Death in Tyria has been hazy or impermanent for as long as we, the players, can remember. But it’s been even more so recently with the chaos in the Mists caused by Kralkatorrik and the departure of the human gods. Rifts are tearing the fabric of time and space, ghosts are fleeing for their… undeaths, and creatures are entering the mortal plane that shouldn’t be here. Though this may be one of the most chaotic incidents in Tyria’s history, with far-reaching implications, it’s not the only time odd and explosive things surrounding death have occurred. In this article I’ll be exploring some of the biggest creepy or necromantic spells and rituals in Tyria.
It was 1071 AE. For about a year, the charr had been attacking the three great human nations of Ascalon, Kryta, and Orr. It began with skirmishes along the Great Northern Wall, a landmark that stood for almost two centuries, built to protect the Ascalonians from the ferocious predators. But that wall fell in the Searing when burning crystals rained down from the sky, devastating the land and killing countless people. Meanwhile, the Krytans handled the charr with the assistance of the mursaat, an ancient race of spellcasters who never do anything without a price.
The Ascalonians were scrabbling. The Krytans were safe for the time being. But the Orrians? The charr cut through their defenses like a knife through butter. The Orrians were in trouble and they were desperate. King Reza sat on the throne, a vizier named Khilbron at his side. Little did Reza know, Khilbron had been dabbling in the dark arts – the magic of Abaddon – and the king’s right-hand man was prepared to do whatever it took to save his nation.
Vizier Khilbron searched Arah, the City of the Gods, and found a scroll containing forbidden magic. The Gods had hidden it away for good reason. He wrote a note to King Reza that he knew would never be read, saying, “Orr will be gone. Perhaps forgotten. But it will not be remembered as a nation conquered by brutes. To me, that is worth the sacrifice.” As the vizier feverishly read the text, the charr at the gates, the foundations of Orr began to crumble. The walls shook, columns and arches toppled, and the masonry turned to dust. In a single flash of light and an explosion of energy, the charr and the citizens of Orr were eradicated. The nation sank into the water and the sea was dubbed the Sea of Sorrows by the Krytans to commemorate the loss of Orr.
Unfortunately, the final blow Ascalon dealt the charr was eerily similar to, but perhaps even worse than, the Orrian approach. It was almost twenty years after the Cataclysm. Twenty years in which the charr had been slaughtering humans and fighting their way towards conquering one of the last bastions of humanity in Ascalon, the city of Rin. King Adelbern, now a stubborn old man who had lost his only son, fled to the ruins of Ascalon City to make a final stand.
There are two distinct versions of the story that comes next. One was passed down by the humans and the other one – the right one – came of charr tradition. The human version states that the charr staged their assault with their trained siege devourers and magical cauldrons, and eventually mounted the walls. King Adelbern joined his valiant soldiers in their defense and met the Imperator of the Flame Legion in combat. Adelbern was armed with a twined, flaming sword called Magdaer, an ancient, powerful weapon infused with divine magic. The imperator, on the other hand, held the Claw of the Khan-Ur, a four-bladed dagger with colored gemstones set into the handle – black, red, blue-gray, and gold – signifying the four charr High Legions. The story goes that when these two exceptional artifacts struck one another, an explosion occurred, causing the Foefire. This version of the story persisted on the humans’ lips for centuries. But in 1324 AE, Dougal Keane entered the Ascalonian Catacombs and met the king’s chief courtier, Savione. The ghost, having died prior to the Foefire, was lucid and confirmed the charr version of the story.
In the charr’s story, King Adelbern was at the end of his rope. He had lost his people, watched his son walk into the Shiverpeaks and never make it through the mountains, and his nation was in shambles. Reckless, hot-headed, and half-mad, he got it in his mind that if the humans could not maintain Ascalon, then the charr wouldn’t have it either. He knew his sword, Magdaer, contained a dark and dangerous power. Although Savione attempted to stop Adelbern from this impulsive path, the king murdered his courtier, and proceeded to perform the spell anyway. He plunged Magdaer into the stonework. The floor cracked and an explosion of light and fire ensued.
The Foefire killed all the charr in the area, but as for the humans? They died too, but their souls remained in an ethereal blue form. These ghosts could not perceive the world as it was or interact with the living with lucidity. Instead, they were forced to relive the last day of their lives over and over again, seeing every living creature as a charr poised to attack. When their souls are sundered, they simply reform, given time. The charr have been looking for a way to permanently scatter or contain the souls ever since.
