Flameseeker Chronicles: Speculation on Guild Wars 2’s gods and dragons

    
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Let’s just note upfront that this edition of Flameseeker Chronicles will have lots of Guild Wars 2 spoilers, including but not limited to the recent Living World S4E6 War Eternal. Also, wild speculation that may well be completely wrong. You have been warned!

War Eternal had an incredibly powerful last act. In it, we went with Aurene literally into the belly of the beast, as we faced off one final time with her grandfather, Kralkatorrik. To bring things nicely full circle, we faced off against three Aspects representing the magic Kralk had consumed from Zhaitan, Mordremoth, and Balthazar, and finally we defeated Kralkatorrik himself. (By the way, pay attention to the music as you face each boss; you can hear the cues from each of the original boss fights, which is a really cool touch.)

But in the midst of this epic final battle, we got a fascinating insight into the mind of the elder dragon. The magic he had consumed was at war within him, forcing him to do things he didn’t want to do, promising relief but always bringing more torment. In the end, he freely gave up his essence to Aurene, and she ascended to elder dragonhood. His last words were, “I only hope that you never have to kill what you love.” Is he perhaps referring to Glint? Or perhaps the whole of Tyria?

It seems to me that the writers are implying that the elder dragons weren’t always the mindless, world-ending death machines that we’ve always seen them as in Guild Wars 2. They have been driven insane because of the imbalance of magic caused when we killed the other elder dragons (and Balthazar). Yet they were destructive long before we killed Zhaitan. Is there, perhaps, more to it than this?

Let’s set all of that aside for now and talk about the six human gods. It has long been speculated that The Six are not all that godly. It has been theorized that they were once regular old humans who found some powerful magic and brought their “chosen” humans to Tyria (from where isn’t exactly clear) to play god with them. This seems to be supported by the fact that the human Kormir was able to ascend to godhood by being gifted Abaddon’s power.

Even within the universe, there are skeptics. In the Durmand Priory Special Collections instance in season 2, there is a book by an Asura named Xakk, who writes, “[A]re they gods? I say no. They are what we would all become if given the amount of magical energy they possess and allowed to live as long as they appear to have.” Add to that the fact that Caudecus was able to trick everyone into thinking he was a god using some mesmer trickery and a whole lot of bloodstone, and this becomes even more plausible. If Caudecus can (almost) do it, why not six others?

Some also believe that the magic that made The Six into so-called gods is starting to run out. In Path of Fire, Kormir claims that The Six decided to depart Tyria for fear of making the conflict with the dragons worse, but Balthazar, being a war god and all, wanted to stay and fight them. Because he refused to leave with them, the other gods bound him in the Mists and left him there – until Rytlock accidentally freed him. Once back in Tyria, Balthazar immediately went after the dragons and the magic they held, knowing full well that killing them would destroy the world. Was his motivation bloodlust and greed, or did he know his time was short without a new infusion of magic?

Another interesting thing that comes up from time to time in discussions of this type is that there are six god and six dragons, and at least some of them seem to mirror each other. Grenth and Zhaitan are both associated with death, Melandru and Mordremoth are both associated with nature, Balthazar and Primordus are both associated with fire, and Abaddon and the unnamed sea dragon (whom players affectionately call Bubbles) are both associated with the ocean. It kind of breaks down from there, as Grenth is also associated with ice like Jormag, and there aren’t really any gods associated with crystals like Kralkatorrik (maybe Lyssa’s association with illusion magic if you squint), but it still seems like more than a coincidence.

Now for the speculation: What if the dragons were once benevolent, or at least harmless, but The Six tried to use them to gain magical power and in doing so messed with them somehow? What if they actually stole their god-like power form the dragons in the first place? Then they brought the normal humans to Tyria hoping that if things ever went south with the dragons, the humans would fight that war for them. What if The Six left Tyria not to protect it but out of fear of the dragons’ revenge? Kormir may not have even knowingly lied to us; given that this would have happened long before her ascension in Guild Wars: Nightfall, she may well not even know where her power came from.

This seems to be supported by the fact that Kralkatorrik and Aurene were able to absorb Balthazar’s magic when he was defeated, and Kralkatorrik was able to use that magic against us. This would make sense if Balthazar was using magic that originally belonged to the elder dragons.

So what would this mean for the future of Guild Wars stories? Well, first it would be a huge blow to Human society. It was bad enough when Balthazar went rogue; imagine what would happen if the remaining five were revealed to be impostors. Second, there would be a huge “I told you so” coming from the direction of Ascalon. The Charr have long been opposed to the veneration of The Six, and quite frankly, I’ve been surprised at the lack of gloating so far with just one rogue god. Surely this wouldn’t be good for the already strained Human-Charr relations.

