In this article I shall attempt a short-as-possible recount of the main events which took place in the past in such areas that, as foreseeable, will become the stage for the acts of the 2nd season of the Living Story. I must stress and underline that everything I write here are well-known and established historical events, taken word-for-word from the ancient and reliable Durmand Priory archives.
White Mantle & Shining Blade
Our journey begins in the year 1072 AE with a man called Saul D’Alessio. His encounter with a race of spellcaster creatures, the Mursaat, changed his life from this minute to the next turning him from a desperate castout fugitive on the verge of extinction to someone in possession of magic powers and an army of zealots under his commands. Making good use of his truly admirable rhetoric ability and his newly acquired magic skills, he managed to push off the invading Charr legions which had almost conquered the whole of Kryta meeting little to no resistance. His White Mantle proclaimed themselves rulers of Kryta and were hailed by many as its liberators. However, the White Mantle were more than a military regiment. The ‘new gods’ that D’Alessio preached as the new faith, the “Unseen Ones” as they were called since the Mursaat never showed themselves before the common people, demanded blind submission and sacrifices – human sacrifices. The White Mantle proved to be a cast of fanatics who executed the ‘divine’ commandments with their swords, drowning in blood those who opposed.
Sometime in that year (1072 AE) a group of Krytans gathered around another charismatic figure, named Evennia. Having witnessed with her own eyes both the cruelty of the White Mantle and their false-gods’ true form, she begun amassing an army with the goal of one day overthrowing the junta that plagued the people of Kryta. As the numbers of the Shining Blade grew, the skirmishes between the two armies started to gain in frequency. At some point, Evennia was joined by Ascalonian refuges who came for help from the east, along with the heroes who escorted them – and at that point the balance tilted in the Shining Blade’s favor for the first time.
In the years that followed, the Shining Blade and their allies scored one victory after another. One of the most crucial battles was fought at the Henge of Denravi in defense of the asura gate that was being constructed there. The Mursaat were eventually forced to come out in the open, revealing their true form and their terrifying powers but also proving they were mortal creatures that could be defeated after all. In the great battle of Lion’s Arch (1079 AE) the united allied forces vanquished the White Mantle army and eliminated the Mursaat – to the last one as it was believed since no member of that race was ever seen again, either before or since. Princess Salma, illegitimate offspring of the king of Kryta but also the only truly worthy successor to the crown in the eyes of the people who loved her deeply, rises to the throne. Her loyal through all these years Shining Blade soldiers were appointed as the Krytan royalty’s personal guard, sworn to protect the Royal Family forever more.
The end of the civil war in Kryta finds a battered Shining Blade veteran soldier en route home. In his backpack he carries a gift for his little daughter whom he hasn’t seen for 8 long years. It is a huge seed, the size of his fist, which he managed to steal away from a cave deep in the jungle one day he was cut off from his patrol. Inside that cave there were many pods filled with such seeds, guarded by terrible giant plant creatures. In his mind he elaborated on how he would narrate this story to his daughter and beloved wife in the best of ways – the image of his little darling’s eyes wide open in wonder and terror made him smile incessantly. He traveled southwards for days on end, carefully choosing the route he took in order to avoid any unpleasant encounters. To the east and southeast, from Nebo Terrace to the Kessex Hills, there were still armies of Undead roaming the countryside. To his west lay the thickness of Maguuma Jungle wherein small groups of bandits (surely ex-White Mantle members who took off their uniforms) harried passing travelers. His destination was a small human settlement on a tiny island amidst Arbor Bay, on Tarnished Coast.
His heart raced as he cut his path among the Wind Riders that flocked around on the waters of the lake. Something did not look right though. There were no lights in the windows of the houses and there was smoke coming up from their roofs instead, lending a dark orange to the light of the sun that was setting behind Tarnished Haven. He threw down his weapons and ran towards his family house. The sight was more than his heart could take. His feet gave up on him and he fell to his knees on the blood-soaked earth. He wept. He wept all through the night. He wept until his soul was dry. And in the soil he purified with his tears of love and repugnance towards war, he planted the seed he had been carrying. Next to the bodies of the people he loved till the very end, next to his daughter’s tiny body, he deposited the gift he’d brought for her from so far away and he blanketed them with his own body to keep them warm. Ronan fell asleep there, praying he would never awaken.