The Seals on Mad King Thorn
Most are familiar with the details of the life and bloody reign of the Mad King, formerly known as Oswald Thorn. He was miserly, sadistic, and insane, finding joy in cruel and violent pranks, and had eight wives, almost all of whom were killed by the Mad King in various inhumane ways. Naturally, this didn’t go over well with his subjects, so one day in 825 AE, they stormed the castle and ended his reign. The mob set fire to his possessions and courtiers alike and cut up the Mad King’s body into a number of pieces. Each piece was stored in a box and each box enchanted with a seal. Little else is known about the seals except that they are weakest on Halloween and one was fully broken when Queen Salma ascended the throne in 1079 AE.
The Mad King’s loyal subjects are on a constant quest to bring Thorn back, but they have only succeeded once… well, sort-of. Shortly after the first seal was broken, Thorn’s emissary and an assortment of courtiers performed rituals to attempt to break the remaining seals. They used artifacts from Thorn’s life and a suitable vessel from a mausoleum. Unfortunately, the only seals they succeeded in breaking were those on the royal pony pen.
Mad King Thorn’s most favored steed, Mister Gum Drops, broke out and headed straight toward Palawa Joko’s Bone Palace to exact revenge on Thorn’s old rival and his mummy minions. Unfortunately for the pony’s keepers, Thorn is the only one able to see Gum Drops, as he is an invisible pony (to this day, no one knows whether Gum Drops is actually made of gumdrops or Thorn just had a predilection for candy. Maybe both?). Gum Drops led the emissary and a group of adventurers on a merry chase across the sands before he was eventually recovered.
As for the Mad King, he was not heard from for centuries after this failure. Then, in 1325 AE, he broke through a portal into Lion’s Arch, destroying the statue in Lion’s Court. Magister Tassi of the Durmand Priory and the Commander jumped through the portal to confront Thorn in his own turf, the Mad Realm. They defeated him, relegating him to returning only a few weeks each year around Halloween. It is unknown whether his seals were broken when he emerged, but they still appear to be active in some shape or form.
The Sealing of Dhuum
Unique among the other spells and rituals on this list, the sealing of Dhuum occurred not once, but thrice. Dhuum was the original god of death. He banned resurrection and undeath, and consumed the souls of the dead to make himself stronger. Effectively, this meant there were no ghosts, no necromantic minions, and no spirits to aid ritualists and revenants.
Along came Grenth, the demigod son of Dwayna, goddess of life, healing, and air, and Malchor, the mortal sculptor who attempted to immortalize her beauty. Grenth, with the aid of seven mortals, challenged Dhuum to combat and won, sealing the ancient god in the Hall of Judgment. The mortals who aided Grenth were granted power and domains in the Underworld and became known as the Seven Reapers.
Dhuum was sealed for centuries until he allied with two other fallen gods, Abaddon, god of secrets and magic, and Menzies, Balthazar’s half-brother, also known as the Lord of Destruction. With their assistance, Dhuum staged a coup in the Underworld, imprisoning the Reapers and taking control of their lands. A group of mortals recovered the Reapers and stood against Dhuum. Without Grenth’s help, the Reapers were only able to channel their energy into putting Dhuum to sleep. The slumber was temporary; Dhuum continued gathering souls to prepare for his return.
In 1330 AE, followers of Grenth began showing up dead around Tyria. The corpses were clawed rather viciously by skeletons and carried traces of the Underworld. One of the dead men clutched a journal with only a few words legible, indicating that someone known as “the red lady” was searching for allies. Mortals heeded the call, entering the Underworld only to realize it was in disarray since Grenth’s departure from Tyria. They discovered the red lady was Desmina, Grenth’s first and most faithful follower. After reuniting Desmina’s body with her soul, they charged up the River of Souls, which had been redirected to flow to the Hall of Judgment and Dhumm within, reclaimed the three statues of Grenth, and eventually faced the god himself.
Though Desmina was supposedly too weak to do most of the work, the mortals protected the Seven Reapers and distracted Dhuum long enough to trap him. He released his trump card: a devastating attack that separated the mortals from their souls. The Reapers perished under suspicious circumstances, but conveniently, the mortals were able to reunify with their souls and stand in for Grenth’s followers long enough to bring the ritual to completion. Desmina revealed that this time the ritual’s bonds were strong enough to hold Dhuum for good, though whether the terse and mysterious red lady intended to claim sole rulership of the Underworld all along is as yet unclear.
The Future of Death in Tyria
Except for the sealing of Mad King Thorn, every one of these spells or rituals was directly tied to the human gods. Now that they’ve left Tyria or been destroyed (here’s looking at you, Balthazar), who knows what’ll happen? Judging by Kormir’s Sanctum and the Underworld, their previous domains are still being tended by their followers. But Kralkatorrik’s returned to the Mists after our failed attempt to kill him, presumably gobbling up more magic to heal his wounds, so the fate of many of the beings in the Mists is uncertain. What is clear is that, though the gods may be gone, their magic is not. And while it may be their magic, the choice to use it is still ours.