Here it is, the last chunk of our epic powerlevelling story. I've been assured by the anonymous writer who sent this mammoth literary extravaganza in that everything is true.
Well, no need for me to waffle on about this one, you know the story - or should I say, you will know.
Ah, watch out - a disclaimer!
Before I continue, I should explain a few other practises powerlevelling services make use of in order to get their infamous work done.
The first is that they play 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to get you to the level you want. This is accomplished by cycling the account between different players.
The second practise relates to the first, and is heavily dependent on the quality of the service. Essentially, they use bots when actual manpower isn't available, or the powerlevelling service is unwilling to cough up the paltry sums of money to employ warm bodies.
A bot, if you haven't heard the term before, is a program that runs in the background, interpreting information from the game and converting it into key and mouse presses to simulate a real player. Bots can be very effective, but like all software, they're not perfect. If a monster isn't where it's supposed to be, or the user interface is mis-configured, a bot will cheerfully run in circles, off cliffs or have its arse PvP'd into oblivion.
Obviously, this sort of behaviour does not go unnoticed by other players... or game masters. If you get reported, and the powerlevelling service doesn't pick up on it, you can kiss your account goodbye. Bye epics, bye hours of my life.
Bye hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of subscription fees.
I learnt all this wonderful, encouraging information as my character hit level 35. I trembled in the morning as I watched my progress. I shook in the afternoon as I sat at my PC, eying my character's advancement. Finally, I wiped sweat from my hands in the evening as the powerlevelling service continued to grind indefatigably away at creatures and quests.
Every minute of my day was consumed spying on my Paladin - wasted time in hindsight. I didn't care so much about what level it was any more. All I concerned myself with was getting my account back in one piece.
The smart thing to do at that point would have been to contact the powerlevelling service and ask them to stop immediately. But I was stupid. Plus, it looked like they couldn't even tell when an account was inaccessible or not, so I doubted they could halt a powerlevelling contract midway through.
So, after this D&M with myself, I decided to wait it out.
The Looming Threat My character stayed at level 35 for what seemed like an eternity, or at least the better part of a day. I think it sticks in my memory because it was when I noticed my character was in Scarlet Monastery.
SM? Isn't that a level 35-40 instance?
There's no way my low-level character was going to waltz into SM alone, on a PvP server. No, I rationalised, my character must be grouped. And there's no way a bot is going to get away being in a group doing Scarlet Monastery.
That left only one conclusion - my character was being controlled by a real person. A small consolation, yes, but it add a bit of sunshine to my hermit-like existence.
Level 36 arrived that day and, shortly after, 37. Before I logged off from my trial account that night, my character was doing whatever it did in the Badlands. I can say now that my character spent a lot of time in that zone. Ten levels, maybe more. My guess is that was using a Protection AoE grinding build.
When I woke up the next morning, I'd lost track of how many days it had been since I'd began powerlevelling. All I knew was that it was the beginning of a new month and, when I logged in, my character had surmounted two levels overnight.
By my fuzzy calculations, regardless of my characters monstrous levelling abilities, the service would have to grind 24/7 to get me to level 50 within the ten-day estimate.
It must have been a Tuesday, because scheduled maintenance interrupted the proceedings. I was sure that when the servers came up the next morning, I'd be greeted by a nice email explaining exactly how hard Blizzard had banned my arse.
That night, I dubbed Wednesday "The Day After".
The Day After I'd like to say Wednesday was the day. But it wasn't. Mixed emotions flooded me as I logged into the trial account to face the envitable.
The envitable, however, didn't look back. What did stare at me - in what I imagine was an accusatorial manner - was my character's /who.
A level 42 Blood Elf Paladin. I hadn't be banned. Was it some kind of cruel, vicious game that Blizzard was playing with me? Did they want to squeeze out as much misery as they could from this?
I was at the end of something. A tether. My sanity. Something had to break.
The evening wasn't exciting by the standards of the previous few days. My character climbed to level 44, and was still hanging around the Badlands. Probably running in automated circles around a GM.
It was about this time that things started to blur. My job lost importance and sleeping became optional. I still ate, used the toilet and breathed, but if my girlfriend had still been with me, I'd have been guilty of neglect in the first degree.
No, not even the thought of companionship could rouse me from my daily vigil. My character ascended to level 45, then 46. By the end of what I guessed to be the ninth day - it was about the fourth of the new month - my Paladin was swinging away at trolls in the sands of Tanaris.
I secretly hoped they'd picked up the flightpoint. Damned if I was going to walk there again.
That's when I caught myself doing something I shouldn't - planning ahead. Why was I constructing a future for a character that I was sure had none? It was because I had hope, and it was enough to convince myself that there was a tiny chance I wouldn't be banned.
The Big Five-O That night my character hit 50.
Through the trial account, I could see that my character was no longer logged in. I was using the Friends list now, so I had a record of the last state my character was in before the powerlevelling service cut its ties.
Fifty. I'd made it. All the horror stories I'd read of getting caught within a few levels of employing a powerlevelling service did not apply to me. Minus a bizarre hiccup via email, and my abuse of the account management system, my powerlevelling endeavour had hit 50 without incident.
Was I lucky? Had the stars aligned in a way to blind Blizzard from my activities? I didn't know.
All I could think about was what the hell I was going to do next.
I resisted the urge to log into my freshly-fifty character. The best course of action, going by everything I'd learned, would be to wait a minimum of 24 hours before logging in. Before that, I would change my password to make sure the powerlevelling service couldn't pay a return visit to pilfer my gold and gear.
I think it was after this thought that I went completely zen.
"Fuck it. Fuck it. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen," I said aloud.
I could wait a day.
Epilogue On the morning of the tenth day, I accessed my account management and changed my password. Shortly afterwards, I logged into the game.
That was eight months ago. For a few weeks, I played my powerlevelled character. As promised, I had a mount, a bit over 100 gold and a bunch of green and blue items on my person and in my bank. I'd been left in the neutral town of Tanaris, and my powerlevellers had specced Retribution.
I discovered that the powerlevelling service I'd used had a reputation for being the worst. They used bots, they powerlevelled 24/7, and did little hide what they doing. Somehow, I'd come out unscathed. I felt like Achilles.
I quested and grinded in Azeroth until I pipped 58, and then I headed to the Outland. I managed to get to my mid-60s before I logged out for the last time.
During my final days playing, when I was convinced that I'd dodged a bullet the size of a small planet, I received a message in Chinese pinyin. Translated, it said:
"Do you remember me?"
It took less than a second for me to set up the /ignore. It was that last reminder I had of my powerlevelling experience.
It's been a couple of months since I played, and I can honestly say that I have no desire to go back. If my powerlevelling escapades taught me anything, it's that there were better things in my life than numbers in a database.
It also revealed my obsession with WoW for what it was - an addiction.
An addiction I can say I've kicked.