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Guild Wars 2 Lore

Discussion in 'Role Playing' started by Zosimus, Jan 25, 2012.

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  1. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
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    This thread will cover the Guild Wars 2 lore. You will see many types of races in the game and their history. Role players can use this thread as a reference to their stories and tales.

    We at Guild Wars 2 Stratics want to thank and give credit to ArenaNet for having this information for all the GW2 fans to read.




    The Savage Pride of the Jotun

    By Ree Soesbee January 25th, 2012



    [​IMG]The jotun (pronounced JŌ-tun) are the last remnants of an ancient society of giants. Once powerful, advanced, and arrogant, they proclaimed themselves rulers of the Shiverpeak Mountains and raised great monuments to themselves on the highest peaks. Their leaders, known as giant-kings, were tremendously powerful beings, as skilled in feats of strength as they were in magic and lore.
    <B>And yet, as the jotun defeated all who threatened their control over the mountains, they did not adjust to peace. Convinced that they were the superior race, they became obsessed with the purity of their blood and the number of heroes, warlords, and giant-kings in each lineage. Blood became a reason for taking one mate over another, seizing land, and in time, wiping out other “lesser” tribes. Eventually, the jotun conquered or destroyed all their external enemies, and then the giant-kings turned on each other, each seeking ultimate control. Families waged war upon one another, and brother made war on brother, until the tribes erupted in vicious internal wars for control.
    “I will show you the jotun of ages past, when we strode across the Shiverpeaks as mighty lords. Witness the savagery, greed, and vanity that ended our glorious rule…”

    </B>
    Thruln, the last of the giant-kings
    Long ago, the jotun possessed the ability to use magic and were skilled enough with it to create enchanted monuments in the Shiverpeak Mountains. Some historians believe that the age of jotun magic may even pre-date the coming of the human gods and the creation of the Bloodstones. Yet, during their long history of infighting, civil war, and slaughter, the jotun lost all knowledge and understanding of magic. Their powerful sages were killed, and their lore-keepers and mystics were wiped out before they could continue the tradition of jotun magic. All that remains of their once-great arcane spirituality are a few carved runes on forgotten, snow-covered peaks.
    [​IMG]

    <B>Recent History


    “See this stone, and behold the power that will one day conquer the world.”

    </B>
    Written on a jotun monument
    Over the centuries of their existence, the jotun have fallen far from their state of grace, losing command of technology and magic they once utilized, and remembering their place as kings of the land only in legend and story. While jotun leaders struggle to reclaim ancient glories and grasp lost power for themselves, most scholars believe that the glory days of the ancient giant-kings are lost forever.
    The jotun have lost many of the things that once made them great. Their lore is scattered, and much of it lost; any religion, higher learning, or secrets of invention that they once mastered have been eradicated, and only the remnants of their once-great society remain. Like the massive stone monuments their people once raised that can still be found in the Shiverpeaks, the jotun have lost their purpose…and their meaning.
    Now savage, vicious creatures, the jotun fall upon any traveler they see. Occasionally pacified by tribute and flattery, they may choose to let non-jotun pass with a threat or a beating. However, when two clans of jotun come upon one another, they are satisfied with nothing less than the complete eradication of the other.

    Society

    [​IMG]Jotun organize themselves into large tribes, related by blood or union, led by the strongest. This strength may come from arms, or magic, or any other ability—but it is always shown through physicality and brute force. The jotun do not respect a leader that is not physically able to enforce his laws and rulings. They would kill and replace anyone who lost their strength, failed, or did not lead the tribe to glory. A charr soldier may make a calculated decision to kill a failed leader in order to ensure victory for the warband. A jotun is more like a rabid beast, reflexively tearing one of their own to pieces at the first sign of weakness—no matter the long-term cost for the clan.
    Jotun tend to segregate themselves by sex: males are more aggressive and take leadership roles, while females are relegated to childrearing. Males gather in small groups of blood-relations and constantly seek to eliminate any other jotun they discover in their clan’s territory. At its heart, the jotun’s internal warfare is intended to eliminate all those jotun not blood-related to a single clan. Because of this, it is critical for jotun to protect their females and children. A traveler will never see those in open territory, as the family unit is always well-hidden from the world while the males hunt and bring back food for all.
    While many of the more “barbaric” races of Tyria have a sense of honor or a code of ethics, the jotun have very few moral restrictions inherent in their society. They protect and defend their family, their clan, and their territory through whatever means necessary. A jotun will break his word, lie under oath, or act reprehensibly if he feels it will empower him or strengthen his clan (or destroy another). Individuals who have attempted to make peace with jotun tribes in the past have learned, much to their sorrow, that jotun only stick to such treaties as long as they clearly benefit from them. It is far more likely that a jotun clan bound by treaty is only biding their time or building their strength, planning soon to eradicate those foolish enough to trust them.

    <B>Religion


    “Who do I worship? Ha! Myself!”

    </B>
    Utahein, jotun chieftain
    The closest thing that the jotun have to “religion” is their firm, avowed belief that their blood is magical—that it is powerful, and akin to the divine. Each clan of jotun reveres their ancestors and can trace their lineage back to some powerful giant-king of lore. Many of the tales of these giant-kings have taken on the feel and tenor of religious myths, and each clan calls to their legendary blood to empower them, see them through trials, and ensure them victory. While it cannot be said the jotun “worship” their ancestors, they certainly attempt to emulate them through conquest, single-minded self-absorption, and personal pride.

    Behind the Scenes

    Even though we had established the jotun in the original games, we wanted to really bring them to life in Guild Wars 2, particularly for the norn areas of the world. We wanted them to be more than “nasty customers with big clubs,” and the way we chose to do that was to give them a long history—but a tragic one. We wanted to make the ogres an old race and follow that with the jotun, since the two species are interlinked. Giving the jotun a history that had been lost—ruined by their own flaws—gives them a lot of depth and plays into the overall story of Guild Wars 2.
    The new jotun art depicts the race as being taller and more intelligent looking than the art from the original Guild Wars, which helps to better illustrate the race’s history and the fact that they are sentient, smart creatures—not rock-tossing droolers. The primitivism we see in their clothing and weapons is a sharp contrast to the magical monuments located at their camps—and that, too, is deliberate. Showing the decline of a race from power and civilization into primitivism, all because they could not stop fighting amongst themselves, is important to the game’s theme. It illustrates what might happen if the player character races can’t give up their old arguments and unite against the threat of the Elder Dragons.
    [​IMG]







     
  2. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
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    Planet of the Grawl

    By Jeff Grubb October 14th, 2011


    [​IMG]
    Of all the races of Tyria, the apelike grawl are the most underappreciated and underestimated. A race of furry simian bipeds, the grawl can speak and use tools and weapons. They even have a fair approximation of clothing, but they lack most of the trappings of advanced society. They make their homes in caves on the edge of civilization and are considered a lesser race of raiders and bandits by the more developed cultures around them. While many grawl do resort to banditry, just as many seek nothing more than to be left alone.
    Biology and Society
    “We are the meek, we are the humble. We watch and we wait for others to stumble”
    – Traditional grawl saying​
    Grawl are humanoid ape-like creatures—slightly larger than the typical human—and are covered with long fur of various shades of grey. Because their faces and postures are definitely simian, charr scholars have theorized that the grawl are a debased form of human, or that the humans are a type of grawl uplifted by their gods. [​IMG]
    Human researchers, on the other hand, point out the heavy, hunched shoulders of the grawl and the fact that they walk on their toes—both features of the charr—and posit a close kinship between the charr and the primitive grawl. Unlike the charr, however, the grawl run with a bounding, skipping gait that gives them sufficient altitude to see their targets at a distance, and they move with a sure-footed grace that gives them an advantage in their rocky territory.
    Grawl live in small tribes consisting of several families, usually under the command of one or more shamans. These shamans are responsible for both the spiritual and daily life of their family unit. They wield magical powers that help protect their flock and enforce the will of their gods.
    Grawl tend to subsist as hunter-gatherers, though they often rely on scavenging. They do not plant fields, and although they herd animals, they do not otherwise domesticate them. They have no architecture, using only natural caverns as their homes. These subterranean dwellings are decorated with cave paintings, netted frames of wood, and strings of stolen glass balls and other scavenged baubles.
    Clothing and Equipment

    Grawl have some level of proficiency in leatherworking and are able to fashion primitive metal weapons and tools. While they are comfortable in little more than a loincloth, grawl warriors conduct raids bedecked in heavy leather armors with protective hoods. As symbols of their office, grawl shamans wear colorful headdresses and necklaces made with the feathers of rare birds or bones harvested from their enemies.
    Grawl weapons are usually poorly-crafted imitations of the weapons used by norn, humans, and charr. They use scythe-like axes made of dark metal forged in campfires, and craft bows to bring down prey at long range. Grawl are not discriminating; they will often use weapons and equipment stolen from other races and repurposed to their own needs.
    [​IMG]
    History
    “Fire warms, but fire also burns. The gods keep us safe, but sometimes they destroy. We kill…or we are killed. This ends the lesson.”
    – Krippus, grawl raider​
    The grawl are native to Tyria, and Ascalon in particular. The earliest mention of them is found in early charr military tributes that predate the arrival of humans in the area. In these annals, the charr are always portrayed as victors with the defeated grawl pulling the charr commanders in great chariots. The charr dominated the grawl, forcing them into the Shiverpeak and Blazeridge Mountains and beyond, where they lived at a subsistence level.
    Dispersed and powerless, the grawl survived as raiders in the human kingdom of Ascalon and elsewhere. When the charr returned under the Flame Legion, they successfully enlisted (and in many cases enslaved) many of the local grawl as militia. The grawl proved to be unmanageable beyond a squad level, however, and were used primarily as scouts.
    Since the conquest of Ascalon, the grawl have returned to their meager existence at the edges of civilization. Few races have the need or interest to interact with the grawl, whose lack of respect for personal property and untrustworthy behavior makes any dealings difficult. A number of individuals of many races have looked upon the grawl as potential allies, cheap labor, or easy marks. All have been disappointed in the results.
    The grawl today exist much as they did hundreds of years ago—superstitious cave dwellers whose only interest in the outside world consists of slaying those who wander into their territories or pose an affront to their gods.
    Matters of Faith
    I am one of the faithful. YOU are mistaken in your beliefs. THEY are all godless heretics.
    – Thockalock, grawl shaman​
    Grawl are bound together by faith, but separated by it as well. They are a deeply religious, shamanistic people, but their particular brand of animism creates numerous localized factions that are mutually intolerant of each other.
    In a nutshell, the grawl believe that particularly important places, individuals, and items are imbued with great spiritual force. This differs from the animist beliefs of the norn, who hold that the Spirits of the Wild are imbued in all of its children (i.e., Bear is present in all bears). The grawl version of animism professes that all physical things contain spirits, and that particularly powerful or unusual beings and items hold spirits capable of granting miracles, and are therefore worthy of veneration (e.g., that particular bear is powerful—we should worship it). By enhancing the power of a given item, location, or being, grawl hope to curry its favor and protection.
    [​IMG]As a result, grawl tend to worship a wide variety of items, ranging from natural features to unusual phenomena to powerful creatures. One tribe of grawl may bring offerings to a rock feature that looks like a grawl’s face (like the one on the right), while another may revere a great swamp beast and sacrifice travelers to it in order to save themselves. The depth and sincerity of their worship tends to pit rival grawl tribes against each other, as each believes they have the true religion, and all others are led by false gods.
    On occasion, great religious movements form among the grawl, encompassing multiple tribes throughout an entire region. During these transient periods of religious fervor, grawl will abandon their traditional beliefs for the trending new faith. At times like this, the grawl are at their most dangerous, for the religious friction between the new faith and the old can erupt into a bloody holy war—one in which all non-grawl are potential converts, hostages, or enemies.
    The superstitious grawl are belittled by other, more advanced races for their xenophobia and the seemingly ridiculous nature of the things they worship. Humans and asura tend to be the most dismissive of grawl beliefs, while the norn are more sympathetic, feeling the grawl have simply missed the large point of the Spirits of the Wild. The charr, who historically have oppressed the grawl, are the most emphatic in trying to cure them of their belief system, as their superstitions make the grawl easy prey for manipulative agencies such as the Flame Legion. However, many charr draw a parallel between grawl animism and human religion, to the irritation to both grawl and humans.
    Behind the Scenes

    When the grawl first appeared in an alpha test version of Guild Wars Prophecies, they were called trogs. This old nomenclature survived deep in the heart of wikis devoted to the subject, and in Guild Wars 2 names like “Grawl Udolyte”—a name which makes more sense when you consider it was originally “Trog Udolyte,” or “troglodyte.” A troglodyte is traditionally a cave-dweller, and though Dungeons & Dragons transformed them into stinky lizard-guys in the mind of role-playing gamers, the traditional image and odor of the primitive Neanderthal hang heavily over the grawl.
    The grawl in the original Guild Wars were primarily spawned as general-purpose bad guys, and they are absent from most of the major quests. They were overshadowed by the charr and undervalued by all. Of all the races in Tyria, the grawl are the most left behind in Guild Wars 2, still firmly ensconced in their past. Not all species got a chance to advance technologically in the 250 years between our games, and the dispersed, primitive grawl were good candidates to remain the same as they were in Prophecies—for better and for worse.
    [​IMG]

     
  3. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
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    Shadows in the Water – The Krait

    By Ree Soesbee May 4th, 2011

    [​IMG]
    For centuries, tales have been told of pillared cities rising above the water far out at sea. Spires reach up from the waves with no land visible on any horizon, and their bases coil down into the ocean depths where no air-breather could survive. Lost sailors live there, their ships crushed by storms. Glittering parapets soar, formed from wood, glass, and pirate treasure long thought to be lost at sea.
    The truth is that such places exist. Yet, while legends make them sound beautiful and exotic, reality is a far darker tale. These “pillared cities” are slave pens, built to hold land-dwellers alive above the waves until they are required for sacrifice. Those who live upon them are desperate, maddened creatures that gaze down every day into the dark waters and know that their time will soon come. Living on scraps of fish thrown to them by their captors, they eke out a pathetic existence while always watching for a sail on the horizon—praying, begging, and screaming for someone to rescue them before the krait return.



    “Dark shapes slither through the water, shadows within shadows of waves. Watch your children if they walk too close to the shore. Watch yourself. Far too many have vanished into these waters, and none have ever returned from the deeps.” — Jarl Foxcoat, norn skaald



    [​IMG]The krait are intelligent serpent-like creatures with long tails suited for speed in the water, but torsos and arms that are more humanoid—albeit with scales, horns, and lizard-like heads. They are incredibly vicious creatures, completely uninterested in the needs or well-being of others. Coming close to death transforms them, causing them to shape-shift out of religious frenzy; in such a state, they are even more difficult to destroy.
    Equally comfortable above and below the water, the krait have never felt truly threatened by any of the land-dwelling races of Tyria. Perhaps that is why they have not bothered to communicate with other races. They have no need of anything land-dwellers can give them, other than slaves for their use and sacrifices for their rituals. However, the krait can seize those for themselves—with ruthless efficiency.
    Even the amphibious hylek are at a disadvantage when fighting underwater. No hylek tribe has been able to mount an effective force against the krait. The quaggan are terrified of them and tell tales of their monstrous chantries beneath the sea. The krait have never been beaten, and do not believe themselves to be defeatable. They are convinced that they are blessed and elevated: the superior species in the world.
    Religion

    Krait society is dark and fanatical. Led by their priesthood, the Oratuss, the krait follow an ancient doctrine handed down to them by their abyssal prophets and constantly foretell of the prophets’ return. The krait religion is based on massive obelisks of a unique, dark stone that can be found exclusively and rarely on Tyria’s ocean floors. The krait believe that each of these obelisks was raised upon the site of a krait prophet’s ascension into a mystic world, a world beyond this one, where these nameless prophets are building an army great enough to eradicate all other species. One day, they will return and drown the surface of Tyria beneath one massive sea. The krait sacrifice slaves to show reverence to the prophets and to ensure that the prophets will have servants in their mystical “other world.”
    [​IMG]Krait have never developed a written language. They have excellent memories, and their religious texts are memorized, Vedic-fashion, by the priesthood. These texts are vast in scope and difficult to memorize; becoming a krait Oratuss is a lifelong journey and requires tremendous, all-consuming dedication. Furthermore, unknown to the krait people, the priests ensure the continuation of their power by subtly changing the words of the massive memorized texts, ensuring that whatever interpretation they require is upheld somewhere in the canon.
    Land-based historians and scholars theorize that the obelisks on the sea floor are not mystical, but are ancient monuments to religious figures and societal governors of the krait. Because the krait memorize their lore, some information has been lost over the centuries. The krait race has forgotten the obelisks’ true purpose and has invented instead a mystic reverence for the monuments and those they represent. Certainly, the obelisks are eerily smooth and have no symbols on them, and thus cannot relate their history firsthand. The krait Oratuss are the ones who interpret the meaning of these monoliths for their people—and because of the fanaticism of these priests and priestesses, the story of the obelisks’ creation and purpose has been twisted to religious use.
    Like the obelisks, the krait are steadfast and immobile in their beliefs. Their legends state that all the races living above water were driven out of the sea by the prophets and forbidden to return. Although these legends seem patently false to other races, the krait refuse to listen to any “heresies” from other races; destroying them seems a much more effective way to ensure that the krait religion is not defamed.
    The Deeps

    Krait structures stretch from the ocean depths to just above the surface. The underwater constructions are elaborate, built to incorporate coral reefs and natural caverns. The great pillars that mark the slave-pens are often built of shipwrecked wood or other stolen materials garnered from forays onto land. Krait live in the palatial grounds below, worship at the obelisks, and enjoy the fruits of their hunts. Humans and other air-breathing slaves are penned in small chambers at the top of the pillars until it is time to be eaten or sacrificed. The slaves are allowed small fires in which to cook their allotment of fish; sometimes the light from their flames can be seen for miles, warning away ships that might pass too near krait waters.
    [​IMG]

    Society & Ecology


    “Be wary, hatchlings. Be swift. But most of all, be cruel. Let the legends of our deeds frighten them as much as the pain.” – Nymfassa, krait hypnoss




    The krait are aggressive, vicious, and intelligent. They lay eggs and keep hatcheries. Both males and females are given education and battle training, and both genders perform all general societal functions. Krait are capable of surviving outside of the water, but they prefer to build their cities and towns deep beneath the waves. Their cities are often built around one or more of the great obelisks and usually contain underwater hatcheries, arenas for gladiatorial combat, and long lines of glowing road markers. These incandescent paths are visible even to those swimming some distance above. The krait are ardent mathematicians, constantly using math and numerology—as well as magic—in a constant attempt to determine the date of the prophets’ return.
    Krait are very flexible and are excellent swimmers. They have three stages of existence: larval, adolescent, and mature. Larval krait are weak and fragile. They are kept in guarded hatcheries until they master swimming and basic life skills. Adolescents serve as scouts. Mature krait exhibit the strength and dedication for which their race is famous. All krait are willing to die, if necessary, so that the krait beliefs and race can survive.
    Behind the Scenes

    The krait were featured in the original Guild Wars game, and we very much wanted to continue their story in Guild Wars 2. We knew so little about their culture and society; as we were expanding the game into new underwater regions, it was exciting to add new depth (pun intended) to an existing race.
    The krait have always been an unapologetically evil race. While we take pains in many instances to provide two sides to any story and to show that even evil races, cultures, and characters have good reasons for their actions, the krait were designed to be straightforwardly “black hat.” We approached their focus on religion very cautiously, knowing that the word “prophets” would bring to mind modern religious references. It is important to note that we in no way want to compare krait fanaticism to any real-world faith. The prophets of the krait are false religious figures invented by a ruling priest caste to maintain their control. No part of the krait culture or religion is based on, or intended to resemble, any real-world parallel.
    The mysterious obelisks that the krait revere were initially created by undefined pieces of concept art—dark, unadorned stone columns that looked unusual and stood out from other underwater terrain. They really caught the eye of the design team, and we could easily imagine how a race might believe these are holy relics. The GW2 art for the race is also amazing, very sinuous in animation and ferocious in design. We wanted to keep preexisting styles of krait (the hypnoss) and also add new ones. Expanding the story into their underwater cities gave us the perfect reason to introduce krait types that were not seen in the original Guild Wars.
    [​IMG]
     
  4. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
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    The Mostly Harmless Quaggan

    By Jeff Grubb June 15th, 2011

    [​IMG]
    Quaggans are intelligent, benign, amphibious beings who originally made their homes in the depths of the Unending Ocean. They have recently moved into the shallower waters along the Tarnished Coast and the Sea of Sorrows, as well as inland to the freshwater lakes.