Several days’ trip away from there to the west, where Maguuma Jungle’s dense growth gave up its place to the barren lands of Dry Top and further away still, in Ettin’s Back, we find a lonely being. He had found himself there when he was trying to escape from the war that plagued his species with that of the bipod conquerors for so many years. His refuge wasn’t the quiet place he sought any more· war had come to his doorstep: he could hear the clashing of swords and the cries of the injured, those sounds of war he was trying so hard to stay away from. His proud and headstrong centaur friends were engaged on a never-ending conflict with the humans who had arrived from the east seeking only more territory, more conquests. This bunch, however, was worse than the past lot. The were dressed in white and their swords still bore the dried blood of their fellow humans.
Old-Ventari made up his mind: he would get away from all these frenzied devils, as far as his hooves could take him, in search of a place where the sounds of death could not reach his ears. He had heard rumors of a new, strange race to the south. Word has it that they had been driven to the surface of Tyria chased from their habitats by creatures that were made of lava and terror. They were an amazing race nevertheless, whose members managed to adjust quickly and had already made the inhospitable jungle their home, converting the ruins of an old civilization to houses and laboratories tailored to their needs. What’s more, they had begun to construct magical gates which could transfer you instantly to places where you’d need many moons of galloping to reach. Yes, it certainly sounded interesting as a prospect, at least. Perhaps there, so far away from the two-legged and foor-legged fools, war would still be unheard of. Still.
He crossed Ettin’s Back, using the patrols of his centaur ‘friends’ as protection. Besides, he was reknown and respected among them: the wisest and oldest of all. Upon reaching the Dry Top he could not but stop to gaze, in awe and wonder indeed, upon the size and number of the colossal Stonewood Trees. Without a doubt, the magical waters that flowed under the soil of the Maguuma Jungle lend these trees with the power to touch the skies, even with their naked and fruit-less arms as they were. Near the center of this area there was a crater that drew his attention. He hadn’t noticed before. It seemed as if this was a lake at some point in the past, which dried up suddenly, much like all the grounds around those parts. The stump of an ancient Stonewood Tree lay on its barren floor. Ventari studied it for a while before turning to continue on his journey – the stump’s size was truly impressive.
He crossed Tangle Root, passing as far away as he could from Henge of Denravi and Maguuma Stade alike, since these were both towns of the human. In all honesty, he’d rather face off the Behemoths and Troll in the area than risk an encounter with a human. Even the terrible necromantic Scarabs were preferable to those war-crazed two-legged ‘intelligent beings’! At last, crossing over the mountains he came to a place that made his heart feel peaceful at once. It was a small bay surrounded by thick vegetation, no more than a stone’s throw away from the capital of the wondrous race of tiny-statured people he wanted to meet. At the center of this bay were the remains of an old human encampment – no sign of them tough. Just this one creature dwelled there, among the rubble. Ventari looked deep inside Ronan‘s eyes, with the look one acquires only after all his hair turn white with age, and saw he did not need to feel fear. On the contrary, he felt an endless sadness and the need for companionship welled up inside him like it hadn’t done for years.
Centaur and human became friends, a living protest for the insanity of their races. They used to seat at the shadow of the tree Ronan had planted and talk, from dawn till dusk. They talked about peace and war, about life and death, hope and despair, about the right to chose and the obligation to act. And their tree listened in – and grew. Many times did old-Ventari stare at it and queried his friend about it, but Ronan couldn’t remember anymore where he had found that seed. Or maybe he didn’t want to remember anymore.
As it was certain to happen, since centaurs live longer than humans, Ronan left first. Ventari buried his friend at the root of the tree they were bringing up together, next to his family’s graves. Having a strong wish to keep the principles he shared with his friend from disappearing underneath the dust of time, since these principles achieved such a feat as to bring two sworn enemies together in friendship, he carved the seven main dogmata on a stone tablet and hung it over Ronan’s grave. Quite some time went by before he himself, peaceful and ready, followed his friend in the Mists. The giant tree put its arms around Ventari’s tablet and covered with its leaves the graves of its parents. And it kept growing and reaching for the sky. The year was 1165 AE.
