Story Journal/Path of Fire
Captain Kiel requested a meeting in Lion's Arch. She mentioned "common interests," which to me says the reports I've been hearing about refugees coming in from the Crystal Desert are true. It seems the Captain's Council and the Lionguard are working overtime to deal with the influx.
The incoming refugees describe an army marauding in the area, and that, coupled with the vision I received from the Eye of Janthir, tells me Balthazar is the cause. Not long ago, my guild and I stopped his plans to kill two Elder Dragons, but it's clear he's not done trying. He's after Kralkatorrik now, so I'm headed to Lion's Arch to discuss the situation with Kiel.
After speaking with Captain Kiel, Balthazar is definitely in the Elonian Desert, waging war against Kralkatorrik and the Branded. My choice is clear: I've got to ensure he doesn't succeed in his campaign, or all of Tyria will suffer the consequences.
Upon our arrival in the desert, we were greeted by the Herald of Balthazar—a vicious killer who slaughtered countless villagers to conscript their spirits into Balthazar's Forged army. We drove her off, but not without casualties.
After our work was done, the grateful villagers gave us raptor mounts to aid us in our travels across the vast desert expanses. I rode mine to the gates of the port city Amnoon, where two of my guildmates were ready and waiting: Kasmeer Meade and Rytlock Brimstone. Kasmeer has come to learn the truth about Balthazar's campaign and to confront the crisis of faith his actions have caused her. Rytlock, as usual, was less forthcoming about his reasons for being here, but I trust that when he says he's here to follow my lead in taking down Balthazar, he means it.
For now, that's enough. But soon, Rytlock is going to have to come clean about the secrets he's been keeping.
I canvassed Amnoon and gained valuable information from various sources: refugees displaced by Balthazar's Forged army, the head of a local smuggling syndicate Zalambur, and Amnoon's Chief Councilor Imann.
Finally, I found Canach in Zalambur's casino. The sylvari mercenary says he placed a large bet on my surviving this endeavor, and he's agreed to rejoin our team temporarily in order to protect his investment.
Zalambur called me back to his casino office to let me know Balthazar and his Forged army are currently focused on Vlast, not Kralkatorrik. He wasn't sure why, but he did steer me toward the Forged encampments near the Temple of Kormir to the northeast.
The answers we need are out there in the desert, so I ordered my team to split up and search. Kasmeer headed to Kormir's temple to gather information, while Rytlock and Canach went to reconnoitre the main Forged camp. That leaves the two smaller Forged encampments to me.
I investigated both of the Forged satellite camps near Amnoon. While I didn't learn much about Balthazar's plans, I did destroy several batteries of Forged artillery and thinned out the Forged ranks. At least now Amnoon will get a break from Forged attacks, and at least I deprived the main Forged camp of any reinforcements...which they're going to need, because I'm headed there next to rendezvous with Canach and Rytlock.
Canach, Rytlock, and I invaded the main Forged camp near Amnoon. Balthazar was not there, so we did as much damage as we could, taking out multiple Forged officers and a massive, heavily armored living weapon. Even if we can't find Balthazar himself, we'll keep tearing apart his armies and disrupting his chain of command until he comes to us.
My team and I regrouped with Kasmeer at Kormir's Temple, where a mysterious figure identified himself as Kito, an agent of the Order of Shadows. Our conversation was cut short when Balthazar's herald ambushed the temple and began targeting worshipers and clergy.
We eventually drove her away, but the damage had been done: the temple was engulfed in flames, and there were many wounded. We revived as many as we could.
Kito said we shared a common goal in defeating Balthazar. He offered to help us track our target, and we agreed to meet at Makali Outpost.
We went to Makali Outpost, where Balthazar's Forged army was engaged in a pitched battle against the Crystal Dragon scion, Vlast. Agent Kito was evacuating villagers from the war zone, but he paused long enough to tell us Balthazar himself was nearby, closing in on Vlast. Canach and I tracked Vlast to a plateau, but before we could make contact, Balthazar's herald intercepted us. Though she fought viciously, we made her pay the ultimate price for the innocents she slaughtered in Balthazar's name. In the end, she actually seemed to welcome the end of her tenure as Balthazar's murderous slave.
