The story of my human characters has by now become expansive, originating with my Guild Wars characters and crossing the centuries to Guild Wars 2. The story surrounds the noble House Hart, from its ancestry to its founding to its present day.
Legal Disclaimer: I have also expanded on details of existing lore to flesh things out a bit. For legal purposes, everything on this page should be regarded as fan-fiction, intended in no way to infringe on ArenaNet's rights to sole control of the lore of their game. As they continue to develop the true lore of Guild Wars 2, any of their changes that overwrite what you see here will obviously take precedence.
My Guild Wars story mainly focused on my three original characters: The mesmer Lysander, the elementalist Hermia, and the necromancer Dimitrius (all names obviously inspired by William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream). Early on in that story, during the night spent at Grooble's Gulch, Prince Rurik encountered the Krytan outcasts Nina and Gerin, who had fled the White Mantle takeover and were living among the dwarves. Rurik was enchanted (not literally) by the Krytan elementalist.
Much later, after returning from Elona, Lysander and his companions discovered that Nina was secretly raising a child, who was Rurik's son. The boy, Richard, was secretly the heir to the crown of Ascalon. Lysander and Hermia agreed that Richard's existence should be kept secret, as the people of Ascalon were now scattered in Ascalon and Kryta and living under increasingly unstable regimes in both places.
Richard grew up alongside Lysander and Hermia's daughter, Allison. During one encounter, he helped his mother defend her while her parents were off fighting the Destroyers. After the White Mantle was finally defeated, the children made their first public appearance at Gwen's wedding, though Richard's ancestry was still kept secret.
It was years before the Shining Blade discovered the truth. By then, Richard and Allison had married and were raising a daughter of their own. The Shining Blade immediately thought to arrange a hasty betrothal between the girl and Queen Salma's young son, but the parents resisted, believing that the children should make their own decision. This union eventually happened anyway, and the long-separated royal bloodlines of King Doric were united on the Krytan throne.
Meanwhile, Dimitrius had gone to Cantha to try to stem the rise of the Ministry of Purity. There, he met the Luxon ritualist Helena. Realizing that their battle was a losing one, he eventually convinced her to return with him to Tyria, where they settled down together in Kryta.
The Founding of House Hart
Dimitrius and Helena's descendant, Niccolai Hart, was an adventurer who sought to uncover the mysteries surrounding the seemingly-immortal necromancer Livia. Suspecting that her power had come from the Scepter of Orr, he traveled to the Tarnished Coast to try to find the entrance to the Shards of Orr that his ancestor had used over a century earlier. There, he met Bozz, an Asura stationed at Vlox's Falls who was studying the unusual tree that was forever growing on the island south of the base. The two traveled around Arbor Bay, but were unable to find the entrance to the underground caverns.
They then traveled to Rata Sum, where the Asura were undertaking a massive, remarkable construction project in the form of a vast city floating above the ruins. Niccolai was stunned by the project, and realized that there were far greater wonders in the world than the ancient scepter that Livia had stashed away somewhere. He spent a year among the Asura, learning about the secrets they had uncovered and the depths of magical power that they were forever exploring. During this time, he became a master necromancer, and helped the Peacemakers thin out the clusters of saurians that were forever threatening the project.
Eventually, he decided that it was time to return home to Lion's Arch. He arrived just in time for the coronation of King Baede, who was rising to the throne at a relatively young age. At the coronation, he met Alina, Baede's first cousin, who had become a priestess of Lyssa. He was immediately taken with her, but knew that he would never have a chance with a member of the royal family.
He tried to make a life for himself in Lion's Arch, but found the city incredibly dull in comparison with Rata Sum. He took to wandering beyond the city once more, and one evening made his way to the Temple of the Ages. There, he sat before the statue of Grenth, falling into reflection. It was a dark and quiet night. The temple had once been a bustling encampment of adventurers and daredevils seeking entry to the Fissure of Woe and the Underworld, but in times of peace the activity had died down. Now, as Niccolai sat in silence before Grenth, even the priests turned in for the night, leaving the area vacant.
He was unsure how long he sat there, watching the stars and contemplating what would become of his life. Then he caught a movement in the corner of his eye, and looked across the temple to see an old priestess tending to the statue of Lyssa. He watched her for a time, then got up and went over, offering to help. She turned and studied him, and questioned whether he could supply the right magic to support the statue. He responded that he would learn.
She was amused by this, and replied that it would be unnecessary, as his necromancer skills had placed him on another path. She then revealed that she had been watching him for some time. When he asked who she was, she transformed, removing the mesmer illusions that had made her appear old before his eyes. He recognized her immediately as Alina, the King's cousin.
They spent the rest of the night sitting beneath the gazes of the gods, talking. He told her of Rata Sum and the wonders he had seen there. When he admitted that he had originally traveled to the Tarnished Coast to try to learn the secrets of the Scepter of Orr, she responded that she might be able to persuade Livia to show it to him. The conversation then progressed to the topic of the court in Lion's Arch, and Alina told him that she was being wooed, to her great annoyance, by the Krytan nobleman Johras Calar. Her cousin was contemplating a betrothal.
As morning approached, Alina anxiously teleported herself back to Lion's Arch before she was spotted. Niccolai remained there, thinking about their conversation. He was fascinated by her, and troubled by the news of her potential betrothal. He knew, however, that his influence would be little in comparison with that of a noble.
Returning to Lion's Arch, he located Johras Calar and watched him, discerning his character. The nobleman quickly revealed himself to be pompous and selfish, and Niccolai disliked him immediately. He knew that Alina would have to dissuade her cousin from the betrothal, and yearned to find some way to help her.
He returned to the Temple of the Ages for another night, hoping that she would appear again. However, he was unable to remain awake for a second straight night, and soon found himself waking up in the morning at the foot of the statue of Lyssa, not knowing whether she had come or not. Quickly traveling back to Lion's Arch, he looked for some way that he might sneak into the keep. However, the Seraph and the Shining Blade were everywhere. Resigning himself to not having another chance to talk to her so soon, he returned home.