    “Ooooo. You must understand. Quaggans do not want to bother anyone. Quaggans want to be at peace.”


    -Neootek, Varonos of Oogooth


    Biology and Behavior

    Quaggans can breathe both water and air. They can live in either fresh- or sal****er and can survive easily on the land, though after about a day or so, their skin becomes cracked, dry, and uncomfortable. Quaggans are omnivorous and live on a diet of harvested corals, seaweed, and fish. They lay eggs and their young are cared for by the entire community. Most quaggans come from the south and have a natural coloration that blends from a two-tone sea blue on the back to pale grey along the belly. There is also a northern group that is black along the back and white along the belly, much like penguins and orca.
    Quaggans are peaceful by nature and rarely become aggressive unless provoked. When quaggans are threatened or in pain, their adrenaline levels surge and parts of their skin turn a dark-scarlet hue. Fangs erupt from their mouths and their flippers grow long, formidable talons. While in this state, instinct overcomes rational thought and the quaggan is little more than an aquatic engine of destruction. They are deeply embarrassed when they display such aggression, and it is considered a social faux pas among their people.
    This transformation is the primary reason quaggans actively avoid fighting—they are a danger to themselves and others while in this state. They are unreasoning brutes driven only to destroy, and they think nothing of tactics or collateral damage. Heroic quaggans are capable of being a little more aggressive without succumbing to their rage, but they are looked upon by their society as being a bit odd.​
    [​IMG]
    Quaggans are unfailingly polite, so much so that they consider most self-reference to be offensive and self-centered. As a result, they rarely use the pronouns “me,” “my,” or “I,” instead preferring to use the general term “quaggan.” As a result, conversations with quaggans may frustrate more direct races. The phrase “I’ve lost my pet fish. I’m sad” becomes “Quaggan has lost quaggan’s pet fish. Quaggan is sad.” This manner of speech leads many to assume the quaggans are childlike or less intelligent. The quaggans are actually quite wise, but in ways that are different from most other races.
    Other races generally regard quaggans as “kind, innocuous creatures—unless pushed.” The quaggans themselves would prefer to lead quiet lives. They will move out of the way of more aggressive races if they are simply told to leave. The problem is that, due to ever-increasing attacks on their people by hostile races such as the krait, there is no place left for them to run.



    “We started pushing around the little butterballs. All in fun, of course. Then they got mad, and that’s when the REAL problems started.”
    - Argoth Onehand, former adventurer


    Clothing and Equipment

    Quaggans are comfortable naked but wear clothing as a sign of individuality and pride. Normal quaggan clothing consists of scale-sequined head-pieces with long, beaded harnesses around the upper chest and arms. They often adorn themselves as well with water-resistant feathers of colorful shorebirds, making a gathering of quaggans a festive occasion.
    Quaggan homes utilize the resources of the sea and consist of round pods made of coral and corded seaweed. The pods are tethered to the ocean floor but can be easily towed to safer locations if needed. For light, quaggans farm luminous pearls and phosphorescentalgae.
    Recent History

    [​IMG]Until recently, quaggan history was largely uneventful, even boring. Quaggan sagas, as recounted by their “pastkeepers,” consisted of bare recitations of who begat whom and where the sardines ran thick that year. That changed 50 years ago, with the invasion of their territories by the krait. This slave-keeping, aquatic race had been denizens of deep trenches, but they suddenly erupted into traditionally quaggan lands, destroying their civilization. The surviving quaggans fled into shallower water, eventually moving up rivers and streams into the larger lakes. Another group, fleeing the Elder Dragon Jormag like the kodan and the norn, have migrated south, into the more inhabited lands of Tyria.
    Many quaggans, including their central leadership, have been killed in krait assaults. Though the race was once ruled by a leader known as the “markissios,” the noble family has been slaughtered, eaten, or enslaved by the krait (depending on the account). Those quaggans who survived these assaults now rule themselves, following the leadership of a village mayor, the “varonos.” These varonos work with one another, offering aid when they can, as the race is friendly and interconnected even in these difficult times.
    A small group of varonos who govern villages throughout Kryta have reached out to that nation’s human queen, and the two races have entered into a friendly alliance of help and support. Although both races are besieged, humans and quaggans assist each other as best as they can when the other is in need.
    Faith

    Quaggans venerate a single god, known as Mellaggan, who represents the bounty of the sea. In temperament and nature, she is very similar to the human goddess Melandru, so much so that human scholars connect the two. Quaggans are too polite to disagree, though they point out the obvious differences between a land-based, nature goddess and an aquatic deity, embodying the wealth of the ocean. However, quaggans muddle the waters further by using sunken temples to Melandru, such as in Lake Gendarr, for their own worship of Mellaggan.
    Quaggan religion tends to be conservative and traditional. The pastkeepers serve as priests and are responsible for the legends of each community of quaggans.
    Behind the Scenes

    The quaggans originally showed up as more roly-poly, almost cartoony creatures, and they were quickly adopted as a cute aquatic race. Their original round appearance proved challenging to rig for animation, so they went through a number of iterations, at one point slimming down and becoming more like dolphins. Later they regained some of their weight but retained a beaver-shaped tail from earlier designs.
    Their dual nature came from a concern that, being so cute and cuddly, they would never survive in a deadly outer world. That was when we hit on the idea of their hulking out—“Do not make quaggan angry. You would not like quaggan when quaggan is angry.” This brought about the wide-jawed, fang-faced version of the quaggans and, with it, a new question: why wouldn’t the quaggans just be quaggan hulks all the time? In a case of art informing lore, we determined that quaggans were embarrassed by this violent behavior. That self-consciousness led to further developments of quaggan attitudes about the individual and community, and the foundations of their society were born. In large part because of those unique societal norms, quaggans are one of the few races in the game that have a distinct speaking style, but that distinction can be difficult. Simply replacing every personal pronoun with “quaggan” is a challenge to clarity. Thankfully, teeth and all, quaggans remain our most cuddly race, so the hard work is easy to endure.
    [​IMG]



     
  5. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
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    Go Forth and Multiply: The Hylek

    By Eric Flannum March 23rd, 2011


    [​IMG]
    Prolific and belligerent, hylek are froglike creatures that thrive in all types of water, but prefer to live in swampy areas. No matter where they claim their territory, hylek spawn in alarming quantities. Once reclusive and xenophobic, hylek can now be found farther and farther away from their spawning grounds. From the moment they’re born, hylek find themselves in a fierce competition with their brethren for food and shelter. Those who survive grow more aggressive as their bodies develop the toxins that they use to hunt their prey, protect their villages, and strike down their rivals. They are resourceful survivors, fierce warriors, and masters of poison. They are the hylek.
    “Tekk was the first to die—two days in doing it—fevered and rambling all the while. He’d taken only a single wound from the frogman’s spear. I’ve collected a small sample of poison drawn from the wound, which is useful, but we should never have trusted the Durotl.”
    — from the research journal of Flubb, asura merchant (published posthumously)
    The hylek are the frog people of Tyria. Once the name of a specific tribe, it is now common parlance to call all frog people “hylek.” Even the frog people themselves have adopted the name “hylek” for their race, though they also keep individual tribe names to distinguish themselves from one another.
    With the warming of the Shiverpeaks, large portions of the southern shore from the boundaries of Kryta to the edge of Orr have become swamps and bayous—prime hylek territory. The hylek have expanded into these areas and flourished. As their numbers have grown, they’ve taken over more land, continuing to spread. The areas the hylek have chosen to settle are not without their dangers. Krait slavers, corsairs, ravenous drakes, and the minions of Zhaitan all routinely threaten hylek settlements.
    Despite all of these outside dangers, perhaps the biggest threat to any hylek tribe is when a rival tribe moves into their territory. Such an incursion often leads to an all-out war until one tribe wipes the other from existence. Even with all of these troubles, the hylek are expanding during a time in which most races are struggling for survival.
    [​IMG]
    The Cycle of Life
    “A hylek warrior has already survived the greatest battle he will ever face; he has seen death a hundred times over. What does he have to fear after surviving such odds?”
    — Tecpatl, hylek chieftain of the Quinatl
    Hylek are born as nearly helpless tadpoles, with brood mates numbering in the hundreds or even thousands. The tribe oversees care of the new brood of youngsters with minimal effort, leaving individuals to fend for themselves. Food tends to be scarce and the hylek tadpoles that survive are often the most aggressive. Those who fall behind starve to death or are picked off by predators.
    When the brood has reached maturity, the hylek hold a coming-of-age festival. During this festival, young hylek compete against each other, demonstrating their skills and showing their value to the tribe. How they perform at this festival will largely determine what path they take in life, whether it’s as a warrior defending the tribe or a merchant dealing with outsiders.
    Hylek have a short lifespan, living into their forties if they can avoid a premature death from violence or starvation. Hylek who make it through their harsh lives into old age are deeply respected by the tribe and are often asked for counsel on difficult issues or for judgment during disputes among the tribe.
    The Tribe

    Hylek live in small, independent tribes. These tribes consist of anywhere from a dozen to hundreds of hylek. Each tribe is ruled by a single hylek chieftain who holds sole and absolute authority. Successful chieftains typically consult with the priests and elder members of the tribe lest popular sentiment turn against them.​
    Individual tribes are extremely territorial and it is rare for them to cooperate with one another. The various tribes of the hylek are differentiated by color, which also hints at how aggressive that particular tribe is. In fact, the color of a hylek tribe is also a good indication of the strength of the toxins that they generate; those tribes that produce the deadliest toxins are the most aggressive and dangerous to outsiders. When first making contact with a hylek tribe, it is wise to approach cautiously until you can determine whether they will treat you as a guest and trade partner or as a threat to exterminate.
    [​IMG]

    The Sun
    “Live every moment in the sun well, for a shadow is never far behind you.”
    — Ohteca, hylek shaman of the Jinotl
    Hylek revere the sun as if it were divine. They have no name for this entity, but hold great solstice festivals and tournaments to celebrate the day’s waxing and waning. To the hylek, the sun represents both good and evil. It is the bringer of life-sustaining heat and bounty, as well as the harbinger of drought and famine.
    Each hylek tribe has at least one priest (if not several) dedicated to “reading” the sun and sky. These priests are experts at predicting weather patterns, knowing when it will rain and how long dry seasons will last. Having a priest who can accurately read the sun can be one of the most important factors for the prosperity of a hylek tribe.
    Alchemy and Trade

    All hylek have a set of poison glands that produce a deadly toxin. Hylek are naturally immune to their own secretions, as well as a wide variety of other natural poisons. Because of this, the hylek do a great deal of experimentation with poisons, antidotes, and a wide variety of compounds. Their knowledge and ability make the hylek some of the most sought after alchemists in all of Tyria—particularly by groups such as the Order of Whispers.
    Hylek merchants from the friendlier tribes often seek to trade their less poisonous concoctions for goods and raw materials, creating an economy with the surrounding races. Hylek acquire most of their weapons and armors from non-hylek smiths in exchange for potions that strengthen steel or healing brews to aid when someone is injured at the forge. Many alchemists of more civilized races acquire hylek “apprentices” so that they can exchange knowledge for knowledge, learning as much as they can. The hylek appreciate this and turn it to their own use, expanding the goods and services available to their tribe.
    Behind the Scenes

    [​IMG]The hylek are one of the returning races from Guild Wars.
    We first saw these frog people in Guild Wars: Nightfall and then again in Guild Wars: Eye of the North. When we discussed portraying the various minor races in Guild Wars 2, we wanted the hylek to be more than just killable red dots on the map. Part of making them more “real” was to take these races and investigate their viewpoint of the world. We wanted to portray them as neither wholly good nor evil, but as reacting to the situation at hand logically and appropriately, given their history and nature.
    The hylek in Guild Wars were often fighting and seemed as combative with one another as they did with the players. Yet they also seemed intelligent and willing to speak to players, giving them a balance of aggression versus civilization. They were prime candidates to be sometime allies and sometime enemies for players in Guild Wars 2.
    With the level of technology in Tyria increasing, we also wanted a few races that were a bit behind the curve. We saw an interesting opportunity for the hylek to have more advanced technology without actually having the ability to create it. With this in mind, we examined what they might be good at and what hylek commodities other races would want to trade for. From there, the idea of the hylek as alchemist was born, and the division of the tribes—from xenophobic and hostile to friendly and more cultured—was born.

     
  6. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
    Stratics Veteran Alumni Stratics Legend

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    That Old College Try

    By Ree Soesbee September 16th, 2011


    [​IMG]
    Rising up from their cities beneath the earth, the asura prove, time and time again, the old adage ”Difficulty is just another word for opportunity.“ From their humble beginnings among the ruins of the Tarnished Coast, the asura have risen to prominence. Their magical gates connect the major cities of Tyria, and their intelligence makes them an ally to be respected—or an enemy to be feared.
    In the depths, surrounded by the very foundations of Tyria, a battle was raging.
    Impact rocked the narrow passage, sending showers of earth and pebbles scattering along the uneven floor. Screeching, high-pitched sound filled the corridor, shaking more dust loose with every bone-jarring pulse and waver. Flattening his ears close to his neck, Dlixx dashed through the wreckage with his dicrystalline etherizer close at hand.
    “I know you’re coming, Dlixx!” a voice shouted from up ahead, barely rising over the din. “I’m a sonographic engineer! Did you think I wouldn’t hear you? Ha!”
    Dlixx saw the wave approaching before it hit him—a wobbly-looking motion in the air that signaled the solid wash of sound. He dove behind a boulder, but the assault struck him even as he leapt for cover. With a waft of terrible, howling, whining cacophony, the sound wave spun him end over end until he slammed against the cavern wall. “Whumph!” he grunted, but the noise of his protest was lost amid the din.
    “See that?” the voice shouted again. “Nothing’s getting through my sonopath! Whoever holds it is immune to it, and skritt have delicate ears! You hear me? DELICATE…”
    Dlixx rolled out into the hallway, etherizer pointed, focused, and ready. The ball of crystal at its end flared with a strange, pinkish gleam, and then a light shot toward the end of the hallway.
    “…EAR…oh…ears…oomph…” The voice faded, and then there was the thud of an unconscious body hitting the stone floor.
    Seizing his opportunity, Dlixx shoved the etherizer into his belt and raced forward. Leaping over barriers made of stone, debris, and broken furniture, he landed solidly over an unconscious asura woman, still twitching a bit from the effects of the etherizer ray. Hanging on her back above her was a half-cocked sonic generator, modified from bits and pieces of an original dredge rig.
    “If I hadn’t had earplugs, that would have killed me. Not bad, Poizi.” Dlixx reached up and pulled the torque abjurer from the sonic generator, deactivating the device. He paused to breathe on the copper-colored abjurer and polish it against his sleeve as the machine wound down. Once the noise faded, he popped the earplugs out of his ears and smiled. “But not good enough.” He snapped the abjurer in half and peered inside curiously.
    “No…” Poizi managed, her voice wavery with the aftereffects of his etherizer. “My sonopath will get me out of here. I don’t want to die…”
    “I’m not taking your gadget.” Dlixx pushed the abjurer into Poizi’s pocket. “I came to get something else.” Carefully, Dlixx reached down and removed her left shoe. With cautious hands, he tucked it away into his knapsack. Pausing to stare at her, he bent down a second time and also took the long scarf Poizi wore around her neck. “This too, I think…” Dlixx muttered.
    “Why couldn’t you leave me alone?” Poizi moaned, her eyes rolling in half-conscious annoyance. “Just go away!”
    Dlixx stood, drawing his coat close around his body. “You’re a member of my krewe, Poizi,” he snarled. “Did you expect me to forget that?” With a dismissive snort, he turned, drew his dicrystalline etherizer into his hand once more, and vanished away into the dark passages of the earth.

    Primordus

    The coming of the Great Destroyer, the herald of the Elder Dragon Primordus, may have shocked the surface of the world, but it did far more damage below. Although a group of stalwart heroes had defeated the herald and forestalled the Elder Dragon’s awakening, its destroyers remained, and the damage they caused was titanic. The dwarves, responding to an ancient call, performed the Rite of the Great Dwarf and turned themselves to stone in order to fight their age-old enemy. Yet they were not the only ones to fight against the destroyers in the deep caverns beneath the earth.
    Prior to the rise of the destroyers, the asura were the predominant race in the Depths of Tyria. They lorded their status over all others, and fought primarily against the skritt—creatures that the asura considered (then and now) to be hideous, dangerous vermin. The destroyers were the first enemy in generations that had not fallen easily to the combined intelligence and magical prowess of the asura. Their Arcane Council assumed it was simply a matter of time before the destroyers were annihilated by asuran skill and acumen. It was hubris that caused the downfall of their underground civilization; thousands of years to build, but only a handful of moments to vanish in the wake of the Elder Dragon’s power.
    [​IMG]
    Yet the defeat of the Great Destroyer did not prevent the eventual awakening of the Elder Dragon, only delayed it. Approximately fifty years after his herald was defeated, Primordus awakened—this time, for good. Its minions now spread through the Depths, eradicating many subterranean races whose names are now only known through asuran records and tales. The races which survived the constant battles were forced to leave behind their deep-dwelling cities and rebuild closer to the surface. By this time, the asuran refugees had already established themselves on the surface, regrouping and recreating their culture in this new world, building the city of Rata Sum.
    The Arcane Council

    [​IMG]From time immemorial, asura have been builders and inventors, utilizing magic as other races used simple tools. Although not as old a race as the dwarves, they were a far more active one, spending their time on constant invention, experimentation, and the dissection of magic itself. According to the records of the eldest archivists of their race, there were at least six cities as large and grand as Rata Sum in the asura-dominated lands beneath the surface, though none survived into the modern age. While other races insist that the legends of such massive capitals as Quora Sum are far-fetched and exaggerated, the asura tersely reply that the other races are simply too dim to comprehend the grandeur they lost.
    The asura are led by the Arcane Council, a brain trust that is said to be comprised of the best and brightest minds in the nation. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that most asura are far more interested in being inventors than bureaucrats, and the Arcane Council is all too often made up of those who ran the slowest when an opening was announced. The current Arcane Council rules from the city of Rata Sum, and is led by High Councilor Flax. Among his cabinet are prestigious inventors, well-known diplomats, and the deans of each of the three asuran colleges.
    All asura begin as apprentices in their parents’ laboratories, assisting with various projects from the moment they can stand on their own (or lean against a crystalline transmogrifier). When they reach an age where they are arguing with their parents more than they are helping (usually fairly young), they are apprenticed to an asura master within one of the three colleges. That master is responsible for the student’s education up until the time they graduate and join a krewe of their own. Through this traditional apprentice system, adolescent asura gain a well-rounded education, and their advisors receive unpaid (if not always perfectly competent) laboratory interns. Even after they complete their indenture, asura hold a fierce loyalty toward their alma maters, often claiming that the magical theories of one are the basis of the other two.
    Krewes

