The Icebrood Saga begins in earnest with our entrance into Bjora Marches, an eerie stretch of land in the Far Shiverpeaks. Here our party must contend with Sons of Svanir, the Fallen and the Aberrant, all the while resisting the seductive, insidious whispers of the Elder Dragon, Jormag. Raven would approve of your decision to arm yourself with knowledge before you slip further down this icy path.
Jormag, Elder Dragon of Ice and Persuasion
Let’s begin with the eponymous whispers burrowing into the shadowed parts of the Commander’s psyche. These mental attacks can be likened to a certain other Elder Dragon’s domination of the sylvari, but as a sylvari Commander points out in the story, “Reminds me of Mordremoth… but different.” The difference is simple. Mordremoth’s bellows were forceful commands to obey, whereas Jormag’s whispers are rarely commands. They can seem like reasonable suggestions, echoes of your own fears or promises of comfort or power.
What Jormag does with these whispers can be observed in the tragic fate of many Vigil members. After being called by Almorra, Dragon’s Watch finds Jora’s Keep empty save for the corpses of Vigil stabbed in the back by their own comrades. Jormag’s influence can turn loyal allies into traitors.
Outside the story instance, you may have come across Vigil members with an aura around their heads. Talk to them and it becomes evident they are hearing the Elder Dragon. If you wait and watch, you may see them walk into the woods, where they will sit as their health ticks all the way down. In a curious way of killing, they are persuaded to rest there even as they freeze to death.
Jormag also has the ability to affect characters’ memories and stall our progress. One example (and there are a few) is the event ‘Search for evidence of the massacre at Jora’s Keep’. After event completion, Investigator Eleni hears whispers from her dolyak, Aja. She then starts the investigation from scratch despite being so close to figuring out what happened.
Like every other Elder Dragon we’ve come across since Zhaitan’s defeat, Jormag has some influence over the domain of death. In this case, Jormag can puppet and speak through corpses, though this seems difficult and short-lived, as seen in the episode’s final cutscene. The strain is clear in the Fraenir’s crude, lurching movements.
A more subtle show of this exertion is at the very beginning of this episode, when the Commander is contacted by Almorra. During her dialogue, there are ‘plasticy sounds’ coming from the communicator, which senior sound designer Joseph Clark confirmed in Guild Chat 95 to be Jormag fumbling with the communicator while controlling Almorra.
A shocking historical case of Jormag’s influence can be found in the area called Asgeir’s Legacy. This is where Asgeir had his epic battle with Jormag, where Jormag lost the tooth which now hangs in Hoelbrak. At its centre you can find a note written by Asgeir recounting the battle.
We learn from the note that the well-known legend of Asgeir Dragonrender has been missing a crucial detail: Jormag, full of warmth and caring, persuaded Asgeir to leave with the tooth as a trophy, rather than return with more norn to continue the battle. While gaining the tooth counted as a victory among the norn, the invincibility of it was a strong deterrent against taking the fight to Jormag again — a deterrent which has lasted for centuries. During the episode ‘A Crack in the Ice’ in Living World Season 3, Elder Ulf says about the tooth, ‘It’s really something we use to keep the young from getting themselves killed trying to hunt Jormag.’
Around where the note is picked up, you are able to use the Raven Lens special action key, revealing an echo of Asgeir writing with the Fang of the Serpent nearby, thus proving its authenticity.
Essence Manipulation and the Lost Spirits
Researcher Yarixx invents the technique for manipulating the spirit essence found inside Jormag’s three types of minions. We’ll have a closer look at these minions in the second half of this lore series, but for now, hit the bad guys. Collect the orbs. Gain power. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Except… when you look at the symbols on the orbs, you might notice the following animal symbols: resilience orbs have oxen, valor orbs have wolverines and vigilance orbs have eagles. Inside the Raven Sanctum Arena, where the Strike Missions take place, are shrines to these lost spirits which rotate with the bosses. For example, when the Boneskinner is active, there are wolverine shrines clouded with a black smoke around the arena.
So what is the significance of these three Spirits? The answer lies in a crisis which took place over 150 years ago, when Jormag drove the norn from their lands — an event called the norn exodus. While Asgeir took his people south, four Spirits of the Wild stayed behind to fight Jormag: Ox, Wolverine, Eagle and Owl. Owl died, but what happened to the rest is unknown.
Putting this together with Yarixx’s summary of essence manipulation, you might be asking some worrying questions. Why are the essences of the lost Spirits inside Jormag’s minions? Has Jormag persuaded them to aid him instead of the norn? Or has he corrupted their magic for his own use, similar to how the Fraenir uses corrupted Raven magic? Where are they? Hopefully these questions will be answered as the saga continues.
The Haunting of Bjora Marches
Though a terrible monster stalks the Aberrant Forest, that’s not the only horror trope that’s out there in the woods. Perhaps you’ve heard the fast pizzicato strings around the map and wondered what just happened to prompt them? Maybe you thought you saw something in the corner of your screen, but when you checked there was nothing there? Well, it might have been the spirit of someone who fell to Jormag’s manipulations.
There are certain points on the map where they can be spotted. These ghosts are not violent. They stay in place and disappear. They’re also client-side, adding to the spooky quality if you’re playing with a friend.
The odd thing about these ghosts is that once they’ve disappeared they’re replaced with a small tree, which looks like the model for the Cypress Saplings around the map, only a little bigger. If you want to know if a particular tree is real or not, see if you can walk through it.
Are these spirits real or are they hallucinations conjured by Jormag to psych us out? Either is possible, but an argument for them being real begins with the existence of a very important case: the ghost of Almorra Soulkeeper. Of course, Jormag would not be beneath using Almorra’s likeness to torture us, but where Almorra’s ghost is found is suspicious.
You can find her if you take the path north of the ‘Destroy the corrupted shard’ event and keep an eye on the right side. She’ll appear in front of a gap in the rock, which leads to a cliff. On the cliff you’ll find a makeshift tent and a used campfire. She might have been there at some point. One wonders if this is where she died. This theory matches the other ghosts we see, who are all Vigil. They seem to be like those described earlier in this article, who were persuaded to die in the cold. These were my thoughts when I saw a norn ghost sitting in the snow, before disappearing too quickly for me to grab a screenshot.
Though the story segment of Episode 1 was short, the lore fans among us received a good chunk to bite into, allowing us to forget our craving for a while. For those who hunger for more, don’t worry. The second half of our lore series is coming soon.