Days passed. He continued to spend nights at the Temple of the Ages, but he never saw her. Then one day, he saw Johras Calar arguing with a merchant in Lion's Arch. Instinctively, he intervened on behalf of the merchant, and Johras turned to him, demanding to know who he was.
The ensuing shouting match came to a close when Johras raised his hand, and flames began to dance among his fingers. Niccolai raised his scepter to defend himself, but a Seraph soldier appeared and stepped between them. The Seraph demanded that Niccolai leave, ignoring the nobleman who had escalated the confrontation. The following day, Niccolai received a summons from the royal court, demanding that he appear before King Baede.
Niccolai made his appearance. Johras was standing beside the King, smiling wickedly. The arbitration started off predictably poorly, until Alina appeared, removing an illusion she had used to conceal herself in the room.
When Alina intervened on Niccolai's behalf, the King was swayed. He observed the apparent bond between his cousin and the necromancer. The dispute was left without resolution, much to Johras's annoyance, and he stormed out as soon as the King bade him leave.
Niccolai and Alina walked through the keep, resuming their conversation from the temple. Hours passed unnoticed, until night fell. Rather than bid him farewell, Alina then teleported them both to an isolated clearing in the middle of the woods, somewhere in northern Kryta. There, she revealed to him a secret, magnificent garden, her own personal hideaway. They spent the night there, at times talking and at times just sitting together among the flowers.
It became their habit, spending nights in secret locations, enjoying each other's company. Niccolai found himself very much in love with her. One night, however, he waited for her at his home for some time, and when he was approached, it was not by Alina, but rather by the King, concealed in the hooded garb of a peasant.
The King spoke to him with some disdain, explaining how Alina was better off among the nobility. Niccolai scoffed at this, but then suggested that the King make him a noble. He referenced his ancestor, who had been one of Lysander's greatest companions. The King was impressed, but knew that the act would be unpopular among the existing nobles, and Johras in particular. The King departed without a resolution, and Niccolai, frustrated, stepped out into the moonlight and down to the beach, where he stared angrily out over the calm sea.
As if responding to his anger, the sea began to churn. Great waves appeared, and then the land began to shake.
Great commotion broke out in the city behind him, as terrified Krytans fled their homes to see what was happening. An enormous wave became visible in the distance, approaching the shore. Niccolai raised his scepter, unsure of how he might stop it. Then Alina was behind him, and she teleported him away. Bringing him to the King, she then teleported them both up onto the cliffs north of the city, before teleporting back to rescue others.
The King and Niccolai watched helplessly as the great wave crashed over the city, destroying homes and killing hundreds. A great roar was heard in the distance, and they saw the outline of what appeared to be an enormous dragon in the southern sky. Alina reappeared behind them with several other members of the court.
More waves were approaching, and Baede demanded that Alina teleport him back to order the evacuation of the city. The Seraph, with the aid of the Shining Blade and the Lionguard, saved as many as they could.
Normal life was put on hold for a long time after the Rising of Orr. The King established the location of the new capital on the Divinity Coast, far from the Sea of Sorrows. Kryta then undertook a massive project that was at once a construction and a reconstruction, rebuilding life in the new city.
Niccolai and Alina saw each other only a handful of times during these years, and their budding romance was put on hold by unspoken mutual agreement as they each did everything they could to aid in the creation of the new city. Johras, however, was not so selfless, and suggested to the king that he and Alina be married immediately so that she might live with him at the manor he had commissioned in what would become Rurikton. The King pointedly refused.
Finally, Krytans settled into their new lives in Divinity's Reach. Niccolai snuck in to Alina's chamber one night, knowing the means through having observed its construction, and they discussed bringing the subject of marriage up with the King. Alina reminded him that he would likely have to convince the King to make him a noble.
It was the King, however, who approached Niccolai. They sat for a long time in Niccolai's new home in the Salma District, discussing everything that had happened over the past several years. Niccolai showed the King how well he had come to understand the court, and the King was surprised to find such wisdom from a commoner. He suggested that Niccolai might join a Ministry that he was considering creating. Humanity had been given an opportunity for a new beginning, and a Ministry would be a means by which all humans could be fairly represented and have the ear of the King. Niccolai agreed immediately, at which point the King suggested that he be given a noble title. This Niccolai declined, as he did not feel it would be right to become a noble in order to represent the common people.
Niccolai became the Ministry representative for the Salma District. The new council got off to a slow and rocky start, hindered by more selfish voices that were less inclined to adequately represent their constituents. Among these voices was Johras, who had been selected to represent Rurikton. The King soon realized that he would need a Legate Minister to control the proceedings, and seemed inclined to choose Niccolai. However, this choice proved unpopular among the gaggle of nobles who were skeptical of Niccolai's lack of status, or simply supported Johras. Instead, the King made a neutral choice that everyone could agree with.
Johras later renewed his suit for marriage to Alina, and the King turned to Niccolai, suggesting that he propose an alternative. Niccolai suggested himself, but the King pointed out that he was not a noble. He then asked Niccolai to tell him more about his great ancestor, who had fought alongside Lysander and Queen Salma for so long. Taking the hint, Niccolai informed the court of his heritage.
One more ingredient was needed, however. Alina emerged, having once again used her magic to conceal herself in the room. She stepped up beside Niccolai and informed her cousin in no uncertain terms that she would marry the first Lord of House Hart. The King assented, and Niccolai and Alina's marriage coincided with the formal establishment of the noble House Hart in the Salma District.
Johras later confronted Niccolai in the Central Plaza, and flames once again appeared in his hands. As he lashed out, however, Livia appeared, much to Niccolai's awe. She magically restrained Johras, who was later stripped of his position in the Ministry and forced to abdicate his noble title in favor of his younger brother. Livia then granted Niccolai an audience in her chamber, but Niccolai never divulged what she told him, nor whether he had been given an opportunity to study the Scepter of Orr. The knowledge of what happened during that secret meeting has been lost to all but Livia herself, and her current location, if she still lives, is among Tyria's lingering mysteries.