    The cultural system of the asura is both highly organized and extremely flexible. Their society consists of individuals who come together to accomplish greater tasks. This is their krewe system: a project will form, and the leader will call together (or hire) those most useful or capable until the project is finished. An asura’s krewe is usually temporary; lasting as long as the project requires, and then breaking up when they have completed whatever task they were performing. These krewes often stay in touch, forming and reforming with individuals they know and respect, and avoiding those whom they don’t get along with or find substandard.
    Because asura are judged by their reputation and craftiness, they often choose a specialty within their college training. An asura will seek to be well known as the foremost authority on that topic, in the hopes of acquiring a position on cutting-edge krewes, performing greater and more challenging tasks.
    Earth rumbled and moved, displacing itself, churning in ever-growing spirals of shattered stone. Behind the gyratic earthcarver, Nimm pushed and grunted, struggling to shove the implement more quickly through the wall. It was larger than he, coiled to a point at the fore and flat at the rear like the stylized claw of some giant beast—or like that massive tooth the idiot norn worshipped up in the frozen mountains. Nimm scowled, shoving with all his might as the cone-shaped digging device rolled and rocked and did its work.
    With each shove, the earthcarver dug forward and Nimm crawled after, not caring if the passage behind him was half-sealed with rubble in his wake. That would be a defense against anything sneaking up behind him. A genius idea! Phoo on the rest of them, those idiots in that cogs-cursed krewe. He was getting himself out!
    A shudder rippled through the ground, shaking Nimm so badly that it tilted his trajectory three degrees to the south. He cursed and quickly flipped the earthcarver off to investigate. Had he overloaded the joint welders? Flooded the arcanolog? Nothing. Maybe the problem was with the talismantic stabilizer…
    Another shudder. That one definitely wasn’t caused by his machine. Nimm pushed his goggles up onto his forehead, listening carefully, his black eyes narrowing against the single clean strip of skin across his face. “Poizi’s stupid sonopath,” he guessed. “Idiot. She’ll just draw attention! Better to sneak along and not be noticed…”
    Turning the earthcarver on again, Nimm put his shoulder to the rear harness and shoved with all his might. With a mighty effort, he drove the spinning drill through the next layer of rock. As the stone cracked and fell apart, Nimm cheered—only to turn his cry into a scream as the rock, earthcarver and all—suddenly tipped forward with a burst of unimpeded speed.
    “No!” he screamed, grabbing for the handles on the rear of the machine. “A cavern! My calculations must have been off—I should still be in pyromorphic stooooooone!” The sound of chittering rose and swelled beyond the opening as the ground crumbled beneath him, threatening to collapse completely. Forced to release the handles to save his own life, Nimm scrambled backward—but found himself quickly trapped by the rubble he’d left in his wake. Thick cracks splintered the foundation, and Nimm saw his fate spread out before him—a blanket of thousands of skritt, and all of the little monsters were staring up at the fresh new hole in their city wall. Across the big cavern, Nimm could see the twinkle of daylight. A way out!
    But he’d never get there—even if he didn’t fall to his doom, there were easily a thousand rodent men in the way.
    The stone cracked and groaned, Just as the last shards of rock holding him up collapsed, a rope—no, a scarf!—flumphed down to hang in the air beside him. “Poizi!” Nimm gasped, reaching for it with joy. He clung desperately to the thin thread of hope as the earthcarver toppled down to shatter on the floor of the skritt city-cave.
    “Poizi!” Nimm scrambled up the scarf to a ledge farther up the wall. Crawling over the lip, he faced the asura there with glee. “You saved me! I knew that being on the same krewe still meant something to you, Poizi…” With a gasp, Nimm froze. “You!”
    Dlixx smiled, leveling the dicrystalline etherizer. “If I shoot you with this, you’ll topple down into our vicious little friends. You know how clever they are when they’re all bunched up like that—and there’s never been as many of them together as there are here in Skrittsburgh, I’ll wager.”
    Slowly, Nimm raised his hands in a gesture of submission. “Master Boikk didn’t know what he was doing, coming down here. We don’t have to end up like him!”
    “I’m afraid we do. Now, give me your shoe, and I’ll be on my way.”
    Gulping, Nimm shook his head. “I won’t help you. Whatever you’re doing, you won’t get away with it, Dlixx. One of us will make it to the surface.”
    “One of us already has.” With that, Dlixx pulled the trigger, and the ball of crystal flared. Nimm’s body tensed, arching—but at the last moment, Dlixx grabbed the other asura by the belt and jerked him away from the open height. Below, a thousand bright eyes flashed viciously in the darkness, and a thousand hissing whispers echoed against the stone.
    Leaning Nimm’s unconscious body safely against the cavern wall, Dlixx slid off Nimm’s left shoe and shoved it into his belt-bag with the one he’d taken from Poizi. “Only one member of the krewe left,” he muttered, checking a tracking light on his bracer. “No time to waste.”

    The College of Statics

    Those asura who join the College of Statics are builders, and they build to last, specializing in permanent structures and large-scale projects. These asura tend to be more conservative and cautious in nature; they believe in measuring twice, cutting once, and measuring again. They are thoughtful and analytical, and enjoy research as well as practical application. Prominent graduates of the college include the inventors of the magicomagnetic levitation stones, which the asura use as power sources for their larger structures. They refer to their college as a concrete thing, a living formation of rock and structure that is continually added to and subtracted from, by the works of alumni and students alike. These asura make construction golems, drilling machines, and anything else that solidly moves. They are the hubs within the Eternal Alchemy, the solid foundation of posts, supports and axels upon which the cogs can turn.
    Creations of the College of Statics: positional relays, quasi-enchantment aligners, theosophy scopes, metasurvey incantations, cross-incantation braces, levitation buttresses.
    [​IMG]The College of Dynamics

    The asura of the College of Dynamics are best understood as the gizmo makers. Masters of swift, innovative problem solving, they tend to produce items that last only as long as they are necessary in order to make the next intuitive leap. They are energetic, enthusiastic, and impulsive, tending to start projects before researching the possible results. They love to figure out how other races do things in order to…appropriate…and improve upon that magical theory for their own purposes. An experiment is only a failure, their advisors say, if you don’t learn anything from it. When a member of the college speaks of his alma mater, they typically are speaking of the body of work, experiments, and thought that form a mental picture of the college’s achievements—the overall innovations that they have provided to the world. In the Eternal Alchemy, they are most often referred to as the tooth-gears and mainsprings of the universe.
    Creations of the College of Dynamics: canoptic enhancers, lunographic fasteners, torque abjurers, enigmaticons, karmic pressure gauges, kinetic spellchurns, magiphysical armatures.
    The College of Synergetics

    Within the College of Synergetics, asura are all about shaping energy and building connections. Here you can find the more mystical thinkers, those who study the raw matter of magic itself and disdain the solidity of the functional world. They are often more philosophical in bent, and are very used to dealing with political and social theory. These asura are interested in how patterns form, how errors propagate, and how chaos forms rational systems. Unfortunately, this dedicated study to psychology also leads them to be more secretive—even among themselves—as they believe they know how everyone else’s mind works…and those minds are out to get them! Even the greatest of this college’s alumni can tend to be a little shortsighted, devising ethereal plans and constructing psychological reasoning without actually venturing out of their laboratories for concrete tests. When a member of the college speaks of his alma mater, they typically are speaking of the social structures they’ve created through their tutelage, their connections, and the body of asura who consider themselves a ”college” of like minds.
    Creations of the College of Synergetics: quantagrams, di-polar spell matrices, conjuration vertices, prestimystic readouts, mojonic control rods, self-restricting enchant loops.
    Tick…tick…tick…
    Volla knelt by the spherical hydrocadabric distillery, pushing her long, coiled braids back as she tweaked the dials and reset the aura transversers. She hummed to herself, her body swaying back and forth as she checked and double-checked each one with the remote in her hand to be certain it was just right.
    Dlixx’s hand squeezed tightly on the handle of his dicrystalline ethoriter. The bomb was complete, pretriggered, and she’d used more than enough crystalline pyretics to level the entire layer—but he was in luck.
    She’d left her boots on the table near the door.
    “Ten, ten… No, no. This one goes to eleven! There we are.” She grinned, showing long rows of razor-sharp teeth.
    “All right, Volla,” Dlixx called out from the hidden aperture in the floor of the subterranean cavern, keeping his tone smooth and overly gentle. “Stand up slowly. Back away, toward me, and keep your hands in the air.” She spun—far more quickly than he thought was safe, and Dlixx winced. That distillery was explosive, by the Alchemy!
    “Dlixx!” she squealed delightedly, shoving the remote into her vest. “I thought you were dead like old…uhm…what’s-his-name.”
    “Master Boikk,” he supplied grimly. “No, Boikk’s just fine. He used a personal transporter the moment we stumbled onto the skritt city.”
    “Personal transporter?” Volla mused, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. Her coiled braids swayed gently around well-shaped and smoothly moving ears. “That’s a Snaff device, isn’t it? Hmph. Boikk was such an idea thief.” She raised a hand and stroked her ears lightly, letting the tips of her fingers press gently over her delightfully wide forehead…
    “Eyes on the prize, Dlixx!” he snarled to himself, trying not to let her know he’d been staring.
    Too late. Volla winked.
    “Come on, Dlixx. You know full well it’s every asura for herself down here.” She took a winsome step toward him, and he could smell the intoxicating aroma of fuel oil and particulate ozone. “I could take you with me, if you like. We were on the same krewe, after all.”
    Shaking himself out of it, he raised his ethoriter, again with a snap. “We were. But if I let you set off that distillery, we’ll be on the same dead krewe.”
    “Come on. Climb on top of it with me. I’ve set up a jail platform.” She took another step toward him, her eyes brilliant and filled with a thousand complex mathematical equations. “A force bubble will surround us, the distillery will go off, and we’ll be shot straight up to the surface without so much as a scuffle on your broad…” another step, “cosmonetic…” another step, and now her lips were inches from his, “…toolbox.”
    With a swift movement, Volla snatched the ethoriter out of his hand and stepped back. “Fool!” she said victoriously. “I win!”
    “There was only room for one on that jail platform, wasn’t there, Volla?” Dlixx asked sadly as she backed away, still holding the weapon fiercely toward his face. “You never even considered taking anyone else along. When you set off that distillery, it’ll collapse the caverns. If the skritt don’t kill us, your bomb will!”
    “Like I care!” she snapped. “I’m the genius here. Me, not you, and not those other simpletons. When I get back to Rata Sum, I’ll tell them how bravely you and all the others died when we discovered this massive infestation, and I’ll be sure to explain to Master Boikk that it’s in his best interest he give me the credit—or I’ll ruin the wither-brain for not realizing the rats were here in the first place!” Still holding his ethoriter, she grinned and leapt to the distillery platform as if she were standing atop the world.
    “Now, all I have to do is press the button on my remote…” Volla fumbled in her vest.
    “This remote?” Dlixx held it up.
    “You!” She leveled the ethoriter and fired—and a lovely mist of lavender-scented vapor shot out, perfuming the room. “Give me that back! I can’t set off the distillery without it!” she wailed.
    As pleasantly scented smoke filled the area, Dlixx yelled, “You never could tell the difference between a dicrystalline ethoriter and a dicrystalline etherizer, Volla!” Taking advantage of the mist and the distance between them, Dlixx snatched one of Volla’s boots from the table and dropped down through the aperture, fleeing into the caverns below.

    The Inquest

    [​IMG]Although not actually a college, the Inquest is the largest krewe in asuran culture, and is a relatively new organization.
    Where traditional asura training goes through an apprenticeship at one of the three colleges, the Inquest has begun a system of corporate training that is structured rather like a series of progressive aptitude tests. When an asura can pass a test, she is immediately given the next, and her clearance among the Inquest is upgraded accordingly. This leads to a great deal of cheating, of course—both for and against the aspirants.
    An asura never graduates from the Inquest, as they do from the other colleges of the asura. Once you join the megakrewe, you’re a member for life… even if the other Inquest members are forced to make sure that life is a necessarily short one. An aspirant is given a krewe assignment and expected to work on their individual task regardless of whether they understand that task’s purpose in the greater schema. They sacrifice their own desires for the greater good of the Inquest’s body of knowledge, like it or not.
    The Inquest combines the strengths of the various college disciplines, but they use only what they need, abandoning deeper understanding of those theories in favor of a quick and profitable return. They are more than willing to burn out their young inventors, souring them on their work, rather than waste time with rest—an unprofitable accounting of time.
    Unlike the three asuran colleges, which delight in sharing newly completed discoveries (if only to victoriously rub them in one another’s faces), the Inquest do not share their information beyond the Inquest itself. Indeed, they occasionally even go so far as to sabotage the promising research of college krewes that impinges upon what the Inquest sees as proprietary design.
    Where the colleges see power as a useful tool toward understanding the Eternal Alchemy—the Inquest sees power as a goal in and of itself. Inquest founders looked upon the amount of knowledge lost when Quora Sum was wiped out by the destroyers, and judged such a signal drop to be complete anathema to their purposes. Gathering information in its pure, crystalline form is their intention, and they will stop at nothing less than the sum of all knowledge. Indeed, the ultimate goal of Inquest research is to achieve control of the Eternal Alchemy, and with it, all of Tyria.
    [​IMG]
    Dlixx crouched at the base of the golem, slowly inserting each shoe into its canoptic non-abstract analyzation bay. Four shoes in all, one from each member of his krewe followed by his own, slid down the gullet of the mighty—if rough-hewn—stone defender.
    “Pro-cess-ing,” the golem chirruped, its voice bubbling up, raw and scratchy, from the gleaming crystal epicenter. “Pro-cess-ing.”
    “Un-der-stood. Targets ac-quir-ed.”
    Dlixx stood up and patted the golem with a wide smile, wincing only slightly as his affectionate tap caused a shingle of stone to fall off. He quickly reattached it. “Come on, BeMM. Time to show your stuff,” Dlixx said, the golem stepping forward, its massive armaments aglow in the dimness of the underground.
    By the time they burst out into the main skritt cavern, it was already a free-for-all. The wargolem’s crystals flashed and shimmered, bolts flying in every direction. It was a rabid explosion of destruction, uncontrolled and completely unhampered by any attempt at silly things like aiming or conservation of energy.
    On the ledge above, Poizi and Nimm screamed. Bolts flew through them, striking them solidly, but where skritt toppled over, steaming and squirming, the two asura suffered no damage at all. “What’s going on?” Nimm howled, curling his hands around his goggles . “How’s he doing that?”
    Poizi pointed to the entrance where Dlixx and BeMM stood. The wargolem’s arms spun wildly as rays radiated through the mass of skritt. “I don’t care! Just run!” Using her scarf to slide down into the huge cavern, Poizi and Nimm fled past the terrified, twitching rat-folk. Within moments, Dlixx saw them climb up the far wall and through the opening, into the sunlight above.
    “So that’s why you needed the shoes,” Volla murmured behind him. Her voice sent shivers up his spine, even more than the howling and shrieking of the rodent men. “They’ve got our sweat in them. You used that matter—part of ourselves—to attune the golem’s rays so it wouldn’t hurt us. Inspired.”
    Dlixx shot her a glance, but did not answer, a smarmy grin curling his lips.
    “You could have gotten out anytime,” she pressed, stepping closer as pinkish rays flew all around them. “Why? Why help us? Because we were all on Master Boikk’s krewe?”
    “You don’t stop being on a krewe till the job’s done. The job was to come down here, measure the resonant spellpower, and then return. We hadn’t returned,” Dlixx said and shrugged. “Krewe is krewe.”
    “Was that your only reason?”
    “That…” he agreed, “and the fact that now, every single one of you will be forced to praise the asura whose invention saved your lives.” He puffed up, spinning his dicrystalline etherizer around one finger with an expert touch. “Dlixx, inventor of the Better Mousetrap Mass-Trauma Wargolem, graduate of the College of Dynamics, bane of skritt everywhere.”
    Me.

    [​IMG]


     
  7. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
    Stratics Veteran Alumni Stratics Legend

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    Dream and Nightmare

    By Ree Soesbee August 12th, 2011


    [​IMG]
    The sylvari are the youngest race in Guild Wars 2, awakened with the rise of the new age in Tyria. They may be unfamiliar with the world, but they have dreamed of it, and they share a rich and compelling vision that guides their path. From the day of their awakening, each sylvari feels called to defend the land and fight the Elder Dragons. They are united in this purpose beneath their mother, the Pale Tree.
    In the brilliant light of noon, a petal moved. A pod opened. A sylvari rose, stretched, and hesitantly entered the world.
    The twelve firstborn, called by their mother’s summons, stood breathlessly to greet their new brother. They had lived for so many years alone, believing that they were all the sylvari that would ever be. And now the awakening had begun again. Other pods in the garden moved softly, gaining ground but not yet ready to open. It was the first flowering of a new generation.
    “Welcome, Brother.” Aife greeted him, always the first with a question or a smile. She approached the stranger, holding out a cloak so he could wrap himself.
    “Do you know us?” another broke in. “Did you dream of us?”
    “Hush, Dagonet,” Aife shushed her over-eager friend. “You’ll frighten him.” She turned to the sapling again and spoke in a gentle tone. “Like you, we are sylvari. I am called Aife. What is your name?”
    “Name?” The newcomer considered the question for a moment. At last, he said, “Cadeyrn,” but his tone was uncertain. He took the cloak and pulled it about his shoulders to ward off the sun. “What is this place?”
    Aife smiled and tousled the sylvari’s hair, sending soft, black-willow fronds dancing around his shoulders. “This is the Grove. And she…” Aife gestured toward the massive tree beneath whose branches they gathered, “…is the Pale Tree. Our mother. Your mother too.”
    Cadeyrn regarded the tree curiously, finding no strangeness in the explanation. With a nod, he looked to Dagonet. “I did dream.”
    The scholar brightened, snatching up a scroll and quill. “Tell me of your dream. I have studied all of ours, but yours will be the first new dream in many years.”
    Standing taller, Cadeyrn offered him a smile. “The first?” He looked around at the other pods, as yet unawakened. “Yes, I am the first, aren’t I? None of the others in my dream have awakened. The Pale Tree must have wanted to see me right away. She knew that I was special.” He puffed up like a dandelion. “I am first!”
    “No, Cadeyrn. You are secondborn,” a deeper voice intoned. Malomedies was a tall, slender sylvari, with smooth hair that shone in iridescent color like the wings of a dragonfly. His proud bearing was that of an ancient oak, massive branches unyielding against the storm.
    “Second?” Cadeyrn frowned. “Why am I second? I have awakened before the rest.”
    “We were here first.”

