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:

foefire

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.

fdsconceptart

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).

acghosts

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?

Tangled Paths and Eternal Fears

Well, that sure was an update wasn’t it? I laughed, I cried, I remembered that the Pale Tree and I are already on excellent speaking terms, and there’s no reason why I should have to wait two weeks to have an audience with her! But most of all, I was intrigued by the news found in this update, and some bits in particular have my mind absolutely spinning with possible implications. And so, it’s time for another installment of Dak’s Overly-Deep Analysis Corner!

But let’s back up – Just to be safe, this post will be rife with spoilers. If you haven’t played through Entanglement yet, stop reading, go play and see it all for yourself, then come back and read this. We good? All back? Sitting comfortably? Let’s go!

So, the more easily understood big plot point first: The thorn-covered vine tendrils we’ve been seeing aren’t simply signs of Mordremoth’s corruption – they are Mordremoth. Physically, they are connected to the newly-awoken dragon, and since the end of last season, it’s been quite literally extending his reach across Tyria.

And that reach is the first point of my speculation. Just how far has Mordremoth extended his planty grasp? Luckily, as the Dragons are attracted to magic, we have a handy indicator of Mordy’s current range: the waypoints it’s been prodding at, entangling, and sapping of energy. These waypoints have been found from Brisban and Kessex, along the edge of the Sea of Sorrows to LA and Bloodtide, all the way out to Timberline.

Don't mind me, just poking this floating rock!

Don’t mind me, just poking this floating rock!

There’s a couple neat points here. First, with the exception of Brisban (which has proximity to the Maguuma Jungles) every one of those areas has been subject to Risen. Which may relate to something that’s intrigued me since the early days of the game: Dragon minions stay out of each other’s way. It has always been status quo that Ascalon belongs to the Branded, the Shiverpeaks are Icebrood, and the coasts of the Sea of Sorrows, belonging to Maguuma, Kryta, the Steamspurs, and Orr itself are the domain of the Risen. The only oddity are the Destroyers, who pop up where they will, but they only make things more interesting, because in the areas that they do emerge (Kessex, Maelstrom), they still avoid the Risen. It seems that in some capacity, the Dragons, while not necessarily allies, follow a sort of standing boundary where they’ve split up Tyria, but don’t bother each other.

Which is why it’s interesting that Mordremoth seems to have, in some way, laid claim to zones previously “belonging” to the now-eradicated Zhaitan. Is it, somehow, aware of what’s happened to Zhaitan, and now stepping in to pick up the pieces? We still don’t know much about how the Dragons think, but it’s certainly possibly from what we’ve seen.

Second neat point is, look at the map. Dry Top, Brisban, Kessex, LA, Bloodtide, Timberline. It describes a rather clear arch, following the coast of the Sea. It’s not random, we know, because now we understand the ley lines, and the waypoints that exist were placed atop strong ley line nexuses. Fort Salma and Fort Concordia both harbored strong magical objects, and were subsequently overgrown with Mordremoth’s vines. The vines in Dry Top are around the Zephyrite crash site, where the ground is now scattered with Glint crystals, even more magical objects. Taken all together, I believe that Mordremoth’s vines are following the ley lines underground, surfacing where they detect strong magical energies directly above. If the Breachmaker woke the dragon by tapping into the nexus beneath LA, it seems Mordremoth has followed that same line back, and is branching from there for unknown reasons. The question now is… will the Dragon reach north, deeper into Kryta? Or will it loop south, into Orr, now free of any more than the lingering influence of its dead kin?

Mordrem Path

The vine path of harassed waypoints, from Dry Top to Timberline.

But wait – there’s more. At the very end of Entanglement, we see what Scarlet saw – a vision of the Eternal Alchemy. A symbol that we’ve been told represents the Pale Tree leads us into seeing a collection of globes similar to orreries, or spherical astrolabes. The center, largest sphere, according to the books in Scarlet’s hideout, represents Tyria. Arrayed around it are six smaller orbs in various colors. We see them spin, and then the green orb slams into the center, seeming to consume it as we hear a low snarling. This is what Scarlet saw, what pushed her to insanity! But… what does it mean?