Nobility in Divinity's Reach
The noble families who live within Divinity's Reach are known for their frequent squabbles and rivalries, drawing the disdain of the nobles who live outside the city and act more like local governors. Among the most notorious of these rivalries is the timeless mutual dislike between House Hart and House Calar, which manifests itself in every generation.
Unlike the Kurzick Great Houses, the houses of Divinity's Reach tend to establish two of the gods as their family's chief deities rather than just one. The children of these families often learn magic that corresponds to these gods. House Hart, for instance, adheres chiefly to Grenth and Lyssa, and has mainly produced necromancers and mesmers, while House Calar features disciples of Lyssa and Balthazar, who are usually mesmers or elementalists. The general personality that pervades each house can often be found as some combination of the personalities attributed to the two gods.
When a child of a noble family takes to a soldier or adventurer profession, rather than a scholar profession, they are usually regarded as outsiders by their peers. Often, they will join the Seraph or some other organization, and will see their families infrequently. However, they will return when the time comes to inherit their titles and maintain the stature of the family in the court.
Like the Krytan crown, inheritance of noble titles is not patrilineal. When an heir or heiress decides to marry, the intended bride or bridegroom will take the heir's surname, regardless of gender. On only one occasion have the heirs of two families determined to marry each other, and this produced an internal crisis among the nobility such that the groom was forced to abdicate his inheritance to his younger brother and take the name of his beloved.
Occasionally, a family will buck these trends entirely, establishing a long line of merchants or tradesmen. These are most often descendants of displaced Canthans or Elonians who were always regarded as outsiders to begin with.
Guild Wars 2
The current head of House Hart, Lord Aloric, inherited his title at a relatively young age. He was fully prepared to continue his family's legacy, including its hatred of House Calar. He shared a heated rivalry with Jacron Calar, the son of Legate Minister Jirrel. His heart was softened, however, upon meeting Ornella, Jacron's cousin. After courting her for some time, he approached the Legate Minister to try to discuss marriage. Jirrel would have none of it, and forbade his niece from seeing Aloric.
Furious, Aloric turned instead to Jirrel's chief rival in the Ministry, Lord Caudecus Beetlestone, the representative from Beetletun who was quickly gaining popularity on the council for his firm and outspoken stance in favor of strong military campaigns against the Charr and the centaurs. Caudecus was dismissive of the petty rivalries between the Divinity's Reach houses, but raised Jirrel's opposition to his niece's romance on the Ministry floor, embarrassing the Legate Minister. This only served to increase Jirrel's dislike of Aloric, and solidified his opposition to the marriage.
Ornella's attitude towards Aloric also cooled somewhat following this event, and the young Lord disliked Caudecus forever afterwards. He worked diligently to regain Ornella's favor, and eventually she agreed to resume their courtship in secret.
When Jirrel passed away, Caudecus was chosen as the new Legate Minister. Jacron, meanwhile, inherited his father's title, as well as the staunch opposition to Aloric and Ornella's courtship. Ornella defied her cousin, however, removing herself from House Calar, and married Aloric. Relations between House Hart and House Calar reached a new low.
Aloric and Ornella had two children, Deborah and Alexei. Deborah resented her role as heiress from an early age. She also disliked magic, for which Alexei frequently teased her. She preferred to train as a warrior, and envisioned herself as a student of Captain Dylan Thackeray, whom she greatly admired. When Captain Thackeray was killed by the branded, her resolve only increased. She left home and joined the Seraph, and eventually became a member of Falcon Company.
Alexei, meanwhile, trained as a mesmer among several of his fellow young nobles, including Queen Jennah and Kasmeer Meade. Also among his classmates was his hated rival, Cyra Calar. Frequent clashes between the two youths led both of them to attract the ire of some of their peers, and Alexei instead began to spend more of his time with Kayla, a girl from Cottage Bend whom he had befriended at a young age.
Kayla enjoyed Alexei's stories about the nobility and his great ancestors. She even named her pet stalker Mel in honor of the cat owned by Lysander. However, she was restless, and disinclined to remain in the city where he was so content. She took to spending vast amounts of time exploring the lands beyond the city, and she and Alexei grew apart over time.
It was through Kayla that Alexei met Mara, another girl from Cottage Bend, and one who would stick in Alexei's mind frequently. The young elementalist was remarkably beautiful, and had a knack for getting anyone to be honest with her about anything, which placed Alexei in a very awkward situation. Unfortunately, Cyra witnessed this embarrassing moment, and went on to use it as leverage against Alexei for some time, until the Queen intervened on his behalf.
When the news of the loss of Falcon Company came in, the family was crushed, and even Cyra left Alexei alone for a time. Kayla returned to Divinity's Reach and insisted that she would help Alexei discover the truth, but he resisted, not wanting to really know what had happened. Instead, he pushed forward, assuming the role of heir of House Hart.
His stance changed, however, when Seraph scouts discovered torn journal pages written by Willem Harrinton, one of Deborah's companions in Falcon Company. This led to the discovery that Deborah was alive, and her rescue by Alexei and Captain Logan Thackeray.
The reunion was a joyous one, but Deborah would not be kept from the fighting for long. After helping the Orders defend the Queen from Corporal Kellach's attack, she joined the Vigil while Alexei joined the Durmand Priory. This led to a long and sentimental conversation at home, but Lord and Lady Hart realized that Kryta was entering a new phase in the war against Zhaitan, and their children would do whatever they could to stop the dragon. They insisted, however, that Deborah return to Divinity's Reach periodically to visit, hoping that this would keep her from the bulk of the fighting.
Deborah began training with the Vigil alongside her close friend from the Seraph, Sam Beirne. As the war progressed, the two became closer, and they fought alongside each other during the offensive in Orr, until Sam was forced to sacrifice himself to save her. Deeply saddened, she returned to Divinity's Reach, deciding to adopt Sam's dog, Allie.