    The Pale Tree

    Nearly two hundred and fifty years ago, a human soldier named Ronan found a strange seed during his journeys and tucked it away to give to his daughter when he returned home. Sadly, by the time he reached his village, it had been destroyed, wiped out by the White Mantle. Ronan planted the seed upon his family’s graves instead.
    Twenty-five years ago, the first sylvari awakened. These firstborn knew comparatively little of the world, having experienced only the Pale Tree’s memories of Ronan, the centaur Ventari, and those who had visited during her first years. They knew, because the tree taught them of the tablet that Ventari had left behind, carved with lessons of his wisdom. Born as mature individuals, not children, the sylvari were curious, inquisitive, and eager to explore.
    [​IMG]
    Some of the firstborn, like Caithe and Faolain, roamed far from the tree. Others stayed close, exploring briefly and spending their time in study and learning. Four took up the duty of guarding the Pale Tree and keeping her company: Aife, Kahedins, Malomedies and Niamh. One, and one alone, traveled into Orr. For a handful of years, the firstborn were the only sylvari in Tyria. When the next generation flowered and awakened from the tree, they had new dreams: memories of the skills and emotions that the firstborn had discovered, mixed in with the Pale Tree’s own memories.
    Unlike many races, the sylvari have an intimate sense of their own history, having lived through it. They can name the first sylvari that ever died—Riannoc, one of the firstborn. They can tell you who first learned how to write and who, specifically, developed the methods to grow houses. They tell their stories and legends as if they personally witnessed them, because for many, they have at least dreamed of it.
    The Dream of Dreams

    In essence, the Dream of Dreams is a vast collected subconscious. The Pale Tree holds the race’s collected knowledge and emotion, like a lake into which is poured the sum of sylvari experience. When a new sylvari is born, it’s as if they draw a bucket of water from that lake, a small portion of the whole. Only a few memories reach the Pale Tree: the most important or those that have the greatest emotional impact or meaning. They can include entire scenes from a sylvari’s life, such as their first battle or their first time cooking an apple pie. They can also be a single poignant moment such as pain, fear, or the face of an enemy.
    A sylvari has no control over what experiences are gathered. They cannot communicate with the tree in this manner; the Mother Tree is drawing in hundreds of thousands of fragments from her children. Nor can an unborn sylvari choose which memories they will experience while within the Dream. When a sylvari awakens, the direct connection to the Dream becomes weakened. No longer surrounded by the Dream, their connection to other sylvari becomes more of an empathic bond, capable of receiving and sending strong emotions, but no longer detailed or communicative. It is nothing more than a subtle buzz.
    They gathered by the Pale Tree, and rain swelled upon her upturned leaves, dripping in slow sparks to the earth below. Her roots cradled the firstborn that lay among them, his body covered in a dark blanket like moss over a grave. Malomedies was only sleeping, struggling against exhausting nightmares. From time to time, he called out, and Kahedins soothed him, placing a damp compress to his forehead in the hope that he would find rest. The healer looked up to the others, face filled with worry.
    “Will he survive? Or will he…die? As Riannoc did?” The question whispered in every heart, but it was Niamh that gave it voice.
    “The Mother says he will live,” Kahedins murmured, but it was little comfort.
    Malomedies had been beautiful, as graceful as a willow kneeling by a stream. Now his face bore the carved scars of ill-treatment, and the branches of his once- iridescent hair had been broken and pruned into splintered, colorless pieces. One leg was withered as if kept too long from the sun, and where his fleshlike bark still clung to the vines of his torso, there were a thousand small holes.
    “We must kill them all.” Cadeyrn’s eyes flashed dark gold, and his hand clenched around the hilt of his sword.
    “The asura have offered peace. They did not realize that he… They thought he was simply another of the strange plants of the deep Maguuma, mimicking sentience,” Aife told them. “When they realized he was truly aware, they returned him to us.”
    “It is not enough! How will Malomedies find peace if he does not take revenge?”
    Kahedins stared disapprovingly. “Revenge? Revenge is not our way. Have you not studied Ventari’s tablet?” As the secondborn lowered his head belligerently, Kahedins lectured, “It is written, ‘The only lasting peace is the peace within your soul.’ You should meditate on that, Cadeyrn, and consider its meaning.”
    Cadeyrn glanced at Trahearne, whose expression was as black as his own. No soldier would say such things. No one who had ever lifted a blade to stop oppression, or placed themselves in danger to free innocents, would say that revenge was unfitting. If Faolain and Caithe were here, they would argue his side, he was sure of it.
    Abruptly, Trahearne looked up toward the spreading boughs. “Yes, Mother,” he answered a whisper only he could hear. Chagrined, the necromancer unclenched his fists. “The Pale Tree says we need to concentrate on our true enemy: the dragons. Every ally will be needed.” Gritting his teeth, Trahearne finished, “We make peace with the asura.”
    Cadeyrn was not sure what was more troubling, that Trahearne had given in or that the Pale Tree had spoken only to the firstborn. Following suit, he bent his head. “As the Mother wishes.”

    The Cycles

    The sylvari believe that the portion of the day during which you were born speaks to a person’s personality, interests, and special talents. They pay close attention to this, and each of the four cycles—Dawn, Noon, Dusk and Night—are guided by one of the firstborn. Those four firstborn, called the Luminaries, tend to be the most active in the governance of the sylvari race. They work together to bring new knowledge into the Grove, defend the Pale Tree, and build political relationships with the other races of Tyria. Although the other firstborn are considered wise mentors and have certain authority, the Luminaries fulfill the primary tasks of maintaining society and guiding the sylvari as a whole.
    [​IMG]

    The Cycle of Dawn
    Sylvari born during the Cycle of the Dawn, from midnight to 6 a.m., are natural talkers and planners. They are the diplomats of the sylvari race, and tend to be gregarious and friendly types. Their Luminary is the clever Aife, whose skill with words is only equaled by her keen aim with a bow. She is a diplomat and has traveled to each of the large cities of Tyria on behalf of her people. Those sylvari who wish to see the world would do well to speak with her and gain her wisdom before they begin their journey.
    The Cycle of Noon
    The Cycle of Noon extends from 6 a.m. to noon, during the blazing rise of the sun. On the whole, these sylvari prefer actions to words and are skilled combatants no matter how they choose to fight. They like to experience things firsthand, attack problems head on, and enjoy the rush of warfare. Niamh is their Luminary, a bold and experienced warrior that has fought many battles. She leads a company of sylvari called the Wardens, who are the guards and protectors of the Grove.
    The Cycle of Dusk
    Those sylvari born during the time between noon and 6 p.m. are members of the Cycle of Dusk. They tend to be intelligent, philosophical, and retiring. Such sylvari enjoy riddles and puzzles, and they prefer to spend their time in study rather than in physical pursuits. In their garden, you will find Luminary Kahedins, whose kind soul and gentle words have often been a balm to troubled sylvari. It is his task to help newly awakened sylvari understand what they have seen within the Dream of Dreams. Lately, he has been studying the written languages of Tyria and determining whether the sylvari should create a writing system of their own.
    The Cycle of Night
    Lastly, the sylvari born during the late hours from 6 p.m. to midnight belong to the Cycle of Night. Many of these sylvari are inclined to be solitary, preferring to travel alone. They are often secretive, self-contained, and quiet. The Cycle of Night’s Luminary is the astronomer Malomedies, credited with charting the skies and bringing mathematics to the sylvari. He was also the first to meet with the asura, a bitter tale that he rarely tells. Although Malomedies is the most private of the Luminaries, those who are awakened to his cycle speak of him as a stern mentor but a caring one.
    Despite the signs of long-ago death, the slumbering ruins felt somehow alive; the hush and whisper of tide below the cliff rising and falling like a sleeper’s breath. Something low and shadowy, stinking of brine, cast a slender shadow among the crumbling rocks. Cadeyrn watched it pass between the tilted walls and fragmented arches that must have been a chapel. Saw it flicker where an altar once stood. Marked where the shadow vanished away.
    “Are you prepared?” Niamh murmured softly behind him, her frond-like hair rustling in the cold breeze. She drew her sword and checked its edge, finding it keen. Eager silver eyes met his dark gold gaze. “It is time to strike.” Two others of an even younger generation than Cadeyrn stood with her; both, like them, members of the Cycle of Noon.
    Cadeyrn stepped away from the little ledge on which he’d been crouched. “They are ready for us. We must move cautiously.”
    Together, they crept down onto the beach and into the ruins, and there, they found their quarry. Cadeyrn’s sword cleaved a krait in two with a single stroke. He spun the weapon expertly behind his back, blocking another creature’s claw before snapping down to slice away the extended hand. A krait sorceress’s unblinking eyes widened as she wove a thaumaturgic web of slaughter, and two of the sylvari died in her flame. Fiercely, Cadeyrn leapt toward her, his blade tearing through the krait’s flesh.
    He left nothing behind but scale and scream.
    When the krait were dead, Niamh and Cadeyrn stood in the center of the ruined chapel, blood on their blades and fierce smiles lighting their faces. A sound caught his attention, and he raised a hand for silence, slipping forward to the place where he had seen movement from above.
    Cadeyrn tilted the altar aside, and the sound grew louder. Beneath the stone lay a cave, long ago flooded by the advance of the sea. There, in a sea-cavern below the ruins, krait lay in hiding, unperturbed by the icy waters. But these were not warriors. This was a hatchery, filled with krait eggs and terrified young.
    He raised his sword to continue the extermination—
    “Cadeyrn!” Niamh said sharply.
    Cadeyrn paused, looking up at the leader of his Cycle in confusion.
    “Leave them.”
    “But…they are krait.”
    “They are children.”
    “Children.” He frowned, for the word had little meaning. “You mean ‘they are small.’ They are small, but they are krait. They will grow up to be large krait, and then we will kill them. Why not kill them now, when it is easy and they are undefended? It seems the wisest course of action. Otherwise, we risk losing more sylvari lives when these return fully grown.”
    “We must take that risk, to give them a chance to change their ways,” the firstborn said. “All things have a right to grow. The blossom is brother to the weed.” Soberly, she put away her sword and pushed the altar back. Beneath it, Cadeyrn could hear the snakes scrambling, splashing away into the ocean tide.
    “Again the firstborn quote the Tablet when I ask for logic.” He growled beneath his breath. “I do not agree.”

    Biology

    Sylvari biology is very different from any other race. They do not have internal organs, but instead are formed of growing plant matter, sap for blood, leaves and bark for skin. A jaw, for example, can be formed by leaves, vines, or even shards of bark that grow and press together to form the silhouette, but if you look closely you can still see the fibers and holes of the structure. Instead of bones, an arm is a mass of tightly-woven stems and leaves that work together to do the work of such a limb.
    Many scholars hypothesize as to why the sylvari look human-like at all instead of having a monstrous form, such as other “vegetable” races possess. Some suggest that the Pale Tree saw mostly humans during her youth. Individuals such as Ronan, who planted the seed, and others around the Pale Tree may have been physical role models for her eventual children. A popular asura theory is that the Pale Tree was planted on the graves of Ronan’s daughter and his ruined village, and their ”discorporate mass” was absorbed into the ground. The Pale Tree took nourishment from that soil, and therefore, the sylvari are predisposed to be shaped in a humanoid manner.
    [​IMG]
    Sylvari do sleep, and they can eat both meat and vegetables. They drink, as other races do, and they get tipsy on alcoholic beverages. They gain enjoyment from sitting in the sunlight—and it invigorates them—but can’t live on it as plants do. Their blood is a sticky sap, and though they can bleed, they do not have blood pressure or a pulse.
    No one knows how long the sylvari live. The oldest of their race are the firstborn, all of whom awakened twenty-five years ago. Sylvari show little signs of growing old, and none have yet died of advanced age. Physically, sylvari are male or female, and the relevant external biology is accurate on both, but they cannot sexually reproduce as the other races do; they have no internal organs capable of creating children. Whether they have their own methods of reproduction outside of the Pale Tree has yet to be seen.
    Sylvari grow their armor and much of their clothing. Their bodies create petal-like coverings, vines, and leaves that they shape into pleasing garments. When they wish to remove the garments, they simply shed their petal clothing as a human might cut their hair. Some sylvari wear armor made by other races or weave clothing in a more traditional manner, just out of preference. As an adopted custom, they cover themselves as humans do, concealing certain portions of their anatomy where it seems culturally appropriate.
    Cadeyrn stood high on a limb in the center of the Grove, listening to the stillness of night. Crickets chirruped here and there, and night birds uttered lonesome cries, each calling to their own, even as he called to something greater than himself.
    “Mother,” Cadeyrn murmured, raising his hands in gentle supplication. “I need you.”
    The wind soothed the leaves at the top of the Pale Tree, and Cadeyrn felt her presence. Softly, the Mother murmured, “Son of my bough, what do you seek?”
    “Wisdom.” Tears touched his eyes, and he rubbed them roughly with the back of his hand. “I see the evil in the world; I am told to fight it, but the lessons of the tablet shackle me. They prevent me from doing what is right. We put down our weapons when we should go to the slaughter. We turn away from vengeance when we are wronged, even though our spirits cry out for it. We do not take what we desire, or kill whatever we wish, or use our strength to force the world to hear us! These things are within us when we awaken. Why do we turn away from those impulses? Why do we do not follow our instincts? Always, we justify our actions with this tablet. Why do we not do whatever we want?”
    The Pale Tree rustled softly. “The most effective path is not always the best one, sapling. As the firstborn have done, you must strive to be good.”
    The words stung. “Who defines ‘good?’ You? Ventari? Some dead human?” Cadeyrn retorted. “The firstborn are not perfect.”
    The Pale Tree paused, and for a while, Cadeyrn thought she might not reply. Mist had risen upon the nearby brook before she spoke again.
    “Would you do evil in my name?” The Pale Tree sighed. “Would you cause devastation, as the charr do? Or justify wickedness in the name of knowledge, as the asura do? No, Cadeyrn. We come into this world to destroy the dragons. We must not lose ourselves in that challenge.”
    “Have we not already lost ourselves, Mother? We are not centaurs or humans. Let me destroy the tablet, and we will see what it truly means to be sylvari.” There was no answer. As dawn rose and bathed the clearing in gold, Cadeyrn realized that the tree would say no more.
    “She will not hear you.” The quiet voice was feminine, but it was not the tree who spoke. Spinning, Cadeyrn readied himself for battle but froze when he saw Caithe, cold and still, standing in the last shadows of night. “She will not hear you,” Caithe repeated.
    “I am the first of my generation—” he began, raising his voice in argument.
    Caithe shrugged and interrupted, “Why should she care? She has thousands of children now, Cadeyrn. You are either firstborn…or you are simply sylvari.”
    A storm gathered upon his features. “I will never be one among many, Caithe. Not even to the Pale Tree,” he vowed, storming away. “I will make you hear me, Mother, like it or not. When I am finished and you are free at last, then I will be first in your heart!”
    Caithe lingered in silence and watched him go.

    The Nightmare Court

    “A true sylvari should have two hearts: one soft and pliable as hot wax, and the other as hard and impenetrable as an icy diamond. The first, he should show to his companions, the second, to his enemy. Woe to the one for whom the two are the same.”—Dagonet
    The Nightmare Court are sylvari who embrace the darkest parts of their nature, relishing a terrifying nightmare that contains as much horror as the Dream holds inspiration. Their dark vigils are things of legend, filled with depravity, twisted courtliness, and sadistic tournaments that pervert sylvari chivalry. Their greatest ambition: to turn the Pale Tree to nightmare.
    These sylvari reject the teachings of Ventari’s tablet and claim that the influence of outside races perverted the true nature of the Pale Tree and the sylvari. They seek the shadow within the Dream, turn away from what they deem false morality, and explore the darker side of their personality. Cold, cruel, and without mercy, they see themselves as true sylvari, untainted by the influence of Ronan, Ventari, and the lessons of the tablet. They consider it to be their noble purpose to bring others of their race away from that forced behavior and into darkness.
    [​IMG]
    With each act of cruelty and evil, they add more nightmares to the tree and hope, one day, to change the balance, turning the Mother to their side. Certainly, as the tree gathers emotions and memories, she draws from the Nightmare Court as well as their kinder brethren, and her pool of memories swells with both dark and light thoughts. The Nightmare Court believe that, if they can propagate more dark emotions, the pool will become more and more touched by nightmare, and new sylvari will tend away from the ethics that were forced upon them by Ventari and his followers.
    In order to achieve this goal, the Nightmare Court commit acts of evil both upon sylvari and non-sylvari alike. When their own emotions become too jaded to be likely gathered into the tree, they rely on harming and tormenting other sylvari and giving them memories, horrible emotions, and other traumas in the hope that those memories will be sharp enough to be gathered. The more awful their crimes, the more likely it is that the Pale Tree will carry the memory into her well of emotions, passing those inclinations on to her next generation.
    Titles of the Court

    When a sylvari joins the Nightmare Court, they are initiated in a ritual pageant designed to awaken the nightmare within their spirit. They spend time as a courtier, learning the ways of the Nightmare Court, acting as a servant to higher-ranking members, and studying ways to break free of the tablet’s influence. They may choose to serve under a more senior member of the Court, becoming a squire or an apprentice. Once they have earned the ability to spread nightmare on their own, they become a knight.
    It is a knight’s duty to spread fear and despair in the name of the Nightmare Court, creating traumatic memories and experiences that they hope will be taken into the Pale Tree and help to turn her—and her as-yet-unawakened children—away from the lessons of Ventari’s Tablet. To further enhance the fear they hope to create, they often take a title, and are called such during their time as a knight in the court. Such titles include Knight of Decay, Knight of Blades, Knight of Lies, or Knight of the Shattered Star. The highest ranks among the Nightmare Court are known as the Retinue. Knights who have done well are elevated into the Retinue by the Grand Duchess Faolain, who rewards them with rank and position. Baron, count, countess, duke, and duchess: all bear responsibility and a great deal of respect within the hierarchy of the court. Some knights elect to retain the title they chose for themselves as well, becoming the Count of Blades or the Duchess of Frozen Snow.
    [​IMG]

    All of these titles are chosen to foster the legend and myth of the Nightmare Court. The members choose to associate themselves with evil things, so even the sound of their names might trigger a response in other sylvari. They prefer to leave their victims alive—if they are sylvari—to further spread the stories of terror, as that only increases their hold within the Dream. In the end, most Nightmare Courtiers believe they are justified in their actions. Like Cadeyrn, their founder, they seek to free the Mother Tree from the tablet and the lessons forced upon the sylvari by the shadows of the past.
    The Mother mourns her errant children, knowing that they can never return from the evil they have chosen. As new sylvari go forth into the world, she reminds them to hold fast to the hero’s path of honor, courage, chivalry and compassion even as they strive for victory over the Elder Dragons. Truly, the sylvari fight not only for their own souls, but for the spirit of Tyria itself. While that battle will be hard-fought, the Pale Tree does not fear difficulty.
    Hard ground makes stronger roots.
    “…we gather in nightmare. We look to the darkest part of our spirits. The covetous hand, the lying heart, the knife that betrays a friend: we call upon these, and we see their power. For what are we, in the end, if not creatures of power? It will take strength to defeat the dragons, and strength does not come by turning away any weapon, no matter how vicious or how cruel. We will use them all.” Cadeyrn lounged on his throne with a careless, prideful slouch. A crown of golden vine glittered on his forehead as courtiers bowed and whispered before him, hanging on Cadeyrn’s every word, their eyes as lightless as the space between the stars.
    “We, the sylvari, are the future. It is our time. We must leave behind the fears of awakening. Let go the stone that weighs us down. We were born to be more than this. We were born with a darkness in our Dream and in our heart that we could embrace…if only the Mother were not so afraid of the night. It is time to show her that her children are more than even she has dreamed we could be.
    “If the sylvari are to survive, we must learn from the poison thorn and the stinging nettle, the vine that crushes the very sapling which holds it to the light. We will raise the nightmare. We will see Tyria remade in our image.
    “We will grow until nightmare swallows the world.”

    [​IMG]



     
  8. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
    Stratics Veteran Alumni Stratics Legend

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    The Sylvari Soul – Angel McCoy on Writing the Sylvari

    By Angel McCoy August 9th, 2011


    [​IMG]
    My name is Angel Leigh McCoy, and I’m one of several writers on the Guild Wars 2 design team. We’ve been molding Tyria into a living, breathing world, and I’m here to share some audio clips of in-game dialogue and give you some insight into the sylvari, Tyria’s newest race.
    Sylvari Basics

    All the races of Guild Wars 2 are fun to write, but sylvari rank in the top three for me. I love how their virtue blends with their innocence and then contrasts with the darkness of the world surrounding them. This disparity illuminates the sacrifices, gallantry, and tragedies of Tyria’s war with the dragons.
    Remarkably, the sylvari race didn’t come into existence until 25 years ago (in game years) when the twelve firstborn awoke. Since then, new sylvari have continued to awaken on a regular basis, their numbers growing as time advances.
    Sylvari arrive in the world fully grown. They emerge from pods that grow on the Pale Tree: a magical, sentient tree with its roots deep in Tyria and its branches in the Dream. They leave the Dream—a mystical place where sylvari memories are collected—and incubate in their pods, then emerge into the world. They bring with them a spectator’s understanding of how the world works, having witnessed aspects of it while in the Dream. Their first few days in the world are critical, and they’re met by mentors and other newly awakened who help them find their way.
    In this series of scenes, a male sylvari attempts to explain his awakening to a female norn. Listen in:​

    Sylvari Birth
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    Designing Sylvari from Scratch

    The sylvari have evolved a great deal over the years. When first designed, they looked like gnarled, wooden figures. The next concept art iteration resembled children. We didn’t want child warriors going into battle, so we matured their look. Sylvari were also telepathic in the early days, but we quickly realized how much of a game-mechanic and story nightmare that would be, so we trimmed back their telepathy, making it empathy instead. It suited them better.
    [​IMG]
    The writing team, led by Bobby Stein, along with world designers Ree Soesbee and Jeff Grubb, spent many hours discussing the sylvari, what their lives would be like, and how they would act. We took those discussions and molded the everyday sylvari that you pass in the streets of Divinity’s Reach or elsewhere in the world.
    Some of the questions we asked ourselves included:
    What are the first few weeks of a sylvari’s life like?

    The first few weeks are an exercise in overcoming disorientation. Fortunately, newly awakened sylvari have a lot of help adjusting.
    Sylvari don’t have brothers, sisters, parents, or any other familial connections. How does this affect how they bond with others?

