The climax of All or Nothing brought with it what may be the most significant death scene in Guild Wars history: the death of Aurene.
The impalement of the second Scion apparently leaves the Legacy, and Tyria’s hope in general, in ruins. With Vlast having earlier sacrificed himself to prevent Balthazar from killing the Champion of Aurene, there are no known scions left to enact the Legacy.
The climax of All or Nothing captures the significance of the moment, as we are left with… well, nothing. We awaken, seriously wounded, in a field of Branded crystal, and must stumble our way past grieving allies and the aftereffects of Kralkatorrik’s breath attack to be confronted with Aurene’s frozen corpse and Caithe’s confirmation that Aurene has gone silent.
However, the very significance of this death has led many to question whether it will actually stick. While resurrection is presented as being more difficult than it was in the original Guild Wars, there is nevertheless precedent for a number of means of bringing the dead back to life – some of which have been previously foreshadowed as methods that might be available to Aurene, the PC, or both, in order to prevent her apparent death from meaning the end of the Legacy. In this article, we’ll round up some of the more prominent theories as to how Aurene’s demise may not be as final as it appears.
“Scion, my beloved child, there are things about Ascension that can only be expressed between dragons.” – Glint
The first theory revolves around Glint taking Aurene aside in the first instance, Scion & Champion, to explain something about Ascension. The exact meaning of Ascension is unknown here. In Guild Wars, players Ascended to gain the abilities to travel through the Mists and see both spirits of the dead and beings that could shift to different planes of existence.
In Guild Wars 2, Ascension has become irrelevant for the players. We’ve always been able to visit the Mists via World vs. World, fractals, the Mad King’s realm (every Halloween), and more recently, the Underworld and Kormir’s Sanctum. We’ve had ascended armor for ages and we had no trouble seeing Lazarus during One Path Ends thanks to the Eye of Janthir following us around.
We can draw some similarities between the trials we had to undergo to become Ascended in Prophecies and Aurene’s trials in All or Nothing, though. First, there is an emphasis on working together. In Prophecies, Turai Ossa tells the PC why his group failed to Ascend long ago: “In our struggle for more power, there was no one we would not struggle against… even ourselves. Greed separated my people… and in the end, it was to be our undoing.” The trials are designed for multiple players. In one trial, enemies come at you in waves from three directions. In another, you need to coordinate who you attack and when, and you have a time limit to complete the ultimate objective while simultaneously protecting an NPC for the bonus.
In Aurene’s trials during the instance Scion & Champion, Glint constantly reminds you and Aurene to cooperate and stick together. Aurene absorbs magic in the first trial and you must share the burden so she doesn’t tire herself out, while also avoiding becoming too injured by the magic yourself. Aurene also has to make choices about when to use and share the magic and how to use it; whether for destruction or healing, and for her own sake or to assist mortals.
After completing the three trials in Prophecies, there was one final challenge the PC had to undertake solo. It was to face your Doppelganger, a being that resembled you and had the exact same set of skills as you did. In a way, Aurene did this in her final trial as well by facing her greastest fear: a Branded version of herself under Kralkatorrik’s thrall.
Once Aurene has passed her trials and emerged from Glint’s Lair, her chest and abdomen develop a glowing aquamarine pattern, similar to the ridge pattern in the scales on her back. This might mean Aurene Ascended as soon as Glint shared her wisdom (and perhaps magic?) with her daughter, but it might also mean she was primed to Ascend at some point in the future. Either way, it’s possible that Ascension offered her some kind of protection against Kralkatorrik or some way to come back or do her work in a different way. Unfortunately, there’s not too many solid, telling details here to work with since we never got to hear Glint’s words to Aurene.
“We were waiting for the signs: Glint’s egg hatching, the lich’s death…” – Ogden Stonehealer
The theory everyone seems to be zeroing in on is the fact that Palawa Joko’s death was a sign that the final confrontation with Kralkatorrik was about to begin. This is odd seeing as our dealings with Joko in Path of Fire were merely for plot convenience and dispatching him in Long Live the Lich was but a side quest… or so we thought. Maybe ArenaNet simply wanted to make the subplot involving Joko seem as though it connected to the larger narrative. We did take three chapters off of that whole ‘defeat of the Elder Dragons is plunging the world into chaos’ thing, after all. But maybe it will prove to be connected to the storyline, in the end.