She continued to follow Alexei's exploits with the Pact with some envy, but she was weary from the fighting and the loss of so many companions. However, she found herself unable to sleep, hearing voices that brought her mind back to the time of her captivity. She recalled feeling weak, and close to the Mists, and hearing voices from the other side that called to her. Eventually, certain voices began to emerge from the clamor, and they lent her new strength. She learned to channel new powers, receiving the abilities of those in the Mists whom she had come so close to meeting. Her father wields undeath as a weapon, but she has received her powers from the afterlife itself.
Alexei, meanwhile, returned to Divinity's Reach after leading the Pact against Mordremoth. Weary of the fighting himself, he elected for the time being to remain in Divinity's Reach, protecting his family and the Queen and keeping a watchful eye on the Ministry.
Against the Mantle Again
Alexei first met Julian DuPoint soon after learning that Caudecus was the leader of the White Mantle. While Nokkx, Majid and Rytlock went to Rata Novus to check on Taimi's research, Alexei and Canach immediately hurried back to Divinity's Reach to warn the Queen and Countess Anise.
Through Anise, Alexei learned that investigations into the White Mantle had been going on for some time. Julian, a young man from the streets who had learned that the White Mantle had killed his parents, had been spearheading a team using connections he had forged with both the Shining Blade and the Order of Whispers.
Alexei soon learned that he and Julian had more than just a common enemy. As an orphan growing up on the streets, Julian had created an identity for himself by taking the last name of the warrior Rade DuPoint, who had accompanied Alexei's legendary ancestors in their battles against the White Mantle and other foes. While Julian was, as far as anyone knew, not a true descendent of the legendary warrior, Alexei found the claimed heritage appreciable in creating an alliance with Julian to protect the Queen and weaken Caudecus.
During a walk through the city, Julian showed Alexei areas where the noble had never thought to go, and people whom he had never thought to notice. Alexei realized that Caudecus's power over the Ministry created trouble for far more than just the Queen; People in the city who were left unnoticed by those in power were suffering, and there was no help on the horizon. The world in which Julian had grown up was dark and bare, with little money and few resources to go around. Following this trek, Alexei brought Julian to Manor Hill and introduced him to Deborah, and the three began planning how they might try to improve the situation of the city's most needy. It quickly became clear that major changes needed to be made at the Ministry.
|The Queen soon revealed that she had just that in mind. Sensing that an attack on the city was imminent, the Queen invited Alexei to a gathering of Ministers in an attempt to flush out the Ministry's Mantle infiltrators. This proved a success, but the Mantle promptly launched its attack.
After thwarting the Mantle assault, Alexei, Deborah and Julian regrouped with Logan and the Queen to try to determine how to eliminate Caudecus once and for all. Julian was late to the meeting, and arrived with a small Order of Whispers contingent in tow. Caudecus's daughter, Demmi quickly proved to be the star of the contingent, but Alexei was stunned to see Mara among the group.
Kayla had joined the order years earlier, after helping Demmi escape from her father. Alexei had known about that, but he hadn't known that Kayla had later secretly persuaded Mara to join as well. He had been planning to persuade her to join the fight against the dragons himself, and had mixed feelings about Kayla beating him to the punch.
Alexei's second infiltration of Caudecus's Manor became his first time fighting alongside his childhood crush, and she impressed him even more than he thought she would. Her powers had grown impressively, and she was seeking to innovate away from standard elementalist techniques. All romantic thoughts were driven from his mind, however, after Demmi was felled by her own father. Enraged, the group of allies pursued the insane former Minister into his underground "Inner Sanctum," a bizarre series of chambers that Alexei had once accidentally ported himself into years earlier, and would not soon forget. The long fight that ensued finally brought Caudecus down, but Deborah was wounded by a bloodstone shard.
A Crisis of Faith
Deborah's wound proved to not be critical to her body, but it adversely impacted her magic, weakening her new abilities. Her family, along with Julian, Kayla, and Mara, visited her at the hospital that she was already all too familiar with. Despite the removal of Mantle infiltrators from the Ministry and the decimation of the Mantle's top ranks, Lord Aloric was unsatisfied. He was convinced that Jacron Calar, despite having had a cold relationship with Caudecus in public, was also somehow involved with the Mantle, and asked Alexei and his friends to pursue an investigation. Alexei, though skeptical, was ready to agree, but Kayla and Mara had both grown impatient with the petty rivalry between Alexei and Cyra.
Rather than upset Lord Hart, who had been kind to her when she was younger, Kayla arranged for Mara to dissuade Alexei in secret. Mara was well-aware of Alexei's longtime feelings for her, and was beginning to feel some warmth towards him as well. The two met privately, and Mara persuaded to Alexei not to pursue an investigation of Jacron Calar, at least in public. She was satisfied, knowing that it would take some time for Alexei to put aside the age-old rivalry between the families completely.
Unknown to either of them, meanwhile, Kayla met secretly with Cyra, who assured her that her family had no connection to the White Mantle. The women then discussed the rivalry between the families, and Cyra hinted that while the Fissure of Woe would freeze over before Lord Aloric and Lord Jacron reconciled, she might be more open to putting aside her differences with Alexei.
Julian, for his part, had no interest in getting involved with the noble houses. The White Mantle was once again defeated but not destroyed, and he was determined to see it eliminated once and for all. Deborah, after being released from the hospital, decided to help him, but her parents were unwilling to watch their daughter, weakened as she was, run off into another battle. Unhappy with the prospect of spending another chapter on the sidelines, Deborah met with her father to try to persuade him to lend support to the poor people of the city that Julian had grown up among. Lord Aloric responded by reminding her that she was still his heir, and the Hart title would someday be hers to do what she wished with. At the same time, he warned her against becoming too close with Julian, as such an alliance would weaken her reputation among the nobles, and with it, her capacity to help anyone at all.
As Deborah recovered, Alexei eventually turned his mind to other matters, and specifically to the concern about whether some other entity was in fact impersonating Lazarus the Dire, as a letter discovered at Caudecus's manor had seemed to hint at. Mara came upon him as he was pondering this, and after a discussion with her, he decided it would be best to check with Nokkx. The Asura might have some way of determining whether Lazarus was in fact an impostor, and if so, who the impostor really was.