This part is obvious; note the colors of the arrayed orbs. The choice of colors is far too exact to be coincidence, they represent the Dragons. Six Dragons, six orbs, surrounding the world of Tyria. What is interesting is the placement.

Can I have one for my living room?

…can I have one for my living room? V: Uhh, where would we PUT it?!

The Eternal Alchemy, as understood by the asura, is the equation by which the world is balanced. It is a massive mechanism, a machine, by which existence turns, inexorable. It’s a system of balance. The concept of a balanced system of existence isn’t a new one; world mythology has the idea in spades, with opposite elements or beings perpetually in… not so much combat, but opposition that keeps both sides in check. In the array we see here, the bright green orb – Mordremoth – is directly across from… a dull, grey/green-and-black orb, which by process of elimination must represent Zhaitan. And speaking of elimination, we sure managed that, didn’t we?

Which brings me to my point on this vision: I think we made a huge mistake, one we could have never known we were making! We destroyed Zhaitan, throwing the Eternal Alchemy out of balance, and leaving Mordremoth unopposed, perfectly poised to consume all of Tyria. And Scarlet found that out. She knew the Dragons consumed magic, and she discovered the Cavern of the Shining Lights, a powerful ley line nexus. In her own mad way, she confirmed her theories across Tyria, and then occupied Lion’s Arch, where she could use the ley lines to strike Mordremoth directly. But was her intention to cause the vision… or prevent it? Was it, perhaps, all a ploy to force the Pact to rally against Mordremoth specifically, so that we could eliminate it before the imbalance destroys Tyria? Why would she wake it early? Perhaps it was a desperate act; can you imagine how utterly lost we’d have been if the Pact were fighting, say, Jormag, focusing their efforts elsewhere while Mordremoth awoke and took control unopposed? Or perhaps even with Mordremoth slumbering, simply leaving one side of the balance intact would have had untold effects on the world.

This all remains pure speculation on my part… but I believe the pieces are there. Are we now in a race against time, to stop a Dragon we accidentally aided? Perhaps we’ll find out… you know, in two weeks. When the Pale Tree can fit us into her schedule.

 

EDIT: Aaand we’ve found another vine-harassed waypoint, this one in Lornar’s Pass, Guutra’s Homestead!  This new waypoint follows the arc I drew out, and alleviates a concern I had about the vines skipping from northern Bloodtide to Timberline!  (Interestingly, the Cascade Bridge Waypoint north of it is vine-free, but flickering…) If any of you find a waypoint I’ve not mentioned, please comment and let me know.  I’m keen to map this phenomenon accurately.

Corruption

I have not written anything about the living world story so far, but there is one aspect of it that has caught my interest and I’ve been thinking on a lot the past few days. Namely, the subject of sylvari and dragon corruption.

If you remember, some time ago (nearly three years ago!) I wrote on that subject, back when the sylvari redesign was first revealed. One of the things that was included with the new sylvari information was a very neat little bit of info – that sylvari cannot be corrupted by the dragons; they simply die instead. I found this fact endlessly intriguing, and had some ideas on it. Interestingly enough, at some point in the interim that bit of information was removed from the sylvari page – it’s no longer documented there. Doing some digging through the Wayback Machine shows that this information was removed at some point between May and September of 2012 – so it must have been taken out with the site redesign that occurred around the game’s launch. There are a few mentions to this fact in the game itself, however; I managed to find one of the personal story quests that makes mention of the incorruptibility of sylvari, and I’m certain there’s at least one or two more mentions, but I can’t find them.

It seems, though, that this inability to be corrupted is something that is changing. Before I go further, I am going to just go ahead and point out that this will have spoilers for Gates of Maguuma. It’s been just about a week, so I’m not going to avoid them any longer, but they’re there. If you haven’t yet played it, read on at your own risk. There’s also spoilers for Season One, but…that’s been over and done with for some time now, so do they really count as spoilers now? Anyway.

