Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Tarnished

The Tarnished Coast follows the southern border of the Maguuma Jungle. Along this coast reside both capitals of the asura and sylvari within the dense forest, whilst the border meets the Sea of Sorrows. During Zhaitan’s awakening and the rising of Orr, the Coast suffered much as tidal waves pummelled against it.
  Yet what came after the tidal waves was much worse. Waves of undead began to relentlessly appear from the water to make their way to settlements renovated by the asura and attack sylvari and hylek areas as well. Undead corsair ships and coral-infested, soulless husks appeared from the darkened horizon and seabed. Since then the attacks have not stopped; an entire century of conflict that has engulfed the Tarnished Coast.
  Many have lost much, sylvari, asura, hylek alike. Even the rat-like skritt have suffered in the wake of the undead. Yet despite the never ending assault, these races defiantly defend their beloved lands and Jungle, and will continue to do so – even in the face of Zhaitan’s champions.

It was the heart of the night as three figures huddled quietly within the thinning edges of the Maguuma Jungle. The bright moonlight sparkled sadly high above and cast an eerie light over everything. Long shadows from a few lone palm trees stretched over the sandy beach before the three figures. Noises of the jungle at night hissed and squawked loudly around them like a constant buzz, but their attention was too focused on the pale stretch of coastline before them.
  It had been nearly three weeks since Alastair’s horrifying nightmare and they had made it a long way south west since then. The morning after his vivid memory he ferociously attacked his personal endeavours with Agrestal by his side. Within two days it was clear that they would not have the support of the Captain’s Council, and so Alastair took matters into his own hands and began to recruit for what he had planned.
  By the fifth day he had only gained one extra enthusiastic member who had been foolish enough to find his endeavours interesting. He was a young and relatively na├»ve charr, adept in the ways of an engineer who had originated from the Iron Legion. Upon meeting each other, the furry young mechanist introduced himself to Alastair and Agrestal as Tyron Flamefist. His lightly charcoaled fur covered a muscularly lean frame with two sets of small double horns protruding from his jaw bone and temples.
  In the dead of the night he looked like one of the large cats from the Jungle, however his clothing and large backpacks of tools and weapons would have given that away in an instant. Tyron had smelt the stench of the undead barely minutes before, somewhere out towards the water. All three of them keenly searched over the flat sandbanks towards the softly crashing waves where the Sea of Sorrows met the beach. Agrestal remained relatively poised despite her growing anxiety whilst Alastair and Tyron were peaking.
  Even after two weeks along the trail they had barely come into contact with undead, let alone skritt or krait. But as they crouched in silence, staring beyond the thick fern they hid behind and along the silvery strand of coast, they knew they were in for a fight. Tyron’s nose was unbelievably accurate with scents and Alastair himself could have sworn he could smell the acrid, salty stench of Orrian undead.
  Tyron sniffed sharply and louder than he had before and suddenly moved back instinctively, his eyes fixated straight before him towards a sandbank that rose high enough so that they could not see the water beyond. The others could not see as well as Tyron in the night, but his reaction and the soft growling that sounded from deep within his throat meant only one thing: their enemy was nearby.
  The three of them shifted as quietly as they could to prepare for the incoming battle. Alastair carried the staff he had kept by his bed the night of his nightmare and wrapped his fingers tightly around its shaft, Agrestal unsheathed her sceptre and focus and brought them around to her front, and Tyron began to load the necessary ammunition into his favourite rifle. The whole while they kept their eyes focused on the sandbank and by the time Tyron had completely readied his weapon, the beginnings of their enemy had begun to appear.
  The first thing the three of them noticed was the sudden silence as the Jungle itself went quiet. The squawking and buzzing of critters died away and was replaced instead by the mindless groaning and grunting that quietly carried across the open beachfront from the dark shapes that mounted the sandbank and continued towards the Jungle. The second thing that was noticeable was that clouds seemed to appear in the sky and shroud the moon so that its silvery light disappeared. Within a few short moments the entire atmosphere had changed and the few initial undead that had been visible began to grow in numbers as more appeared atop the sandbank.
  By the time the first of the mindless beings were fifty feet away from Alastair, Agrestal and Tyron’s position their numbers had swelled to a small horde. Alastair quickly counted as best as he could and quietly whispered his estimate to the other two, “At least thirty.” Their bodies were dark and shaped grotesquely as though a thinly fleshed skeleton hobbled awkwardly forward. Some of them had bits of coral and sea life attached, while some still managed to have strips of their original clothing or armour garbed over them. They carried crusted weapons of swords and daggers and moaned into the night. It sent chills down the three onlooker’s spines.
  The horde was twenty feet away when Alastair shifted in his spot, looking between Agrestal and Tyron with a sudden fear in his eyes. He had never anticipated his first skirmish would be against thirty or more undead. Opening his mouth he paused as though he was going to say something before slamming it shut and closing his eyes tightly. He took a deep breath, opened his eyes and opened his mouth a second time, but this time the fear in his eyes had been replaced by a fiery determination that Agrestal had never seen before.
  “We fight until we need to retreat. I will not let them turn us into one of Zhaitan’s minions – even if that means forsaking a warrior’s honour.”
  He flashed a mischievous grin as he always did when he knew he was right – or crazy.
  “Right, let’s make them taste fire and brimstone!”
  Standing to his feet, Alastair pulled his staff up and above his head as the air around him seemed to hum with churning energy. Looking skyward, Agrestal watched as three large fiery boulders plummeted from the sky, appearing from nowhere. Each crashed into the beach with a loud explosion that rippled through the night leaving craters where they had landed on top of advancing undead.
  Tyron dropped to his four paws and jumped forward beyond their forested hiding place, his tail flicking wildly behind him as he did so. Rearing onto his haunches he pulled his rifle around to his front and fired the first of his shots at the closest coral-infested monster. It stumbled before falling, a cloud of sand spraying skyward as he did so. Victoriously he roared into the night as he fired off another shot, his sharp teeth glinting orange as a fireball soared through the sky overhead.
  Agrestal moved to stand beside Tyron as Alastair unleashed magical hell upon the coming undead. She summoned the necessary power she needed and with a sweeping movement of her plant-covered hands created a wall of flames that sprouted effortlessly from the sand just in front of Tyron. Moments later, after Tyron sent a shower of flaming bullets towards the advancing enemy, she pulled energy from the air around her and released a great wall of wind that howled towards the undead. The gale screamed into the night before smashing into the front lines of the enemy, knocking them over and causing many behind to stumble. Seconds later she watched as ice crystallised across the sand where many had fallen.
  “Good!” Alastair called, sweeping his staff downward as the ice he had summoned solidified in the beach. “Summon your phoenix! We can do this!”

