In “The Commander’s Next Move“, we examined a list of possible directions the story could go, on the assumption that with the death of Kralkatorrik and the ascension of Aurene, Dragon’s Watch and its allies had the opportunity to choose the next direction that they take. However, this assumption might prove to be an overly optimistic one – historically, the Commander has tended to be pulled from crisis to crisis, somehow managing to achieve victory despite mostly reacting to their enemies rather than exercising their own agenda. Furthermore, from a narrative perspective, many of those goals are likely to be long-term objectives and possibly more suitable for expansion material than for a Living Story season.
In the past few weeks, however, some hints have appeared as to what could precipitate the next crisis. Here, we will look at what some of those could be. Initially, we’ll address where the majority of the hints seen since Aurene’s ascension seem to be pointing – after that, we’ll look at some possibilities that are a little more… fiery.
Jormag and the Norn
For the Sons of Svanir, the hosting of Dragon Bash – a celebration of defeating three Elder Dragons and extolling the virtue of fighting dragon minions to the participants – was probably an affront to begin with, especially since the event included streams of racing beetles zooming through their home in the Veins of the Dragon. Observant players and readers of the wiki, however, may be aware of a final twisting of the proverbial knife:
During Dragon Bash, a female norn has the following conversation with one of the Sons of Svanir:
Reveler (female norn): He speaks to us.
Son of Svanir: To you? Preposterous!
Reveler (female norn): Laugh if you want, but know this: I hear everything he says.
Reveler (female norn): You’d do well to listen.
Reveler (female norn): You have no good reason to keep us out.
Reveler (female norn): Open your eyes! Before they’re opened for you.
Reveler (female norn): Dragon will rise, and on that day you will see what I’m capable of.
Reveler (female norn): And then you’ll answer to me.
Short of the female norn simply being delusional, there are two possible interpretations of this:
The more obvious is that Jormag is indeed rising anew. While Jormag and Primordus were sent into hibernation to recover from the effects of Balthazar’s misuse of Taimi’s machine, they are surely hungry for magic to replace that which Balthazar sucked out of them…and while Aurene’s absorption of Kralkatorrik’s magic hopefully made Kralkatorrik’s death less disruptive than that of Zhaitan and Mordremoth, ambient magic levels are still likely high enough to remain a threat to Tyria, easily enough to fuel a rapid recovery for the two injured Elder Dragons.
Previously, Jormag has been described as uncaring of the activities of the Sons of Svanir, including the sororicide of female norn that succumb to Jormag’s corruption: for Jormag, it has been described as akin to one set of ants killing another set of ants. However, since then, those ‘ants’ have killed three Elder Dragons, raised one up, and were involved in a near-death experience for Jormag himself (although it’s possible that Jormag does not truly understand what happened in the “Flashpoint” chapter). Such an experience might cause Jormag to start paying more attention to those “ants”, including deciding to broaden his range of potential recruits. It’s worth noting that, while Jormag has been just as destructive as the other Elder Dragons, he has shown an acceptance of followers that are not formally minions – it might be that with the precedent set by Aurene, Jormag might be open to attempting a path of coexistence in turn. Alternatively, of course, he might double down on his hostility, and simply want to broaden his recruiting pool… at the risk of causing infighting among the Sons of Svanir (with some Sons maybe even abandoning Jormag in protest).
The second interpretation is to note that with this exchange having come right after the ascension of Aurene, it might not actually be Jormag that the female norn is hearing. Having absorbed Kralkatorrik’s power and domains, Aurene might actually now be a stronger (and, for most norn, more palatable) contender for the title of Spirit of Dragon than Jormag. During Dragon Bash, we bore witness to a number of disagreements on the question of whether coexistence with dragons is possible – a controversy that may well have been stirred up by the birth of a new Elder Dragon that the Pact claims to be benign. This could lead to a controversy over whether Aurene is the legitimate Spirit of Dragon or Jormag… or if Jormag is the legitimate Spirit of Dragon but should be fought nonetheless, or if there is no legitimate Spirit of Dragon at all.
