Foefire’s End

This week, the trailer for next week’s living story release, The Dragon’s Reach: Part 1, was released. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it, because that’s what I’ll be talking about today.

Done with it? Okay. Let’s get started.

The part I’m most interested in starts around :36, with Rytlock. He has decided to make an attempt to break the curse laid on Ascalon by the Foefire. Whether or not he’s successful? Well, that remains to be seen. But let’s look at some facts and see what we can find:

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The Foefire was a last-ditch effort by King Adelbern, cast as the Flame Legion overran Ascalon City. The charr had been warned of it, by a group of their own that had been sent to infiltrate Ascalon City and kill Adelbern; instead they found his servant, Savione, who warned them that the king was mad and what he planned. The Flame Legion chose to press the attack anyway. The city was overrun, and soldiers attempted to make a retreat, but Adelbern refused to let them do so, and instead unleashed the Foefire. This had the effect of killing the charr breaking into the city, but also obliterating every single human in Ascalon – not just the city, but for leagues around. Their bodies were destroyed, and their souls cursed to forever “protect” the land, seeing any living thing that crossed them as hostile, and to constantly reform themselves when destroyed.

There’s no way of claiming that this was either an intelligent nor a sane decision from Adelbern. It was, quite frankly, monstrous. And it clearly was not cast with the intention of killing charr, but rather with the intent of cursing and damning the very land itself. He was willing to murder all of his people, instead of letting them escape. It was very much a case of “I’ll break everything instead of let someone else have it”.

And so now, 237 years later, we see Rytlock making an attempt to break this curse. Clearly things with Mordremoth are heating up enough where they feel they need every potential ally they can get their hands (or paws) on. Why is Rytlock trying to break this curse? There are a couple reasons for this. It could be that he’s doing it as a final peace gesture with the humans – I will break this curse over members of your race in exchange for your assistance. It could be that they think that when the curse is lifted, the ghosts will still remain, and could be a potent force to use against the dragon. It could be that he’s attempting to remove a potential food source for the dragon.

There are also a number of other questions that are raised here. Why has it taken someone so long to try and break a curse. Why is it Rytlock making this attempt, and not someone else? What are the chances of it even succeeding?

So let’s take a look at some more information here.

First off, King Adelbern himself. He was the last king of Ascalon, though he was not actually in the line of inheritance. He was descended from King Doric, so he was of the royal family, but he was not in the line of succession for the crown; he had been a leader of his guild during the Guild Wars and was elected king through popular demand. He was a popular king, but there were Royalists that wished to dethrone him and put Duke Barradin, who had been the heir, on the throne. Adelbern’s son and heir, Rurik, was to marry Althea, Barradin’s daughter. This marriage was likely arranged to strengthen Adelbern’s (and hence Rurik’s) claim to the throne. It should be noted that Barradin himself did not press his claim.

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King Adelbern had been the wielder of the magical sword Magdaer, while Rurik had wielded its sister-sword, Sohothin. These two swords are powerful Orrian magical artifacts that predate the Exodus of the Gods, and at some point (it is unknown) they were gifted to the Ascalonian royal line from the Orrian kings to ensure peace. Magdaer was shattered upon the casting of the Foefire, the spell having drawn on the magical power of the sword, and Sohothin was presumed lost when Rurik’s undead form was defeated at Hell’s Precipice. Somehow Rytlock found the sword; how it wound up back on the mainland is unknown, though it could be connected to the volcano at Abaddon’s Mouth erupting not long after Rurik’s final death.

We don’t actually know the words or terms of the Foefire curse. According to legend, the curse will be broken if either Magdaer or Sohothin return to Ascalon City in the hands of the rightful king of Ascalon.

Magdaer itself hasn’t been seen for some time – two years of in-game time. Eir retrieved the pieces of it from the Ascalonian Catacombs and said she knew a smith that could reforge it, but we do not know if this was ever successful.

So, with all of that information, look again at the trailer, especially of Rytlock’s actions. And notice one very, very important thing. He wasn’t in the Ascalonian Catacombs, or any sort of city. He was in Duke Barradin’s tombs. The tomb of the man who would have been King, who was the brother of the King preceding Adelbern, and was next in line to inherit the crown. In other words, the true king of Ascalon as of the Searing and the Foefire.