As everyone knows, Palawa Joko was an undead lich lord. In the original Guild Wars, he was defeated in combat by Turai Ossa and sealed away, kept in check by the Order of Whispers. This was the only way he could be contained. Unfortunately, in Nightfall, the Realm of Torment and the world of the living were drawn ever closer by Abaddon, weakening the fabric of reality. Thus Palawa Joko was released by a then-mortal Kormir to help defeat a greater threat, began building up his Awakened army again, and the rest is history.
Joko was powerful, there’s no doubt about that, but I want to zero in on two of his abilities. First, he could ‘reconstitute’ himself, no matter how badly injured or apparently dead he seemed. In his own words, “The rumors of my immortality are drastically… understated.” Second, he had more run-of-the-mill necromantic powers: the ability to drain life force from a living or undead creature for his own benefit.
Theoretically, Aurene might now have these very powers since she literally consumed his body. In the cutscene, Aurene pounces, and as soon as she bites off his head there is a bright explosion of magic, as there usually is when any extremely magical vessel dies. This magic usually escapes into ley lines and can be absorbed by other creatures, but since Joko’s physical self was directly consumed, Aurene likely acquired most, if not all, of Joko’s magic.
This theory posits that Aurene might be regenerating right now, though how long it would take, especially since she was impaled with Brand shards, we don’t know. She might even be able to consume magic or latch onto the life force of another being to speed up the process.
“Mordremoth is alive. One last hateful vestige… a terrible seed planted deep in my mind. You must kill me, Commander. Before that seed grows… before Mordremoth reclaims what it has lost.” – Trahearne
This theory hinges on the fact that Aurene, still in her egg, consumed some of Mordremoth’s magic released upon his death. Since Mordremoth ruled the domain of mind magic and, as evidenced by the quote above, could live on by transplanting a piece of himself into the mind of another sentient creature, it’s not entirely unlikely that Aurene might have been able to perform this trick too.
We haven’t witnessed her using any plant or mind magic yet. Then again, we haven’t witnessed any creatures beyond the Mordrem using plant magic aside from Primordus’ vine-touched destroyers. It’s been obvious other creatures are laced with this magic; Jormag’s corrupted ogre abomination and Kralkatorrik’s Death-Branded Shatterer both glow the yellow-green color characteristic of Mordremoth, but they use abilities granted by the Elder Dragon that created them, or Zhaitan’s death magic.
This might be due to the other Dragons’ distance from Mordremoth. Aurene, though unhatched, was, without a doubt, the closest dragon in proximity at the time of Mordremoth’s death. Yes, all the other Elder Dragons got a mouthful of Mordremoth magic because they are the ultimate primordial forces of nature on Tyria, but Zhaitan, whose death was both more centrally located and occurred longer ago, has obviously seeped out more magic into the system.
In addition, Aurene was still an adolescent. As a hatchling, she only had a breath attack, and we just recently learned she had the ability to Brand as well, though the crystals are in her own azure shade. She also “Branded” Caithe, but this consensual connection and understanding could be due to Aurene sharing her own resonance, and not a result of Aurene slipping into Caithe’s mind using Mordremoth’s powers.
If Aurene is using mind magic to come back in the form of someone or something else, it seems highly unlikely Caithe is that someone. The crystalline flowers lining her armor crumble into dust after Aurene’s death and Caithe confirms she can no longer hear or sense Aurene. Trahearne, a firstborn sylvari like Caithe, knew that Mordremoth had infiltrated and lived on in his mind. It’s more than likely Caithe would be able to feel Aurene’s presence as well, especially since the link was made voluntarily. It might even be possible Aurene is now in Kralkatorrik’s mind enacting a battle of wills, but we would have no idea since Kralkatorrik would probably have retreated in either case, especially with his deformed face and missing eye.
As you can see, there is a lot going for this theory, but definitely some holes as well. There are a lot more known variables than in the Ascension theory, but it’s obviously more complex than Aurene nomming on some Palawa chow and becoming a dragon lich.
War in the Mists
“Great machines. It’s a full on war between Glint’s army and the Branded!” – Blish
The last theory posits that Aurene doesn’t survive in any form at all, but rather that she moves on to the Mists (like most beings in Tyria do upon their deaths) and continues the war on Kralkatorrik from there. Unlike the other theories, we know this is entirely possible because we have a precedence for it. We know from the Season 4 episode A Star to Guide Us that the spirit of Glint had rallied an army in the Mists and was preventing Kralkatorrik from consuming too much magic. In All or Nothing, a mysterious ghost who we know to be Gwen Thackeray pops out of nowhere to tell us Kralkatorrik had made it into the Domain of the Lost and Glint’s army was steadily losing ground.