I also want to point out, since people always mention it – Nightmare Court corruption is not the same as dragon corruption. They wish to “corrupt” the Dream and free the sylvari from Ventari’s teachings. There is no indication at all that this has anything to do with dragon corruption, which is what is meant when “corruption” is spoken of.

I just really like this screenshot from the end of season 1.

I just really like this screenshot from the end of season 1.

Scarlet Briar was, undeniably, crazy. Whether or not she was actually corrupted by a dragon, when she looked into the Eternal Alchemy with Omadd’s device, she saw something that terrified her – something that would haunt her for the rest of her life. It was something that broke her mind. That caused her to break away from the Pale Tree and throw away her previous life as Ceara. When it comes down to it, we don’t actually know a whole lot about her motivations, why she wanted to drill into the ley lines. We can only make guesses based on what we know of the nature of magic in Tyria, what we know of the Elder Dragons, and what we know of Scarlet herself.

It is known that the dragons consume magic – this is something that was a large part of the asura personal story, and is brought up again several times later in the personal story. Ley lines are essentially rivers of magic that run beneath Tyria’s surface. During Gates of Maguuma, we learn that there was a ley line hub near Prosperity, that was discovered by a miner. There is also a drawing you can find in Scarlet’s room of what appears to be a map of Tyria, with the Pale Tree at the center of it.

(Some people have also pointed out that this map bears a remarkable resemblance to the Realm of Torment of Guild Wars 1 – which raises some interesting questions…)

Scarlet’s actions at the end of Season One had the result of awakening a dragon – something that we still don’t yet know the full consequences of. Whether or not she intended to awake Mordremoth is up for debate – in her journal, Scarlet said that she must “confront it and put an end to this madness”. It could be that she saw Mordremoth, saw the destruction that it could cause, and by trying to interrupt the ley lines was attempting to prevent it from awakening. On the other hand, the argument can be made that by drilling the ley line, she was essentially calling to the dragon, to awaken it. We don’t know, and we may never know.

One thing that is mentioned is that the only things that Scarlet could have brought into the chamber – when her mind was opened to the Eternal Alchemy – were things already within her, which suggests there was something she knew that was kept hidden from her. We can only speculate on what that thing could be.

So, we have a new dragon awakening somewhere in the jungle. The Zephyrite ship was brought down over the Maguuma Wastes, and we find out during the story who did it, but we also learn some interesting things about the Zephyrites in the process. For example, the fact that they were essentially followers of Glint:

zephyrs

And that they use the magic inherent in her remains to fly their ships and also for the aspect crystals.

Now, the question can be raised – just what were they doing heading off in that direction? They tend to visit out of the way locations, but most of the Zephyrites are of Canthan or Elonian descent, and there’s simply nothing out in that direction anyway, that we yet know of. Cantha and Elona are both south of Tyria, so it is odd that they were flying northwest. And there was Glint’s baby from Guild Wars 1, that as of yet we don’t know the whereabouts of…

There was also Aerin. He was a sylvari that was originally a trader at the Labyrinthine Cliffs, and convinced the Zephyrites to let him join them. You find out during the investigation of the crash that he was the saboteur that took down their ship. It was also said in dialog during the quests that Aerin was a Soundless.

aerin1aerin2

This is highly relevant; the Soundless are a faction of sylvari who have chosen to cut themselves off from the Pale Tree and the Dream. They are not like the Nightmare Court – who keep their connection to the Dream, but have turned their back on the Pale Tree. They, for the most part, simply want to live their life without the pressures and burdens that being a part of the Dream entails, and meditate regularly to keep this connection closed.

Which is very similar to what Scarlet did – she was, for all intents and purposes, Soundless herself. Marjory, during the investigation, says that Aerin reminds her of Scarlet. There is also an interesting point in the fact that, if you encountered Aerin in the Cliffs, he was very much not a Soundless – he would talk about the Pale Tree and even pray to her, so him becoming Soundless is a very recent event.

