With the eagerly awaited start to Season 3 due to arrive within the next few days, ArenaNet has been releasing teasers thick and fast. In preparation for the launch of the next chapter of the Guild Wars 2 story, I thought it would be worthwhile to review the plot threads from recent updates, Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns, the past Living Story and before, that appear to be leading towards the new season, and what we might expect to see in the coming months.
The Return of the White Mantle
The obvious place to start is with the White Mantle, showcased in recent teasers and among the Guild Wars franchise’s oldest antagonists. The continued influence of the Mantle on Kryta was shown in one of the human personal story arcs, but little else was done with this until the second half of Season 2. However, while the focus of Season 2 remained firmly squared on Mordremoth, the Silverwastes were littered with evidence of the White Mantle’s presence… literally, in fact, in the form of badges, misplaced papers, and other detritus left behind after the rise of the Mordrem largely forced them out of Fort Vandal and the Silverwastes.
After Heart of Thorns, however, this has picked up with a vengeance. As the raids have developed, it appears that the White Mantle have been using a mix of bloodstone shards and human sacrifices to restore one of their gods. Specifically, this is Lazarus the Dire, who split his essence into multiple pieces and hid them among his White Mantle followers to hide from the titans… only to be foiled when one of those followers turned against him in an attempt to save his own life. While Justiciar Naveed was unable to escape his fate, his efforts did result in the poisoning of the portion of Lazarus that he held within. While this was not the end of Lazarus, after he fled swearing vengeance, he was said to have been “removed from the pattern of the world”.
Meanwhile, so that those Guild Wars 2 players who find raids about as entertaining as watching paint dry while having their teeth pulled don’t completely miss out, we’ve seen an escalation in bandit activity in Kryta. Perhaps due to Logan’s absence and convalescence, the Shining Blade appear to have taken over in coordinating the fight against the bandits. In perhaps an ironic reversal of the “Peacekeeper” mercenaries hired by the White Mantle, the preferred weapon of the Shining Blade has been a mix of foreign and local mercenaries. In return, posters have sprung up around Kryta, accusing the Shining Blade of atrocities and blaming the Ministry and/or the Queen for Kryta’s woes.
As Season 3 progresses, it’s likely that we’ll see further escalation of this simmering civil war. Caudecus has often been blamed, in-game and out, of working hand-in-glove with the bandits to bring about Kryta’s woes – the new season may come with the unsurprising revelation that he has been a White Mantle agent all along; a turn of events that may bring Demmi Beetlestone back into the spotlight. Or it could turn out that Caudecus has been framed by the Mantle all along, and perhaps it has been Demmi who’s been the Mantle infiltrator…
One thing I don’t think we’ll see is a successful assassination of Queen Jennah. Jennah and the Shining Blade demonstrated a pretty neat trick against Scarlet (which raises the question of whether any of the times we’ve seen Jennah were the real Jennah), and the Shining Blade will almost certainly know about the White Mantle’s resurgence. With that in mind, an assassination of Jennah would need to be carried out very carefully by ArenaNet to avoid coming off as an Idiot Ball plot of “surely Scarlet wouldn’t attack the same city twice!” proportions… and I, for one, am tired of the heroes, NPCs or otherwise, carrying the ball so that the villains can act with impunity until the final act. From a meta perspective, too, we’ve been told that the loss of Jennah will mean the loss of the treaty. While there are ways around that, the treaty breaking down would probably create too much of a headache for ArenaNet to be worth it. What I could see happening is mesmer illusions being used to make it look like an assassination attempt has succeeded… while Jennah remains securely in hiding elsewhere (possibly the same place Livia has been hanging out since her last appearance in Sea of Sorrows).
With the possibility of a spotlight falling on Kryta, it’s also possible that we’ll see some movement with the centaur war. The evidence thus far has been indicating that the ability of the centaurs to penetrate as far as Shaemoor came due to the assistance of bandits and other fifth columnists inside Kryta looking to weaken the queen’s credibility. Even during the initial release, however, it seems the fortunes of the centaurs were changing: the Harathi Hinterlands meta-event results in the death of the Modniir Ulgoth, and a centaur defector expresses the opinion that the centaur tribes will be doomed should Kryta cement an alliance with the Iron Legion, and that peace is the only chance of survival. Certainly, the Seraph’s moves into Brisban Wildlands suggests that, while pockets of centaurs remain within Kryta, Kryta’s fortunes had reversed, at least for a time. With the White Mantle potentially staging a resurgence, it will be telling to see what role the centaurs play. Are they a spent force? Will the White Mantle find new centaur leaders to work with, making the tribes into their pawns once again? Or could the discovery of the Maguuma centaurs present the centaurs with an alternative path and offer the possibility of a negotiated peace?
However, the biggest concern for the enemies of the revitalised Mantle may be the return of Lazarus himself. Without the Gift of True Sight, Lazarus could drift about wherever he likes at will, and without Infusion, any direct conflict with him is likely to be short and painful. With multiple player races now in the game, it’s probably unlikely that we’ll see the PCs ascend – although perhaps some human NPCs might achieve that status, with human PCs coming along for the ride. Or perhaps it will be a matter of securing another torch of Divine Fire or some other artifact that will force Lazarus into the light (the Exalted, as the heirs of the Forgotten, may be able to help there…).
Before Lazarus is revealed, however, we will need to find a way to survive Spectral Agony. Simply basing it on the Agony mechanic from Fractals will probably infuriate those who haven’t been playing a lot in that mode, so once more we’ll probably have to find a solution to that puzzle in the story before we can have a final showdown with the presumed last survivor of the mursaat. The last of the Seers is believed to have ended up on the table of Zinn and Blimm – whether he survived the experience is unclear. If he didn’t, though, it’s possible that the research of the pair on Infusion can be recovered to bring down one last mursaat – possibly buried in the archives of Rata Novus.
However, for the story to focus on the White Mantle alone would probably be to focus on the problems of one race alone (notwithstanding the possibility that Lazarus’ stooges may have been influencing the villains of other races as well, such as the Inquest and, through them, the Nightmare Court). Over the next two days, we’ll look at some of the other developments that have occurred in the last two years…