Mara had never been to Rata Sum, and Alexei invited her to join him. Together, they traveled to the Asura capital, where Mara marveled at the magical accomplishments of the ever-innovative race. While Alexei met with Nokkx, she wandered around the College of Dynamics, eventually encountering an Asuran elementalist with whom she could compare notes.
The pair decided to spend some time in Rata Sum. Nokkx introduced them to the workings of his lab, and set about trying to divine a means of discovering who Lazarus really was. During this time, Alexei and Mara continued to grow closer. Alexei knew that the time had come to begin courting her, but before he could act, he and Nokkx received a message from Taimi.
|The subsequent visit to Rata Novus proved to be rather dramatic. Alexei was left stunned, though he kept himself together better than Kasmeer managed to. His family had always primarily worshiped Lyssa and Grenth, though he had of course recognized Balthazar among the gods as well. Upon returning to Rata Sum, he immediately sought out Mara. She was somewhat less pious than he was, and made clear that whatever Balthazar's purpose in Tyria was, he had clearly shown hostility and caused a problem that had to be dealt with. They could deal with the moral problem of fighting one of their own gods later. Further, she was determined to accompany him and Nokkx to the Ring of Fire. His immediate concern was countered by the instinct to keep her close, especially when she could help him subdue his reservations about who they were suddenly up against.
Before setting out to the Ring of Fire, the trio contacted Majid, who had been trying to figure out what was happening to Rytlock in the Black Citadel. He agreed to join them, despite some reservations of his own. The Charr were determinedly atheistic, having had repeated bad experiences with entities that the Shaman Caste had persuaded them to worship, but the elusiveness of the human gods had left some impression. Unlike the titans and the destroyers whom the Charr had once worshiped, the human gods had always seemed intangible entities, though the fallen gods Abaddon and Dhuum had later appeared in tangible form in their respective realms of the Mists. The more Majid read about the humans who had occupied his homeland, the more he had developed a certain respect for their deities. Now, that respect was threatened.
Both Alexei's and Majid's concerns were mollified by the revelation that Balthazar had also experienced some sort of fall from divinity, though the revelation raised new concerns. What could have caused the fall? Had it been the other gods? Could it be that some other group had emerged in the Mists to challenge the gods themselves?
Alexei and Mara discussed the matter at length during their return trip to Rata Sum. Balthazar had long been the enemy of Menzies, his evil half-brother. Had Menzies finally managed to usurp him? Hundreds of years had passed since the time when human adventurers had traveled to the Fissure of Woe in the Mists to aid Balthazar against the incursions of the Shadow Army. Had Menzies achieved victory in the absence of those reinforcements?
Alexei found this prospect less troubling than the idea of some other group of entities challenging the gods. Menzies was a known enemy, and the enemy of Balthazar alone. He posed little threat to Lyssa or Grenth, or any of the others. At least, as far as anyone knew...
The humans decided to keep quiet about the encounter for the time being. It would not do to trouble everyone with uncertainty about the gods, who were a comforting constant in an ever-changing world. As they returned to Divinity's Reach, Alexei decided to visit the Shrine of the Six, and spent some time in silence before the imposing representations of the gods. The threat of the dragons might finally be abating, but he had a feeling that humanity was on the brink of another crisis, one that would test it on a much more personal level.
Of course, the secret was not to last long. Word leaked from the Pact soldiers, and rumors spread like wildfire across the city. People of faith panicked or rioted, and chaos spread. Alexei braced himself for interrogations, but was surprised to be most directly confronted by Cyra, who was suddenly once again as cold to him as she had been before. Her family had devoted itself to Lyssa and Balthazar, and she was disinclined to believe the rumors. Learning of his part in the crisis, she demanded that he publicly denounce the rumors and deny what he had allegedly seen. He refused.
Facing mounting pressure from Cyra and other devotees, Alexei and Mara returned to Rata Sum for a time. While there, they received regular reports from Deborah and Julian on the mounting chaos at home. Mara's frustration with the illogical devotees was growing, and Alexei found himself having to tread more carefully around her, while he dealt with his own increasing uncertainties about the gods.
|The only thing that was clear was that they needed to track down Balthazar as soon as possible. Finally, Julian provided some aid towards that end. On a tip from him, Alexei returned to Divinity's Reach in secret and met with Anise in a room behind the Shrine of the Six. There, she revealed to him that the Shining Blade was tracking the Eye of Janthir, a sentient Mursaat artifact that was seeking its old masters. While he left to pursue that lead, Julian formalized his position with the Shining Blade, gaining access to their secrets. The two of them then met up in Orr, after Alexei had detoured to Rata Sum to bring Mara back in. Together they pursued Balthazar and the Eye of Janthir into Abaddon's Reliquary
After Julian eliminated the last Mursaat with the Shining Blade's sword, Alexei spoke with Livia. He recalled the tale of his ancestor Niccolai, the founder of his noble house, and the secret conversation that he had with Livia, and he was anxious to finally know about that conversation.
While they talked, Mara and Julian returned to the surface. It was time to begin preparing for the trip to the Crystal Desert, and both of them had ideas about how to go about that. Each of them decided to reach out to an old associate who would be a valuable ally against their current predicament.
Julian, knowing via the Order of Whispers that Elonian refugees were occupying the desert in increasing numbers, decided to seek out Dante, an old ally from his days on the streets who was of Elonian descent. Dante was a little mad, but an Elonian would be of help in forging alliances with other Elonians, especially given the nature of the foe they were facing.
The eccentric engineer regarded Julian's words with some skepticism at first, having rarely left Divinity's Reach before. However, at the mention of the Elonian refugees, he quickly changed his mind. He led Julian to his home, a cramped little hole on the northern edge of the Ossan Quarter, in the shadow of the vast Torren Manor. The contrast between the two structures reminded Julian of how his own upbringing contrasted so sharply with his recent time with Deborah at Manor Hill, and he felt a little guilty.
In his little home, Dante opened a battered chest and pulled out his only prized possession, an old shield. He explained that it was a Sunspear Shield that had been passed down by his ancestors, all of whom had been Sunspears prior to the return of Palawa Joko. Lifting the shield, he turned and stood tall, reporting that he was anxious to meet his kin who had fled north through the desert, and help them fight back against the Undead King who had destroyed their homeland.