Since Rytlock’s story was recently released for the Requiem blog series, we now know Kralkatorrik definitely returned to the Mists as well. But why would he go back? The ghosts’ lines were breaking, but there was still an army there, possibly reforming and lying in wait. Sure, there’s a lot of magic to be gained in the Mists, but there’s also plenty in the realm of mortals, and with Aurene gone, what real threat could stand in his way? It’s possible Kralkatorrik might just be making a brief sojourn there to safely regain strength before returning.
The second problem is what the results of this theory being true mean for us. Aurene was important not just because she was a powerful, allied Elder Dragon spawn, but because she was also a vessel primed to absorb all the magic let loose into Tyria after Kralkatorrik’s death. With her gone, we can’t kill Kralkatorrik without risking apocalyptic circumstances, but we also can’t allow Kralkatorrik to sweep over swaths of land, Branding everything in its path. We’re between a rock and a Branded place.
The only other potentially friendly dragons we know of are the Saltspray dragons of Cantha, but the majority of these were corrupted by the Jade Wind. The only exceptions are Kuunavang, who was uncorrupted and calmed during Guild Wars Factions, Albax, and a baby dragon named Shiny from Nightfall. Seven years after Factions, it was said, “Some even claim to have seen a change in the Jade Sea – small pools of water forming or even waves moving beneath the frozen surface – but these reports are unsubstantiated rumors at best.” If Shiro Tagachi’s ultimate defeat did start to reverse the effects of his initial death, it’s possible that in addition to the couple of Saltspray dragons we know survived the Jade Wind, others may now be thriving.
But Cantha has become isolationist and dictatorial since the original series and we have no idea what might be going on there now. The Durmand Priory probably has historical records on Cantha’s fauna, and the Order of Whispers or Shadows might have information regarding the current state of affairs, but right now our characters are in the dark.
What the Theories Say About the Storytelling
Whatever your reaction to the death of Aurene, you probably have strong feelings about her ultimate fate. The biggest question people have been asking is probably: if Aurene is resurrected, does her death have meaning?
I believe that’s the wrong question because of course her death has meaning. Even if she comes back, we’ll still always have our gut reactions after reaching the end of this chapter and as of now, we’re still up the creek without a paddle as far as the fate of Tyria goes. In storytelling, death needs consequence and we haven’t even begun to see all the implications Aurene’s death, even if it is temporary, could have in the future.
A better question is: does death in general have meaning? I think ArenaNet definitely needs to clean up the lore and ‘rules’ surrounding death after this arc. The Mists are in chaos, we get it, but when characters like Glint, Gwen, Eir, and Snaff can just appear and help us fight or give us advice, what does it even mean for a character to die anymore? I know the Hall of Chains contains raid lore that’s supposed to have no bearing on the main story, but what’s Desmina, the new Queen of the Underworld, doing with the Domain of the Lost under threat? They’ll need to set new constraints around death and redefine the boundaries between the Mists and the mortal realm going forward.
One last thing to comment on is how ArenaNet uses Aurene’s ultimate fate going forward. If she never returns, does that mean ArenaNet was ultimately using her death to kill two birds with one stone? The first being we can’t exactly have an uber powerful Elder Dragon-like entity on our side; we’d be more or less unstoppable. The second is a contrived method of getting us closer to Cantha in pursuit of the Saltspray dragons, similar to how we had to go after Balthazar since he went to Elona.
If Aurene doesn’t die, that could create interesting ethical qualms going forward about how much of a role Aurene is allowed to play in our progress as heroes. That’s also a complex story to tell though, and we might see ArenaNet shying away from that as lazy storytelling. As to the move toward Cantha, that’s probably forgivable. After all, if they want to get us there, perhaps for the next expansion, we’re going to need some pretty compelling reasons to go. The fate of the Saltspray dragons is as good as any.
No matter how we feel about Aurene’s death, I think it’s clear the stakes are high, for both the plot and the narrative designers themselves. We’re the heroes – we have to triumph. But the story’s turned dark and we’re sitting on the edge of a cliff, staring out at a tangled web of desire and possibility. And the narrative teams need to continue their upward trend of phenomenal storytelling to ensure Guild Wars 2 is relevant to existing players and appealing to new ones. The end of a story arc and the final episode of Season 4 approaches. Will we be left with all… or nothing?