By Draxynnic and Starconspirator
As word spreads of the destruction of the Pact fleet and of sylvari falling to Mordremoth’s corruption, arguments begin to break out among Tyria’s defenders about the best response to the crisis. Here’s one that happened to be caught on a Priory recording device.
Bartimous shifts back and forth, absently fingering the rough edge of his vest with his empty hand as he takes another sip of wine. The Priory had provided a decent repast, but the after-dinner niceties were dragging on interminably. He longs to return to the front, to the far west where the jungle awaits, to the battle he knows; diplomacy has never been his strong suit. Glancing toward the arched door, his breath catches in his throat, “No! It can’t be!” he thinks, pushing away from the column and stalking toward the sylvari. “What is that thing doing here?!” he bellows.
“It looks like he was repairing one of the levitation modules that was damaged during last week’s tests,” one of the nearby scholars comments archly, as the target of Bartimous’ rage backs away and raises a screwdriver defensively. “Do you have a problem?”
Focusing on the scholar, Bartimous continues, “Haven’t you heard? The sylvari are turning on us! As Mordremoth awakens, he calls out to them!” Gesturing at the sylvari, he spits, “His presence here undermines all our efforts against the dragon!”
“All of the reports are that such events are only happening in close proximity to the dragon itself.” The scholar, a middle-aged woman in Priory robes, stalks towards Bartimous, dismissing the sylvari with a gesture. “It turns out the sylvari are not immune to one of the dragons. We are susceptible to at least two, and that’s not counting Zhaitan. There are icebrood to be found within a day’s hike from here, including close to the road to your headquarters – if anything, should we not be more concerned about the possibility of your corruption by Jormag?”
“‘My corruption’ is not at issue here, madam. The icebrood you mention is exactly why the sylvari should not be here. The norn foolishly allow the icebrood to live – live amongst them no less – and look at the trouble that arises! The icebrood are always attacking outposts, always raiding settlements. Norn heroes are constantly chasing after them and their shamen. Rumour has it that the icebrood even nearly disrupted the recent summit at the Grove! You must see that, if they were not indulged by the Norn, our northern allies would have even more strength to lend to the fight against Mordremoth. They should not be coddled, but eliminated! With the sylvari, we have the chance to stifle the corruption before it spreads! Think of the containment efforts of the charr and their struggles against the branded. We should follow their path, much to my chagrin, and contain the sylvari before they fall to Mordremoth. The dragon’s influence spreads outward from the jungle. We might be safe here for a time, but for how long? And how could we possibly know that the sylvari amongst us are not ALREADY serving the dragon?”
“Good idea,” the scholar responds, her tone dripping with sarcasm, “let’s throw away our best weapons against the other dragons because they might become corrupted… while, meanwhile, defenders are risking being corrupted in Frostgorge and on the Brand every day.” Gesturing in an arc from the northern to the eastern quadrant, the scholar continues. “Besides, have you thought through your plan? You’re not going to be able to kill every sylvari in one night. Word’s going to get around that you’re trying, and that’s going to push more sylvari into the arms of the enemy – the Nightmare Court or even the dragon directly – simply because that’s a better alternative to extermination. If you’d read your history, you’d recall that the mursaat tried a similar solution two-hundred and fifty years ago, and look at how that worked out for them!”
With a glare, Bartimous takes a step toward the scholar. “What do you know of defending the Brand or Frostgorge, Scholar? What can you really say about weapons? You hide here in your bastion while others die, safe with your scrolls. But perhaps you are correct in one respect,” he says with a toss of his head and a sneer, “It would not be possible to kill all the sylvari at once. No, there is another way to deal with them. One that would spare any strong-willed enough to fight the dragon’s corruption, though I doubt that any will. We know how to build walls. We will round the plants up and confine them.”
The scholar raises an eyebrow archly. “Playing that card, are you? My family’s been on the forefront of Kryta’s defense since before the Pale Tree was even planted. You probably weren’t even born when I first mourned the loss of family in action.”
“As for your proposal of internment – how do you think you’d respond if someone started rounding us up to be indiscriminately thrown in prison? Again, you won’t get all of them at once, and you’ll be pushing at least some of them you don’t get into the hands of the enemy. In the meantime, we have other precautions. Zojja’s powerstones have proven effective at warding off mental influence from dragons before. We can keep an eye on them and manage the risk without locking them all up. And once the Pale Tree recovers, she’ll be able to reinforce their protection against Mordremoth once again. After all she and the sylvari did for us in the Orrian campaign, I’d hate to have to be the one to explain to her that we’ve been treating her children like criminals during her convalescence.”
“You are correct,” Bartimous says, “We can keep an eye on them and manage the risk. And what better way to do so than by bringing them together? It need not be onerous. We will request their return to the Grove. Only by setting them apart can we guarantee everyone’s safety. The good of the many and all that. Only when we can see them all, monitor them, will we know for certain that they are not corrupted. The unsuspected attack is always the most deadly. We cannot afford to lose any more ground to the jungle dragon. We cannot hope that Zojja, or any of Destiny’s Edge, has survived. Our greatest champions are gone and we must do what we must. If you wish, I will apologize to the Pale Tree myself…if she recovers. We have no reason to assume she will.”
“Yes, and the Nightmare Court will play it up like we’re bottling them up to be slaughtered, regardless of whether that is actually the intention or not. Meanwhile,” the scholar begins ticking off points on her fingers, “we’re losing both the sylvari we could have fighting on other fronts, AND the non-sylvari troops that we’d need to have garrisoning the Grove. Orrrr… We could allow those that retain free will to continue to fight for Tyria, in places where the risk of Mordremoth’s influence is less, and grouped with enough members of other races so that if they WERE to turn, they can be kept under control. People won’t be caught by surprise again.”
“Trusting them is a weakness we cannot afford. Better to lose them now and the garrison guard than place our lives in their hands and have them taken by the dragon at the least opportune time. How many soldiers out there will even serve with them? How many soldiers would guard the sylvari from themselves? Would you honestly ask a unit to turn on one of their own? Your words call to a higher, nobler spirit than the world we face, Scholar.” Bartimous shakes his head, “Trust now and, as the power of the dragon grows, that trust endangers all of us.”
“There are risks in every choice we make, and with the enemies we face, we can’t afford not to take a few. It’s a matter of numbers – even if somehow we could round them all up as you propose, by the time we’ve removed the sylvari from our ranks and established a garrison, that could be up to…” The scholar pauses while performing a mental calculation, “…a third of our total forces. By the time we’ve also accounted for the forces to keep lids on local problems like the centaurs, we could have little left to fight the dragons WITH. We can take a risk that might lead to catastrophe, or we could lose by default because we simply don’t have the numbers.”
The scholar squares her shoulders, her tone and demeanour switching from persuasion to the delivery of an ultimatum. “Regardless of your personal feelings, remember that you are a guest in the Priory. While you are here, you will follow the Priory’s policy on the matter, until and unless that policy is changed, or you will be expelled. Forcefully, if necessary. Do you understand?”
The debate has only begun. Where do you stand? Are the sylvari blossoms or weeds?