One hundred and sixty years later…
The year is 1325 AE and the tree has already given myriads of fruits. These are intelligent beings whose appearance resembles that of their mother, the Pale Tree, as much as of the human that raised her. The psyche of the sylvari however is permeated by the dogmata of Ventari’s Tablet. Naturally, there are exceptions here as with every rule. The Soundless for example cannot hear Pale Tree‘s voice, guiding them from inside. The Nightmare Court on the other hand believe that Ventari‘s teachings are but chains that limit their capabilities and hinder them from discovering the real truth about the world around them. That is why they try to poison the tree that gave birth to them, either by converting their brothers and sisters or killing those who refuse to follow on their path.
A very special sylvari caught the Nightmare Court‘s interest at the beginning of that year. His name is Malyck and he has no memory of the Dream of Dreams all sylvari wake up with – or from, rather. After aiding in his rescue from the grasp of his pursuers, who mysteriously refer to him as ‘the Harbinger‘, we lead him to The Grove so he can speak to the firstborn sylvari there. Caithe and Trahearne listen carefully to the words of a seer who tells them that Malyck was born of another tree, instead of the Pale Tree! It becomes clear that the seed that Ronan planted was not the only one to grow and that there is at least one more sylvari birthing place. Caithe thinks that the Nightmare Court are determined to find out where that other tree is and corrupt it with their nefarious actions, so that the sylvari it produces in the furure will be ‘free’ ones. She says that since that tree, the one which gave birth to Malyck, lacks for a voice (i.e. the Dream of Dreams), the Nightmare Court hope they will be able to convert it easier.
Malyck decides to seek out his mother-tree and rejoin his siblings. He will tell them about the Elder Dragon threat and about the Pale Tree and their brothers and sisters in the east. Then he will return with an army to aid in the battle against the Elder Dragons. With that promise he departs for Magus Falls to the west, an area that many, many years ago comprised of Magus Stones and The Falls.
Today – 1327 AE, Season of the Phoenix.
Freyja Boingsdottir lifted her head from the book she was reading and looked down below towards the noise that distracted her. One more skirmish between the ‘good’ sylvari Valiants and the ‘evil’ Nightmare Courtiers was taking place. The air was filled with the agonizing orders of Gardener Leighara to her companions and those passer-bys who ran to their aid in protecting the Revered Terebinth. Conflicts were not a stranger in Brisban Wildlands as the area was a crossroad of races and interests. To the east and southeast, the Nightmare Court had setup their bases from which they attacked sylvari and travelers indiscriminately. To the south and southwest, the renegade asura Inquest, just a breath away from their capital, Rata Sum, had established their laboratories the most prominent of which was Thaumacore Inquiry Center, where a one-of-its-kind energy source vibrates the air day and night. Finally, to the north and northwest groups of bandits preyed on the caravans of merchants, launching their raids from their no less than six camps in the area! Their leader is a human called Bandit Quartermaster Seanan, but their orders almost certainly came from someplace else. Their HQ must be located inside the impenetrable and incredibly well-guarded Fort Vandal to the west.
In the middle of all this turmoil lied “the capital of all skrittkind” (in the words of a proud skritt Freyja met on her way here), Skrittsburgh which was also the seat of their king. These little rodent-like creatures lived to collect shiny objects which they stashed inside their numerous caves. More often than not, these ‘treasuries’ became the target of local bandits who needed the ‘shinnies’ to fund their war efforts; most frequently attacked was Plunder Hold to the northwest.