It would also mean that our job as The Heroes of Everything (that’s what Dragon’s Watch is going by now, right?) is now to find a way to fix the remaining elder dragons by removing The Six’s influence. I’ve been assuming that the next step would be to replace each dragon with an Aurene-like dragon that is free from corruption, but if we can figure out the source of the corruption, we may be able to cleanse it with much less drastic measures. Now that I think of it, I’m surprised that nobody has looked into the ritual that the Forgotten used to purify Kralkatorrik’s influence from Glint.

So what do you think? Am I way off here? Any other theories on where Guild Wars 2’s story is going? I don’t know any more than you do at this point, and I am far from the biggest lore hound around, so I’m interested to hear what you think in the comments!

Flameseeker Chronicles is one of Massively OP’s longest-running columns, covering the Guild Wars franchise since before there was a Guild Wars 2. Now penned by Tina Lauro and Colin Henry, it arrives on Tuesdays to report everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see explored, drop ’em a comment!
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Natalyia

Mostly off-base? :) The “twist” involving the personification of Kralkatorrik was far and away my least-favorite thing about the episode. I’ve some sympathy for the writing team – the Commander’s unknowing meddling with the balance of magic on Tyria made things worse – end of the universe worse. And Kralk’s Mist-destroying rampage was the result.

Wanting to have an actual antagonist – one you could even somewhat identify with – is understandable. But if Kralkatorrik was a sentient being we could relate to, it’s been an evil, genocidal monster of a sentient being for time uncountable before we threw a spanner into its meal-plan. The attempt to get me to sympathize with the creature was jarring, and more of a “wtf” moment than a “wow” one for me.

For millennia longer than humanity (and the six human gods) have been on Tyria the dragons have been sleeping, rising, wiping out races and civilizations, and then going back to sleep again.

The Dwarves, Jotun, Mursaat, Forgotten and Seers tried to stop the last rise. The Mursatt betrayed the others and hid “out of phase” with reality to survive it, and Glint (freed by the Forgotten) hid remnants of the rest, allowing them to survive to this cycle.

The non-human races of Tyria thus have some fragmentary records of the rising 10,000 years ago, but of the ones prior to that, there’s almost nothing. We do know with certainty, however, that the Dragons existed long before the newcomer human gods and their worshipers arrived on Tyria, and that they slept for over seven hundred years after their arrival. The human gods had nothing to do with the creation of the Dragons, or their ancestors – wherever they might be.

We do know that the human gods are not omnipotent, all-powerful beings. It seems likely that they chose the location for the god-city of Arah over the sleeping Zhaitan for the same reason the Asura built their central transport nexus over the sleeping Primordius. They didn’t know the power they were hoping to use was tied to a monster that would one day wake up and eat them. Once again, not-omnipotent, all-knowing beings.

Given that the human pantheon came to Tyria from elsewhere, it seems unlikely that there’s any direct connection between the gods and the Dragons. Other than that they both seem to personify fundamental forces of magic – but that ties both to the nature of magic, not one to the other.

Balthazar is an interesting anomaly. Leaving aside Lyssa’s involvement in the whole affair, there’s a ton of unanswered questions around Balthazar.

Let’s go back to GW1 Nightfall. The heroes journey to the Realm of Torment, and defeat Abaddon, ending Nightfall. Yay. But the magic contained by Abaddon will, if unleashed, wreak havoc on the world (sound at all familiar?) Kormir steps forward, and “making the choice that only a mortal can make” takes the power herself, and ascends to become a goddess.

This isn’t the first time the human pantheon has shifted. Grenth is not the original god of Death on Tyria – that’s Dhuum. Grenth is the son of Dwayna (and an unknown, presumably human father), and along with seven mortals challenged Dhuum and defeated him, replacing him.

So now we have the Commander throwing the cycles of the world into chaos, the human gods realizing they can’t fix it, and deciding to exit, stage Mists. Balthazar objects and the rest of them imprison him, taking his power… where? Like the Dragons, that power had to go somewhere – but we get no clue as to where. It wasn’t just suppressed, because his first action after being freed is to seek out the Bloodstone, and steal its power to fuel his own. About that…

The Bloodstones are a creation of the human gods. They gave magic to humanity after they arrived on Tyria – since they didn’t give them magic originally, it seems likely that the magic they gave was not their own, but taken from Tyria. From the Elder Dragons. This proved to be a mistake, and after the war that resulted in the imprisonment of Abaddon, they sealed away the magic into the Bloodstone, which they shattered so that it would never be a problem again (uh huh…)

So the magic that Balthazaar took, and that was released when he was defeated, was not his own. I can imagine any number of handwavium explanations for how he transformed it, or he used the Bloodstone magics to unseal his own, or what-have-you, but we’ve no hint of any such thing. Plot hole or something we should be curious about?

