GuildMag Special: Zhaitan’s Secrets
Last time I took leave of you at the end of my study on the Elder Dragon, Zhaitan, implying that I reached the end of my knowledge. Well, what I said was all true; however, since then a wondrous event happened to me. The very same oracle a colleague of mine conversed with several years ago appeared before me and let me ask a couple of questions regarding Zhaitan. I must warn you, dear friends, that some answers may be startling and demoralizing…
Thalador: With what is Zhaitan trying to ease his insatiable hunger (both for power and flesh)?
Jeff Grubb: The Elder Dragons do not eat in a traditional sense—they corrupt and consume. It is their nature. They will not be content until they have made the entire world like they are, and destroyed the rest.
These dragons scheme a far worse destiny for all living beings than what we originally imagined. We believed they wanted to feast until they returned to sleep, sated. We were wrong – or at least far away from the truth. Their hunger is neither for flesh nor power. They crave to remold all of Tyria into their twisted image, while destroying those who resist. This answer, however, only raises more questions.
If their only purpose is to assimilate everything and imbue everything with their own essence, why didn’t they remain awake after the first time they succeeded in corrupting the world? Their existence and activities today imply that they were partly successful before. Or maybe they wanted to stay awake and carry out their grim plans, but were stopped by someone or a group of someones. Could the Order of Whispers be closest to the truth when they attempt to force the dragons back to sleep? It might have worked before, after all, OUR existence may be a testimony to the past failure of the Elder Dragons. A slight hope that they can be defeated, one way or another.
It is also interesting to note, that aside from the then sleeping and stirring heralds and champions of the Elder Dragons, there were not really other signs of the horrid corruption with which they had scourged the world eons before. Maybe someone tended and cured Tyria after the dragons had fallen into hibernation, while – at the same time – eradicating the still-roaming minions. Although I wonder: what were the giganticus lupicus – whose enormous skeletons can be found from the Crystal Desert to the Maguuma Jungle and the Far Shiverpeaks? Victims of the dragons or mindless monsters of Zhaitan and his “friends” who were destroyed by the mysterious healer(s) of Tyria?
My scholar colleague, Draxynnic, has further thoughts regarding this development:
So it seems that the true motivation of the dragons, if that is really the right word, is not hunger, but something more akin to xenophobia – their overriding urge is to destroy or assimilate everything that is not a part of themselves. This would also seem to explain why the dragons do not appear to be rivals – it’s a little ambiguous whether another dragon (or its minions) would be considered by a dragon to be ‘like they are’, but it’s certainly going to be closer than an uncorrupted mortal. Likely, then, we can’t expect to see the Elder Dragons fighting each other in earnest until everything else is destroyed or corrupted, and perhaps not even then – either way, it would be best for them to be stopped first.
Perhaps more significant, however, is how this reflects on why the dragons went into hibernation in the first place. Previous theories have suggested that their hibernation is the result of running low on food – but this answer indicates they don’t actually need such sustenance, and if the dragons went into hibernation at a time when the world had been virtually swept clean of all other life, they had done so at the eve of their total victory. Either there is some other characteristic of the dragons that limits their activity cycles – perhaps they simply need to rest after a period of activity – or some external force must have forced them into hibernation.
Thalador: What is Zhaitan’s method for reanimation: Corrupting both the soul and the body, or only the body and forcing the soul to stay in the rotting vessel?
Jeff Grubb: The jury is still out on this one. Zhaitan’s baneful effects corrupt (and reanimate) the body, and his more powerful minions do have a memory of their previous life. However, whether this is a corruption of the soul or an appropriation of previous consciousness is a matter of debate.
This topic was not really touched in my original study, although I couldn’t help but ask – who knows, it might have come in handy for research to combat Zhaitan’s corruption. It seems that even the oracle and his order are not fully certain of how exactly Zhaitan’s ‘baneful effects’ work.
Morgus Lethe, one of Zhaitan’s permanently late minions, did seem to have memories of who he had been – a norn captain – but showed infinite loyalty and conviction to his draconic master. As the wise mystic said, the effects on the mind could work like a form of indoctrination: brainwashing the consciousness of the recently deceased to believe in the dragon and his purpose with ‘undying’ zeal. Personally, I am leaning towards this more, as there have been reports from the Sparkfly Fen front detailing untold gratitude forming on the rotten faces of Zhaitan’s undead and their eerie whispering of the word ‘finally’ upon being killed for good.
Thalador: Did the Orrians have legends, superstitious stories about a gigantic, world-shattering dragon sleeping deep below their holy city, and if so, what were they about?