    They get to choose their families! The honorable sylvari can be extremely loyal once a bond has been created with another being. Sylvari also have strong racial attachments, not just because of the empathic links that connect them, but because only other members of their own race can understand what it’s like to be sylvari. These ties may be strengthened by shared experience or ultimately weakened, like distant cousins you only see on holidays.
    Do sylvari have romantic relationships?

    Sylvari fall in and out of love, just like other races do. They have a romanticized view of devotion, and they’re curious about passion in all its forms. There are male and female sylvari, but none has ever produced a child as other races do. Because of this, traditional human-style gender roles have no meaning to sylvari, either in their society or in their romantic relationships. Often, a sylvari’s ardor is expressed with courtly zeal—emotional, empathic, personal—and is not necessarily defined by gender.
    Are sylvari naive?

    Sylvari may be naive when they first leave the pod, but they don’t stay that way for long. They learn their lessons well, especially if the lessons come with lumps, thumps, or broken hearts.
    Since they awaken fully grown, do they have an understanding of what it’s like to be a child?

    No. They have never been children. Those small beings—miniature versions of the adults—who are so well protected, are alien to sylvari. Many are terrified at the thought of being born so vulnerable.
    [​IMG]
    As a group, we pondered these questions and many more until we came up with a race that felt fleshed out. We then tried different approaches to sylvari dialogue. During this process, we identified several personality keystones that defined our sylvari voice.
    Sylvari Keystone #1: Honor

    A sylvari’s honor gives her a sense of propriety that the youth of other races do not have. In many ways, they are like the Arthurian knights (without the gender bias). They take their duties seriously, and they live by a personal code. Their justice system involves duels, and when duels no longer satisfy, then the wisdom of an elder sylvari prevails. While evil sylvari do exist, most stand up for what is right, and even those who succumb to nightmare have a hatred for the Elder Dragon Zhaitan and the horrors of Orr. Listen in:

    Love Lost
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    Sylvari Keystone #2: Curiosity

    The sylvari race is less than 25 years old, and most sylvari are younger than 20. When they come into the world, they have already seen much via the Dream, but they have experienced none of it themselves. For this reason, a sylvari may express surprise, joy, and even awe at the sight of something that most of Tyria’s citizens would consider mundane.
    However, sylvari are not childlike creatures who see a miracle in every blade of grass. They have an active sense of wonder but are not naive. They were born in a world at war and their own home, the Grove, suffers constant assault. They learn quickly that people deceive, that death is painful, and that evil exists. Despite this, they’re driven to go out into the world, to help others, to right wrongs, and perhaps, one day, to banish evil in all its forms. Listen in:

    Contemplating the Details
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    Sylvari Keystone #3: Empathy

    As progeny of the Pale Tree, sylvari have a special connection with plants. They can often empathize with flora, even possessing certain magical abilities that allow them to grow plants into useful items such as walls, armor, and weaponry.
    Being a form of sentient plant life, they can sometimes feel another sylvari’s emotions if the emotion is strong enough. They don’t get any information other than the feeling itself, but it’s something that connects all sylvari and gives them a sense of belonging. Listen in:

    Citizens Roaming
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    Sylvari Keystone #4: The Dream

    [​IMG]Sylvari exist in the Dream of Dreams prior to awakening. While in this womb, they draw nourishment from their mother, the Pale Tree, and along with that nourishment, they receive knowledge of the world. The Pale Tree collects her knowledge from awakened sylvari. She gathers memories of their experiences like a mystical net collecting leaves from a stream. The more intense or emotional an experience, the more likely the memory of it will reach the Pale Tree’s consciousness and eventually seep into the Dream where unawakened sylvari may witness it. Powerful as this is, the Pale Tree doesn’t see every moment of every sylvari life, and she is not omniscient.
    Furthermore, not all sylvari see the same Dream visions, so everyone awakens with a unique foundation of worldly knowledge. The Dream may reveal clues that foretell the sylvari’s profession and talents. It may reveal historical events that will impact the sylvari’s personality and future choices. It may reveal knowledge of everyday life, both in sylvari society and among other races. They see many things about Tyria and are thus ready to begin living when they awaken fully grown and leave the Pale Tree.
    A small percentage of awakened sylvari eventually receive a calling to the Wyld Hunt. Their first hints of this may have appeared in the Dream prior to their awakening, though few would recognize it as such. A sylvari called to the Wyld Hunt has an especially important purpose and is dubbed a Wyld Hunt valiant. Great responsibility comes with the Wyld Hunt, as does great opportunity. Most sylvari take this so seriously that they would die in service to this quest. Each sylvari’s Wyld Hunt is unique. Listen in:

    Arching Boughs
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    Sylvari Keystone #5: Philosophy

    When the first sylvari awakened at the base of the Pale Tree, they found a stone tablet—the Ventari Tablet—carved with seven tenets to live by. It was written by Ventari, a wise centaur who lived hundreds of years before the first sylvari was born. The sylvari have embraced these tenets as one would embrace the words of a prophet. They discuss their meanings and have deep philosophical exchanges about the nature of life, love, and honor. Listen in:

    Mentoring
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    Diversity

    The sylvari have personalities built of complex emotions, quirks, and goals. They have quickly become just as complicated and nuanced as our other races. You won’t find anything cookie-cutter or cardboard about any of them, and our in-game dialogue gives us the chance to express the sylvari in all their colors, shapes, and sizes.
    [​IMG]

     
  9. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
    Stratics Veteran Alumni Stratics Legend

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    Video: City of Lion’s Arch

    By Ree Soesbee May 11th, 2011


    [​IMG]
    The most diverse and cosmopolitan city in Tyria, Lion’s Arch is a melting pot where all the races gather and trade. Lion’s Arch owes no allegiance to any race or nation, but stands on its own – and it does so by virtue of its active navy, its financial strength, and the intelligence and cunning of its leaders.
    [​IMG]Lion’s Arch went through multiple changes over the years since its days as the capital of Kryta in the original Guild Wars to its current incarnation as a free city in Guild Wars 2. First destroyed by the rise of the Elder Dragon Zhaitan, the ruins of Lion’s Arch were utilized as a safe harbor by ships looking to escape the horrors of the sea. The wreckage of old Lion’s Arch was slowly turned into a refuge for pirates, smugglers, and other independent vessels. Shantytowns were created, and as the waters slowly receded over the course of decades, a settlement formed that owed no allegiance to Kryta. This settlement was unified by a human named Cobiah Marriner, who fought against the scourge of Orr alongside charr, asura, norn, and any other race that would lend their vessels to the cause. Out of that staunch and allied front, the city of Lion’s Arch was reborn.

    For generations, the people of Lion’s Arch have been on the front line of the war with Zhaitan, the dragon of Orr. Their city was destroyed, only to be rebuilt in defiance of the dragon’s power. The elite Lionguard have built a fortress on Claw Island, a small body of land in the harbor, in order to defend against Zhaitan’s attacks. No ship sails from their docks without a wary eye south toward the dark waters of the undead. They live each day with the knowledge that they are a bastion against the destruction that the Dragon would bring – regardless of whether or not the other nations of the world recognize, or care about, their ongoing struggle.

    Lion’s Arch is run by the Captain’s Council, a committee of wealthy merchants and sea captains. Those who wish to take an active hand in the city’s governance must prove themselves regardless of their race and heritage. They must be respected as a noted ship commander, and they must have contributed to the city’s growth or health. If they are seen as a leader in the city, then they may purchase one of the seats on the Captain’s Council – when one becomes available. This system of political governance leads to a great deal of one-upmanship among the local captains and on the council itself.

    Lion’s Arch is a unique location with very distinctive nautical architecture. Rather than tie the city’s architecture to any race – or to the original city’s structures – we wanted to give Lion’s Arch its own appearance in order to show that it is an independent state. Like other cities in the game, Lion’s Arch will have areas for festivals and holiday celebrations. Further, every service in the game will be available in Lion’s Arch; all trainers, storage access, merchants, crafters.

    In a story sense, Lion’s Arch is extremely important. One of the main themes of Guild Wars 2 is bringing together disparate, even opposed groups in order to fight a greater enemy: the Elder Dragons. Alone, no race will survive their awakening. Only together can the races of Tyria survive. Nowhere in Tyria is that belief more strongly held than the city of Lion’s Arch.


    [youtube]v0MzZyZ-ty8[/youtube]


     
  10. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
    Stratics Veteran Alumni Stratics Legend

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    The Legions of the Charr

    By Ree Soesbee April 22nd, 2011


    [​IMG]
    In the year 1090 of the Mouvelian calendar, King Adelbern, last human ruler of Ascalon, released the Foefire. The human residents of that land succumbed to the terrible magic, only to rise again as ghosts. By 1112, the High Legions of the charr reclaimed the entirety of Ascalon. Only four years later, Kalla Scorchrazor of the Blood Legion came before Forge Ironstrike, the imperator of the Iron Legion, and challenged him to help her free their people from the shamans’ control. Together, Kalla and Forge led a rebellion against the Flame Legion, overthrowing their tyrannical rule. The three legions, Blood, Ash, and Iron, then reassembled a nation from the ruins of the past.

    “You’re a coward.”
    “You’re a fool.”
    Blades rang from their scabbards with the shrill sound of anger, and only the claws of the Iron Legion centurion kept blood off the field.
    “Stand down! Both of you!” the commander roared. His black eyes bored into the unruly troopers, and the two scrappers slowly put away their swords. “I’ve got six warbands to organize, soldiers, and I can’t waste time babysitting yours. Get your tails in gear! Five years you’ve been fighting like this. Kill each other already, or stop wasting my time!”
    Legionnaire Via Splitvein’s fists clenched. She snarled in barely controlled obedience. “Fine. But if this sniveling, white-jawed weakling tries to tell me what to do one more time…”
    “If I don’t tell you and you blunder into an ambush, then it’s on your head.” The other charr, a smaller male of the Ash Legion, rolled his claws over the hilts of his white-handled daggers. “You and your Blood Legion warband will be turned into Branded monsters,” he sneered. “Then again, being corrupted by a dragon might actually make you more pleasant, Via.”
    Via raged forward again, but the centurion still stood in her way. “Uncalled for, Feros!” The centurion pushed them both back. “Back off!” Jabbing a thick finger into the black-garbed scout’s chest, the centurion said viciously, “Your duty, Ash trash, is to escort this warband through Foulblain Expanse to Kinar Fort. If you can’t do that, then get me someone that can!”
    Feros Benighted growled low in his throat and let go of his weapons. “Fine. I promise I’ll see them through the Brand—just keep that lunatic off my back.”
    “Fine.” Via echoed. “Show me the path. Then stay out of my way.”

    The Return of the Legions
    Even after the charr recovered Ascalon, there were many challenges to overcome. The three legions of old (Iron, Ash, and Blood) struggled to establish their identities and hierarchies. Many leaders who continued to be faithful to the Flame Legion’s regime were assassinated or overcome in combat. New voices rose in their place, and the charr as a race fragmented. Only through the strength of the warbands, with their natural adherence to the chain of command, did the nation of charr survive this turbulent period. And, in an irony that was not lost on the charr, Adelbern’s final curse became an integral part of that survival.
    [​IMG]
    Once the Flame Legion’s hold was broken, the shamans and their followers fled into the Blazeridge Mountains to lick their wounds. Escape was possible primarily because the other three legions were so focused on rebuilding their internal hierarchies after generations of Flame Legion control. But after the structures of Iron, Ash, and Blood were rebuilt, it seemed almost impossible that the three legions wouldn’t immediately fall upon one another and take advantage of any weaknesses, potentially eradicating themselves.
    That’s exactly what might have happened, had it not been for the ghosts of Ascalon.
    Adelbern’s curse upon the lands of Ascalon swept through the humans. In a white-hot moment, it destroyed their physical forms and cursed their spirits to wander the land, forever fighting against the charr. Because the ghostly enemy was unrelenting and never completely defeated, the High Legions of the charr were forced to work together from the outset if they wished to survive. Although they detested the forced unity, the need to defend themselves and Ascalon taught the three legions how to work together without sacrificing their individuality.
    Currently, the Iron, Ash, and Blood Legions operate under a shaky alliance. Smodur the Unflinching commands the Iron Legion from his stronghold in the Black Citadel. East, across the Blazeridge Mountains, Imperator Bangar Ruinbringer controls the lands of the Blood Legion. Malice Swordshadow, a young female charr, rules as imperator of the Ash Legion. Although the three legions bicker and occasionally squabble, they have managed to maintain the general state of accord. Each legion is independent, but all three send troops and support to Ascalon to eradicate the human threat. Smodur knows full well that Malice’s troops are there not only to aid, but also to spy for their imperator; however, the two leaders respect one another. Bangar is the true wild card, distrustful and prone to rage. Still, his hatred for humans overcomes his suspicions about the other imperators, and he has committed a great number of troops to the Black Citadel’s command.
    A storm raged in the Brand. Lightning flashed here and there, illuminating slithering, crystalline things roaming the corrupted plains. A lone charr warband marched across the shifting sand, boots treading over ground too treacherous and constantly changing to map.
    Feros paused, holding up one fist to signal a silent halt. The Blood Legion warband instantly froze in place. Via smelled the air, catching no more than a faint hint of danger. After a moment, the scout slunk back to them, crawling over the broken rocks to whisper, “Hostiles up ahead. Looks like trouble.” He sketched a quick map in the sand, indicating location, distance, and number. “They’ve already got our scent.”
    “Then it’s killin’ time.” Via’s eyes narrowed. She glanced back at her warband, friends since childhood. Their faces were drawn and stiff. They knew the danger. The flatland ahead was solid. Even. It would make an excellent place to fight. “Prepare assault. Two on the rear, the rest with me. At my signal…”
    Four massive creatures crested the hill. They were hideous, twisted by the energies of the Brand. Judging by their malformed skulls and huge, clawed paws, the monstrosities might once have been bears or mountain-cats. Now they were nothing but twisted shells filled with a dragon’s murderous hatred. Four. Far more than they could handle. She wasn’t even sure the warband could defeat one.
    Via didn’t realize she’d taken a step back until she felt Feros’s hand on her forearm, quietly steadying her balance.
    “Are you all right?” he asked. His voice was low, and her quick ears barely caught his meaning.
    “They’re… big.” She whispered the trembling words before she realized she had spoken. Stiffening, Via pulled her arm away as if his hand were a hot coal pressed against her skin. She reached for her sword. “Don’t be such a coward, Feros. We can take them.”
    Feros smiled—an expression not particularly different from his snarl. “We can sure as hell try.”


    The Citadel’s Master
    The imperator of the Iron Legion is a stern old soldier, a veteran of countless battles, known as Smodur the Unflinching. Smodur is burly, exceptionally muscular for his age, and carries the scars of a soldier’s life. He has only one eye left, which he uses to peer gloweringly at his subordinates, and his blue-tinged plate mail has been repaired far too many times to count.
    Smodur is a consummate engineer and a brilliant architect and designer. Over the years, he has been responsible for many advancements that have increased the Iron Legion’s strength. The imperator considers his legion to be the most “forward thinking” of all charr. Due to Smodur’s unusually progressive nature, other races are allowed in the Black Citadel as long as they prove their worth to the charr. Smodur is even working on a treaty with the humans defending the stronghold of Ebonhawke—a place that has long been a thorn in the Iron Legion’s side. As a condition for considering the treaty, the charr require the humans to return an ancient weapon lost during the Foefire: the Claw of the Khan-Ur.
    Some say that Smodur demands the return of the legendary weapon so that he can use it to bolster his authority and claim rulership of the charr. Other rumors imply that the unconventional imperator wishes to melt down the Claw and destroy the legacy of the Khan-Ur, in hopes that his people will continue moving forward and never look back.
    “Get up, soldier!” Via roared to the last of her warband. She caught a corrupted monster’s massive claws on her shield and tried to respond with a sword blow. The glazed look in her fallen companion’s eye told the tale. He was dead, like the others. Brothers and sisters of the fahrar that had fought by her side since childhood. Despite the three beasts they’d downed—one slain by Via alone – she could not stop the onslaught of the fourth. Her body ached and the weapon in her hand felt heavier with each attack.
    Via’s shield shattered, raining torn iron and chips of wood across her muzzle. She staggered back and swung her blade fiercely, trying to ward off the enemy until her vision cleared. One wide slash, two—but her weapon struck nothing. Via opened her eyes, fearing the worst… just in time to see the monstrous Brand creature stagger and collapse. A white-handled dagger had pierced its crystalline heart.
    Feros stood between her and the beast, his body clawed open from shoulder to tail. He managed a snarl as he fell to his knees. “Fool.”
    Ignoring her own injuries, Via went to his side, tearing off her cloak and ripping it into strips to bind his wounds. Annoyed, the scout weakly swiped at her hands. “Let me die. Go, before the smell of blood brings others…”
    “Coward.” She snarled, tying the knots tighter. “Giving up on a fight?”
    “I’m cut bad, Via.”
    “You’ll get better,” she lied.
    Feros took a deep breath. “Fine. But we’re getting out of here. If you carry me, I’ll show you the way.”
    “No.” Her hands paused over the bandage-ties. “If you move, you’ll bleed out. I’ll go. I’ll bring someone back for you. Less than a day.”
    The Ash Legion soldier snorted in disgust. “You go alone and you won’t make it out at all. All three of us will die. It’s this way…or none at all.” Feros closed his eyes in labored pain. When he opened them again, his snarl had returned. “I promised I’d see you clear of this place, you Blood-brained idiot. That I will.”
    It took only a breath to make her decision. She hoisted the Ash Legion soldier onto her back. Feros clamped his arms around her neck. With no further discussion, they headed north toward Kinar.

    Chain of Command
    The true head of the charr nation is the Khan-Ur, considered the primus imperator. He ranks above the imperators of all four High Legions and coordinates all the armies of the charr. The last Khan-Ur was assassinated as the humans arrived in Tyria and drove the charr out of Ascalon. A few charr have tried to claim the title since then, but none has truly united the legions under one throne. Without a Khan-Ur, each of the four legions is led by separate imperators who hold supreme authority within their legion’s structure.
    Beneath each imperator are his primary commanders, the tribunes. A legion rarely has more than ten tribunes, and this office oversees an entire theatre of war or large swath of controlled territory. Beneath the tribunes are centurions. Each centurion commands a number of warbands (a “company”) and coordinates maneuvers on a broad scale within the tribune’s authority. In areas where multiple centurions are coordinating, a primus centurion might be appointed—the “first among equals” of the centurions. The primus centurion leads an active assault force of 3-5 large companies; this is smaller than the numbers encompassed by the tribune’s authority, but still sizeable.
    [​IMG]Each warband has its own legionnaire. The legionnaires are the true heart of the legions. They lead their warbands (typically a group of 5-15 charr) on missions, guide them to victory, and provide individual leadership to the squad. Under their command are the pure soldiers of each legion –the warband members who are the rank and file of charr strength.
    There are also ranks within the structure of the High Legions that do not contribute to the direct chain of command. A brevet is a temporary field command used in times of emergency. Quaestor is the legion title for quartermaster, a position typically held by an older soldier whose skills on the field have lessened, but whose experience and administrative guidance are extremely valuable. Scrapper is the catch-all term for a warband on punishment duty, no matter what their official rank.
    “Primus” is the title for an adult instructor at a fahrar. As cubs are born, they are brought to their legion’s fahrar to be educated and raised in a warband composed of the cubs of that year (or close to it). The primus provides education and guidance, preparing the young warband for life as soldiers in their legion.
    The bottommost rank in the High Legions is the gladium. A gladium is a charr without a warband; they are the lowest grunts, given little respect or responsibility—regardless of their previous titles or rank. Without a warband, a charr is not trusted. It is every gladium’s duty to rejoin a warband as quickly as possible. Until they do, they are seen as a black mark on the legion’s record and are looked down upon.
    There is a concrete difference between gladium and charr who have been assigned away from their warbands. The former have no support and no place in the hierarchy, except on the very lowest rungs. The latter are simply performing a task or solo mission away from their units. It is acceptable for charr to be away from their warbands for a long period, when duty and need require it. But charr on independent duty, unlike gladium, always have their units to call on and return to when their missions are complete.
    The young primus of the fahrar raised an eyebrow when he saw a Blood legionnaire striding toward the pits. Her wounds had not yet healed from a trip through the Brand, and trails from massive claws were still fresh on her body. In her arms, she held a dark-furred cub not more than two weeks old. “Blood Legion?” the primus scoffed. “This is an Ash fahrar.”
    “I know where I am,” the warrior snarled fiercely, baring her teeth. “Take the wretched thing and be done.” Despite her words, she held onto her cub for a moment longer, brushing back the fur from his ears and letting the baby tug playfully at her clawed finger.
    “Who’s the father?” The Ash primus asked curiously.
    His answer was served with a sharp glare. “None of your business, Ash trash.” She looked down at the cub one more time before placing him gently in the primus’s arms. “He was one of yours. That’s all you need to know.”
    The primus lay the babe with the others: the warband it would one day rely upon. “Does the cub have a name?” he asked cautiously, calling to the Blood Legion warrior as she walked away.
    She paused, looking back over her shoulder. “Veros,” she grunted. The Blood Legion warrior rested her hand on a white-handled dagger that hung at her belt. “And, primus? Tell him that his father was a coward.” After a moment, she murmured softly, “Then make sure he turns out the same way.”
    Via lowered her head as if shouldering a burden and silently left the fahrar.