But we badly underestimated Balthazar himself. He leveled us with a devastating show of newfound power...though he spared Rytlock, even calling our guildmate "friend." As I lie dazed in the sand, Balthazar moved in for the kill, but Vlast took the deathblow intended for me. I can only wonder why—was he tired of fighting, eager to die? Was he so heroic that he gave his own life for a total stranger's? Or did he somehow sense Aurene's bond with me, and he sacrificed himself to save his sister's chosen champion?
Whatever the reason, Vlast died in my stead, and his explosive death throes sent Balthazar hurtling away in a flash of light and heat. When I regained my senses, Balthazar was gone and the desert littered with crystal shards of Vlast's body, some of which contained messages from Vlast to Aurene. I confronted Rytlock about Balthazar calling him "friend," and eventually Rytlock revealed the truth: while searching for his sword Sohothin in the Mists, he found and freed a chained figure. That prisoner turned out to be Balthazar, and by releasing him, Rytlock made Balthazar's devastating campaign against the Elder Dragons possible. Rytlock swore he'd set things right, but first we have to learn more about who we're up against. To obtain the answers we need, I set out to collect more of Vlast's crystal messages.
I gathered more fragments of Vlast's shattered body, which contained thoughts and memories he intended for Aurene. Together, these memories described an immensely powerful weapon stored in Glint's Lair that Balthazar wanted as much as he wanted Vlast himself. We have to find that weapon and keep it out of Balthazar's hands, so I'm headed for Glint's Lair to regroup with my guild.
I met my team at the Branded crater outside Glint's Lair, but the area was crawling with Forged. After clearing them out, we discovered unmistakable signs that Balthazar has built himself a war machine that harnesses magic from dragon crystals. We also found remnants of Glint's power—scattered crystalline essences and memories that enabled us to open up a portal to Glint's Lair.
Inside Glint's Lair, we found one of Glint's memories contained in a crystal shard. It hinted at the true purpose of Glint's legacy but made no mention of the weapon Vlast described. Fortunately, we were able to find the weapon ourselves: a dragonblood spear with the power to kill Kralkatorrik. This was the weapon Glint created and gave to Destiny's Edge years ago, before their first fight against the Crystal Elder Dragon, which ended in the tragic deaths of both Snaff and Glint herself.
After some intense discussion, I made the decision to destroy the spear. Though I might end up regretting it, I couldn't risk Balthazar getting his hands on anything that could jeopardize our mission—or Tyria's fate.
Still no clues as to Balthazar's motivations, Kasmeer strongly suggested we take the matter directly to the gods, reasoning that they and only they have both the power and the knowledge we need to make a stand. As a first step, we all agreed to travel to the Tomb of Primeval Kings and use the portal there to enter the Mists. Our hope is to make contact with the gods and learn the truth about Balthazar's return, and the reasons for his campaign against the Elder Dragons, before securing help from the gods themselves.
We entered the Tomb of Primeval Kings, but we encountered stiff resistance from its ghostly defenders. Angered by recent trespassers, the spirits of Elona's past monarchs treated us as common thieves, and we had to battle our way through the tombs before we were able to convince the long-dead rulers to allow us passage to the Mists. Now that we've secured a route to the gods, it's time to find them and get some long-awaited answers.
We entered the portal at the Tomb of Primeval Kings, only to be separated and transported to a strange, desolate landscape. After searching the area, I was able to reunite with the others and discovered a mysterious puzzle that had been hidden by a sandstorm.
Kasmeer believed the puzzle to be a challenge set by the gods, and she was proven right. After completing the puzzle, a portal opened up before us, leading to...perhaps, the gods?
We entered the portal and found ourselves in a library unlike any other I've ever seen. We came hoping to find the gods, but Kormir, the Goddess of Truth, was the only deity we found. She granted us an audience in her sanctum and answered some of our questions, but in this case the truth was hard to hear.
Kormir told us the gods had left Tyria completely to avoid a cataclysmic battle with the Elder Dragons that would have destroyed the world they were trying to preserve. As Kormir described it, Balthazar refused to accept this decision and went so far as to threaten the other gods if they went through with their plan.
