The Ecology of the Charr
The Ecology of the Charr is a tale by Ree Soesbee.
The Charr were once a primitive people, filled with rage and a primal drive to dominate and control. They fought everything that threatened them—even one another—only surviving this brutal period by evolving into a strict hierarchical society. Disparate, fierce, and independent warbands unified under a single leader, the Khan-Ur, for the good of the race, and a golden age of Charr dominance began.
No longer clamoring over the same territories, the unified Charr spread throughout the northern reaches of their homeland, and down into the lands east of the Shiverpeak Mountains. The Charr subjugated or destroyed any and all who dared defy them within their territories; they were masters of all they surveyed.
With dominance, however, came the inevitable problems. Internal strife, reckless power-mongering, and brutal feuds threatened to tear apart this otherwise secure empire. Only the strong personality of the Khan-Ur kept this ferocious and, yes, still-primitive race unified.
Other than internal conflicts, the only real threat to the Charr at this time was the Forgotten, who dwelled within the Crystal Desert far to the south. But, through judicious use of the mountains dividing their lands from those of the Forgotten, the Charr continued to maintain undisputed control over the northern lands. And, as the Forgotten pulled back, called to duty by some other power, they ceased to threaten the Charr.
Then, the humans came, an infestation caused by beings called gods that had been enemies to the Charr since the beginnings of history. The humans worshiped and revered these gods, and in return were given magic the likes of which the Charr had never before. This upstart race spread like a plague across the continent, and the Charr soon faced the true challenge to their dominance—the threat of humanity.
Driven back in the first war against the humans, the Charr were forced to surrender the lands that would become Ascalon. Undaunted, and now truly unified against a common foe, the Charr prepared to launch a bitter counterstrike, intending to burn everything in their retreat. However, as they planned the assault, tragedy struck the empire—the Khan-Ur was assassinated.
To this day, no one knows who murdered the last Khan-Ur, nor if some legion had been behind the assassination or if was the humans or their powerful gods. With his death, however, the legions once more fell into conflict and chaos. Records of this portion of Charr history are scattered, much like the legions themselves. In the wake over the power void, the children of the Khan-Ur squabbled among themselves and ultimately divided the empire in their futile attempts to claim the title of Khan-Ur and regain control of all the Charr legions.
The humans took full advantage of this time of disunity, building the Great Northern Wall to defend their newly won lands against the bands of the Charr. It would be generations before the Charr would see these lands again. As time passed, the Charr were pushed farther and farther north, and the humans even began to build settlements beyond the wall, deep into Charr territory. The humans solidified their claim and named their lands Ascalon, and the fragmented Charr could do nothing to stop them. The wall provided a choke-point the Charr could not get past, so they had to content themselves with raids against Surmia and other northern Ascalon encampments.
No Charr knows how many cubs the last Khan-Ur sired, but all four of the High Legions claim descendants from his line. Other heirs are suspected, and occasionally a smaller bloodline surfaces with claim—but none have made a successful bid. The four heirs of the Khan-Ur began the four High Legions and named them after their warbands—the Iron Legion, Flame Legion, Blood Legion and Ash Legion. The leaders of these legions maintained their familial name, keeping surnames such as Flamebringer, Ashclaw, and Ironstrike to delineate their warband's primacy within the legion.
There has been no true Khan-Ur for over a thousand years. Although the position has been claimed several times, no Charr has been able to hold the crown for more than a handful of years, certainly not enough time to solidify the title or create a new lineage. Each one has been overthrown shortly after making the daring claim; the Charr accept no ruler who is not strong enough to defend his throne.
But it would take more than a ruler to bring the Charr back to power.
Before the time of the humans, it is said the Charr had no gods, no concept of divine beings with more power than themselves. They knew of Melandru, and even had legends that described how she created the world. But to the Charr, these beings were not to be worshiped or feared—they were to be fought, and if possible, destroyed. Yet when the Charr saw the humans worshiping gods—and receiving power from them—they blamed this power for the humans' victory. Only with such powers on their side could the humans have ever defeated the Charr.
So, in order to fight the human threat, the Charr sought a god of their own. Two hundred years before the Searing, the Burnt warband, a group dedicated to the Flame Legion, ventured to the lands surrounding the Hrangmer volcano (translated to human, the name means "Jaws of Oblivion"). Upon its return, the warband claimed to have found gods for the Charr at long last.
Eager for a new purpose and filled with pride, members of the Flame Legion swore allegiance to these new gods, converting or destroying anyone who stood in their path. One by one, the legions of the Charr fell beneath the control of these "gods" and their Shamans, and the Charr at last learned new magic; a new means of destroying their human enemies south of the Wall.