    [​IMG]


     
  11. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
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    Scott McGough on Writing the Charr

    By Scott McGough April 19th, 2011

    [​IMG]
    Scott McGough here, representing the Guild Wars 2 design writing team. I’ll be bringing you the latest dispatches from the farthest reaches of the charr empire, because someone has to prepare you for the thing I’m looking forward to most: the bad guys from Guild Wars becoming a fully playable race in Guild Wars 2.
    Virtues and Vices
    Our world designers and writers approach the charr with a certain amount of gusto. After all, it’s just plain fun to write for the bad guys, especially when you get to explore their point of view, in which they’re the good guys. We know some people will feel a lingering resentment of the charr—probably because of that whole Searing thing—in addition to the gleeful anticipation of getting inside their fur, so our guiding principle for writing them has been to delve into some of the unexplored charr virtues (industry, discipline, fearlessness) along with their well known vices (aggression, bloodthirst, and ruthlessness). Balancing the admirable traits with the fearsome ones allows us to present a more complete picture of charr society without negating or retconning their violent history.

    Virtues and Vices
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    Winning Ugly is Still Winning
    Things have gone relatively well for our nation of belligerent feline antagonists since we last saw them. After Kalla Scorchrazor’s rebellion broke the power of the Flame Legion shamans, the Iron, Ash, and Blood Legions reestablished their dominance and led the charr people on a remarkable series of victories. By the start of Guild Wars 2, the charr have almost completely pushed humanity out of what was once Ascalon, successfully built a capital city stronghold on the ruins of Rin, and solidified their grip on their holdings while also expanding ever-outward into new territory. This should come as no surprise, as victory has been a touchstone for everything the charr do. Both as individuals and as a society, they still care far less about the means than they do the ends, especially when the end is winning.
    Winning Ugly…
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    Three Legions, One Nation
    [​IMG]
    Their remarkable achievements didn’t come easy, however.
    The first obstacle the legions had to overcome was their rivalry with each other. Iron, Ash, and Blood each laid claim to the throne of the Khan-Ur (supreme commander) of the charr nation. However, without the Claw of the Khan-Ur (a powerful totem signifying the right to rule), no single legion has the support required to take the throne. The Iron Legion is in the best position to seize control, having retaken Ascalon and rebuilt a citadel on the ruins of Rin. However, their imperator, Smodur the Unflinching, has yet to turn these victories into a serious challenge for the throne of the Khan-Ur.
    Within Ascalon, troops from each legion support Smodur’s cause to reclaim these southern charr lands from their human enemy. Blood and Ash legion troops work in tandem with Smodur’s forces of Iron, with each legion playing to its strengths: Blood musters the fiercest warriors and dominates on the battlefield through sheer ferocity and strength of numbers; Ash practices subtlety and stealth, choosing its targets carefully and then eliminating them with deadly precision; Iron provides the ordnance and the strong leadership required to keep this potentially explosive alliance from tearing itself to pieces. The Khan-Ur’s throne remains empty, but the charr in Ascalon stand largely united under the Iron Legion’s rule, functioning as a mighty machine of conquest.
    Three Legions, One Nation
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    Military Mindset
    Make no mistake: the charr may not be at humanity’s throat like they once were, but they are still essentially a massive, well-armed and well-trained military unit. All charr serve, if not as soldiers, then as logistical support for soldiers, providing food, weaponry, transport, and whatever else the legions need. There are still charr merchants, explorers, and even charr scholars, but whatever their vocation, all charr are soldiers at heart, and they tackle life’s challenges with a soldier’s discipline and focus. That is not to say the charr don’t enjoy life’s simple pleasures, or the occasional luxury—meat, whiskey, a finely made blade—but like all well disciplined soldiers, they never lose sight of the larger mission.
    Military Mindset
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    [​IMG]

    Boot Camp for Cubs
    The root of this military organization lies in the fahrar, a kind of boot camp that young charr report to as soon as they can walk and wield a blade. Training can be brutal, and a charr bonds for life with the other cubs in the fahrar. When this initial training is over, fahrar graduates form a warband that becomes an adult charr’s second family; sometimes they even adopt similar surnames to mark themselves as members of the same unit. Adult charr have very little contact with their natural parents or their natural offspring, but parents and children sometimes keep tabs on each other to stay informed of any victories or defeats that could reflect back on the family’s reputation.
    Boot Camp for Cubs
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    Living for the City
    The current charr capital is the Black Citadel, built by the Iron Legion on the ruins of Rin to serve as their central headquarters. It is a monument to their victory over Ascalon and a symbol of Iron Legion dominance.
    All three legions coexist in the Black Citadel, along with a handful of norn, sylvari, asura, and even a few humans. By Smodur’s command, the Iron Legion allows just about anyone to visit and even settle there, so long as the visitors don’t cause trouble, but the leadership never lets anyone forget whose city it is, or the fact that everyone else is just a guest in their house. The residents of the Black Citadel live their lives and conduct their business under the strict eye of the Iron Legion’s Adamant Guard, and they enrich the base of operations from which the legions carry the battle to their enemies.
    Living for the City
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    [​IMG]

    Old Foes
    Currently, the most pressing of these enemies are two stubborn relics of the past that refuse to die: the Flame Legion and the restless ghosts of Ascalonian humans who still haunt the ruins of their former kingdom. The Flame Legion has been broken, but it still exists, and it still seeks to reclaim the power it once had, through guile, subterfuge, and magic. In the past, the Flame Legion worshipped nightmarishly powerful entities like the titans in exchange for magical might. These days, the other legions keep a close eye on the Flame Legion to prevent them from unleashing any more otherworldly terrors in their lust for power—but that doesn’t stop the Flame Legion from trying.
    The Flame Legion is so reviled that the average charr distrusts magic-users as a whole, and expresses open hostility to the concept of worshipping any beings called “gods.” To the modern charr, beings such as Grenth, Lyssa, and Melandru are merely powerful entities, not gods. Charr respect the forces such beings command, but would never kneel before them as if they were divine.
    Old Foes
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    Ghosts of Ascalon
    The ruins of Ascalon lie just outside the Black Citadel’s gates. This region is plagued by the ghosts of Ascalonian soldiers and citizens who died in King Adelbern’s Foefire. These tragic spirits are locked into the fear and anger they felt at the moment of their deaths, doomed to hate the charr and make war upon them for all eternity. The Iron Legion’s top priority is to develop a weapon that will put these ghosts to rest permanently, for the legions cannot effectively expand into the new territory if their central base is not secure.
    Ghosts of Ascalon
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    Charr Diplomacy
    Smodur the Unflinching has a different approach to dealing with the living humans of Tyria: coexistence. Wisely, Smodur recognizes that both the human kingdom and the charr nation have enough problems without refighting old wars (especially those the charr have already won). The human Queen Jennah also has something Smodur wants: the Claw of the Khan-Ur, discovered by a team of adventurers in her employ. After a series of diplomatic overtures, Smodur and Jennah established a tentative cease-fire between their respective peoples and are working out the details of a fully fledged peace treaty. Certain factions within both societies cannot accept the concept of peace with their ancestral enemies and are determined to do everything they can to derail the treaty talks. Their actions fuel the distrust and hatred that still lingers between the two races, but human desperation and charr discipline continue to move the process forward.
    Charr Diplomacy
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    Reporting for Duty
    So, straighten your spine, sharpen your claws, and stand at attention: the officers and soldiers of the charr legions are looking for life-takers and heart-breakers to secure their next victory. Are you up to the challenge? Then fall in and get ready for action!
    Reporting for Duty
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    [​IMG]


     
  12. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
    Stratics Veteran Alumni Stratics Legend

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    Those Sneaky, Sneaky Skritt

    By Ree Soesbee April 5th, 2011


    [​IMG]
    The oldest asuran writings tell of the deep lands far below the surface of Tyria. Their lore describes beasts that no human or charr has ever known and gives histories of places now thought destroyed forever by the rise of Primordus, the Elder Dragon. These scrolls also speak of monsters fell and dangerous…and other creatures, perhaps not as dangerous, but horribly, wickedly tricksy – the skritt.
    Watch out for the skritt. Oh, one is amusing enough, but imagine two…or twenty…or two hundred of the blasted things! No, you’d better exterminate the entire colony of them now and be done with it—before things get out of hand.
    —Dlixx, inventor of the ‘Better Mousetrap’ Mass Trauma Wargolem

    Skritt are small, rat-like creatures in Guild Wars 2 who come from deep beneath the surface of Tyria. At first glance, these skittering fur balls may seem barely capable of rational speech, but they wield weapons and wear clothing and armor like more advanced races. Also, as the asura will tell you (or as any careful observer might note), the skritt actually gain intelligence when many of them congregate. Speaking in chirps and squeaks so fast that it sounds like buzzing to human ears, they share information, parse knowledge, and determine actions between themselves. The more skritt there are to do so, the more rational, intelligent, and cunning their activities become. One skritt alone is a simple-minded individual, capable of performing basic tasks and keeping himself alive, but an entire colony of hundreds? Clever enough to challenge even the brainpower of the asura.
    The asura see the skritt as moochers. They don’t plan, they are not strategists beyond small tactics and survival techniques, and they are quick to take advantage when they see an opening. They are neither inventors nor scientists, but they are curious. Given enough time with someone else’s invention, a skritt will discover how it works—and possibly how to replicate it. That alone is enough to annoy the asura beyond reason.
    There are those among the humans who laugh at the asura’s rabid belief that all things skritt must be eliminated; how could a race as evolved and powerful as the brilliant asura be afraid of rats?
    Recent History

    Arrgh! Did I not tell you? Do not walk—not walk—on ice! Fall! You! Cold! The surface is different than below!
    —Siktikta, advance scout for Fionnghuala Colony

    [​IMG]The skritt and the asura have long been enemies, beneath the surface of the world. Fighting over territory and resources for generations, the two races have perpetually been at one another’s throats. Commonly, the asura had the advantage—an asura, after all, is every bit as smart when alone as she is when she is with others—but the skritt reproductive cycle is faster, allowing them to retain their numbers even as the asura eradicate them. This leads the asura to massacre skritt as rapidly as possible, arguing that if they didn’t, the skritt would quickly overpopulate and be a massive threat to the civilized world.
    When Primordus rose beneath the earth, driving the asura to the surface, the skritt also fled to the lands above. Unfortunately, they were not as successful as the asura in doing so. Packs of skritt (or individuals) separated from the body of the fleeing group would too easily lose their way or make poor decisions, ending in their destruction by Primordus’s destroyers. Therefore, fewer skritt survived to colonize closer to the surface. For a while, the asura believed their ancient annoyance had been destroyed—a single bright spot in the rise of the Elder Dragons. However, within a few generations, they discovered instead pockets of skritt resettling throughout Tyria.
    Since then, the asura have renewed their war against the skritt, entreating other races to eradicate their furred enemy as well. Some races (such as the charr) are more than happy to do so, seeing the skritt as a pest to eradicate. Others, such as the humans and the sylvari, are more willing to talk to the skritt and make alliances. The skritt are often eager to do so, and more or less trustworthy…as long as they stay in a group large enough to provide sufficient brainpower to remember the conditions they agreed to respect.
    Skritt Society

    Warriors among the skritt are called skean dhu. An apt student will note that the words literally translate to ‘any skritt holding a weapon.’
    —Rava Skrittcoat, lecturer at the College of Dynamics

    The skritt naturally evolve a leader as they begin to gather permanently in one place; that leader is usually chosen for his or her ability to most rapidly parse the information brought by other skritt. The rest of their race at that location respect the leader as something of a first-among-equals, allowing that individual to choose future strategies and plans for the entire colony. The entire group gathers en masse at least once every moon (usually on the full or new moon, as it is easiest to note) in order to share large-scale information. They commune, discuss the events of the past month, and prepare for any difficulties they know to be approaching during the next moon.
    Although skritt love to take objects for their own, they do not prize jewelry or useless items, nor do they decorate themselves with shiny objects. Such things can only bring harm to a skritt who is trying to be sneaky! Instead, they prefer useful objects, items that give them an advantage in hunting or other work, or things that they are incapable of making for themselves.
    [​IMG]Skritt Religion (such as it is)


    Seek it and find. Do not look. It is not; therefore, you should ‘not-look’ with care. Yes?
    —Old Aodhrrak, Ratatosk Colony

    The skritt have only a faint sense of faith—more a sense of empathy for the world than a belief in a divine source or power. Skritt feel that life exists simply so that one can have pleasant times and good memories. They are hedonists and are willing to gain their comforts from someone else’s labor. They are scavengers, but picky ones. They’re not the sort to dig through your trash, but rather the kind of mooch who convinces you that your extra sword is too much trouble to carry and you should give it to them. They do have a sense of material value, and prefer shinier, more advanced items. In time, skritt will likely break anything they’ve been given and come sniffing around for newer and better items to acquire.
    The Ecology of the Skritt


    The skritt are sneaky, intelligent scavengers who resemble a humanoid cross between rats and bats. They are omnivorous, preferring cooked meat and harvested fungi from the underground. Skritt are far too lazy and self-absorbed to run sufficient farms, except for those that require next to no work on their part. They prefer to live in large hollows or caverns, known as “scratches,” using rocks and underground passageways to build a safe environment. They do have architecture, and build huts or structures within the main area of their hollow out of the items they scavenge. There is no societal distinction between male and female skritt. Only the asura, who have generations of interactions with this race, can easily tell the difference between the two genders. To other races, all skritt look very much the same.
    [​IMG]No one really knows how the skritt hive-like intelligence works. The most likely theory is that the skritt simply communicate so rapidly that, when together, they can vet their ideas and choose the best one within seconds, rather than going with whatever plan each individual first conceived. Certainly, the skritt have exceptionally sharp auditory skills. They can communicate with one another almost instantly if they are within earshot. If you meet one skritt alone, he might not appear particularly intelligent, but if you meet several, they can discuss their surroundings in amazingly swift, almost ultrasonic chirrups and chitters, and are able to process information and make more intelligent decisions. Therefore, the skritt seem less intelligent in small groups and more intelligent when they gather in larger ones. Because of this, the skritt in their scratches are the most intelligent—and possibly the most dangerous. Even the bravest asura hesitate to attack a hollow when it is filled with skritt.
    Female skritt may give birth to litters approximately three to five times in their lives. These litters rapidly become self-sufficient and move out to live on their own. However, due to the nature of skritt intelligence, young skritt occasionally wander off alone and find themselves without the chittering of others to help them in dangerous situations—thus the overall population remains relatively small. Skritt mothers and fathers care a great deal for their children, and pamper them with the finest objects that can be bought, bartered for, or stolen.
    Skritt have some difficulty communicating with other species. Due to the unique method of their race’s interpersonal communication, skritt often simply assume you know what they’re talking about. They also assume that you have the ability to keep up with their fast-paced idea transfer, and will speak rapidly and without specifics—because another skritt would simply understand without needing those details. Skritt also occasionally get over-excited and repeat themselves to make sure the “slow-witted not-skritt” actually understand them.
    Behind the Scenes

    The skritt are a new species in Guild Wars 2, and their creation came from brainstorms about the effects of Primordus’s awakening. We’d already talked about the asura coming to the surface, but when we started to think about what the underground world must have been like for the asura, we concluded that the asura couldn’t have been alone down there. Other creatures, like the dredge, must also have been affected by the Elder Dragon’s aggression.
    We hadn’t explored the idea of a hive-mind in our world before, but we didn’t want to just repeat the old standard—an insectoid race. We went through many ideas, and eventually settled on the concept of a rattus rattus based horde. A major consideration in their creation was that this race had to challenge the asura on their own terms, but not be just another super-intelligent species. We wanted them to have weaknesses, flaws, and differences—as well as strengths.
    We had a quest chain that involved skritt at one point; although it didn’t make it into the game, it was a fascinating story. A small colony of skritt came upon a tribe of kodan and listened to the kodan philosophy. As a group, they were able to understand it very well, and one of them was impressed and wanted to learn more. The other skritt left the area, but that one stayed behind to study with the kodan. Unfortunately, once the other skritt left, he found himself in a terrible position—he was no longer intelligent enough to understand the kodan philosophy or remember why he idolized them so much. The feelings remained and he stayed with the kodan—but, tragically, he would never be able to truly understand them. It was GW2’s version of Flowers for Algernon. I hope that one day we’ll be able to put that tale in the game.


     
  13. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
    Stratics Veteran Alumni Stratics Legend

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    A Spirit of Legend

    By Ree Soesbee February 25th, 2011


    [​IMG]
    Life in the frozen Shiverpeaks carries many harsh burdens, and those who choose to live there must be as stalwart as the mountains themselves. The norn have many virtues, among them a fierce tenacity and a zest for the challenges that life brings. One of the most fundamental parts of norn culture is their reverence for the Spirits of the Wild, manifest embodiments of the natural world. These spirits are not only sources of inspiration, they are guides and allies through the difficult journey of life.

    The fire blew sparks toward the heavens like stars seeking to return to their high, dark home. But there was no joy in this blaze, no celebration. What had once been a proud lodge was now little more than piles of ash huddled in the shadows of flickering, ember-lit logs.
    “I’m sorry, Viskar.” The old skaald placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “There’s nothing we can do. Your father lost the house, and everything in it, on his last wager with Grimhilde. She had the right to do whatever she chose with her winnings.”
    “She cheated. She cheated, but I can’t prove it. What of my father, Fiach?” The youth snarled the words, biting off the syllables like a wolf gnawing its leg out of a trap. “Did she have the ‘right’ to kill him, too?”
    Old Fiach sighed. “He was wrong to attack her. There will be no retribution from the Wolfborn of Hoelbrak for Grimhilde’s actions. Nor should you seek vengeance upon her, Viskar. You are a new hunter, barely old enough to bear your own blade. Grimhilde is powerful, and legends of her cruelty are told at the moot to frighten children and humans.” Shaking his head, the skaald pulled a leopard-fur cloak closer about his weary bones. “Put away your anger, young one. Bury your father. Leave this matter to the crows.”
    “No.” Viskar wiped away his tears with the back of his hand, leaving soot stains across pale cheeks. “I may be young, Fiach, and I may be inexperienced.”
    “But I am still norn.”