There are a lot of puzzle pieces here, but when you look at all of the information we know, looking back at the lore from Guild Wars 1, those pieces start to fit together. However, there are still large gaps here.

We don’t actually know what Rytlock’s true intentions are, or what he’s actually trying to do here. He may be trying to break the curse itself, thinking that bringing Sohothin to the resting place of the last true heir of Ascalon will be enough to satisfy the legend’s instructions on breaking it. It may be that he’s trying to awaken Barradin, to give him the sword, so he can break the curse, hoping that the presence of Sohothin would awaken some lucidity in Barradin’s mind (this theory would require Barradin to have died previously to the Foefire, most likely; it’s notable that we don’t actually know when he died).

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And keep in mind, we don’t actually know how the curse can be broken! We don’t know what Adelbern actually said. What we know about how it can break is prefaced by “according to legend”. Fact of the matter is, no one that was in a position to know exactly what Adelbern did survived. Ghosts that were killed by the Foefire see everything as a threat; they are effectively mindless creatures at this point. We encounter others who were turned into ghosts by the Foefire in the Ascalonian Catacombs story mode, but Ralena, Vassar, Nente, and Kasha were all presumably killed prior to the Foefire, and hence they still have some control over their minds and awareness of what is going on.

Curses, as we are used to them from fiction, are a thing that are rare in Tyria. There is the Foefire, and the magical enslavement that was laid on the souls of the Orrian royal family when Zhaitan plundered their graves…but there are few others that we know of (if any). Hence, I want to quickly go over how curses typically act in fiction. They are a powerful type of magic, used to cause or wish harm upon a being or a thing. We’re all familiar with fairy tales, correct? Curses abound there. And there are a few common things – the wording on them must be precise, they are a type of magic that can often twist itself into something unintended, they can turn on their caster, and while it often seems that there is only a single way to break a curse, oftentimes a bit of creative thinking will present other options.

There is also, as I pointed out, the fact that Adelbern was not the true heir to the Ascalonian throne and hence not the true heir to Magdaer’s powers. Magdaer was a sword gifted to Ascalon as a symbol of peace. Poweful magical objects can oftentimes take on a mind of their own, as well. It is unlikely that Adelbern fully understood or was able to use the magic in his sword; it is also possible that the sword itself disapproved of the curse (it did break during the casting of the Foefire).

Even the very phrase “true king of Ascalon” leaves a large amount of interpretation, if that’s what’s needed. Does that mean Barradin’s ghost, who was the next in line of inheritance? Does it mean Adelbern’s ghost, as he was the king at the time? Or could it refer to a living member of the royal family? And even that opens a hundred different possibilities. The royal families of Kryta and Ascalon both descended from King Doric – so could Jennah break the curse? Is there another branch of the Ascalonian family still alive somewhere, perhaps? We already know of at least one, Wade Samuelsson; royal families tend to be large and have many branches and cousins upon cousins, so there’s always the possibility that there are more branches of the family we don’t know about that could be alive. Or, could it refer to the charr? After all, the charr lived in Ascalon before humans did – the Searing and the war between the two were the charr trying to take back their homelands.

Speaking of Jennah – while it is known she’s descended from Salma, it’s worth pointing out that on the family tree, she is not shown to be related to any known members of the royal family. Is she a direct descendent, or perhaps descended through a cousin? There is Roderick, who is possibly Baede‘s son, and possibly Jennah’s grandfather, but neither of those things are actually known for certain.

So there’s a lot to think about here. I don’t know if Rytlock will be successful in whatever he’s trying – I think it’d be neat if it did break the curse, but I also think it’d be equally funny if absolutely nothing happened. Realistically, I’m sure that Rytlock’s attempt at breaking the curse will be the very last thing we see during Tuesday’s update, and we’ll have to wait two weeks to find out what actually happens there (ArenaNet likes ending with a hook like that). And, personally, I do hope the curse gets broken…because that would mean a major revamp of Ascalonian Catacombs, and while I love that dungeon, it would be nice to see something new. It also wouldn’t be the first time Living Story massively altered a dungeon.

A lot of questions here. A lot to speculate on. What do you think will happen? Or, for that matter, what’s even going on here?

One thought on “Foefire’s End

  1. Pingback: This week in Guild Wars 2, 19-25 July | GuildMag

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