There is a popular theory going around that the Pale Tree herself is in fact a dragon champion. This is not a theory I’m a particular fan of, but I do have to admit that events make that idea make more and more sense. If you speak to her of Scarlet, she mentions having tried to protect Ceara from herself, which ties back to the idea that there may have been something she had known that was kept from her.

And this all ties into the fact that sylvari are supposedly not able to be corrupted by dragons…and yet it appears that two of them have had just that happened. Both were Soundless, cut off from the Dream and the Pale Tree. Both of those had ties to the newest dragon that has arisen. Mordremoth, the jungle dragon. If the idea that the Pale Tree is a champion is true, then it would make sense that she could protect her children from the corruptions of the other dragons, but also that her protections from Mordremoth may be weaker, and that an active connection from the Dream is needed for this protection to work.

There is one potential gaping hole in this, which is Malyck. However, I’m not sure he’s as much of a hole in the theory as he could be; he has not been seen since the personal story steps with him early on. While he has no connection to the Dream, he also says that he has a feeling of distance and loss instead. He went west into the Magus Falls to try and find his Tree, but never returned. And if you encountered him in the personal story, there is mention of him in the Nightmare Chambers from the Tower of Nightmare. It may simply be hallucinations, but it may also be that Scarlet encountered him – something that is quite possible, considering the direction he set off in. We simply don’t know what has happened to him or what he may have found. And it’s worth pointing out that west is where Mordremoth is supposed to be now awake.

I hope that sylvari and corruption is something that is brought up at some point in the Living World storyline. I would love to see some concrete information about it at some point. I’d like to find out what happened with Malyck, and what caused Aerin to become Soundless. I’d love to find out what Scarlet’s ultimate motivations were with her studies of the ley lines. So many new questions…

Living World Season 2!

Hello hello, Dak here.

So, what an exciting time for Tyria now, eh?  We’ve vanquished Scarlet, for better or worse, we’re chilling at the Labyrinthine Cliffs or the Crown Pavilion in celebration, and recovering before our next grand adventure.  And yesterday, in our launcher, we got the official announcement that Season 2 of the Living World will begin July 1st, as well as this image:

Image

But just a moment here, let’s actually look at this image.  It’s time for Dak’s Overly-Deep Analysis Corner!

The image is something we all know, that good ol’ glowing gateway between adjacent zones.  Where is it, though?

Remember after the Battle for Lion’s Arch, when we relaxed with the gang in the Dead End bar?  Jory’s sister Belinda, one of the Seraph, mentioned that she was to be sent on a long expedition to Brisban Wildlands, going after rumors of some black market traders hiding out there.

We know that Mordremoth is somewhere in the west of Maguuma… good bets right now are Magus Falls in the south, or the Wastes to the north.  And for those of you who were playing 250 years ago, how would you get to those areas, from the areas that are now Brisban?

gw1gw2hengemap

Why, from the Henge of Denravi and Aurora Glade!  These two areas, quite close to each other, now lie in what is called Toxal Bog, in Brisban’s southwest corner.  And wouldn’t you know it, the light quality, walls, ground, and trees are all eerily like the portal seen in the Season 2 promotional image.

Some areas that look likely - light quality, ground, and large trees near walls all match the teaser image.

Some areas that look likely – light quality, ground, and large trees near walls all match the teaser image. Be sure to click the image to see them larger and in better detail!

So, taken all together… what does that image really say about Season 2?  I think it says we’re taking the fight to Mordremoth.   Every previous dragon’s awakening has been followed by a massive catastrophe.  I think it says Season 2 will be a season of adventure, pushing deeper into those dense jungles, as we seek to end Mordremoth before even more destruction is wrought on our world.  I think Season 2 will add brand new zones, one by one, as we search for the newest Elder Dragon.  Perhaps we’ll travel through some old familiar lands… does Ventari’s Refuge still stand, two and a half centuries later?  Is Quarrel Falls still as beautiful as the scenic outpost that amazed adventurers in the distant past?

Soon, perhaps we’ll see.  And I think I’m excited for what awaits.

