With the conclusion of Living World Season 3 and wrapping up Heart of Thorns, the final story chapter reveals that our player character realises he/she is bound for the Crystal Desert. Up until Episode 5, there had been numerous leaks about the expansion and hypothesis about going there, but we believed it would be because we would somehow deal with Primordus and Jormag and move on to subdue Kralkatorrik. Because as we know, the Crystal Desert is the place where Kralkatorrik resides, and it would make sense to travel there for an expansion dealing with his threat. However, revelations from Episode 5 and 6 of the recently concluded Living World season has changed the game, and instead of going to face off against Kralkatorrik, now we must travel to the Crystal Desert to protect the Elder Dragon against the rampaging Balthazar, one of the Six Gods who is back in Tyria and intent on killing the Elder Dragons to absorb their power; even if it destroys Tyria in the process. So, with this excellent twist to the story, in the following feature, let us take a closer look at the vast area known as the Crystal Desert, how it came to be and what we know of the area from before. In the second part, which will be coming up soon, we will look at what we know so far given the announcement of Path of Fire, and what we might expect to encounter in the Crystal Desert, 250 years after the events of Guild Wars.
Once, this vast area was known as the Crystal Sea, home to the Temple of the Six Gods. The Margonites came here across the Unending Oceans; a sea-faring race of humans that worshipped Abaddon exclusively, forsaking the other five gods. Eventually their fanaticism led them to defacing the other statues in the Temple of the Gods, a preamble to the conflict between Abaddon and the other five gods. The Margonites were – as the Luxons – a strong sea-faring nation, ruling the Unending Ocean, and laying claim to the Crystal Sea, creating settlements lining the north and west coastlines of Elona and structures in Thirsty River and all around the Mesa.
In 1 BE, Abaddon indeed spread magic to all the races of Tyria, and in the wake of their new powers, wars and power struggles ensued. This led King Doric to plead to the other gods to have the gift of magic retracted. The Gods obliged and sealing magic back into the Bloodstone from which it had been released, and in the process the Bloodstone was split into five pieces to limit all races’ magic abilities. This act caused a war between the Margonites and the Forgotten – loyal servants of the Six Gods. According to the Scriptures of Abaddon, Jadoth – a Margonite – was chased by the Forgotten armies and forced into exile in the Crystal Sea. The Forgotten continued their pursuit, and on the 51st day of his exodus, Jadoth called upon Abaddon for salvation facing the Forgotten armada to grant him powers to defeat his pursuers. The sky darkened, and the seas boiled and ruptured into a powerful maelstrom “from which not even light could escape” cutting off the Forgotten. Jadoth became a chosen of Abaddon, first of the Margonites, gifted with demonic powers. Now, Abaddon joined in the war, laying siege to the Gates of Heaven and challenging the other gods at the Mouth of Torment – once a lush and verdant coastline spot of the Crystal Sea – with his Margonite army.
Abaddon was defeated, and the strike that eventually broke him was so powerful and cataclysmic in force, it raised the surface below the Crystal Sea, the sea dried up leaving a barren desert, the Crystal Desert, stranding the ships of the Margonites that were caught in the area. It is said that every grain of sand in the desert is in fact a tiny crystal, and the desert was named for it. One such tiny crystal was also said to house Glint’s lair, her abode being in the northern parts of this region. The lush coastline where Abaddon fell became The Desolation, an unforgiving desert void of life. The Margonite civilization could not prevail and eventually became extinct, leaving only the demonic Margonites imprisoned with Abaddon, sealed in a place known as the Realm of Torment, cast down with the Temple of Six Gods. The Margonites were transformed to ethereal, demonic servants from the constant exposure to Abaddon’s power. In their demonic form, they are still capable of individual thought, and their life span is generally believed to reach over one thousand years; not achieved without cost because their demonic power would come at the price of sterility. As such, their only means of growing in number is from corruption or transformation of others into Margonites. Abaddon’s fall poisoned the lands known as the Desolation, and due to its proximity to the Realm of Torment, his prison, Abaddon’s powers seeped through to further corrupt and damage the land; riddling the Desolation with poisonous sulphur sands, rendering it only a domain of roaming, undead creatures and the great Jujundu wurms.
In the 250 years that passed since the heroes last saw the lands of the Crystal Desert, much has changed. Palawa Joko, the *Scourge of Vabbi*, is the undead desert king ruling over Elona. Once at the mercy of the Order of the Sunspears when the Elonians sought to stop the return of Abaddon, Palawa Joko was given his freedom in exchange for knowledge of how they would cross the Desolation in time to prevent Nigthfall. As Elona survived and slowly rebuilt, Palawa Joko stayed hidden and bided his time, building a great army of undead in the Desolation. Within sixty years of Kormir’s rise to godhood, Palawa Joko mustered his former power and marched out of the Crystal Desert to war with Vabbi. To ensure his dominance, Palawa Joke diverted the river Elon, causing drought and famine amid the northern provinces of Elona, bringing Vabbi to its knees. The diversion of Elon north into the Crystal Desert, caused the canyons in the Desolation to fill and created green and growing pockets throughout the southern parts of the Crystal Desert. In these areas Palawa Joko has established the seat of his new kingdom, his northern borders now on the southern edge of the Crystal Desert. In the recent years, Joko’s empire has both faced the threat of Zhaitan’s risen armies and now more recently the branded armies of Kralkatorrik. This strife, in addition, has severed the land route from Tyria to Elona, and the Crystal Desert remains ever an inhospitable and inaccessible area.