Monday, 15 August 2011

Bay of Sirens


The Sea of Sorrows, once known as the Bay of Sirens, is a sea surrounded by Kryta, the Southern Shiverpeaks, the Tarnished Coast, Orr, and the Strait of Malchor. Its hub and northern most stretch reaches to the mouth of Lion’s Arch, the renovated remains of a corsair’s haven and shattered city from hundreds of years ago.
  Within the Sea of Sorrows linger dark enemies other than Zhaitan’s undead minions. The bloodthirsty and ravaging krait, the frog-like and alchemically excelling hylek, the stout and peaceful quaggan and many other of the usual creatures of the ocean mingle, fight and exist with another in the waters and along the coastlines.
  The rising of Orr turned their ecosystems into havoc as Zhaitan’s chaos ensued. The hylek were forced inland along the coastal regions and have spread vastly in numbers and size while the quaggan have opted to move further inland through rivers to lakes and shorelines around the Maguuma Jungle, Steamspur Mountains and Kryta to avoid trouble.
  Despite the fight for survival amongst these races and environments, it still appears as though the truly dominant races of the land have the hardest fight to win. Human, charr, asura, norn and sylvari alike face the undeniable threat of the Elder Dragons in each of their respective places of Tyria, yet even within the shadow of their darkened wings, the fight for supremacy, revenge and life continues in ways that can never be completely traced.