Edit, 6/3/2014:

With today’s patch, there’s a curious thing visible on the map now…what appears to be a new path leading to a new zone from Brisban Wildlands. In particular, in the Toxal Bog. To be really specific, it’s located where the top-right screenshot posted above is, and it looks like it leads into (what was) Dry Top.

Looks like our speculation was very close to the mark…

Location of the new path leading out of Brisban.

Location of the new path leading out of Brisban.

Stepping into Nightmare

The Nightmare Court is not a subject I have written much about so far, despite the fact that, really, they fascinate me a lot. Of course, all things sylvari do, but the Court in particular is something I was interested in seeing more about.

But they were also a topic that we never really learned a huge amount about. However, with the Court being heavily a part of the early sylvari storyline, we’ve seen a fair bit of them now.

One thing that struck me about the sylvari is that they remind me of Jedi. Honor, helping others, and standing against evil is the core of what their society is based on. I also got the impression that the Nightmare is similar to the Dark Side of the Force – once you fall, that’s it. During a story quest I was doing, I even had Caithe say as much to me. Once that corruption takes hold, you’re done for, and there’s no going back. Caithe herself is described as walking the edge of Nightmare, due to her love for Faolain – she above all knows how dangerous it is, how futile it is to try and rescue someone who’s turned to Nightmare, and yet she cannot keep herself from trying to save her love and bring Faolain back to her.

Caithe herself I found to be especially dark for a sylvari – and also heartbreaking, in some ways. She’s not afraid to take actions that others would balk at – there was one point in the personal story where we had more or less captured a member of the Nightmare Court to get information. Caithe wanted to kill her after getting the info, and my character said, no, we should let her go. Caithe agreed…and then proceeded to kill the Courtier anyway. I was actually quite surprised at that. There’s also the fact that she’s very hesitant to talk about Faolain at any point I’ve seen so far, and there’s a certain book you can find in Caithe’s home that just made me go “…awwwwww…”. And yet, despite this, I can’t see any way that Caithe would ever completely give in to Nightmare. She’s tasted it and prowls the edges, but it’s the one thing she wouldn’t do to get Faolain back.

So. The Nightmare Court. Their main goal is to free sylvari from the teachings of Ventari’s Tablet, not believing that human and centaur philosophies are right for a completely new and different race. They also want to embrace and understand the nightmares found within the Dream, instead of simply ignoring them or trying to get rid of them. They wish to eventually corrupt the Pale Tree herself with these nightmares, freeing the sylvari from what they think are the shackles of Ventari’s teachings.

Of course, they do this by committing acts of evil in order to try and bring these nightmares to life wherever they go. I would compare them to the Dark Jedi of Star Wars, if not for one important difference – Dark Jedi tend to be destructive and horrid for their own selfish gains. Nightmare Court sylvari genuinely believe that what they are doing will eventually change and improve the sylvari race and their society.

In a Nightmare Court disguise

I’m sure most people won’t agree with the Court’s view, but they see the atrocities they perform as a means to an end. Among the members of the Court, there’s quite a large variety amongst how they act and behave. Among the Courtiers I met in the game, there was Sariel, a former student of Faolain’s who reveled in violence, Gavin, who did not care much either way and simply saw it a way to complete what he needed to do and still had a strong sense of honor, and the Knight of Embers, who was cold and deadly. They each have their own methods, their own views of things, while sharing the same ultimate goal.

If there is one thing that the Court tends to be, it is obsessed. They are constantly plotting and finding ways to try and spread Nightmare. They are constantly (forcefully) recruiting new members. If they think that something will help them with their goal, they will do it, no matter what it is. They are truly relentless, resorting to mind control to help turn sylvari to the Nightmare when needed. While it says on wiki that Courtiers have every last bit of virtue they had destroyed, I don’t 100% agree on this point – as I noted out above, there are Nightmare sylvari that still have strong sense of honor which is, after all, a virtuous trait. Of course, we don’t know how common sylvari like Gavin are within the Court – are many of the higher ranks that way, or is he an anomaly? Only time will tell.