In response, the rest of the Six stripped Balthazar of his power and chained him in the Mists, where he remained until Rytlock unwittingly released him. Once freed, Balthazar set out to recover his lost power, defeat the Elder Dragons, and claim their magic for himself in order to take vengeance on the other gods for imprisoning him.
Kormir concluded by saying the other gods were long gone, and she was about to follow them, so they could not and would not help us against Balthazar. Learning the gods had abandoned Tyria was painful, especially for Kasmeer. But she ultimately accepted that, as Kormir pointed out, the time for prayers is past. This world belongs to us mortals now, and it's our responsibility to defend it.
Before she left to reunite with her fellow gods, Kormir provided us with a single bit of guidance in our fight against Balthazar: to seek answers in the desert. It's not much to go on, but I've instructed the team to split up and search: Kasmeer will go north, Canach and Rytlock will ask Canach's contacts in the Order of Shadows, and I'll head south to scour the Riverlands. Balthazar is our problem to solve, and while knowing the solution is out there isn't as good as knowing the solution itself, it's a start.
After a lot of legwork, I found a promising lead on the answers Kormir told us were out there: Kesho, a city built by the Forgotten, who themselves had connections to both Glint and the gods. As such, Kesho may well contain the knowledge we need to make a stand against Balthazar.
It was swallowed by the desert sands long ago, so Kesho is considered a lost city by the locals, little more than a legend; but I was able to nail down its location in the middle of the deadly sulfurous wastelands. I'll need a skimmer mount to reach Kesho safely, but at least now I have a concrete destination to explore.
I entered the lost city of Kesho, and with Taimi's remote input, I learned all I could. We encountered a traumatized Exalted named Sadizi, as well as a host of dangerous Forged-Exalted hybrids. Sadizi told us these hybrids were created by Balthazar and Palawa Joko, the desert region's missing tyrant king. Together, the two villains stole the Forgotten ritual that makes Exalted and used it as a means of forcing spirits into armored bodies to create Balthazar's Forged.
We also learned more about the true purpose of Glint's legacy: to preserve Tyria's magical balance by replacing Elder Dragons with equally powerful but less predatory entities. And we discovered why Balthazar was hunting Vlast: Kralkatorrik's blood, both literal and metaphorical, is its unique weakness, meaning Vlast, Glint, and the dragonblood spear were all viable weapons against Kralkatorrik...and so is Aurene. It's only a matter of time before Balthazar returns to Tarir to capture her, so I sent word to my guildmates and told them to meet up with me so we can return to Maguuma and protect the Crystal Dragon's last scion.
Balthazar killed me. He struck me while I was en route to rejoining my team, overpowered me, and kept me on the brink of death until Aurene responded. When she felt the danger I was in through our shared bond, she came to protect me...and was promptly captured by the rogue god. Having achieved his goals, Balthazar had no more use for me, and he ended my life.
I woke up in the Domain of the Lost, a kind of way station for lost souls who have not yet found their way to the Underworld or their final reward. With no memory of who I was, I fought to reclaim my name and purpose, ultimately earning the chance to return to the world of the living. Along the way, I encountered Palawa Joko himself, who had been betrayed and imprisoned in the Domain of the Lost by Balthazar as soon as Joko had served his purpose. King Joko tried to bargain and threaten for his freedom, but I left him where he was—though I did take him up on his suggestion of using his Awakened army against Balthazar. Once I had returned to life and rejoined my understandably shocked team, we set out to secure the support of Joko's mummified hordes.
Because Balthazar now has Aurene. He intends to use her to kill Kralkatorrik. And I returned from the abyss to prevent that.
Our ruse worked. Archon Iberu came to investigate the supposed "Sunspear uprising" I manufactured. He was not happy to see us, or about being fooled, and he angrily attacked. We defeated him, and then Kas cloaked us in an illusion to make us appear as Iberu and his Awakened entourage. We infiltrated the Bone Palace and I met with Grand Vizier Utumishi (a wormy little sycophant trying to keep Joko's kingdom running while the tyrant is away) and Wurmmarshal Ekolo, one of Joko's battle-hardened leaders.