A heavy downpour fell from the canopy of dark grey clouds as though the land needed the rain. All around the small fishing boat waves crashed and caused the vessel to groan in agony. A younger adolescent and his father worked hard to hold the boat on its course as the farthest eastern island of the Dominion of Winds disappeared behind a thick curtain of fresh rain several miles away.
  They had been out fishing among the Sea of Sorrows since early morning and had let themselves drift far too south. It had been the boys fault, but his father had not criticised him – the storm was enough of a consequence as a tongue lashing, maybe more. The clouds had appeared faster than usual for the bay and had caught them off guard before they had a chance to redirect their course. In the end they simple resigned to the fact that it was going to be a long slog back to Lion’s Arch.
  The boy went to grab a flailing rope but lost his traction as a frighteningly large wave collided with the side of the fishing boat. He toppled over, threatening to fall head first into a large bucket of fishing spears, but at the last moment a strong grip swung him around. His father’s fingertips lost their clutch and the boy slammed painfully into the deck of the boat with his shoulder.
  “Get up, son! No time to feel sorry for yourself! I need you to fix those lines!”
  The boy groaned and pushed himself up as the boat swayed on a sickening angle. Tools of the fishing trade spilled over the deck and over the sides as another massive wave threatened to flip the boat, throwing the boy off balance for the second time in a minute and sending him careening towards the port side of the vessel. Just in time he threw out his right arm and hooked it around the mast pole and held on for dear life, grunting with the effort as his energy quickly drained.
  Mercifully the boat levelled out and the boy’s father quickly picked him off the deck, leaving him instantly to leap into the air and capture two flailing pieces of rope to bring into submission. The boy watched his father in wonder as cold rain pelted against his sodden body and gale force winds pushed angrily against him. He hung onto the mast as a sharp pain jolted from his shoulder up his neck, determined to not be more of a burden to his father than he already had been.
  The storm continued as they sailed north, its ferocity barely dimming as the first hour crawled by. Both fishermen were robbed off whatever energy they had had and were left feeding off the adrenaline that kept them alert. Shadows of distant islands lingered beyond the hazy layers of pelting rain and every few minutes both looked north in the hope that the magnitude and shadow of Lion’s Arch would become visible through the rain, a beacon and symbol of hope amidst the storm.
  The father barked orders frequently as the storm began to slow and allow the boy to move more freely without danger. Slowly but surely the seas levelled out and the wind quietened. The rain continued to pour in flooding quantities, but somewhere through the thick haze a growing wall of darkened shadows was growing to the north.
  With a wide grin the boy pointed towards the silhouette of Lion’s Arch with his unhindered left arm, turning to his father as he did so. But as he turned, his smile quickly changed to a gaping mouth as his elation turned to dread.
  Slithering over the handrails on the starboard side, a large snake-like creature armed with swords and strange armour appeared. The boy’s father had his back to the creature, and before his son could even utter a word the creature had the man’s head in an iron grip, its slimy skin oozing over his father’s leather tunic and stubbled chin.
  A look of horror filled the father’s eyes as the creature began to retreat back to the handrails, the human unable to get a solid grip on the creature’s slimy hold. The boy ran forward instinctively, not out of braveness but out of foolishness, and attempted to help his father with his able left arm. His smaller fingers fumbled and slipped over the glistening skin of the creature and seconds later he was kicked aside as his father’s upturned legs smashed into his head. The boy recovered instantly as his awakening fear pushed him beyond the concussion he had just incurred and watched as his father’s boots dipped beneath the surface of the churning water.
  “Father!” the boy screamed, frantically searching the surface of the water for a sign of his father’s return, slipping over the handrail as ooze from the creature mixed with the rain water on the wooden surface.
  But as the minutes passed and the storm continued to calm, his father never returned. Miraculously he had been able to sail the fishing boat one-handed back into the harbours of Lion’s Arch, but as he sought for assistance to find his father he was only met with resistance.
  “Boy, it is unfortunate, that is true, but no one could hope to follow that damned creature. Not the krait. The best you can hope for him is that his death is swift and painless.”
  Alastair opened his eyes and sat bolt up, frantically wiping away the sweat that had pebbled on his forehead. His eyes were dilated and he searched almost desperately through the small room with his eyes, a faint glimmer of hope shining through the fear.
  Nearby a shadow moved and he reacted, rolling off the bed and reaching for a staff that he had left leaning against a bedside table.
  “Alastair!” A familiar voice called.
  The results were astounding. Agrestal’s call cut through his hazy dream in an instant and brought him to the place he stood, half-dressed and panting, a staff at his fingertips.
  Her silhouette filled the doorway in the dark pre-dawn shadows. He could feel waves of empathy coursing from her towards him as he silently returned to the bed and pulled the sheets over him despite the heat he felt.
  “Is everything alright?” she asked, not bothering to enter further.
  Somewhere outside a snarl cut through the night, no doubt some charr having nightmares.
  “It will be,” Alastair replied, staring out to the grimy window and towards the faintly glimmering stars beyond. “It will be.”