The premise that the human pantheon changed “benevolent” Elder Dragons into something sinister is just off-base. They’ve always been a disaster for the races of Tyria, long and long before the humans and their Six gods arrived.

The death of Balthazaar, and the retreat of the remaining human gods (whatever their motivations) should profoundly alter human society on Tyria. I doubt it will be a centerpiece of GW2’s story going forward – but it ought to be acknowledged by whatever comes next.

As for the cleansing of Glint by the Forgotten – that’s another conundrum. You can actually, in-game, cleanse a risen chicken (hey, got to start somewhere…) at the Altar of Glaust in Orr. It’s one of the possible forks in the original GW2 personal story. And it’s never ever ever mentioned again anywhere else. You remove the Dragon corruption, returning the chicken to normalcy. The implications are huge – maybe all those Risen and Branded aren’t doomed? We even talk to Forgotten who were involved in the project to cleanse Glint, and… nada. Plot hole, dangling plot thread, or something else?

If we wander back into GW1 there’s also Kuunavang – an intelligent dragon. Where’d she come from? She didn’t seem to be a minion of an Elder Dragon, so who cleansed her? Or is she of Bubbles’ line, and someone, at some point in the Misty past cleansed Bubbles? Is that why the Sea-Dragon hasn’t been wreaking visible havoc (it drove the Krait away, but the Krait aren’t good neighbors to anyone – and why not corrupt them instead?)

It appears that Aurene’s ascension was “quiet” enough not to wake the two sleeping Dragons, and Bubbles… is still bubbling away under the seas. So unless Season 5 opens with Taimi radioing us that one of them is stirring – “Commander! It’s Braham! Jormag is waking up and he’s off to… be Brahm! You’ve got to stop him Commander!” I suspect that we’ll be doing something not-so-Dragon.

The Charr and Humans alliance has been one of necessity, not real shared values. With the immediate threat gone, what will happen to it? What about the Sylvari, now revealed to be Dragon minions in their essence. Is this the last generation of Sylvari? What will happen to the Pale Tree and the Dream now that Mordremoth is gone? Will the Norn – to the extent that the Norn are a faction – be willing to let sleeping Dragon lie, or will they take the chipped tooth of Jormag as a sign to kill the beast with some Hero taking up the challenge? And Cantha – what’s been going on down there?

ArenaNet has no paucity of places to go and things to do that aren’t Elder Dragons in Season 5. And Season 4 certainly proved that there’s no artificial limits on the scope of what they can do in a Living World season. So it will come down to what story they want to tell, and what (if any) plans they have for the next expansion.

My guess is that they’ll spend the first half of Season 5 doing aftermath stuff. What happens to Destiny’s Edge as they leave the story, doing whatever honoring of the “holy buckets, what does that mean?” changes to the world they care to do, and then transition to setting up the next expansion and introducing new characters/dropping hints towards the end of it. Then the last episode of Season 5 will be the hypetastic cliffhanger for the next expansion. :)

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Juu ken

Nice recap, Natalyia. However, there is a mistake in it. The Bloodstones were not created by the human Gods, but by the Seers. The Gods most likely just manipulated the stones far later.

Apart from that, Colin, I think, in the last episode they strongly hinted that the vast amount of magic itself, is what drives the Elder Dragons crazy over time. Maybe that’s one of their tasks, or rather sacrifices, to not only prevent the world from going boom, but also to prevent all living beings from going nuts.

Maybe, as benevolent beings, they saw that at some point and started acting, thus (willingly) ushering in their own slow demise.

Godnaz
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Godnaz

GW2 content is much appreciated. I don’t know the lore well enough to give you proper feedback but I will say that it appears the story has taken a much more organized turn since PoF launched. I’m really hoping we actually do go north to the Charr homelands and get to adventure among the Ogden and Dwarves. A completely underground map would be awesome.

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Oscar Morejon

That last word that Kralky speaks… “Mother”. I dont know if Anet has said what that was supposed to mean, but with your speculation…

I’d be willing to bet that the six killed killed the Mother of the dragons, stole her power and drove them mad as result.

Mordyjuice
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Mordyjuice

I love speculation pieces and I appreciate the read.

Just to.give you a heads up the recent season was 4 not 3.