The thing that caused Freyja the greatest of worries however, was the unholy alliance between those three factions that controlled the area. Due to this, the Seraph soldiers as well as the sylvari Wardens and the asura Peacekeepers who’d been stationed here were very troubled and in a constant state of alertness, investigating and monitoring the triad’s activities in an effort to find out what their agenda was. The Triad leaders frequently patrolled the western regions, conversing and inspecting their camps. Yes, Brisban Wildlands was a boiling cauldron. This natural border shared by Kessex Hills to the north -permanently disfigured by the recent events of the Tower of Nightmares-, Caledon Forest to the east -where the newborn sylvari Valiants started off on their Wild Hunts into the world-, the humming Metrica Province to the south and, finally, the dark and unexplored body of Maguuma Jungle to the north and the west, this entire area oscillated by something in the air. But there was more than that. Scarlet Briar‘s dieing words and the subterranean roar of Mordremoth‘s awakening, but also the promise for a better future that Dream-less Malyck represented – everything suggested that something was about to happen deep in the jungle. It would all start very soon, right here.
She closed the book she was holding and looked at the gold-printed repouseé title on the leather-bound cover: ‘The Movement of the World’. It was an ancient and incredibly priceless volume which belonged to the very rich archives of the Durmand Priory. Normally, such books were never allowed to leave the walls of the Order’s headquarters. But Freyja was more than a member. She was a decorated Pact Commander, a veteran of the Zhaitan battle – and she was cashing in her recognition. She placed the book reverently inside her backpack and pondered about her next steps. She had already paid a visit to the destroyed Lion’s Arch and the location where some of her Order’s colleagues used to make excavations until recently, before being moved to a new location to the west of the city. She had heard some rumors and wished to see for herself if they held true. Indeed, this abandoned dig site had now been occupied by a few shady workers who picked up from where the Priory field workers had left of. Freyja was unable to find out who was in charge there – however her curiosity was stimulated by the fact that among those present there was skritt who was exceptionally silent.
Another particularly remarkable and inexplicable fact was the sudden appearance of an army of these little rodents, in the cave which until before the Breachmaker‘s destruction used to be the center of the (not quite legitimate) operations of the Undermarket pirates. According to these skritt leader’s words, ‘Pirate King’ Drrikk’ttikk, his… people found said cave abandoned after the destructions and the explosions and decided to move in and claim all ‘shinnies’ for themselves – subsequently “driving out the mean people who came back”. His skritt wish to become seafaring pirates, he said.
Then, just before traveling here, Freyja had also stopped briefly by ‘The Dead End’ where her friends were expecting her to celebrate Scarlet‘s demise and the finale of a particularly rough period for all of Tyria, that lasted for a whole year.
There he was acquainted to Jory‘s sister, Seraph Belinda Delaqua. Talking with her, Freyja learned that the queen had grown very concerned about the increased activity of the Brisban Wildlands bandits and also the appearance of some black market merchants in that area, whose transactions bore ill for Lion’s Arch traders. “In a week they’re sending me on a long expedition into the Brisban Wildlands”, she said. ‘One more reason’, Freyja had thought, ‘to arrive here on my own and in advance, to get a feeling of what’s going on in this region’. All rumors seemed to be accurate and, what’s more, things were even worse than that. Lionguard patrols and Seraph scouts reported that some bandits -particularly Jannaj’s Bandits– are a known White Mantle cell. In addition, Seraph Soldier Lowen mentions the Mursaat… Is it even possible that these hideous pseudo-gods have survived?
Freyja got up and took one last look over Beldame’s Rise towards Nemeton Grove; the Revered Terebinth had been saved, once more. She turned around and walked down the narrow corridors of labyrinthine Skrittsburgh Center towards the northwestern exit. Her next stop would be the Seraph outpost in the area, just north of Hidden Lake. She would travel due west from there, speaking to any Seraph and Lionguard patrolmen and women she would meet, investigating every inch of ground and listening for any words uttered or whispered, searching… waiting… In the Lionshead Outcrops a group of bandit engineers were repairing an ancient stone bridge which led to a passage through the mountains to the north. A passage that had been blocked off for hundreds of years. Where do they wish to go? Or, what are they expecting to arrive here, from over there?
On the first day of the Season of Scion, in the year 1327 AE, she will be there to find out for herself. The book she was carrying with her would soon be appended with a new chapter.