Friday, 12 August 2011

Agrestal's Awakening

The sylvari: noble, beautiful, plant-like. No other race in Tyria has come to be like the sylvari. The youngest of all the races of the world, less than twenty-five years since the first sylvari’s birth, they dwell amongst the sanctuary of the Grove. That is unless they are called to the Wyld Hunt.
  A large majority of the sylvari are barely twenty years of age and many of their population have branched out into the rest of Tyria. Their emergence came with mixed reception; the asura abusing the sylvari’s innocence and taking some as slavish workers. The lesson was learnt quickly, and since then the sylvari have been wary of the small creatures from underground.
  The plant-like sylvari arrive into the world fully grown after emerging from the Pale Tree, their mother. Before their birth they exist within the Dream of Dreams and seemingly float above the events of the world in a spiritual, spectator-like state. The things they see and learn from the Dream go with them upon their birth and the things they see and learn come from sylvari who exist within the world. As such, each generation gains more knowledge with their awakening.
  Honour, curiosity, empathy and the Dream make up the true essence of the sylvari and create both strengths and weaknesses for the young race. But do not underestimate these seemingly timid and naive creatures – it could very well mean the death of you, especially if they have turned to the Nightmare instead of the Dream.

“I remember my awakening from the Mother Tree. I recall the cries from my brethren calling out amongst the Grove. An attack was coming from the Sea.”
  Agrestal and Alastair were perched on the ledge of a boardwalk that overlooked Sanctum Harbour. The water sparkled brilliantly in the afternoon sun as it tinged the sky with a potent pink. Wisps of clouds hung along the horizon after a day of rain while a small fishing boat made its way past Molokk’s Spit nearby.
  Their talks with the Captain’s Council hadn’t gone as bad as they had thought they would, yet their plans were no closer to completion than before they had spoken with the Council. Alastair had been amazed at how the young sylvari had handled herself and controlled the direction of conversation while they had spoken with the Council. His initial perception of the plant-like woman had changed dramatically as the afternoon had passed and his scepticism had slowly but surely turned to awe.
  “They had never completely reached the Grove before that. Tutors and my Dream both confirmed that. But on that day, on my awakening, they broke through the Mother Tree’s defences.”
  She lowered her head slowly and stared down past her feet at the green-blue sea water that sloshed quietly beneath. Her leafy ears caught the afternoon sun and Alastair caught his breath as he saw the veins within pushing golden sap along the designated paths. Her eyebrows had been forged of five different leaves and her hair made of dozens of copper-brown fronds of plants turned to a rich red in the pink sunset. Everything about her was so natural and innocent, but Alastair could see that the rumoured innocence of the sylvari was absent from Agrestal.
  “What happened?” he asked before she could speak again.
  She could feel his wonder growing through her undeniable empathetic connection which she shared with most beings, especially her own kind. It was something she had seen as a curse, her own levels of empathy seemingly greater and more potent than many other sylvari she came across, but after several years she began to find its strength and usefulness. It was, after all, how she was able to manipulate Alastair into letting her go with him in the first place.
  “What happens when undead attack? They ravage, destroy and take.”
  She responded slowly but her voice rung with the pain she felt. It was a massacre.
  “I am sorry,” Alastair replied timidly, averting his staring gaze from Agrestal’s eyes. She had continued staring at the water below despite being aware of Alastair’s gaze, but she could not look back into his. The overwhelming empathetic waves of apology from him would have frustrated her, and frustration was not what she needed whilst sharing such a story.
