Guild Wars 2 kicked off the Icebrood Saga with its prologue, Bound by Blood, allowing everyone to get steeped in the new story featuring Jormag, the Elder Dragon of Ice, charr and norn culture, and areas from Guild Wars including the Blood Legion Homelands and the Far Shiverpeaks. Despite its designation as a prologue, this release has as much story in it as a previous Living World episode, so let’s get into the recap.
Last we left our tireless player characters, we had defeated Kralkatorrik and his granddaughter, Aurene, had absorbed all his magic, becoming the Elder Dragon of Light. The charr had the biggest grudge against Kralkatorrik, since he left a giant brand scar across a large part of their native lands, so they’ve decided it’s time to put their party hats on and celebrate his demise.
Party in the Homelands
The story picks up with a letter from Bangar Ruinbringer, Imperator of the Blood Legion. He’s also Rytlock’s boss if you’re unfamiliar with charr ranks. The mail diplomatically invites us to a grand meeting of the High Legions, even including a faction of the Flame Legion that’s after peace, attending. Since Rytlock doesn’t have a choice but to attend and we were the ones who defeated Kralkatorrik, we decide to celebrate too. Marjory and Kasmeer (who are working on their relationship and that whole ‘gods have abandoned us’ thing), Gorrik (who is only coming to observe the local fauna), and Braham (he has hair now!) are all joining us on this adventure.
We fly to the Blood Keep in Grothmar Valley and meet with Crecia Stoneglow (Cre), who is both Bangar’s Head of Security, and also Rytlock’s old “friend” with whom he just so happened to take adult cat naps back in the day. Cre leads us to the opening ceremony, where Bangar addresses the crowd. This is followed by a display of catharsis by Ryland Steelcatcher, Rytlock and Cre’s grown cub and newly appointed centurion of the Blood Legion, killing a Branded devourer.
The cheers of the bout are interrupted by a champion Branded devourer burrowing up through the ground. We rush to pin it down using harpoons so Ryland can finish it off. Unfortunately, the devourer is unexpectedly trapped in shimmering iridescent crystal by Aurene performing a quick fly-by. She’s also been destroying the remaining Branded and purifying the areas corrupted by Kralkatorrik. A seemingly good thing, but a new Elder Dragon is still terrifying and the charr seem wary of her intentions.
After the ceremony, Bangar implies we sent Aurene to do the deed. We insist that we don’t control her now or indeed ever, but this falls on deaf ears. As such, we’re charged with schmoozing with the Legions to prove we’re not here to make rainbow catsicles out of everyone. This can include anything from cooking meals and serving drinks, to showing charr cubs how to sharpshoot, to lighting effigies. If you want to read about everything you can do on the map, check out our article on activities and events in Grothmar Valley.
Braham walks off to get drunk and merrymake with Ryland, continuously butt-dialing everyone over comms in the process. Meanwhile, Kasmeer goes to train some cubs with her masterful illusions, Marjory’s detective side is drawn to Ash Legion’s subterfuge, and “Can you puh-lease keep comms clear?!” Gorrik goes to a ranch to study.
We return to Cre, who instructs us to check in with the Legion imperators as well as Almorra Soulkeeper, who’s here to inform some remote Vigil squads about Kralkatorrik’s defeat. Almorra is fine, save for people treating her differently and hoping to make a spectacle over her since she helped destroy Kralkatorrik, whereas before they dismissed her as a gladium who had lost her warband.
The Flame Legion has no Imperator yet, but Efram Greetsglory helped broker the truce with Bangar, making him the frontrunner. He is understanding about Aurene, but Flame is having trouble fitting in with the other legions, especially since Bangar’s terms included Flame’s cubs be taught in the Blood fahrar. The females in particular are struggling, since they were never allowed to fight in the Flame Legion, but they must learn warfare and weaponry now. After consoling anxious cubs, we head over to Ash Legion’s camp.
The silver-tongued Ash Imperator, Malice Swordshadow greets us with a meager display. She believes Aurene is a problem, but not because she thinks the new Elder Dragon necessarily has malintent. Rather, since the Ebonhawke Treaty and Kralkatorrik’s demise, the charr don’t know where to point their weapons. This leaves Aurene at the center of their discord and a potential new target in some charr’s eyes. She tells us Renegades and Separatists are also becoming bolder and asks us to keep an ear out for anything suspicious.
At the Iron Legion camp, Imperator Smodur confirms Malice’s assertion about the Renegades and Separatists, telling us the Renegades sabotaged an Iron siege engine on the way to the celebration. After fixing the engine, Smodur expresses his frustration with Bangar’s close-minded reluctance to sign the Ebonhawke Treaty or truly unite the charr and the other races.