In the end, the Shamans of the rival legions met in secret, unified their differences, and swore to force each legion to follow these new gods. As one, they returned to their individual city-states and convinced their people to worship the Titans—all save for one Charr named Bathea Havocbringer. This heroine, whose strength and Warrior ability had made her a leader among the Blood Legion, fought against this sacrilege and was killed for it by the Shamans, her execution a sacrifice to the new gods.
Because of Bathea's disobedience to the new order, all females of her legion—and, in short order, all females among the Charr—were removed from warbands and armies, reduced to performing utility tasks at home in the cities of the legionnaires. Although they chafed at this restriction and resented being denied their right to battle against the humans, the Shamans, acting on "hold orders," were by this time entirely in control of the legions.
When the Charr next struck against Ascalon, it was with all the fury of destiny denied. With a magic item known as the Cauldron of Cataclysm, the Shamans called forth the magic of the Titans and performed the Ritual of the Searing. It is said the Cauldron's magic was older than the Charr, older even than recorded history, and forged by ancient entities fallen into sleep and quiescence.
The Shamans trusted in the power of the Titans and their hold over the Charr legions—and truly, the devastation they caused to the human kingdoms gave the Charr the advantage they have been waiting to seize for a thousand years. With the Cauldron, the Shamans summoned titanic crystal meteors to rain down upon their enemies, ravaging farmland and shattering the Wall.
One of the leaders of the Flame Legion at the time, Bonfaaz Burntfur, spurred the charge against the Wall, leading the Shamans in a further show of unity. While the humans scrambled and fled under this assault, the Charr flooded into Ascalon, seizing towns and villages and enslaving any humans unlucky enough to fall into their hands.
The siege of Ascalon lasted for more than two years until human heroes struck at the core of the Charr unification by defeating the Titans, by proving them to be less than gods. At this point, the Charr advance wavered, changing from a holy war into an occupation. The Shamans struggled to keep the legions together in the wake of this revelation, promising them victory even without the magic of the Titans.
Adding to their troubles, human resistance continued, as powerful heroes among the Ascalonians fought back against the Charr occupation of Ascalon. Battling their own deterioration as well as the human army, the Charr constricted their control until the humans had but one single stronghold—Ascalon City.
For more than thirty years, the Charr and the Ascalonians fought, back and forth, on the grounds surrounding the city. Led by their aging king, Adelbern, the humans fought valiantly, but at last the walls of Ascalon City fell and the Charr invaded the city proper. Yet, even in their moment of ultimate victory, the Charr were thwarted by human magic.
Although the Charr are still uncertain what magic Adelbern called upon in his moment of defeat, those within the city recall seeing a gout of sword-shaped flame descend from the highest tower as a white, burning heat swept the city streets. It devastated the invaders. Once this heat wave was gone, the spirits of the defeated Ascalonian soldiers rose, their spectral forms bearing ghostly weapons—and the Charr were forced to abandon the city.
Ascalon City has never been retaken, and the ghosts of Adelbern's forces roam the land still, fighting their ancient enemy at every turn. The king sits upon his throne within the shattered city, his ghostly form issuing orders and commands to an army of spectral dead. The Charr solidified their control over Ascalon, from their original lands in the north all the way back to the merging of the two mountain ranges at the edge of the Crystal Desert in the south, but Ascalon City forever eluded their grasp.
During that time of occupation, however, the Charr learned a valuable lesson: they could conquer and hold territory, even without gods. Indeed, the trickery of the Shaman caste and their servitude to the Titans taught the Charr to revile and destroy those who would sell themselves to any master, god or no.
Pyre Fierceshot, a hero of the Charr people, became an icon of this freedom several years after the fall of the Titans. But his defiance of the Shaman caste was only the first blow of many that eventually shattered the Shamans' control over the legions. Pyre's rejection of the Shaman caste's dominance started an underground movement among the legions. The Shamans held on, however, desperately seeking a new god to restore their positions, stabilize their power and allow them to re-seize the dominance they had lost.
The true rebellion began some 40 years later when Pyre's grandcub, Kalla Scorchrazor, overthrew the Flame Legion's domination, restoring the legions to their rightful place as the driving force of Charr society and re-establishing their ancient systems. Her allies joined on the Plains of Golghein in a final battle to finally overthrow the Shaman caste.
That day, the female Warrior struck a blow for her people as well as her gender. Kalla filled the battlefield with women who had trained in secret for generations, defying the Shamans' orders to stay at home. This effectively doubled the number of Charr allied against the Shaman armies and made the difference in the war. The Shamans had no choice—outnumbered and outflanked, they surrendered rather than be eradicated. They were allowed to live because their magic was useful, but never again would they be allowed to dominate the Charr.
Today, a little more than 250 years after their initial attack on the Wall, the Charr still face the threat of Ascalonian ghosts as well as natural dangers. However, they have all-but tamed most of the lands east of the Shiverpeaks, raising fortresses of their own where human fortifications once stood. One of the strongest of these, the Iron Citadel—raised on the ruins of the city of Rin—stands protectively, overlooking the haunted lands. From there, the Charr may one day retake Ascalon City, finishing the conquest begun so long ago.