Yet many have tried to take up residence in the Crystal Desert, believing it would help them achieve Ascension, an act bringing them closer to the Gods. Each of them failed; the aforementioned Margonites, the mysterious “Seekers”, Elonians and even some Ascalonians; many of which now haunt the region as ghosts, riddling the region with ruins and structures of civilisations that have perished.
While the Margonites have been covered previously, the Crystal Desert has had other groups maintain a presence there throughout the ages, and a short presentation of these follow here.
The Forgotten were an ancient race of upright, serpent-like creatures that legends tell were sent to the world in 1769 BE by the Six Gods as custodians to guide the other races. They were devout followers of the Gods; intrinsically linked to the Facets reflecting the power of the Human gods. According to the Jotuns however, they date back even further, and are one of the five sentient races that survived the last cycle of awakening of the Elder Dragons. As such, they knew magic that could not be corrupted by the Elder Dragons, and used this to sever the mental bond through which Glint, then Glaust, was bound to her master Kralkatorrik. As we know from the lore and story of Heart of Thorns, the Forgotten made preparations in the Maguuma Jungle to protect Tyria from the coming awakening of the Elder Dragons, and they built Tarir, the golden city, and recruited devoted mortals to become Exalted, to safeguard artefacts of Glint’s legacy and protect the golden sanctuary. Upon completion of their tasks, the Forgotten left Tyria.
In the aforementioned war with the Margonites, the Forgotten fought on behalf of the Five Gods and later became the wardens of Abaddon in his prison in the Realm of Torment. Eventually, forced back by humanity’s sprawl as the superior race, the Forgotten retreated to the Crystal Desert, where they served the dragon Glint, and appointed custodians of the trials of Ascension, posing as a threat to those who sought to complete the ritual.
Turai Ossa was the first ruler of a united Elona, succeeding where many Primeval Kings had failed, and at the great battle of Jahai, he defeated Palawa Joko. Under his rule, Turai Ossa eventually grew obsessed with old prophecies, particularly the Flameseeker Prophecies, and led his people north into the Crystal Desert on a pilgrimage. On arrival, Turai and the Elonians met the Forgotten, who they mistook for mindless beasts and were vanquished. Turai’s soul was trapped in the Crystal Desert, along with the souls of his people, who await the day Turai can finally achieve Ascension and pass on to the Hall of Heroes. The events of Guild Wars: Prophecies tell this story, and the ghostly hero Turai Ossa guides the heroes through the trials of the Forgotten.
Like other pilgrims, the Seekers were also nomads passing through the Crystal Desert in search of a new home. Ruins of their settlement can be seen near the Salt Flats in the outpost known as Seeker’s Passage, but little else is known about these mysterious pilgrims.
Palawa Joko’s dominance over the southern regions of the Crystal Desert has already been established previously; but in the two centuries that have passed since he came to rule, it is rumoured that his army has extended from the former undead and mummy army to now also include ex-Sunspear warriors; corrupted living and undead soldiers known as the Mordant Crescent.
Recent data-mining of upcoming facial/hair “types” courtesy of the prolific community personality that_shaman suggests we could be encountering Palawa Joko’s minions in the upcoming future, or what do you think? Or are we just getting the option to make our characters look butt ugly… anyway, digression aside.
As of Guild Wars 2, another creature has taken up residence in the Crystal Desert, and one of such noteworthiness, a lore feature on the region would be incomplete without covering him. The Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik awoke in 1320 AE and in its wake, the Dragonbrand corruption spread across the southern parts of the Charr lands and the northern parts of the Crystal Desert. Creatures exposed to Kralkatorrik’s corruption became Branded, crystalline corrupted forms mimicking their past selves. Ever since Kralkatorrik retreated to the Crystal Desert, there are rumours of dark forces in the areas south of Ebonhawke. The entrance to the Crystal Desert goes through the Desert Gate, constructed by order of Queen Jennah following the previous assault on the Stronghold of Ebonhawke by Kralkatorrik’s forces while Destiny’s Edge nearly defeated Kralkatorrik inside Glint’s sanctuary.
The Crystal Desert was also home to a fauna of creatures thriving in desolate areas; devourers, riders, drakes, an off-shoot branch of the centaurs, the Losaru, most of which might be present still if we are set to return there. As you might expect, the Crystal Desert and Elona further to the south, holds a lot of potential for expanding the Guild Wars 2 universe.
With the revelations of Living World Season 3 finale in mind, how will the heroes fare in the Crystal Desert? Suddenly the role is one of acting as protector of Elder Dragons knowing that their death might lead to the destruction of life on Tyria, can we reach Kralkatorrik before Balthazar’s forces defeat him? One thing is opposing Balthazar, but how do you reason with an Elder Dragon anyway? These ancient creatures craving magic power have so far not shown much understanding for the impending doom that could befall Tyria if another of their kind dies, so how can the heroes convince Kralkatorrik they are on his side? Picture our hero straddling Kralkatorrik’s neck, riding to battle to face off with Balthazar, will we see aerial combat in Guild Wars 2? Will the heroes once again seek Ascension at Augury Rock like their heroic counterparts of 250 years ago in order to challenge the Gods themselves?
Will the only story of the second expansion revolve around Balthazar and Kralkatorrik, or could we see elements of perhaps Living World Season 4 creeping in with side stories revolving around the heroes potentially participating in saving the Sunspears from the brink of extinction at the hands of an undead lich king, Palawa Joko. Maybe we could even see an unlikely alliance with Palawa Joko to challenge Balthazar, as opposing him on our own would be futile. There is a lot to speculate on, but needless to say, we know we’re bound for the Crystal Desert now, an awesome area in Tyria filled to the brim with interesting lore, and this opens up for expanding further north (ed. sorry, south!) to other lands such as the beloved Elona and Cantha.