We’ve also had the opportunity to catch up with Braham a few times at the Ooze Pit and Metal Legion concert. Ryland’s plied him with alcohol, but hasn’t seemed as keen on partaking himself and is more sober. He also incites an unknown charr to fight with Braham, leading to Braham being locked up in the brig. We go to spring him with Cre’s approval.
All’s well until Braham realizes his bow is missing from his confiscated belongings. This is the same bow that belonged to his late mother, Eir Stegalkin, and the bow that was infused with fire magic from a jotun scroll, powerful enough to chip Jormag’s tooth in Hoelbrak. We barely have time to dwell on this though when Rytlock phones in to say he had to stop charr from roughing up one of the Vigil. We join Rytlock outside Bangar’s office to see if Bangar can’t calm things down a bit.
Unfortunately, Bangar is more keen to harp on about old wars with the humans and his grudges against them. When Rytlock pushes back, Bangar agitates him about his soft-heartedness, enough to make Rytlock attack. We’re dismissed, only to have to beat up a few charr soldiers intent on starting something with Rytlock. We then receive a comm from Kasmeer who’s with Efram at the Flame Legion camp.
The pair reveal that extremists, likely Renegades, have been hanging around the fahrar, telling old stories and asking if the cubs are ready. Unfortunately, since neither Bangar nor Crecia is willing to take action without definite proof, we need to find some. Kasmeer creates an illusion that makes us look like Ryland so we can snoop around the Blood Keep.
At the fahrar, we find out we’re searching for a charr with rusty-spotted white fur who’s missing an eye. A door guard at the Great Hall reveals that charr was talking about finding the asura who’s been helping with bug problems over at the farm. We call Gorrik, but it seems we can’t fix one calamity before another arises. Gorrik tells us he’s already been kidnapped by some “overgrown throw rugs” and taken to what Rytlock recognizes as the war room. We head to the war room in our centurion disguise to rescue Gorrik.
The Cold and the Crazy
As if things weren’t tense enough already, the thugs who kidnapped Gorrik ask “Ryland” why he’s not leading the expedition with Imperator Ruinbringer. Confused, we ask who told them that, only to receive the response that we, err, Ryland did. We’re also told we should hurry to the rendezvous point as Bangar’s already set off. We put that aside momentarily to get Gorrik out of there, who tells us they were looking for information about Aurene, including her weaknesses and if she could defeat another Elder Dragon.
As we’re left to dwell on—just kidding! Marjory calls with information from Malice’s spies. They witnessed Bangar slipping away into a Shiverpeaks pass with several dozen heavily armed charr warbands and Ryland in tow. Understandably, Rytlock is a little upset to hear his son and Imperator are consorting with Renegades, and we go to meet with him and Cre at the gateway to the pass.
We try to quickly follow Bangar up what turns out to be a Vigil supply route, but a snowstorm is blowing in, slowing our progress. Crecia is a little shook up about being out of the know, and Rytlock asks her how it feels being spontaneously expelled from Bangar’s circle of trust, implying the same thing happened to him.
We finally arrive at the rendezvous, unbeknownst to the charr there, with hail and heavy winds flying. They’ve also used Iron Legion explosives to destroy the bridge, ensuring no one can follow. Bangar addresses the gathered charr with Braham’s bow in hand and Ryland standing next to him. Bangar’s mission? To find Jormag, the Ice Dragon, and subject it to their will, using it as a sort of insurance for the moment we inevitably set Aurene against them. Come now Bangar, we’d have to let her off the leash and take away the bowl of magic we were feeding her for supper to do that!
The charr casually galavant off to go… wrangle themselves an Elder Dragon, I guess, leaving us stuck on the other side of the chasm. As Rytlock roars for us to follow, a giant ice creature rises from the snow. We defeat it, but must run from the chill back down the pass to a campfire created by Crecia. There we’re joined by Marjory, Braham, and the other three imperators. The sentiment is the same all around: naturally tensions with the humans would be renewed now that Kralkatorrik is dead, but to rush off trying to domesticate an Elder Dragon, now that’s another level of crazy.
To further complicate things, Crecia tells us that was no normal ice elemental we fought—it was constructed by a powerful shaman. Anyone else thinking of those creepy male norn who have been popping up around the Shiverpeaks, mumbling about embracing Jormag, right about now? Consider also that Almorra could have already headed up this very pass to reach some of her Vigil troops. If that’s the case, she could have a veritable army of extremist charr on her tail, many of them Renegades, just like her own son, Ajax Anvilburn, was.
Bound by Blood leaves us with the question of just how far the Ice Dragon’s manipulations reach, along with one crazy imperator and a wayward son. Their trail might’ve gone cold, but this saga is heating up with old grudges, new characters, and an ominous storyline going forward.