  “I was with my house, the House of Day, when the first wave broke into the Grove. From the Dream I had seen only a few of the undead, yet their cries were undeniable even to a newly awakened such as myself. For however long I had existed within the Dream I had seen the Elder Dragon, and as soon as I heard the first of the horrific cries of the undead within the Grove, I knew where they had come from and why they were there: to steal and turn the sylvari into minions of Zhaitan.”
  Alastair suddenly noted how her demeanour changed as she finished what she was saying. Instead of looking down at the darkening water beneath her feet, she looked up to the horizon and the silhouette of the risen peninsula of Orr and glared. Her eyes thinned and her chin rose while a shiver passed along her plant-like physique; sprouted leaves and ferns hissing quietly as they rustled in time with the shiver.
  “But they failed,” she continued, a distinct note of pride added somewhere within her graceful voice. “Sylvari cannot be turned. We will never be turned. Many, including myself, believe we were created to fight the Elder Dragons. Because of this we are protected by some unknown power that will not allow us to be manipulated into one of Zhaitan’s minions.”
  She turned slowly to look at Alastair who gazed back in wonder; his usual facade of confidence and determination having been melted away by Agrestal’s revelation. He had never known.
  “Instead, we die. But we would rather die than become one of them, or one of the Shadow, because death is just as fascinating to us as life.”
  She smiled as her bark cheek bones lifted slightly and her leafy ears moves in sync. Alastair stared in wonder at what sat before him. From what he had learnt of the young sylvari, they were both around the age of twenty, yet it was painfully obvious to him just how wise Agrestal was, and just how naive he was. All of his pre-conceived notions of the sylvari melted away with the setting sun, and as the city of Lion’s Arch turned into a glittering mass of shadowed structures behind them, he knew he chosen the right companion for his undertaking.

This particular post has been created in celebration for sylvari week which has been going on all this week over the ArenaNet blog and the Guild Wars 2 sylvari page. Although I have made every attempt to ensure all aspects of the sylvari lore, personality and structure remain intact, I do apologise if I have confused elements here and there. Hope you enjoy!

Monday, 8 August 2011

A Start

It has been over one hundred years since he awoke. Stories told by the elders of the land speak of the horrors that were unleashed upon the coast after his awakening. Orr, a sunken peninsula, was raised from underneath the Sea of Sorrows by the horrifying Elder Dragon Zhaitan.
  Lion’s Arch was but a weak obstacle for the tidal waves that ensued. The entire coastline was battered and beaten by the Elder Dragon’s wrath. But what came after the quakes and the waves was worse – far worse.
  Somewhere out over the seas, somehow beyond magical comprehension and mental prowess, Zhaitan was able to harness his evil power and raise the dead to obey his call. Swarms of undead minions made from the wandering dead of Orr came to life and took control of lifeless corsair’s ships. Black sails atop sunken ships filled the horizon by the uprooted peninsula and the undead army blocked all passage to Cantha from Tyria.
  Since then, no one has been able to enter or leave Tyria; those attempting to do so never returning, assumed to have joined the ranks of the Elder Dragon, such plights forbidden by the Captain’s Council within Lion’s Arch. People have forcibly adjusted to the severe changes that Zhaitan created, yet a few questions remain in the calm and eventless wake of his stirring: Why has he, amongst other Elder Dragons, arisen? What are his plans? And will the land ever return to what it once was?