Mara, meanwhile, recruited Kayla to help her track down Shana, an old friend of theirs from Cottage Bend. Last they had heard, Shana had left to become a priestess of Dwayna. Mara believed that she could talk sense into her childhood friend, who would then in turn talk sense into her fellow clergy and help to calm the pious chaos spreading among the humans.
When they finally found her, however, she was in a very different situation, wearing Orrian battle armor and fighting off Risen on the far side of Orr from where Mara had been, using the light magic that she had learned as a disciple of Dwayna to protect allies and defeat foes. She had heard the rumors about Balthazar, but had turned a deaf ear to them, refusing to believe that the gods she embraced could become a danger. Despite Mara's pleas, she refused to change her mind, but did agree to come along and aid her in the desert.
The Fire at Manor Hill
As the final preparations for the trip to the desert were being made, Alexei, at Kayla's urging, tried one more time to meet with Cyra and discuss Balthazar with her. Cyra agreed to the meeting, but initially refused to accept what Alexei was saying. However, as he went through Taimi's findings at length, she began to come around to the fact that, regardless of Balthazar's divine status, his determination to eliminate the remaining elder dragons was a threat. As a powerful caster herself, she had detected the increases in ambient magic in Kryta, and understood that the situation was becoming increasingly unstable.
The meeting was interrupted, however, by Lord Jacron, who appeared in a fiery rage, screaming that Alexei would not turn his daughter from the truth. The lord insisted that Balthazar was a god, and moreover, the greatest of the gods. Lord Aloric appeared shortly thereafter, and the situation threatened to escalate further as the two old rivals faced each other. Their children promptly stepped between them, and Cyra led her father away, as he screamed that the Harts would burn in Balthazar's fires.
Lord Aloric chastised Alexei for meeting with Cyra, believing that House Calar's blind devotion to Balthazar could not be cured. At the same time, he cautioned Alexei to trust the gods of House Hart, Lyssa and Grenth. Alexei responded that he hoped he could.
As they returned home, they found Deborah talking quietly with Julian, and Lord Aloric lamented that both of his children were at risk of turning their backs on their heritage. Alexei reminded his father that Deborah had always tended to choose her own path, but Aloric replied that she would someday be Lady Hart, and would have the responsibility of upholding the family's noble image and traditions. He then wished his son the greatest fortune and safety on his journey to the desert.
Deborah and Julian were not having the kind of conversation that her father feared they were, however. There was an unspoken understanding between them that their paths were diverging. As much as Deborah wanted to continue fighting, she knew as well as the rest that she could not, as too much of her magic had been sapped by the bloodstone wound. While Julian traveled to the desert, she would have to remain behind, preparing to take over the affairs of House Hart when the time came. They both knew that this probably entailed marrying a noble.
They parted with this understanding, and Alexei bid his family farewell before leaving with his new team.
After the expedition left, however, Deborah knew that things would not quiet down completely, as followers of Balthazar were still rioting across the city. To her parents' chagrin, she could not sit still for a week before she went to the Seraph Headquarters to meet with her former colleagues, asking how she could help.
There, she met the new Minister Armand Torren, who had been chosen to oversee the resettlement of Lake Doric and represent the people there. House Torren was a respected, powerful noble house, known for the immense library in their mansion in the Ossan Quarter. Now that Lord Torren was preoccupied in Lake Doric, his three brothers had taken over the day-to-day operation of the noble house.
Lord Torren had heard about Deborah's injury, and gave her his sympathies, and those of his brothers. He was there to discuss the rampant centaur incursions in Lake Doric, insisting that the Seraph could handle the Balthazar-blessed rioters with plenty of resources to spare. Knowing that Deborah could no longer fight, he suggested that she return to the Seraph in an administrative capacity. Knowing Deborah's history, the Seraph seemed very open to the idea.
As this discussion went on, Lord Torren's youngest brother, Marcel, made an appearance. Shamelessly interrupting the conversation, he greeted Deborah and expressed sympathy for her injury. Deborah politely thanked him. She had not seen Marcel in quite some time, and was surprised to find him much more friendly than she had remembered. After Lord Torren departed, satisfied that the Seraph would provide the much-needed aid to Lake Doric, Marcel offered to join Deborah for her walk back to Salma District. Deborah allowed him to accompany her.
They spoke mostly of her experiences, the battles and the revenant powers and the... less pleasant encounters that Deborah had suffered through. She had been through a great deal, but Marcel expressed confidence that she would continue to play crucial roles in events to come. While her brother had become the hero outside of Divinity's Reach, there was much to address within the city as well.
Over the coming weeks, as Deborah settled into her new role with the Seraph, Marcel began paying her regular visits. Eventually, she allowed him to begin courting her, but she wondered at his interest. Her inheritance was hardly among the most powerful of the city's noble houses, but with the Ministry still in some degree of upheaval following Caudecus's fall, things were in flux. Her brother was becoming increasingly famous for his heroism, which contributed to the House Hart's reputation. As Lord Torren seemed intent on filling more than his share of the present power vacuum, perhaps Marcel had taken it upon himself to advance the power of House Torren even further by courting the heir of House Hart.
While aiding the Seraph in putting down a riot in the Ossan Quarter, he revealed himself to be both a powerful necromancer and a persuasive diplomat, although he was exceedingly modest about both qualities. Deborah found herself quite impressed by this display, and began to force her concerns about him aside and permit herself to enjoy his attention. Soon after, he brought her to Torren Manor and showed her the magnificent library there, which took up half of the house. She marveled at the sheer number of books that suddenly surrounded her. House Torren had collected the books over generations, and Lord Torren had recently received a sizable addition to the collection from the Durmand Priory in return for contributing funds to the ongoing efforts of the Pact. The library was curated by the two middle brothers of House Torren, twins who were both decidedly less outgoing than Lord Torren and Marcel were. Nonetheless, Deborah found that their shy intellectualism had a charm of its own.