Ekolo was eager to join the fight against Balthazar, and as Iberu, I blustered and threatened Utumishi until he gave up the locations of two more Awakened field marshals. Then I rejoined my team and instructed them to split up so we could learn more about our targets before recruiting them.
I found Troopmarshal Ogun at his encampment. He was ready to follow me into battle willingly, but his newly Awakened troops weren't combat ready, and so he could not leave his post for fear that the Forged base nearby would overrun and disrupt the supply lines he'd been ordered to defend.
I agreed to do his job for him and assaulted the base with a small squad of his Awakened troops. We found and destroyed the portal that Balthazar was using to send in Forged reinforcements. After my mission was complete, Ogun agreed to lead his soldiers against Balthazar under my command. He'll stage his army outside Kodash and wait for my signal.
I headed to the Necropolis to meet my next Awakened recruit: Beastmarshal Oluwa Eranko, a stubborn but proud commander of Joko's best cavalry unit. She wasn't willing to lend me her soldiers unless I proved my riding prowess, so I mounted up and played her little game of tag to show her what I'm capable of, and to demonstrate that following my lead wouldn't ruin her unit's impeccable reputation. I've got my army now. Time to take down a god.
I rallied my guildmates and my borrowed Awakened troops outside the Kodash Bazaar. Kasmeer had fully overcome her hesitation about fighting Balthazar, his actions having negated any lingering reverence she may have held for him—and not a moment too soon. Balthazar appeared atop a massive mechanical monstrosity he called the Warbeast: a terrifying hybrid of living creature and armored siege engine. This is what Balthazar and the Forged were building in Glint's Lair: a piece of ordnance that could contain and transport Aurene, then use her as a weapon to kill Kralkatorrik. With Aurene helpless inside his Warbeast, Balthazar marched his creation forward to confront Kralkatorrik.
Fortunately, Rytlock put our shared mission first and loaned me his sword Sohothin, predicting that it would give me a decisive edge that Balthazar would not be expecting.
Rytlock was right, but even with Sohothin, it took all my riding and combat skills to catch and disable the Warbeast. As it was, I didn't get to it in time before it directly engaged Kralkatorrik, and it actually did serious damage to the Elder Dragon before I was able to destroy it.
But Balthazar refused to give up. If he was thrown off by my coming back to life, or Sohothin, or my victory over his Warbeast, he remained true to form and didn't let that distract him from his objective. He took Aurene and declared he would use her to finish what the Warbeast started: killing the Elder Dragon Kralkatorrik.
With an enraged, wounded Kralkatorrik overhead and Aurene backing me up, I squared off for the final showdown against Balthazar. It was brutal, but with Sohothin in hand and Aurene on my side, I prevailed. The god of fire and war is dead. However, even in death, Balthazar managed to disrupt the world's balance. As he fell, all the magic he had acquired erupted out of his broken body and was promptly absorbed by both Kralkatorrik and Aurene. Once this magical storm subsided, both the Crystal Elder Dragon and its scion were gone.
So this victory planted the seeds of our next dire challenge: How will we deal with two unpredictable and dangerously powerful dragons, now that they've gorged themselves on Balthazar's magic? I don't have the answers yet, but my team and I are going to regroup in Amnoon to figure out our next move.
Upon arrival in Amnoon, I was happily surprised by the arrival of Marjory and Taimi. There was little time to catch up, however, as the Amnoon Council invited me to help the city celebrate the defeat of Balthazar and the restoration of peace in the desert region.
It was an uncomfortable situation, as Balthazar's death empowered both Kralkatorrik and Aurene, and no one can say what either of the newly invigorated dragons will do next. Amnoon and the entire desert region are still very much at risk, so when Councilor Imann asked me to give a speech commemorating the occasion, I had to make some hard choices about what I would and would not say.
After my speech, I spoke with Rytlock, Canach, and Kasmeer about our plans. All we know for sure is that we have to find Aurene, and Kralkatorrik, and use what we've learned about Elder Dragons and Glint's Legacy to restore the world's magic before what is now a crisis becomes a full-blown catastrophe.
Though it may already be too late: as we talked, the skies darkened and the ground shook, and Kralkatorrik itself appeared on the horizon, Branding all in its path as it moved across the desert.