Jeff Grubb: Actually, no. When the humans built Orr, they knew it for an extremely magical place but did not know the origin of that magic. (The asura made a similar mistake with their Central Transfer Chamber, which they parked right over Primordus.) If the human gods knew of what slumbered beneath the world, they said nothing. The Tome of Rubicon, from among the dwarves, held some legends that came down of their battle with the Great Destroyer, which was merely a herald of Primordus.
Very interesting. It would seem that our Orrian brothers and sisters respected Arah and the legacy of the gods so much that they did not even investigate the unusually powerful magic and its source. It also brings up the intriguing possibility concerning the Forbidden Vaults in the catacombs of Arah. What if the gods themselves had proclaimed the area off-limits before they handed over the keys to the city to their mortal protégés – or at least left behind a note warning them not to enter the basement? Then, with that in mind it could also be possible that Vizier Khilbron was the first human to enter the vaults after more than a millennium. Again, this train of thought points in the direction of the gods knowing about the Elder Dragons and actually harnessing their power somehow (see my initial study).
Also, I would like to provide you another commentary from Draxynnic, who has a fascinating realization and a concept of the future to share with you this time:
However, it is significant that the existance, if not the nature, of a power under Orr was in fact known to its inhabitants. This might indicate that some of the magical artifacts associated with the city – including the Sceptre of Orr and the royal swords of Ascalon – might have been empowered by tapping into the aura of Zhaitan. In turn, this could make these artifacts of great significance in the fight against Zhaitan – either in aiding the loremasters of Tyria in divining the nature of the dragons, or, constructed using the essence of the dragon as they were, the swords and sceptre may well be the weapons capable of causing significant harm to the Elder Dragon, much like Glint intended to use the spines and blood of Kralkatorrik she had collected.
The implication that some of humanity’s most impressive magical artifacts may have been created employing the power of a sleeping Elder Dragon also adds a different twist to the aims of the Order of Whispers to put the dragon back to sleep instead of killing it. Instead of being the sort of pragmatism that recognises that putting the dragon to sleep might be easier than slaying it, the motives of the Order might be founded more in the cold-blooded pragmatism that says that while an active dragon is a threat, a sleeping one could be an asset.
And with a host of magic items created from leeching off the dragon’s aura and the knowledge of the dragon’s presence, this might not even be a case of sacrificing the future to preserve the present, as the guardians of Zhaitan’s resting place might be in an excellent position to send Zhaitan right back to sleep when the dragon next stirs.
Thalador: How much did the Cataclysm affect Zhaitan? (His sleep, his estimated time of awakening, maybe even his life signs.)
Jeff Grubb: Not in the least. Zhaitan is unaffected by such small things as wrinkles in the world’s crust, and in the mere sinking of continents.
One of our greatest fears, the one I brought up last time, has come true. The Elder Dragon was left unscratched and undisturbed in the wake of a catastrophe that spelled the end of thousands of lives in the blink of an eye. The Cataclysm to Zhaitan might have been what a distant rumble outside the streets is to us when we are having our sweetest and deepest dreams and subconsciously pull the blanket tighter around ourselves – in Zhaitan’s case, his wings. How are we supposed to fight something that feels nothing – not even one of the greatest and most destructive magical phenomena to date?
On the other hand, it is proven: Zhaitan was neither killed only to be reanimated nor corrupted in the Cataclysm. IF he is undead – which I doubt, personally – then he had been so before he entered hibernation.
And last but not least, it is becoming more and more probable that the after effects – or rather: side effects – of the Cataclysm occurred because of Zhaitan. That is, his leaking magic reanimated Khilbron and the dead closest to him who then went on to raise the other Orrian citizens. One question still remains, however. Did the Lost Scrolls detail an incantation that drew from the power of the Dragon of Undeath?
This was the last question I could ask and get an answer to before the wise mystic disappeared from my sight again. I am not going to say what I said last time, as with these recent developments, we have gained more knowledge that can be put to use when the fateful day finally arrives. Knowledge that can further be examined and followed upon to solve yet unknown mysteries, improving our chances against Zhaitan and the other Elder Dragons. Until then, stay safe, be well and look for further signs. May the Six Gods protect you. May the Spirits of the Wild bless you. May the Eternal Alchemy guide you. May the Pale Tree watch over you. May the Sun and Koda smile on you. You will need them all.
A thousand thanks to Regina Buenaobra, who did almost everything to get the mysterious lore oracle’s answers to us as soon as possible. In the same way, an enormous ‘thank you!’ to Mr Jeff Grubb, who went out of his time and put aside some dungeon-designing to answer my mortal questions! Also many thanks to the folks at ArenaNet!