She began spending a great deal of her free time at the library, reading the books there and talking with Marcel and his brothers. Lord Torren himself was almost never present, as he put as many hours as he could into his work at the Ministry and expanding his influence there. Marcel, for his part, seemed to have less interest in knowledge than the twins did, and spent much of the time in the library focused on her while the twins discussed obscure topics. Although she could focus on books and obscure conversations almost as well as the twins could, she found herself increasingly distracted by his persistent glances.
Her parents, of course, were dismayed as she began spending more time away from home, and she grew increasingly frustrated with them. The double-standard between her and Alexei had never been more obvious, as he was out in the desert fighting a god and yet they were more concerned about her spending a few hours in a library. She understood that much of it probably still came from having believed that she was dead after the ambush of Falcon Company years ago, and from the later injury that had sapped her power, but even so, her father's protectiveness of his heir was still too disproportionate.
She was thus on somewhat ill terms with her parents, and especially with her father, on one particular evening when she stayed late with Marcel at the library. He walked her home through the quiet streets of the city, and as they approached the Salma District, a strange tension could be felt in the air.
Soon, smoke could be seen rising over Manor Hill. Deborah felt her stomach turn to lead, and began running. She arrived to find a portion of her home engulfed in flames. Immediately, she summoned all of the protection that her abilities could afford her and rushed in. Her mother was near the outskirts of the fire, coughing but unharmed. She screamed towards the flames, and Deborah charged in. Her father's study was at the heart of the fire, and she struggled to reach it.
Then Marcel was there, pulling her away from the fire. She struggled against him, but his grip was too tight. He would not let her go any closer until elementalists arrived to put out the fire.
Eventually, she would admit to herself that he had been right. There was nothing that she could have done. She was too weak.
After the funeral, she and her mother returned to their damaged home to find Cyra waiting for them. Inside, they found Lord Jacron immobilized. Whereas Alexei had developed his mesmer abilities with larger scale conflicts in mind, learning powerful skills that could damage many enemies at once, Cyra had developed more subtle and manipulative mesmer talents, impacting the minds of individual targets. She had now turned those abilities on her own father after learning what he had done, incapacitating him and delivering him to his enemies.
Ornella confronted her cousin, who declared that he had merely done Balthazar's will. She could not bring herself to harm him. Deborah felt the urge for vengeance rise within her, but suppressed it, and instead arrested Lord Jacron and brought him to Headquarters. Queen Jennah stripped him of his title and sentenced him to a lifetime imprisonment.
The crisis had mixed effects upon the other worshipers of Balthazar in the city. Many were appalled by Lord Jacron had done, and this reduced their own zeal. Others, however, were emboldened by it and became more dangerous. The Seraph redoubled their efforts to remove such dangers from the public, and the Queen's sentences became lengthier.
Cyra offered to pay in full for the restoration of Manor Hill, and she and Deborah decided to work together to rebuild the noble houses that they were now abruptly the heads of. The time had come to end the prolonged enmity between House Hart and House Calar, and forge an alliance that would stave off the manipulations of the more powerful noble houses in the city.
Marcel persuaded Lord Torren to also aid Deborah, although she was mindful of his motivations. Her courtship with Marcel quickly entered a new stage, focused less on the present and more on the future, and he convinced her that he would always seek to aid her as he had done thus far. Despite the brevity of their relationship, she entertained his offer of marriage. Cyra was concerned that Deborah's grief was disproportionately impacting her thoughts on the matter, but understood that adding House Torren to their new alliance would prove a considerable boon.
The wedding was a small and expeditious event, with far less fanfare than marriages among the nobility normally had. Marcel changed his name and became a member of House Hart, bringing his portion of House Torren's wealth with him. The new Lady Hart was already making great strides to restore the power and influence of her noble house.
The Cult of Grenth
|Julian returned to Divinity's Reach just days after the wedding. He immediately sought out Deborah, and was stunned by all of the changes that had occurred in so short a time. As they shared their stories, he revealed that Balthazar had been destroyed, but Kralkatorrik had grown more powerful in the process. Alexei and the others had chosen to remain in the desert for a time to aid the Elonians against the new threat.|
When he learned of Lord Aloric's death, however, he declared that he would return to the desert to tell Alexei, and surely Alexei would come home. Deborah assured him that there was no rush, as Alexei needed to focus on the battles at hand for the moment. Instead, Julian took it upon himself to investigate her new husband, whom she had so abruptly married.
He visited Torren Manor and met the twins, who were initially disdainful towards him until they learned that he was close with House Hart. He spoke with them at length about House Torren and about Marcel. It didn't seem like anything was amiss, but he was still determined to know for sure.
As he returned to the Salma District, he heard a strange noise coming from within the shrine to Grenth on the Grenth Low Road. Peering inside, he saw a girl sitting against the wall, partially hidden. He gently persuaded her to come out, assuring her that he would protect her from anyone that tried to harm her. Eventually, she revealed that her name was Lucrezia, and that those that would harm her were none other than the brothers of House Torren.
He brought her to Manor Hill after first making sure that Marcel was away, and introduced her to Lady Hart. Deborah was skeptical at first, but listened as Lucrezia told her that Torren Manor was the heart of a secret cult of Grenth supervised by the brothers. Children had been sacrificed to the underworld through a portal in a hidden basement beneath the library. Appalled by Lucrezia's tale, Deborah declared that she needed to see for herself.
Though Lucrezia was reluctant to return to the manor, she brought them to a secret entrance cloaked in the darkness of the night. Entering, they found themselves in a lower level of the library, and followed the girl through a hidden door.
There was a glowing circle in the center of a stone room. Several cloaked figures were present, and they turned to the intruders. Julian and Deborah battled the necromancers, and Lucrezia chipped in with her own limited necromantic abilities.
Eventually, a pair of the necromancers halted the battle, and lowered their hoods to reveal that they were the twins. They demanded to know what Lady Hart was doing there, until they saw Lucrezia standing behind her. They then tried to persuade Deborah that Lucrezia was troubled and confused, but Deborah had seen what she needed to.