One thing is for certain – the Nightmare Court will never be able to be completely defeated. It is based on an idea, and killing the members of the Court will not stop that. The Nightmare is born within the Dream, and it’s not unreasonable to think that it’ll be possible, even now, for sylvari to be born to Nightmare.

This is one thing I’m impatient to learn more about as we play through the game, and I’m especially excited to play through the Twilight Arbor dungeon, which is entirely about the Nightmare Court. There’s so much that can be explored here, and I definitely want to see what happens when Caithe and Faolain meet in game.

Here be Dragons!

Dragons. They are slightly important to Guild Wars 2…being as the plot basically revolves around trying to stop them from destroying the world. When it comes down to it, we don’t know much about the dragons themselves, though. We know how many Elder Dragons are threatening Tyria – five – but we still lack the name of one, the deep sea dragon (nicknamed “Bubbles”). We know that they have minions, as well as each having their own champion.

The Great Lava Turkey - I mean, Destroyer

Or at least, they each did – Primordus’ original champion was the Great Destroyer, who was destroyed in Eye of the North, delaying Primordus from awakening. His second, the Destroyer of Life, was destroyed by Destiny’s Edge. But has he created/procured himself a new champion? My guess is that it would be another particularly large and powerful Destroyer, but as of yet, we don’t know. Perhaps it’s something that we won’t know for a while, since Primordus lurks underground, but even so.

And that of course raises the question – just how is a dragon champion created? Glint had been Kralkatorrik’s champion for centuries of years; her ability to see into minds caused her to turn against her master and hide in the Crystal Desert. GW2 Wiki says that she was created with the goal of protecting her master, but…just how was she created? Morgus Lethe, Zhaitan’s former champion, was “corrupted” by Zhaitan, but we don’t know much about this corruption other than sylvari are immune to it.

So far that we know of, both Zhaitan and Kralkatorrik have replaced their defeated champions, their new ones being Tequatl the Sunless and the Shatterer. The fact that both are dragons themselves (champions do not necessarily need to be dragons) brings about the question of just how many dragons currently exist in Tyria? In GW1, undead dragons in certain Krytan areas were…not quite common, but not uncommon either. Cantha had Saltspray Dragons. There were also creatures that were classified as dragons, but the resemblence was less – Drakes and Bonesnap Turtles for example. These lesser ones were more common, but somehow I doubt they would make suitable dragon champions. Tequatl could be a reanimated undead dragon (think Rotscale, but nastier), made to fight for Zhaitan.

The Shatterer - not a happy crystal chicken.

The Shatterer is a bit more of an enigma. There were no dragons living in/around the Dragonbrand that we knew of in GW1, except for Glint herself. So where did this dragon that Kralkatorrik corrupted come from? And would any random dragon work, or would it need to be a crystal dragon, like Kralkatorrik and Glint themselves were?

And connected to that…Glint had a child, the baby crystal dragon that we protected from Destroyers during Glint’s Challenge in Eye of the North. We don’t know the fate of this baby dragon – if it’s still alive, if it was corrupted by an elder dragon or not, or where it is.

Jormag’s champion was destroyed; as of yet we don’t know if he has a new champion, or what it is. Nor do we know what happened with the dragon frozen within Drakkar Lake in Eye of the North, or why Jormag had created the Dragonspawn instead of awakening his old champion.

And then there’s Bubbles, which we know almost nothing about, including its name. It’s an underwater dragon, its awakening coincided with the krait invading the quaggan lands, and it can create creatures from the water but…that’s about it. We don’t know what kind of champion it has, or if it even has one.

I’d love to see some more lore and information about the dragons themselves; how they work, how they create or select a champion, what sort of lesser dragons exist and how many…there’s so much potentially interesting info here we don’t yet know. I’m sure most we’ll find out in game, but that doesn’t help the curiosity much :P

…also, I totally want to see an NPC in-game refer to the sea dragon as “Bubbles”. Just sayin’.

Sylvari – Incorruptible?

Today the page for sylvari on the Guild Wars 2 website was updated, detailing the little bits of information we had before, as well as adding new information, screenshots, and an amazing video (seriously, if you haven’t watched it yet…go do so).

