprise, but then sulked once more..
"You're better off finding someone else," Foobar told him. "No one wants a Tarutaru tank."
"But there is no one else available! You're the only one who can do it. I've tried by best to tank, but I'm a Dragoon!" the Hume said.
Foobar looked at the chocobo and it warked enthusiastically. A dragoon! He couldn't very well leave a fellow dragoon in need.
"OK, I'll come over, where are you located?" Foobar replied.
"Crawler's Nest. Bring a bow, we don't have a puller, either," he said.
And after a quick return to the stable and a purchase of a bow and some arrows Foobar returned to the stable and the chocobo.proudly carried him to Crawler's Nest, where he was greeted by his solicitor, Belgaryan, a Dragoon of Bastok and an Elvaan White Mage named Pharoah, hailing from the Kingdom of San'doria.
Foobar bowed and introduced himself then nodded to the chocobo - it warked happily and dashed back to the city, its duty complete. And together they entered the maw of Crawler's Nest to meet the rest with the rest of the party...
That was probably the biggest turning point in my time playing Final Fantasy XI. Meeting Belgaryan and his friends changed my experience forever. That night there was the usual [
that you'd expect from a party in Crawler's Nest, but it extended far beyond one simple night of partying.
I proudly pulled and tanked for the group, enduring the poison and sticky thread crawlers spewed at me (until Pharaoh learned Erase, anyway) and even when we all died a couple times everyone remained in high spirits and had a good time. This was rather uncharacteristic compared to other parties I had joined where people would bitch, moan and point fingers when they died.
They even stayed with me to see that I got to level 37 - a rather red-letter moment in the career of any player for the time as it marked the end of leveling a support job. I liked these people so much, however, I didn't just want to thank them and leave at the end like any other party, so I asked to join the linkshell and was accepted.
Once again, I had friends in the game.
Belgaryan was the guy that always stuck it out to the end and always made time for others in our linkshells. He was a man very much of my mindset in that he was more about people having a good time than winning or getting the best gear first. For us, it was about seeing the group get stronger and better.
And it was through him that I also met people like Elana, Tek, Phreya, Aniero and Sayl along with many others. Through the various iterations of our linkshell we mostly stuck together be it Order of Valor, Valor Redefined or Cognoscenti. We tried the endgame LS thing and while I would say it didn't go well, that was only because we were more about group morale and fair play than greedy people getting stuff, which didn't really do a great job of appeasing the greedy people.
When I got my iPhone 4 this week, I looked at my old phone and all the contacts within, many of them were FFXI friends and I feel I owe them all a friendly text this week, if not a phone call to stay in touch. Even though I quit the game almost two years ago, these people still matter to me.
When Aniero started Limit Break Radio, he asked me to be a part of it and this week his podcasts were among the first to be downloaded off of iTunes. I was given the opportunity to admin the LBR forum and occasionally guest host. In the image below, you can see Foobar to the far right in Scholar duds, having finally embraced a mage class that I enjoyed.
When I heard about the Japan earthquake earlier this year, I was worried sick about Phreya, but thankfully she came back to the states a week before. I had set up an Facebook account and everything just to reach her to see if she was all right. I was really worried, just as when other members of my LS got hit by Katrina years before.
Tek still texts me and asks when I'm starting FFXIV. Dunno when its happening for me, but that FFXIV 2.0 stuff actually does sound rather exciting lately. Aniero does an FFXIV podcast with the guys that also did Pet Food Alpha, so I've been keeping tabs on the game.
But I wouldn't know or care about those people were it not for a Dragoon telling me "You can do eet!"
So thank you, Belgaryan! You made all the difference. And to the rest of those in those linkshells, thanks for making my time in FFXi as great as it was.