Any of these interpretations could therefore be a significant source of upheaval for the Sons of Svanir or even of norn society as a whole.
Compounding this is the response of the norn themselves to the events of Season 3. While it was kept in the background as the Commander focused on Caudecus and Balthazar, the cracking of Jormag’s tooth was followed by Braham leading an expedition to attack Jormag head-on. Apparently, they were even close enough to directly witness Jormag cocooning himself for hibernation when subjected to the effect of Taimi’s machine. As a result, even if the dialogue mentioned above was never intended to foreshadow anything significant, it’s quite likely that the norn have pushed north since A Crack In The Ice, and any resulting northern outposts and homesteads would likely be vulnerable in the event of Jormag rising again. Worse, Braham’s second Destiny’s Edge might see this as an opportunity to destroy Jormag, a course of action that would be catastrophic without a suitable replacement – potentially forcing the Pact to walk a tightrope between fighting off Jormag’s minions and holding back hot-headed norn looking to make a legend for themselves bagging an Elder Dragon. Especially if it turns out that the scroll that Braham employed to enhance his mother’s bow wasn’t simply a one-use item, and that there is now a cohort of norn equipped with weapons that have been tested on Jormag’s tooth.
The possibility of a Norn- and Jormag-focused continuation of the story, at least initially, has been reinforced by the recent appearance of Suspicious Travelers in norn territory, urging any who will listen to join Jormag. Strange whispers that can be heard around these Jormag missionaries appear to carry both male and female voices – does Jormag now have a female champion, or are Jormag and Aurene competing for the loyalty of those norn wishing to follow the spirit of Dragon?
The Second Awakening of Primordus
After considering the possibility of a crisis precipitated by Jormag’s reawakening, we should also consider the possible awakening of his opposite. While one could presume that Jormag is perhaps likely to awaken earlier than Primordus (since Jormag has the Sons of Svanir to keep feeding him magic but Primordus only has its minions), most of the factors that make a reawakening of Jormag likely also apply to Primordus.
Similar to Jormag, it is possible that Primordus’ hibernation will have led to expeditions to regions formerly under the Elder Dragon’s influence. Reclamation krewes might descend into the Depths seeking to retrieve lost technology, while the prospect of recovering artifacts of the mursaat and other elder races might attract adventurers to the Ring of Fire. Like the possible norn push north into the Shiverpeaks, such expeditions might find themselves in need of evacuation or even rescue… and nobody wants a repeat of the situation in Guild Wars: Eye of the North with destroyers gaining access to a functioning asura gate.
Historically, the awakening of an Elder Dragon has been followed by a burst of expansion as the Elder Dragon seeks to establish a territory – preventing such a burst was part of the motivation for the hasty strike against Mordremoth prior to Heart of Thorns. While Jormag does not seem to have moved much from his original location that we know of, Primordus’ position in the Fire Islands makes the potential of such an awakening burst all the more threatening, since Rata Sum, Tarir, the Grove, and the slowly recovering peninsula of Orr (and with it, the sea route from the Sea of Sorrows) are close enough to the Ring of Fire to be in the danger zone.
Finally, Primordus does tie in to one of the regions of constant player fascination. We’ve been told that the Dominion of Winds is threatened by Destroyers from below since before launch, but with the Dominion closed to outsiders, all we’ve had the opportunity to see is the occasional skirmish outside their wall. A lull in such activity followed by a renewed, intensified assault might well catch the isolationist tengu by surprise, and may force them to abandon their isolationism for military assistance against an existential threat. If a journey to Cantha is ultimately in the cards, an opening up of the Dominion of Winds might be a suitable narrative launchpad for such a visit.
Similar observations, incidentally, could be made for the possibility that Kralkatorrik’s death in the Clashing Seas will cause the Deep Sea Dragon to become interested in Tyria. Like Primordus, the Deep Sea Dragon will probably primarily threaten Tyria’s southern coastal regions, but it will likely be heralded by waves of refugee undersea creatures such as quaggans, krait, and karka crashing over Tyria’s shores.