    Bear, Snow Leopard, Raven and Wolf
    The norn believe in personal strength, individual victory, and an earthy spirituality that is both primal and complex. They revere the spirits of nature, embodied in animals that are both guardians and the essence of the world. It can be said that there are probably as many Spirits of the Wild as there are basic types of animals—one Spirit of Wolf to embody all wolves, one Spirit of Dolyak to teach the lessons of strength and perseverance, and so forth. Unlike the human gods, these Spirits of the Wild do not represent high-minded concepts like “War” or “Nature,” but instead embody all the complex virtues and vices of the animals they represent.
    [​IMG]
    Because of their history, the four most important Spirits of the Wild to the residents of the Great Lodge of Hoelbrak are Bear, Snow Leopard, Raven, and Wolf.​
    These spirits manifested themselves to lead the norn survivors south after their northern homelands were ravaged by the rise of the Elder Ice Dragon, Jormag. Bear is the most revered of all the spirits, and she is seen as an icon of strength, insight, and wisdom. Snow Leopard is a solitary, stealthy spirit, much like her animal kin, and the norn respect the secrets she collects. Raven is the cunning trickster who loves riddles and wordplay, and Wolf is the spirit of teamwork, friendship, and family. Norn choose to follow the path of a certain Spirit of the Wild because they feel a kinship to the lessons it teaches.
    It is important to note that simply because the four Spirits worked together to help the norn survive Jormag’s attacks does not mean that they—or their followers—are always on the best of terms. Followers of Wolf scorn Snow Leopard’s stealth as “cowardice,” and the shamans of Bear have been known to mistrust Raven’s adherents, calling their deceptions dishonorable and weak. Tales of epic battles between heroes of each lodge are told at moots, immortalizing in legend both the virtues and vices embodied by their patron spirits.​
    The stars above the Shiverpeaks were cold and bright, crowned by the iridescent borealis of the northern sky. In the Great Lodge of Hoelbrak, a youth stood before the shamans and sought lessons of revenge.
    “No,” said the shaman of Bear. “Learn strength, Viskar. Learn wisdom. Grimhilde does not seek victory. She seeks the utter annihilation of her enemy. I will not teach you to throw away your life.”
    “I am sorry,” said Wolf’s followers. “We would gladly help you avenge your family, but what you propose is suicide. Think of your pack. If you attack Grimhilde, she will punish those you love.”
    The Havroun of Raven shook his head when Viskar asked. “You cannot even tell me how she cheated. Grimhilde is clever, and she always has a lethal surprise for her enemies. If you do not know more than she does, she will destroy you.”
    Viskar clenched his fists. “Will no one help me?”
    A shadow moved in the corner of the lodge, and yellow eyes gleamed. “You haven’t asked me yet,” murmured the Speaker of Snow Leopard, Valharantha, her movements smooth and graceful.
    “Will Snow Leopard teach me to take vengeance?” he asked. “If I follow her path, will she show me how to defeat Grimhilde?”
    “More.” Valharantha lowered her eyes and smiled. “She will turn your vengeance into legend.”

    A Shaman’s Burden
    Unlike humans, whose priests are revered for their dedication to one god, all norn feel equally guided and befriended by the spirits. Some norn don’t follow a particular path, preferring instead to revere all the Spirits of the Wild, following each whenever its lessons are relevant in their day-to-day lives. Those who choose to become shamans devote themselves to a Spirit’s sacred area: a shrine, lodge, or hunting ground dedicated to their patron Spirit of the Wild. They serve their people as guardians and teachers, protecting their territory and instructing others in the lessons of the spirit they revere.​
    [​IMG]
    Four of the most powerful and dedicated shamans are known as the Speakers of Hoelbrak. They tend the four lodges that flank Hoelbrak’s main hall, which were raised in honor of the spirits that led the norn to safety. The wise Alarrin of the Frostborn speaks for Bear’s lodge; Moda the Black is Raven’s learned speaker; the Wolf Lodge is kept by a young speaker named Fastulf Jotharsson; the beautiful and mysterious Valharantha is the Speaker of Snow Leopard.​
    Shamans can be found across the Shiverpeaks and even in far-flung areas, but one special type of shaman known as a havroun is far less common. A havroun is a special servant of the spirit, a vigilant and active defender of the spirit’s interests both in this world and the next. Havrouns have the unique ability to physically cross into the Mists and go to the Hall of the Spirits, where the brave live forever. They do not need to open a portal or perform a ritual unless they are taking others with them. Alone, they simply step into the spirit realm, sending their spirit into the Mists as easily as crossing a hearthstone. There is only one havroun per Spirit of the Wild; there may be another in training, if the current havroun has grown old or weary and is preparing for their final crossing into the Mists.
    [​IMG]
    The Other Spirits
    Primarily, the norn of Hoelbrak revere the four Spirits of the Wild that led them south, but other spirits exist and teach lessons of their own. Some are less powerful, such as Minotaur, Wurm, or Eagle, and they are rarely seen or called upon. Some spirits are not sentient, such as Mountain, Fire, or Darkness, and are depicted as challenges to strive against or legendary obstacles placed in a hero’s path, rather than friends or guides like the Spirits of the Wild.
    There is also a small group of spirits that are revered with great sorrow. These “lost” Spirits of the Wild remained behind to fight Jormag. Owl, Dolyak (also known as Ox), Eagle, and Wolverine are lauded for their bravery and their sacrifice. Owl’s death is known to the norn—the last Havroun of Owl confirmed it—but as to the final outcome of Dolyak, Eagle, and Wolverine, even the shamans do not know. No norn has been blessed to serve as havroun to those spirits in generations, but then, it is not uncommon for weaker spirits (or those who are not close to this world) to be without a havroun. All that is truly known is that these spirits held the line in the far North and, by their bravery, aided the norn in escaping Jormag’s claws.​
    Grimhilde knelt, studying the tracks. She’d been following them for six days, since the skaalds in Hoelbrak sung the legend of Whisperclaw, a fierce young mountain cat. Soon, she would challenge the beast, and—
    “Grimhilde!” a voice called from the mountainside above. With a start, she reached for her weapon. Had someone come before her? Was her prey dead by another’s hand? In anger, the warrior straightened and peered up into the crags. She did not have to wait long to see her enemy. “Who are you?” she asked cautiously, fingering the blade on her axe. If this stripling had stolen her prize, she would make him pay…with pain.
    “I am your death, walking.” The youth stood on a high ledge, balancing effortlessly. “Four years ago, you cheated my father of his life. I am here to avenge that debt.”
    “I remember you now.“ Grimhilde stepped backward and swept her axe from side to side. “Your father was a weak little thing—as are you. I should have slain you as a child, but that old man talked me out of it. No matter. I will deal with you, and when I return to the Great Lodge, I will end that relic of a storyteller as well.”
    The youth snarled, eyes bright with cold, bitter revenge. “You’ve come here to hunt,” he said, “but you’re the one being hunted. It is six days back to Hoelbrak over ice and snow, with no safe haven, no lodges or campgrounds along the way.”
    “You think to fight me?” she laughed. “Kill me, Grimhilde the Ferocious? The mightiest axe-wielder among the norn? You will die mewling like a kitten, young one. You’re not powerful enough!”
    “You’re right. I’m not powerful enough to face you on your terms, so I’ll face you on mine.” The young hunter smiled wickedly. “Snow Leopard trained me in stealth and tracking. She also taught me to steel my mind against slumber. I can go five days without resting. I’ll die after six, but I’ll do it if I must. But you…you have to sleep sometime. And I’m willing to bet my life that you’ll rest before I do.”

    Grimhilde stared at him, the blood draining from her face. “You would kill me in my sleep?”
    “I will wait until my prey is at her weakest, and then I will strike.” The young hunter smiled grimly. “And by Snow Leopard, I swear—you will never hear me coming.”


    Dragon
    Since the rise of Jormag, there are those among the norn—always young, male, and eager to prove themselves—who claim that “Dragon” should be revered among the Spirits of the Wild. They admire Jormag’s strength, its viciousness, and its cruelty. They claim that, by following the path of Dragon, a norn can become as undefeatable as the dragon itself. They look at the tale of Jora and her brother, Svanir, and see him as the first convert to the new spirit. Jora, who did not accept Dragon’s blessings, is reviled among their cult—as are all women. (Interestingly, Jormag does not show the same bias as its Son of Svanir followers; it has been known to corrupt all races and all genders.)
    [​IMG]Dragon has no true shaman, no havroun. Those who follow it do not have the ability to go into the Mists on its behalf, nor do they have the gifts norn expect to see in shamans of the Spirits of the Wild. A Dragon shaman may think he is spiritual, but he falls woefully short of the real thing. These advocates of the dragon teach only corruption; they are given foul blessings; they are changed forever by Jormag. In the end, they too become icebrood and serve the beast. They may call themselves shamans, but most norn consider them fools—dangerous ones. Still, the promise of power—and the challenge to be the one that masters the dragon’s gifts—continues to lure arrogant, driven young norn into Dragon’s service.
    Norn culture stresses individuality. It demands that a person be judged by their own actions, not by the actions of a group to which they belong. If three Sons of Svanir attack a shrine, those individuals are hunted down and punished. That does not mean another norn who claims to be part of the Sons of Svanir will be punished or treated badly because of the event—in the norn mindset, he didn’t do it, so he isn’t to be blamed. This doesn’t mean that the norn ignore a person’s allegiances or that they don’t understand Sons of Svanir are dangerous people. It is simply that, as a race, norn do not judge an individual for the sins of his tribe.
    A norn lives and dies by her own legend.
    “Let me tell you a tale.” Old Fiach the skaald raised his hands to the sky as the fires of the moot crackled and leapt. “The story of the hero known as Viskar Whisperclaw. Hail the honor-son! Rightful rage-tender, shadow-striker, slayer of treasonous Grimhilde. Viskar, who despite all challenges, was willing to give his life to claim blood-debt from the one who had done him harm…”

    [​IMG]


     
  14. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
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    Legend and Legacy – The Norn in Guild Wars 2

    By David Wilson February 22nd, 2011


    [​IMG]
    My name is David Wilson. I’m an editor and writer on the Guild Wars 2 design team. We’re putting a lot of effort into bringing Tyria to life, making it feel like someplace people actually live. With each race taking a prominent role in Tyria now, making sure that they feel true to their roots while still feeling alive and unique has taken a lot of care and consideration. Of all the races, it may seem easiest to keep the norn intact, but like the others, their culture has grown and advanced over time.

    It’s been two hundred fifty years since the days of Guild Wars: Eye of the North, and while the norn may not have been been hit as hard as humanity, they’ve still had their fair share of problems. Jormag, the Elder Ice Dragon, drove the norn from their lands in the Far Shiverpeaks one hundred sixty years ago.
    Their greatest heroes attempted to slay Jormag, but none were its match. The norn would have continued their battle against Jormag until none were left if the Spirits of the Wild hadn’t guided them south, down into the Northern Shiverpeaks. It was there that the hero Asgeir built the great hunting lodge Hoelbrak, placing Jormag’s tooth in the center. Hoelbrak became both a respite from and a reminder of the foe they faced.
    A Place to Call Home

    Hoelbrak is the great hunting lodge in the center of a sprawling encampment that grew around it over the years. Throughout the settlement, people can be heard going about their daily lives. Now under the care of Knut Whitebear, Asgeir’s grandson, Hoelbrak is the safest place around for people to prepare for a hunt, meet up with friends, or just share a drink at an ongoing moot. It’s become a hub of activity for the norn and anyone looking to interact with them.
    Subtle Bragging + Moot Attendance + Making a Sale
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    [​IMG]
    When Others Come Calling

    After their move south, the norn have had to learn about and deal with the other races much more closely.
    • They respect charr for their strength and military prowess.
    • They tolerate humans, weak and soft as they may be.
    • The power an asura can bring to a fight proves that size isn’t the only determining factor in one’s strength.
    • And sylvari are still a bit of a mystery; they’re clever and curious, but sometimes they just don’t make sense.
    Learning about their potential allies became a necessity as new threats appeared. As independent and self-reliant as the norn are, even they usually understand the benefit of working together.

    Better than Expected
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    Strength above All

    Why are the norn working with others? Because they’ve learned the hard way that some foes are too strong to fight alone, and sometimes there’s no time to become stronger before a battle. The norn are proud, but they’re not stupid. They don’t follow leaders, but they will follow heroes, and even a hero needs help sometimes.
    Asgeir, one of the greatest norn heroes in history, knocked out one of Jormag’s teeth, but even he wasn’t strong enough to defeat the dragon. So norn become as strong as they can, and they surround themselves with others who are just as strong or stronger. The strong deserve respect, and the weak are useless.
    One-Norn Army
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    [​IMG]
    Power for a Price

    Strength for strength’s sake can come at a high cost, though. There are some norn who have turned to Jormag for power, abandoning the Spirits of the Wild. They believe Jormag is the ultimate predator, the strongest force, and thus he should be worshipped instead. These norn recall the legend of Svanir, the corrupted Nornbear, and the “gift” he received from the dragon.
    They call themselves the Sons of Svanir in his honor, and they seek to gain the abilities that he once had. The enhancements they receive make them more aggressive and more dangerous, but being a member of the Sons of Svanir doesn’t automatically mean that someone is evil. Most norn are tolerant of other viewpoints, so a Son of Svanir is accepted until he proves to be a threat.
    Not Causing Trouble
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    Wild and Natural

    The path to true power is one of independence, not barter as the Sons of Svanir seem to believe. The Spirits of the Wild have always been around to guide the norn, and while the Spirits rarely offer aid directly, they always aim to help. If nothing comes of asking for their help, then clearly their help wasn’t necessary. No one can become stronger by relying on others; it’s adversity and besting challenges that hones the hunter.
    Snow Leopard
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    [​IMG]
    What Legends Are Made Of

    Strength alone isn’t enough, though. The strongest person, no matter their race, will be forgotten in time if they don’t do great things. A lasting legend requires exalted deeds, tremendous fortitude, and unmitigated heroism. But even that isn’t enough if nobody hears about it. Norn tend to be very vocal about their deeds, giving importance and gravity to even the most routine acts. Few people can know for sure what they’ll be remembered for once they’re gone, but the important thing is that they’re remembered. So long as someone keeps telling the legend, they’re immortal.
    Making a Mark
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    The Importance of Legacy

    The norn may seem obsessed with their strength and status in the present, but it really boils down to caring about the legacy they leave behind—remembering those who came before you and trying to live up to them, self-improvement and self-worth, surpassing what is remembered to become remembered. They want to be respected, and they want their legacy to be respectable. They boast and brawl and live their lives as though it will all be remembered and recorded, because they hope it will. They want to become a bigger legend to inspire those who follow.
    Likewise, we’ve taken the legacy of the norn from Guild Wars and tried to stay true to the elements that made them memorable. As we forge new legends, we hope to leave as grand a legacy with Guild Wars 2 as we did with Guild Wars. And I personally look forward to seeing how your legends play out.
    Maybe I’ll see you at a moot sometime.
    [​IMG]


     
  15. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
    Stratics Veteran Alumni Stratics Legend

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    The Line of Duty – The Three Military Orders of Kryta

    By Ree Soesbee February 11th, 2011

    [​IMG]
    The relationship between the three martial arms of the human nation of Kryta is a delicate one. The Seraph are the army, the police force, and the protectors of the populace. The Ministry Guard serve the ministers, government officials, and nobility of Divinity’s Reach. The Shining Blade are the queen’s personal bodyguard and, as the well-informed may tell you, her spies.


    Lieutenant Serentine knelt beside the body of the minister, careful not to cut herself on the broken slivers of glass that surrounded his right hand. A shattered goblet lay in fragments across the cobblestones of the alley. Shards twinkled in the light of her lantern. She turned over a piece of glass cautiously and watched a bit of red wine stain the stone beneath. What had the minister been doing in the poor area of Divinity’s Reach? Who was responsible for his death?
    “Lieutenant?” One of her men stepped into the end of the alley, saluting. Serentine looked back over her shoulder and arched a brow. He shifted uncomfortably in his red livery, the symbol of the Ministry Guard blazoned on his chest. “The Seraph are demanding control of the crime scene.”
    “The Seraph?” She rose from her crouch, adjusting the warhammer on her back. “They have no jurisdiction. A minister has been murdered. This is a Ministry issue.”
    “Murdered while he was inside the walls of Divinity’s Reach.” A new speaker pushed aside the Ministry guard and strode down the alley toward her. “That’s clearly our area of concern.” He was handsome, sandy-brown hair hanging lightly across his coppery eyes. “Lieutenant Serentine,” he greeted her as an afterthought.
    She narrowed her eyes. “Captain Thackeray. Taking a personal interest?”
    “He was murdered by bandits in our city streets. You bet your hammer, I am.”

    Seraph

    The most numerous of the Krytan military organizations is the Seraph. They stretch their influence across the nation, with outposts in every major town, and patrols that struggle to keep roads free of bandit attacks and centaur raids. Yet they are also the most beleaguered, struggling to maintain supplies and munitions for their soldiers. The highest rank in the Seraph is captain. At any given time, the queen has from five to ten captains in the Seraph; each operates independently, but in coordination, under her command.
    [​IMG]Each Seraph captain is granted authority over a certain territory of Kryta — be it the embattled foothills of High Timber Claim or the lowlands of Nebo Terrace. The troops under their command report upwards to them, and they receive their orders directly from the queen. In recent days, Queen Jennah has been absorbed in her duties to Ebonhawke and the treaty being negotiated with the charr. Most of the command of the Seraph in Kryta has fallen on her closest captain, Logan Thackeray, whose immediate authority covers the city and environs of Divinity’s Reach. Now considered the first among equals, he organizes the body of Seraph response to overall threats against the nation.​
    Ministry Guard

    [​IMG]The second largest martial unit is the Ministry Guard. Typically seen only in Divinity’s Reach, it is their task to keep the peace in the ministry and provide personal security for the Krytan ministers and their aides. This usually also translates into being protectors of the nobility of Kryta, most of whom are heavily involved in the ministry.
    Although their jurisdiction is more limited than the Seraph’s, it is also more empowered; the Ministry Guard have the right to overrule Seraph authority where ministers are concerned, in order to keep governmental secrets secure.
    The Ministry Guard is headed by the Commander of Divinity’s Reach, who reports to the legate minister, the ministry’s highest office and speaker to the queen.
    Shining Blade

    [​IMG]The Shining Blade are the queen’s own guard. Derived from the original Shining Blade, freedom fighters during the War in Kryta, the modern Shining Blade watch over the Royal Family itself.
    Although they are the smallest and least-known of the Krytan military units, the Shining Blade are superlatively trained as an elite force. Unknown to most of the populace, many of the Shining Blade also perform more covert duties. From spying on political enemies to carrying secret messages throughout the nation, the Shining Blade carries out hidden missions at the request of the Krytan Throne. Their leader is the Master Examplar of the Shining Blade, a position appointed by the queen. The Master Exemplar reports only to the queen, and may supercede the authority of either of the other two branches of military with the queen’s permission.
    When Queen Jennah’s father died and she was invested to the Krytan throne, she appointed Countess Anise to the rank of Master Exemplar. Anise is a cunning political mind in her own right and has served in the Shining Blade for many years. Anise defended Jennah as her personal guard while Jennah was a young princess. The two are very close companions. Although Anise is not thought of as a powerful combatant, her cunning and ability to predict the actions of others has long served to keep the queen safe. Now Anise protects Krytan interests with an equally sharp edge.
    The poison in the wine was difficult to track, but unusual enough to make a positive identification. Smugglers, no doubt working on behalf of the bandits, had gotten it to the inn. But what caused Minister Brios to go there in the first place? Serentine paced the wide halls of the Ministry Chamber, avoiding the peasants who scuttled along on business here or there. They did not concern her; only the safety of the ministers did.
    Something had to have drawn Brios downtown. Something important enough for him to go quickly, and shady enough that he didn’t bring a guard. Had he been engaging in treason? It was possible. More than a few ministers were on record with the belief that the treaty with the charr was foolhardy; throwing away victories and condemning Ascalon to charr rule forever.
    Opening the door to Brios’s office with her master key, Serentine stepped inside. She ruffled through every scrap of information she could find, digging through his desk unreservedly. Receipts, dinner invitations, missives from Ascalon Settlement—the area that Minister Brios represented—and scraps of notes from various ministry sessions. Nothing personal. Nothing that named the inn or implied a reason for him to leave the safety of his apartments.
    “Take the schedule-book, and seize any classified files.” She ordered the two guards that followed her. “One of you stay on door duty here, and the other…”
    Before she could finish her sentence, Serentine’s eye fell once more on a piece of paper that she’d discounted in her initial search. An invitation to afternoon tea with the Countess Anise, dated the same day as Brios’s death.
    “Anise.” Serentine frowned. “Master Exemplar of the Shining Blade.”
    But if Brios had been considering treason…how did he walk away from a meeting with the queen’s guard?