There was one bit of information in that page that struck me as very interesting, though. Interesting, and unusual, and it got me thinking.

“While the other races may be corrupted by the Elder Dragons, turned into undead minions or crystalline creatures of the Brand, the sylvari are never turned. Those born of the Pale Tree simply die before the corruption takes hold. Many sylvari believe that this is because they were born to battle the dragons, blessed with a certain protection against their most horrible powers. Some non-sylvari scholars state instead that the sylvari’s strange biology foils the corruption of the dragons. A few clever souls state that sylvari just taste bad to dragons. No one knows for certain which is the truth.”

Now, any of those three possible explanations could work. Maybe the Pale Tree does grant them some sort of magical protection against the corruption of the dragons. Maybe their plant biology prevents it from happening somehow. Maybe the dragons simply are carnivores. We don’t know.

Caithe, of the Firstborn

But there was something from the blog post about writing the sylvari that also stood out to me. Essentially, sylvari lack the prejudices and that the other races have. They have a strong sense of honor, and stand by it. They’re highly curious and wish to experience all they can. And while sylvari are capable of love and loving (in all manners of the terms), they do not reproduce, and hence do not subscribe to human-style gender roles. Who they love is not defined by gender.

In short, as they lack the typical prejudices that the other races have developed, they are likely the only one of the races of Tyria that is capable of truly capable of accepting everyone and anyone as they are. This doesn’t mean that they’ll necessarily tolerate evil (they hold a strong hatred of the dragons, for example), but if you’re someone who doesn’t fit whatever norms your society dictates? A sylvari may as well be your best friend. They’ll be curious about you, but they won’t judge you for it. They’ll just accept that as being you.

What do these two points have to do with each other, though? Well, you’ll have to bear with me, as this is just speculation on my part, but I do believe that it does make some sense.

The reason why sylvari cannot be corrupted does not have to do with any magical protection, or their biological (botanical?) makeup, or the dragon’s opinions on salad. Rather, it is because of the race’s high sense of honor and lack of prejudice. They find all new information as something to be explored, not shunned, and are too young, as a race, to have developed the sort of prejudices that plague the other races. Essentially, they are too pure as a race, and lack any corruption within themselves for the dragons to take hold of and twist to their advantage. The other races do not have this advantage; they are old and have learned prejudice, both personally and as a society, and even the most heroic person will have a seed of negativity within them that can be used to corrupt them.

Of course, I could be incorrect, and there are some things we don’t know about. Are the Nightmare Court as equally free from the risk of corruption? They are merciless and believe that Ventari’s teachings have twisted the Dream, and that they are the true sylvari, and explore the darker side of things. If they are also incorruptible, then that’s a sort of wrench in my theory, but at this point we don’t know – and I doubt the Nightmare Court really have gone out seeking to fight dragons, preferring to add their nightmares to the Dream to try and win over the Pale Tree.

The other big question is, will the sylvari always keep this ‘purity’ and lack of corruption? After all, they love to learn and experience new things. Tyria is a harsh world. They are a very young race, but as they age (individually and as a whole) and learn more about the world and how things work, is it possible for a sylvari to become jaded and perhaps learn some of the prejudices present in other races? Again, we don’t know, and at this point in time it’s impossible to tell, I think.

I am also assuming that the corruption of the dragons uses and takes advantage of the negativity and fears that are within everyone. This could be the case, or it might not be! This is just an idea, after all.

I could be way off, but I feel that there’s a good chance that the inability to be corrupted and the race’s sense of honor and acceptance could be linked. Why do you think the sylvari can’t be corrupted by dragons?

The children of the forest

If you know me, there’s something about GW2 that you know I’m waiting very impatiently to hear about (well, two things. This is about one of them). If you don’t know me well, then it should be clear, at least, from this blog’s name and design that there’s one race in particular I love.

Yes, the sylvari. That mysterious race of human-like beings, born from the Pale Tree in the Grove. But just who are they?