The four primary legions of the Charr are the Ash Legion, Flame Legion, Blood Legion and Iron Legion. Each is extremely proud, warlike and individualistic. Each proclaims its right to the throne, tracing its members' lineage back to one of the children of the original Khan-Ur. There are smaller legions, both independent and absorbed within the larger legion banner, but few of them can prove their ancestry from a known cub of the Khan-Ur. Still, some bands occasionally try to justify their separate identity either through blood of[sic] military strength, claiming independence and raising a new banner.
After the fall of the Titans and Kalla Scorchrazor's rebellion, the Flame Legion was overthrown and cast down. With their mystic power shattered and their Shamans reviled, they barely had enough strength left to fight off the other legions and stay alive. The broken legion retreated northeast to their primary citadel at Hrangmer.
Out of mockery, the other legions began to call them the Gold Legion, likening their softness to that ornamental metal. Gold, was also used in Shaman rituals to the Titans, so it hearkened back to their failure and humiliating worship of false gods.
The name spread, and within a hundred years only a few Charr outside the Gold Legion bothered to remember the original name. Those of the Gold Legion, hated and reviled, stood opposed to the other three, struggling to stay alive and find a way to regain their former place—within inches of the crown of Khan-Ur.
The legions are fiercely independent, each sporting many warbands and their own city-state as a central fortification. They each prefer to follow separate paths, but no legion is so foolish as to ignore the single goal of the Charr—conquer and dominate all by force. The Gold Legion does that best through magic, the Iron through mechanical creations and siege towers, while the Blood Legion possesses the single best face-to-face warriors among Charr, and the Ash Legion is known for its stalkers and assassins.
While disparate in method, all legions claim allegiance to the empty throne of the Khan-Ur, and none would ever allow one of the other legions to fill the place of their lost leader without a fight. They learned a valuable lesson about blind obedience from the domination of the Shamans of the Gold Legion.
More than ever, the leaders of the four legions all scream their claims loudly, but none has been able to hold the position—to unify the Charr under one banner. Perhaps one day the legions will have an enemy so great they will once again put aside their differences—or perhaps one day a single legion will conquer the entire nation and unify the Charr.
But that day is not today.
Charr are carnivores; they do not feed on any sort of plants. They have no farms, and no need for agriculture or vegetation outside of what is needed for structures or technical uses. They herd roaming bands of beasts to feed the legions, assigning the task to young Charr or the wounded who can no longer fight.
Charr children are called cubs, though female cubs are occasionally called "kits" out of affection. Infants are born fully furred, with open eyes and functional limbs. Within a few days, cubs can follow their mothers over even the harshest terrain. They eat meat within a month of birth, and are fully independent several months later.
Charr cubs are raised by their parents only during this short period of time. Thereafter, they are taken to Fahrar camps (the closest human approximation is school or education), there they are raised in large packs by the Charr of their legion. Cubs in a Fahrar are taught to unify, encouraged to define their own social structure, and are thus forced into a warband. They are given a name to claim, which the cubs within a single warband derive their surnames, such as Fierceshot or Doomclaw.
This warband serves as the primary social group—and the only family—that a young Charr will ever know. Although cubs are aware of their lineage and their parents, adults have neither an interest nor a hand in the education, rearing, or growth of a young cub once delivered to the legion's Fahrar. The legion (and the cub's new warband as a part of that legion) comes before any blood ties.
The primus warband of any legion carries the name of that legion—Ash, Blood, Iron and in the case of the Gold Legion, Flame. This singular legion[sic] is hereditary, but the leader must claim the name through blood challenge—a fight between descendants of the Khan-Ur for supremacy within the legion.
Occasionally, non-descendants of the Khan-Ur join the primus warband, taking the name of their leader as their own, as is Charr tradition. But the leader of the primus is always a descendant of the Khan-Ur, the foremost heir of the legion and their rightful inheritor of the crown of leadership among the Charr.
It is also possible for Charr to leave the warband of their youth, either due to a promotion or to perform a specific duty, or even because the Charr cannot fulfill assigned duties. A Charr moved from her original warband still holds loyalties to that first "family" (and therefore, such movements are unusual), however, that Charr must change her name and quickly learn to fit in with new companions or she will be nothing more than meat on the battlefield.
In extremely unusual circumstances, Charr have even been known to join guilds with humans or other races in lieu of warbands. These Charr may be outcasts or they may simply have been forced through necessity to take unusual allies. But despite their odd allegiances, no Charr ever forgets her loyalty to the legion.
- Some of the lore has become outdated since the publication of this text. For example, none of the present-day imperators of the four High Legions seen in Guild Wars 2 follow the naming pattern suggested in the text, while only a few characters ever refer to the Flame Legion as Gold Legion.