Or so she thought. Another intruder appeared, Marcel. Stunned to see his wife, it took him a moment to begin demanding that his brothers reveal what was happening here. Deborah was not fooled however, especially when Lucrezia tried to hide the moment she saw him.
Knowing that their curtain had fallen, the brothers quickly tried to defeat the intruders. Julian subdued the twins, and Deborah battled her husband, managing to defeat him. Lucrezia then ran into another room and freed other children who had been trapped there by the cult.
Once the children were safely at Manor Hill and the three younger Torren brothers were imprisoned at Headquarters, Deborah and Julian sought out Lord Torren. He seemed surprised by everything, and claimed no knowledge of his brothers' activities. Deborah announced that the Seraph would investigate his involvement at length, though privately she knew that whether Lord Torren was aware of what was happening or not, he would have been careful to keep his distance and avoid any evidence that he knew about it.
|Once back at Manor Hill, the two privately discussed what had happened. Julian was particularly troubled about the cult, and revealed that Grenth had departed with the other gods. He was no longer ruling the Underworld, and the cult's sacrifices must instead have served some other entity there. Grenth would never have accepted such malicious actions from the humans that served him.|
The following day, Lady Hart approached the Queen and had her marriage annulled, although she was permitted to keep Marcel's portion of House Torren's wealth. The wealth that belonged to the twins was given to Lucrezia and the other children that the cult had captured. Lord Torren was permitted to retain his status and seat at the Ministry, but his influence was shattered with his family's reputation, and the Queen announced that she would be keeping an eye on him.
Deborah offered Lucrezia a new home at Manor Hill. The child wanted to stay close to Julian, appreciating that he too had come from the streets and grown up in poor conditions. Deborah assented and offered that Julian also live at Manor Hill for a time, and Julian decided that he would do so after he tracked down Alexei. Regardless of what was happening in the desert, Alexei needed to be told of everything that had happened in the city in his absence. This time, Deborah agreed. Julian returned to Amnoon, but there learned that Alexei had departed for Istan.
Dismayed by Julian's departure, Lucrezia decided to learn to fight like he could, and began trying to develop her abilities as a necromancer. Deborah realized that her father, who had himself been a strong necromancer, would have been a good mentor for the girl. Deciding that the time had come, she used her revenant abilities to search for her father's presence in the Mists. After a teary reunion, she allowed him to possess her body and meet Lucrezia, and begin training her as a necromancer.
This continued daily, with Deborah allowing her father's spirit to possess her for up to an hour each day to train the girl. Julian returned, having been unable to locate Alexei or the others, but bringing news that strange new undead had appeared in Lornar's Pass.
Lucrezia began to talk about one of the older children who had been sacrificed by the cult. He had vowed to protect her, and she missed him. She asked if Deborah could try to find him in the Mists, and Deborah searched, but she found that much of the Underworld had become inaccessible. Troubled, she and Julian decided to investigate Lornar's Pass and see if what was happening there would shed any light on this new mystery. Lucrezia refused to be left behind.
At the old Temple of Grenth hidden in the mountains, they encountered a Norn named Myrka fighting undead that had appeared through a strange new portal. With the Norn's aid, they entered the portal and found themselves in an isolated part of the Underworld filled with dark power. Battling their way through, they encountered the sacrificed children and then entity whom the Torren brothers had truly served, Dhuum.
Lucrezia found the older boy who had been her protector, and the others battled Dhuum until all were given the opportunity to escape. Fleeing, they escaped back to Tyria. The other spirits vanished to safer parts of the Mists, but Lucrezia retained her hold on the boy, not allowing him to be lost again. Using her necromantic abilities, she created a new body to house the spirit, and brought him back to Manor Hill with her.
His name was Anton. He had been the oldest of the children taken by the cult, and had been determined to protect the others. This had attracted the ire of the Torren brothers, who had selected him for sacrifice. Rather than allow himself to be murdered, he had jumped into the portal, only to find that it was not Grenth on the other side.
Though he was relieved that the Torren brothers were imprisoned, he was determined to continue fighting to protect people, but he could do no such thing in his current state. Slowly, Deborah realized that what was left of her powers could be used to restore the boy, and that he could do more good than she could in her weakened state. However, this would mean losing her connection to the Mists, including her father's spirit.
She found herself consulting with Glint, whose spirit she had recently developed a stronger connection with to try to make up for the weakening of her other abilities. Glint told her only what she already knew, that she had other roles in Tyria now beyond those of a fighter, and that the time had come to let go and move on to those other roles. With the aid of the dragon spirit, she transferred her remaining powers to Anton, and Glint assured the boy that she would help him maintain his newfound grip on life so long as he used his powers for the aide of Tyria and those within it.
A Commander's Grief
|After the death of Palawa Joko, Alexei finally returned to Divinity's Reach.|
Deborah greeted her brother warmly, bracing herself to fill him in on everything that had happened during his absence. When she was finished, he was stunned. That quickly gave way to grief as he mourned their father. Turning away from her, he vanished into the manor, refusing to be seen by anyone. For days he remained there, barely eating and concealing his thoughts from everyone. Deborah and Julian repeatedly tried to get him to speak, but he would not.
Finally, they sought out Mara, who had returned to the city a few days ahead of Alexei. When she learned what had happened, she hastened to the manner, and managed to persuade him to speak with her. They remained behind a closed door for hours.
Deborah tried to keep herself busy while she waited for them to emerge. As she waited, she was joined by Anton and Lucrezia, who had not yet met the commander. They were followed shortly by Lady Kasmeer and Marjory Delaqua, who had heard what had happened. Anton and Lucrezia introduced themselves, and, together with Deborah, they discussed what they might do to try to help the Commander.
It was into this conversation that Mara finally reemerged, looking deeply troubled. She advised the others that Alexei needed time, and that he was communicating a little bit, but his conversation was interspersed with semi-coherent ramblings about Lyssa. On hearing this, Kasmeer suggested that she try talking to him, as she and the Commander had discussed the gods on various occasions during their time in the desert, but Mara vetoed the idea.