    The Balance of Power

    The three military orders of Kryta don’t always get along well. In fact, they are notoriously opposed. The Seraph demand more authority over the nobility of the kingdom, while the Ministry Guard resist allowing those of common birth (and, they say, lesser training) access to their ranks. The Shining Blade is ever secretive, keeping their own counsel and acting completely without regard for the other two. It’s a tug-of-war for influence and control within the city of Divinity’s Reach.
    The Krytan Rule of Law states that only the nobility receives a full trial; commoners receive magistrate audiences at the ministry; outsiders are given a hearing before the local Seraph authority. The Seraph man prisons and holding cells, no matter the birth of the individual being detained. The ministry takes charge of all trials and hearings, again, across societal bounds. This means that the Seraph can lawfully take authority over a noble-born prisoner brought in by the Shining Blade, or that the ministry can, in effect, refuse to present some or all information gathered by the Seraph during a trial. This system was designed to maintain an equal burden on both branches of enforcement, allowing the Seraph to utilize their superior manpower throughout Kryta while the Ministry Guard handles bureaucratic issues and legal rulings. In practice, the two groups all too often engage in a fierce contest over authority.
    [​IMG]
    Recently, the Seraph have been losing that fight. Their soldiers are preoccupied with battles against the centaurs and keeping the Krytan farmlands free of bandit attack, and they have little time for politics. Fewer and fewer citizens have the strength to join their ranks, and money to pay their soldiers is tighter than ever. And while they fight each day to keep the populace safe, the Ministry Guard live in plush chambers and lock down their control of the queen’s city.
    Even as they struggle to keep Kryta safe, a distinct unit of Seraph enforces the queen’s will on distant Ebonhawke, supporting the Ascalon freeholders and lending their aid to the military there. Known as the ”Fallen Angels,” these black-uniformed Seraph are yet another drain on the military’s resources, albeit one that is critical to the safety of humans in Ebonhawke, and therefore Kryta, and also to Queen Jennah’s hopes of eventual peace with the charr.
    “I’m sorry, Lieutenant.” The countess smiled. “I can’t tell you anything else about Brios.”
    “Can’t,” Serentine pressed the issue, “Or won’t?”
    “We talked about gardening. He was an enthusiast.” The countess shrugged, auburn hair moving softly against pale shoulders. “What else could I say?”
    Gritting her teeth, Serentine resisted the urge to make demands. “I see. And when he left this ‘tea,’ where was he going?”
    “How would I know?” Anise smiled ruefully. “We weren’t exactly close. It is a pity, what happened. I expect it will take some time for his successor to be appointed, and the vote on funding for the carnival will have to be postponed. Brios was such a supporter of the people… A shame. Ah, well. Will there be anything else, Lieutenant?”
    Serentine knew a dismissal when she heard one. “No, ma’am.” Bowing brusquely, she turned on her heel and strode out of the palace.
    First the Seraph tried to seize authority, then the Shining Blade put up political roadblocks to stop the investigation. There was only one place Serentine could turn.

    The Future of the Throne

    The populace of Kryta respect the Seraph, but long years of war against the centaurs and the recent upturn in bandit attacks throughout the nation have worn on the people’s patience. More and more ministers speak out against the armed forces, resenting their constant drain on the nation’s economy and the apparent lack of significant victories against evils threatening the land. Slowly, the Ministry Guard is seizing power within the city of Divinity’s Reach and in the hometowns of ministers across the nation, spreading their authority where the Seraph’s strength is lapsing.
    This shift in the balance isn’t going unnoticed. It has caused some ministers to become emboldened, and speak out against the Seraph commanders—and more recently, in quiet tones, against Queen Jennah herself. Respected leaders throughout the land lay blame on the throne and say it no longer acts on the people’s behalf; and they are earning more and more supporters for their cause. Unless the Seraph are able to solidify peace within Kryta, and overcome the dangers they face, the country—and the queen—may be in jeopardy of an uprising.
    An armed one, with the ministry opposing the throne.
    [​IMG]
    Kneeling, Lieutenant Serentine placed her warhammer on the ground. “Thank you for seeing me, sir.”
    “Rise, Serentine,” his voice held the wisdom of many years, bolstered by the strength of solemnity. “Tell me, guardswoman. How can I help you?” Legate Minister Caudecus frowned in gentle concern.
    “I don’t know where else to turn, sir. A minister has been murdered, and it seems as if the queen herself is hampering my investigation.” Serentine hated saying it, even thinking it, but she knew that she could trust him. “I have been ordered to turn the case and all evidence over to Thackeray and his Seraph.”
    “Ah, Lieutenant,” Caudecus patted her shoulder gently. “It is not our place to question Queen Jennah. Do as you are ordered. I’ll make sure the ministers know the Guard is not at fault. Without you, it is likely that Brios’s murderer will never be discovered—or brought to justice. The Seraph are incompetent, but the queen’s infatuation for that simple-minded captain blinds her to the country’s needs. I will write to Minister Brios’s family and see that they have money for their needs. In this time of trials, we must do all we can for one another.
    “Nevertheless, Kryta will win through. As we ever have.” Minister Caudecus smiled reassuringly. “Just leave everything to me.”



     
  16. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
    Stratics Veteran Alumni Stratics Legend

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    Against the Wall: Humanity in Guild Wars 2

    By John Ryan February 8th, 2011

    [​IMG]
    My name is John Ryan, and I’m one of the writers on the Guild Wars 2 design team. We’ve been working hard to make the world of Tyria a living, breathing place filled with amazing sights and terrific adventures. In this post, you’ll find a small sample of how we’re giving humanity a voice in Guild Wars 2.

    For us, voice plays a crucial part in establishing a world. Voice gives us the opportunity to tell stories with drama, humor, and—more importantly—a realistic tone. If we can make the humans of Tyria look, act, and sound real while making it feel like you’re humanity’s champion in its darkest hour, then we’ve succeeded. It’s a high bar, but it’s one we are committed to reaching.
    Humanity has taken a beating in the two hundred fifty years between Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. They’ve lost their homeland of Ascalon to their enemy, the charr, and they lost contact with the lands of Elona and Cantha after the rise of the dragons. Most of what’s left of humanity has relocated to the opulent city of Divinity’s Reach in Kryta. It is here you will start out as a human character.
    From a random stroll through the streets…

    When you arrive in Divinity’s Reach, take a moment to walk through the massive city, and then visit the nearby farming plains of Shaemoor. As you explore, you’ll run across a cross section of humanity who are either struggling to get by, gossiping about family matters, or anxious about what the future holds.
    Big City + Stranger Things + Etc.
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    …to a much wider world.


    Guild Wars 2 features a larger, more complex world than its predecessor, one where humans aren’t on top of the food chain. The asura are smarter, the norn are hardier, the sylvari are optimistic, and the charr are organized and on the march. Like it or not, humanity is going to have to cope with the truth that new powers are rising. While humanity happily embraces the innovations created by other races, they definitely have opinions about a more multicultural Tyria.
    Sylvari + Ascalonian Tolerance
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    [​IMG]
    A question of faith…


    Humanity has suffered a number of setbacks over the years, but one of the deepest is the withdrawal of the Six Gods from their daily lives. The humans have not lost their gods—they evoke them in their prayers and at shrines to the Six found throughout Divinity’s Reach. Some still devoutly pray to the Six while others have a more lighthearted approach to their faith. A few, however, have had a stronger falling out, believing that the withdrawal of the Six is a sign of ill omens.
    A Question of Faith
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    …and the use of power.


    With the Six Gods gone, humanity relies more than ever on the powerful to protect them. For now, Queen Jennah sits on the Krytan throne. She’s a popular figure, but she’s drawn scorn for signing a cease-fire with humanity’s long-time enemy, the charr. Meanwhile, the charismatic Minister Caudecus is gaining popularity, thanks to his popular carnival that distracts the masses from their worries. As you wander through Divinity’s Reach, don’t be surprised to hear people taking sides in the constant power struggles.
    Queen vs Minister + Ebonhawke + Etc.
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    I will defend Kryta…


    When we were writing humans, we discovered one the best ways to let players understand humanity’s conflicts was to see it through the eyes of children. The average human child, especially in Divinity’s Reach, acts out the world’s conflicts through games. The children know, in simple terms, who are the good guys and the bad guys, and who they are more afraid of. If you keep an ear out, you’ll likely overhear a bunch of kids playing a Krytan version of “Cops and Robbers.”
    Kids Playing – Bandits, Lunch
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    …or die trying.


    While the children play with toy swords against pretend foes, the adults face the real thing as they risk their lives outside the city gates. These days, humanity is warring for survival with nearby centaur tribes. The centaurs keep coming, and the resulting sieges, fought on rolling plains and against stone garrison walls, are taking their toll on Kryta’s defense forces. Yet even in the face of constant death and mayhem, humanity is ready to give as good as it gets.
    Garrison Night Scene War
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    The Last Word

    They bicker and fight and laugh and pray. For all their setbacks, our humans never give up, and writing them is almost inspiring. Out of all the races, writing human characters goes to the core of what being a hero is all about: standing up, defying the odds, and going from underdog to champion. Sure, things are looking grim for our humans, but they won’t go down without a fight. They survived the Searing more than two centuries ago, they endured the loss of their homeland and countless lives, but they still have the mettle to take on dragons in Guild Wars 2.
    And frankly, I can’t wait for you to be humanity’s next hero.
    I’ll see you in Divinity’s Reach.
    [​IMG]


     
  17. Zosimus

    Zosimus Grand Inquisitor
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    The Wisdom and Power of the Kodan

    By Eric Flannum January 11th, 2011


    [​IMG]
    They first appeared in the world as rumor, as legends. Travelers told tales of great ships made of ice and bedecked with sails glimpsed among the fjords. Then norn hunters returned with more stories of white furred bear-men—unlike those norn blessed by Bear—who possessed great power but who were also filled with great fear. They were fleeing the north, the land of the Elder Ice Dragon Jormag. They were creatures of wisdom and judgment, weighing the races of Tyria and finding them wanting. They were the kodan.

    “No race weaves the thread of life. We are all strands in it, seeds upon the earth, inheritors of nature’s balance.”
    Many Stars, Kodan Voice

    The kodan are intelligent, ten-foot tall, bipedal, polar bear-like beings from the distant north. Culturally, they have a strong belief in the importance of being in balance with the world around them, but this does not mean they are pacifists. Taking a cue from the natural world, they see hunting and killing as a normal part of life. What is most important is that an individual’s actions are in balance with nature. Originally from beyond the northern Shiverpeaks, the kodan tribes inhabit floating iceberg fortresses called Sanctuaries; one per tribe, they live and travel upon these mighty ice peaks, building entire cities within their shelter.
    Beliefs

    Long ago, Koda, the Ancient One, Founder of the Earth, Keeper of the Sky, formed the world. In the beginning, the spirits of the world were wild and untamed. In time, many took physical form: spirits of stone, spirits of water, spirits of wind, spirits of soil, spirits of plants and birds and creeping things. All things with form have spirits… as do many formless things.
    But one day the bear stood up and looked around him and saw that the spirits of the world were restless and chaotic. He could not understand the endless cycles of creation and destruction. And so bear was the first creature to speak, and with his first words he asked Koda, “Why is this so?” And Koda was pleased and made this offer to the bear: “If you would watch and learn, then watch and learn, and you shall protect and guide the spirits of this world.” And those who praised Koda and accepted this offer became the kodan. And those who were not ready and did not wish to change remained as bears.
    “…it is their duty to watch over the world, judge others, and maintain the balance—by force if necessary.…”The kodan venerate Koda the Founder above all else. They believe that all beings are fated to come back again and again, but each time reborn as members of the same race—a sort of spiritual purity maintained throughout reincarnations. Humans come back as humans, charr return as charr, kodan come back as kodan. Only when you are greatly enlightened do you “advance,” and are reincarnated as a member of the next race in the balance. Of course, the kodan believe they are the most spiritually enlightened race in the world, and that as the top of this reincarnative food chain, it is their duty to watch over the world, judge others, and maintain the balance—by force if necessary.
    They believe that the kodan are the only ones who understand this “balance” (a word often used when the kodan are justifying their actions) and that it is their holy purpose to maintain it, even if that means fighting or killing.
    Although a member of an individual race won’t be summarily judged according to their race’s general activities, the kodan do approach other races with a certain amount of expectant anticipation. They have already begun to “judge” the people of the southern lands, as they believe that Koda would wish them to do. There’s a debate among the kodan shamans known as Voices as to the fate of the dwarves. Did the dwarves somehow “skip ahead” and proceed directly to enlightenment, or did they fall out the bottom and destroy themselves? Either way, they have been removed from the world.
    Lost Tribes

    Over the seasons, the kodan spread and multiplied across the land. Their journeys were bounded only by the sea. And everywhere they went, they brought balance to the spirits. They watched and they learned and they hunted, and so served the will of Koda.
    Now all things grow and all things die; even the glacier is not unchanging. And there came to be a great storm that did not end though month after month and season after season passed. And the great seers, the Voices, of the kodan said it was time to wait and to watch and to learn. With their thick white fur, the kodan would be safe. But waiting was not easy, for there was little to hunt in the storm. And in the great halls, the rumbling of bellies echoed like the roaring of bears. And there was a Claw without a Voice, a hunter among the kodan who refused to stay. He said that fur or no fur, storm or no storm, a hunter must hunt. And he led many others with him into the storm to seek hunting grounds in the lands to the far south, where the snow was light. And they were never seen again.
    The kodan do not claim any connection or relationship to the norn race, but some Voices choose to interpret early stories of a lost group of kodan as an explanation of the origin of the norn. If this is true, they argue, then the norn are failed kodan who have forgotten their place as judges and protectors of the balance, and that is why their true “bear” form has been replaced with a fragile, furless state. Because of this pressure from their shaman, the kodan often treat the norn as spiritual failures, possibly even a race moving backwards in the cycle of life, toward primitivism and destruction — and that even as the dwarves before them, if this is true, the norn are a race on the edge of extinction.
    Sanctuaries

    When the great storm had finally passed, the kodan saw their gift from Koda. Great sections of the seas had frozen, creating floating islands of ice. And the kodan climbed onto these and so could now live upon the land and the sea. And they watched and they learned and they hunted.
    The kodan build and maintain cities of ice known as Sanctuaries. These Sanctuaries float on restless seas far to the north, beyond the lands where the norn have traveled. These Sanctuaries are spiritual havens as well as shelters, and at their icy core, the Voices live in shrines to Koda. In order to teach enlightenment, maintain a certain distance from the world, and meditate on Koda’s true wishes, each Sanctuary’s Voice shuts themselves off from the world. Only the battle-leader of each Sanctuary, the Claw, has the right to approach the Voice and ask for guidance. That guidance and spiritual wisdom is then brought back for the benefit of every kodan in the tribe.
    [​IMG]
    However, with the rise of the Elder Dragon Jormag, the great ice ships of the kodan were driven apart. Some fled to the north; others were capsized, torn apart, and destroyed by the dragon’s wrath. Some few escaped southward, cut off from their fellows by the destruction and rising tide. The land to the far north cracked and shattered with Jormag’s waking, allowing the icy northern ocean to flood through and create new, inland seas on which the kodan were cast adrift.
    Society and Hierarchy

    Kodan exist in a close community on their Sanctuaries, acting in concert and living in peace. They have disputes and disagreements, of course, but they consider themselves “above” most interpersonal conflict. The balance is more important than an individual’s needs; holy Koda’s will, as translated by the Voice, supersedes any single kodan’s wishes.
    Each Sanctuary is led by two important individuals; the Voice and the Claw. The Voice cares for that Sanctuary’s “spirit,” giving them guidance, meditating on Koda’s will, and sensing the balance of the Sanctuary and the world around it. The Claw protects and guards the Sanctuary, leading the hunters, or when necessary, the warriors. The Claw operates as the physical presence and visible leader, but in fact it is a partnered role; the Claw guides the people martially while the Voice remains in a place of safety deep inside the Sanctuary. Both are needed to rule. Between these two powerful kodan, the Sanctuary is run in a very organized and social style. Each member contributes and works to maintain peace, encourage sharing of resources, and provide support for others within the Sanctuary.
    The Voice and the Claw are, essentially, partnered leaders within kodan society. Neither has the right to overturn the other’s decisions, and both have clearly delineated spheres of influence—the Voice, spiritual; the Claw, physical. They are chosen at the same time if possible, and serve for centuries together, leading and guiding their Sanctuary and the kodan within. If a Claw dies, it is tradition for the Voice to retire; so, too, if the Voice should go mad or pass into Koda’s arms, will the Claw step away and give another his post.
    The Claw

    “Let it be me, mighty Koda, that gives his life for peace. Let it be me that dies for balance. Let it be me that rejoins with nature knowing that I have fought and sacrificed for that which I believe. For such is the journey of a warrior. Such is the path of the Claw.”
    Cliffwalker, Claw of the Gentle Tide Sanctuary

    [​IMG]The Claw is the outward face of leadership among the kodan. Chosen for their charisma, strength at arms, and public leadership potential, it is the Claw’s duty to tend to the day-to-day running of the Sanctuary as well as its safety. They move openly through the Sanctuary and maintain a small group of Guardians whose purpose is to defend the Sanctuary and to interfere in (rare) disputes among the populace. The Claw is essentially the “ruler” of the Sanctuary, to those who do not fully understand the kodan culture.
    However, maintaining the Sanctuary’s peace is only one of the duties of the kodan. A second is far more important: to serve as the intermediary between the Voice and the people of the Sanctuary; to help interpret and carry out the will of Koda. The Voice’s purpose keeps him sheltered from the outside world, and it is the duty of the Claw to be the link between the Voice and the Sanctuary; between the people and the channel to the will of their god.
    The kodan believe that the fates of the Claw and the Voice are linked, symbolically and mystically intertwined with one another and with the Sanctuary. Any failure on the part of one taints the other, and must be purified in both. Therefore, a Claw takes his duties seriously, realizing that if he fails, he has not only brought harm to himself or his people, but also to the Voice, and therefore the very spirit and soul of the Sanctuary.
    The Voice

    “Let it be me, mighty Koda, that gives his life for knowledge. Let it be me that dies so that truth can survive. Let it be me that rejoins with nature, knowing that I have looked into your eyes and brought back wisdom for my people. For such is the journey of a shaman. Such is the path of the Voice.”
    – Bitter Tears of Plenty, Voice of the Gentle Tide Sanctuary

    [​IMG]The Voice is a spiritualist, chosen for their innate, deep connection to Koda and their understanding of his will. A combination of High Priest and record-keeper, the Voice maintains a memorized record of all things of great import that have occurred to the kodan of his Sanctuary, and passes that history down to a successor when he is near his death. Because the Voice is attended by a small staff of shamans, even if he dies prematurely, most of the knowledge will not be lost. However, as the Voice rarely leaves his ritual chambers, it is an extremely uncommon occurrence that the Voice leaves his post from anything but the passing of his Claw – hopefully, after several hundred years of service to their people.
    It is the Voice’s duty to seek and interpret the will of Koda, and to bring spiritual guidance to the kodan of his Sanctuary. In these things, the Voice is all-knowing and blessed, possessed of supernatural knowledge, authority, and freedom from any error and sin. They can sanction laws, proclaim judgments on a grand scale, and interpret Koda’s will in any situation.
    Unfortunately, the rituals and pathworking that a Voice must go through in his duties, and the simple fact that their mind is always open to the Mists means that the Voice can become unstable. Only through the will of Koda does a Voice remain grounded and able to do his duty; it is the Claw’s logical interpretation of the Voice’s mysticism that provides structure and law for the Sanctuary as a whole.
    It is rare, but not unheard of, that a Voice might be so completely overcome by the visions that they go insane — a sickness known as the “Rage of Koda.” This is called a “Time of Trial” by the kodan, who believe that it means Koda is personally testing their spirituality and the strength of their Sanctuary. Usually, the Voice dies only a few years after a Time of Trial occurs, as their body shuts down from the strain and the insanity. At that point, the Sanctuary is believed to be purified of all sin, judged and set to order by Koda himself.


     
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