Concept art of a sylvari

At this point, we don’t know a huge amount about them. They’re a brand new race, not appearing at all in the first Guild Wars game, though you can visit the area that becomes the Grove and that houses the Pale Tree seedling in Eye of the North (it’s on one of the islands in the middle of Arbor Bay, if you haven’t yet seen it). We’ve yet to see their race week. In fact, at this point, we don’t really know how they’re going to look!

So, then, what is the allure of them?

The fact that they are so new and different is certainly part of it. We know that it’s possible, and probably likely, that the idea for the sylvari originally came from the sidhe, a race that was designed for Utopia. That, in turn, they were likely inspired by the aos sí/aes sídhe of Irish mythology.

That in itself makes them unusual; while fantasy games always draw heavily from legends and mythology (and Guild Wars is no different), usually if there’s an elven or fae race, they are based on Tolkienesque elves. Here, that is not the case. Irish fae are not Tolkien elves, even though there are elves amongst the fae. Irish fae cover a number of different types of faeries and elves, some of which are generally good and peaceful, some not so much. They were often referred to as nature spirits, care was taken to not offend them, they were often seen as fierce guardians of their homes (often a special tree or grove, faerie ring, or mound), and they were described as inhumanly beautiful, but sometimes terribly so.

Another sylvari concept art

It’s not really a mythology that’s been used much in games. Sure, Rift has the Aelfwar, which draw from Irish myths, but for the most part, elves in that game (and any game) are based more on Tolkien’s elves. Mysterious, aloof, ancient, unchanging. The sylvari are most certainly not that. They are a brand new race; as of the time of GW2, the oldest sylvari is only 23 years old. They may seem a bit apart from the rest of the races, but that is simply because they are so new and do not have the prejudices that the other races have build up. Mysterious, yes, but also curious. Endlessly curious. A sylvari, newly born from the fruit of the Pale Tree, will want to do learn about everything she can see. They are born with the knowledge and intelligence that those came before had, but they want to learn things on their own. Experience things themselves. Become their own person.

They tend to be very direct and honest, and somewhat lacking in tact; if there’s a subject that another race would tiptoe around or not mention at all, you can trust a sylvari to bring it up anyway. They take things at face value and are seen as naive. Death is not something they completely understand; their fascination with it and trying to understand it can come off as slightly disturbing to other races. They hold an agnostic view of the human gods, wanting to see proof of their existence before believing.

And then there is also the Nightmare Court. Within the Dream of Dreams, the connection with the Pale Tree that gives a newborn sylvari their knowledge, there are terrible nightmares, which they do not understand. There are some sylvari who have chosen to embrace those nightmares. They attempt to understand them, while committing acts of evil. They wish to eventually corrupt the Pale Tree itself with this evil and depravity that they embrace.

Definitely not very Tolkienesque, right?

Sylvari, before being redesigned

Of course, the biggest thing everyone is waiting for is the reveal of their redesign. We don’t know how they’re going to look yet! Supposedly, the redesign was completed back in October 2010, but no news has been released about it. No images, no new concept art, no videos, nothing. Every release has very conspicuously excluded the sylvari. We don’t even know how much was redesigned; if it was just something small like redrawing the faces to look a little less human and more fae, or if they were completely redone from the ground up.

Personally, I am hoping for something less human and more fae. I like the green and brown of the skin colors and leafy hair shown in both concept arts and screenshots of their old design, but I’d like that to be pushed further. Exaggerate their facial features further. Make their eyes larger and maybe have the iris be all that’s visible. Smaller noses, sharper cheekbones. They’re human-like, yes, but they should be immediately recognizable as non-humans.

The only sylvari tidbit I saw from the fan open house was that in character creation, you can select sylvari patterns. I’m assuming that this means facial markings and skin patterns, something which you can see a lot of in concept arts. I sure hope so.

I wish there was more information on the sylvari. I wish we could see the new design already, and I do hope that it’s announced soon. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. And so, I leave you with a question – what do you think of the sylvari, and what are you hoping for when they are officially revealed?