Alastair Fireheart stared out of the grimy window as he fingered a small dagger. The human had never really appreciated the true art of weapons or how they made a man feel, but as he felt the blunted edge along the blade he wondered how it would feel to be the one who landed the killing blow on Zhaitan. The thought alone was reckless, bordering on insane, but he had lost so much in the century following the awakening even though he hadn’t been alive all of that time.
  Sea spray marred the beautifully blue glass of the windows whilst the rusted copper divider bars between the glass panes told a different story of the salty air that filled the city. Lion’s Arch sprawled out before Alastair like a pick pocketed valley of farm fields, each building as unique and intriguing as the other, intertwined and built upon each other like piles of nautical bricks. High ships hung anchored like bridges between towering spires of buildings on rock while far below the canals and shipping lanes sparkled brilliantly in the midday sun. It was home to the magician despite his birthplace of Kryta, but one could never return to a place where he had been banished.
  “Fireheart,” a smooth female voice called from the doorway behind. “You are here.”
  She sounded surprised. Alastair had been anticipating that if she appeared. Sylvari were so easy.
  “Of course,” Alastair replied, turning slowly from the window to face the doorway, ornaments of fishing nets and overly large champion shells cluttered over crates nearby. “I am not asura you know.”
  He winked and tucked the small dagger into the thick sash that hung around his waist like a belt. The sylvari woman watched tentatively as he moved towards her, pulling his coat off a nearby chair and pulling it around his thick shoulders smoothly. She was tall, thin and lean; every bit as much of a tree person as Alastair had ever imagined. Her leafy hair was a dried out brown while her eyes were dark with wonder. He had never anticipated that she would actually come on his foolish little endeavour, but there she stood, ready and willing.
  “Why the dagger?” she asked, moving aside as Alastair stepped out of the small room and onto a boardwalk that seemed to disappear into endlessly twining streets and sections of the city. The alarm in her voice was noticeable but controlled.
Alastair stopped just outside the doorway and turned to look the beautiful tree girl in her deep, dark eyes. For a moment he was lost as he could have sworn he heard the tranquil and tropical sounds of the Grove. But soon enough, a loud crash from somewhere below brought him back.
  “Agrestal, sweetie, you know why.”
  Alastair grinned again before walking off. The innocent sylvari was left standing for a moment as she pondered the situation. In the last twenty-five years since her race’s birth, they had been forced to learn some harsh lessons – especially by the asura. She had taken these lessons with her as she had left the Grove and began her search for a wider world. But here, deep within Lion’s Reach, the pang of disappointment bit agonisingly. Was she really so gullible and trusting?
  “Wait,” she called out, turning to face Fireheart who had almost begun descending a nearby ramp.
  He paused and looked up at the sylvari with interest. “Yes?” he asked.
  “If we do this, we do it my way.”
  His grin stretched from ear to ear as the darkness in her eyes twinkled. Perhaps she wasn’t as futile as he had initially thought. Satisfied, he nodded, and waited for her at the top of the ramp. In moments she took the dagger from Fireheart’s sash and threw it into a side shop which clattered with the added artefact.
  The Trader’s Forum of the Agora was bustling with life as they reached the bottom of the ramp; charr, asura, norn, humans and even a small contingent of sylvari filled the marketplace. Even more surprisingly a quaggan emissary was waddling towards the Captain’s Council. Agrestal nodded towards the emissary and in moments they were trailing the damp creature who had obviously recently surfaced. To meet the Council was just a start, but a start they had.

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