The Charr Question
While the charr received a lot of focus in the original Personal Story and early seasons, this has dropped off since the release of Heart of Thorns. The attempt by Smodur and Rytlock to reverse the Foefire, for instance, has sent ripples across Tyria through the consequences of Rytlock’s visit to the Mists, but we have not seen any indication of an attempt to repeat this ritual. Nor have we had much of an opportunity to see the charr response to the discovery of the Olmakhan, an offshoot of the Flame Legion which has abandoned not just the rules of their original Legion, but those shared by the other Legions as well. (Apart, that is, from Rox, but she was already well established as being effectively an outcast looking for a home – her response to the Olmakhan is unlikely to be a typical one).
This is, however, possibly understandable. ArenaNet has kept a pretty tight focus on the story of the fight against the Elder Dragons and on the Forgotten plan to replace them with beings that will serve as more benign regulators of magic. Racial affairs have generally only come into the spotlight when those affairs overlap with that story, or when the primary story enters into regions close to where those affairs are taking place. As an example, the White Mantle remained out of the spotlight until the Maguuma campaign had already brought the spotlight close to the jungle strongholds that they had retreated to after their hold on Kryta was broken.
With this in mind, a Jormag-related push into the far north might also be a good opportunity to simultaneously visit the Blood Legion Homelands and advance the story of the charr.
True to their nature, the charr offer multiple possible sources of conflict. The Flame Legion might well have had the opportunity to recover from the loss of Gaheron Baelfire and establish a new Imperator… and in this respect, it is worth noting that the leaders of the Molten Alliance were never identified. One of those commanders might well rise to power among the Flame Legion – while the Molten Alliance was used as puppets by Scarlet and the assault on Lion’s Arch was beaten back, the military successes that they achieved might be sufficient to demonstrate that the Flame Legion is stronger with fire-infused weapons supplied through the alliance with the moleteriat than without, especially as the rival legions seem set to form alliances with humans and other races.
Which brings us to a second possible source of conflict. Bangar Ruinbringer, Imperator of the Blood Legion, has been referred to as a ‘wild card’ among the Imperators, maintaining a hatred of humanity despite toeing the line with the treaty. A common fan theory is that at some stage, this will develop into open conflict between supporters and opponents of the treaty. One obvious possible trigger is Bangar being caught supporting the Renegades (or, worse, collaborating with the Flame Legion), but the nature of the agreement between the High Legions is such that it is essentially the Iron Legion’s choice whether to pursue war or peace with Ebonhawke (and therefore Kryta): Smodur has no jurisdiction in Ascalon. A Pact operation in the Far Shiverpeaks, however, might give him the opportunity to rekindle the war by placing humans and human allies within striking distance of his own territory.
Such a conflict would likely end in Bangar’s replacement as Imperator. There has been a trend for surviving members of Destiny’s Edge to be advanced to increasingly important positions, with Logan becoming the new Pact Marshal and Caithe becoming Aurene’s spokeswoman. Meanwhile, Rytlock’s journal after Aurene’s first direct clash with Kralkatorrik revealed a rivalry between Bangar and Rytlock from before the founding of Destiny’s Edge. While Rytlock’s status of essentially being the mascot of Guild Wars 2 might ensure that he will never retire from adventuring regardless of what happens with his comrades, it’s possible that ArenaNet is setting up for a showdown between Rytlock and Bangar.
Combining these possibilities, we could well be able to predict a broad blueprint for what might happen in Season 5. The spotlight heading north to contain Jormag would provide an opportunity for a side trek east to check in with developments in charr territories, while if the plan is for the third expansion to head to Cantha (as discussed in The Commander’s Next Move), a crisis on the southern coast triggered by Primordus or the Deep Sea Dragon might provide a narrative springboard for such an expedition.
Time (and, perhaps, Friday’s announcement) will tell what ArenaNet actually has planned for us.