NBI/GW2: Screenshot Safari #2 (#NBI2015Safari)

So here’s a freshly taken screenshot for Murf’s NBI screenshot challenge.

I was originally going to rummage through my old City of Heroes screenies for the theme Heroes and Villains, since ol’ Murf has a fondness for that game last I checked, but eh, that seemed a bit too straightforward when folks are busy playing around with puns and such. (Maybe I’ll find a cleverer theme to match to a CoH screenie within the next two weeks.)

It so happened that I was practising dungeon soloing again today, this time managing a CM story solo, which took a slow and steady but relatively safe 40 minutes (taking it leisurely since it was a first time try, there are Youtube vids of much faster solo speedrun times).

Since I was by myself, I watched the cutscenes and was reminded of the whole human Ministry schism again where both factions think they’re on the side of right when it comes to dealing with the charr – except one wants to make peace with them and the other one would prefer to slaughter them all.

I finished the dungeon and found I had extra time on my hands so… you know, why not practice AC story again?

It was at the end of that dungeon when I really started -looking- at the scenery and realizing that:

a) One almost never looks UP in a dungeon. The Ascalonian Catacombs was surprisingly cavernous in places and made for some nice screenshots.

and b) Hey… what’s this small blue glowy thing here? Hang on… is that…

…the sword that caused the Foefire?! And have I been running past it a million times in groups when running Kholer in explorable dungeons? (Not sure if they removed it there though.)

But certainly I’ve been blind-spotting past it when running AC story mode, even when alone. (Cos the red name mobs are over that way and hitting the ‘skip’ button for cutscenes is an automatic reaction by now.)

So since I was happily alone with no one waiting for me, I decided to take the time and grab a screenshot that did it some justice.

Rytlock, Sohothin and Magdaer
Rytlock, Sohothin and Magdaer

As for the theme, well, you gotta be a bit of a GW2 lore nerd.

Magdaer was the sword that King Adelbern used to cast the Foefire, wiping out his enemies, the invading Flame Legion charr about to take over Ascalon City, but also damning all of his people in one fell swoop, turning them into ghosts trapped in undeath.

Rytlock’s decidedly charr take on the Foefire

Martyr hero or mad villain?

That theme pretty much encapsulates the entire charr – human relationship for the past couple hundred years. Depending on your perspective, one or the other are villainous and the other side are the good guys.

And even now, when there are folks on both sides looking past those old hatreds, you still have the recalcitrants on either end – Separatists and Renegades alike – who are now seen as the troublemaking villains… except if you’re on their side, then they’re the freedom fightin’ heroes.

Heroes and villains, all.

Edit: Sheesh, I forgot the prompt thingy. Which NPC in your MMO could be seen to be heroic or villainous, depending on how one frames their story?

GW2: Loyalty to the Legion (A Short Story)

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's...Samurai Charr!

Warning: I tried to write a short origin story around a screenshot of my lowbie engineer, Flame Fireflash, whom I splurged two transmutation charges on to revive my leveling interest, and it ended up stretching to 6000 words and killed gaming time for several days.

Long-winded, that’s me. Contains some vulgarity and one rather oblique reference to the r-word, but nothing of that ilk ever occurs in the story. No sex, but maybe some corny plot and phrases. Also furries. As in charr.

When I was a cub, I never liked fighting.

The others in the fahrar would grapple and tumble, snarling and growling in what seemed like mock fighting to adults, but was actually a deadly serious bid for hierarchy and respect… amongst their peers, anyway.

“Grawl feet! Grawl feet!” They’d chant as they adopted the hopping ape pose and pranced around me in a circle, hoping to get some sort of reaction.

I’d do my best to ignore them as I flipped through my schematics book or took apart some device with the big paws they were referring to.

They’d move on to fake whispers between each other like “I don’t think she’s a charr, -I- think a Norn got drunk and stuck in between a Bear and Leopard form!” or “She can’t be Ash, she’s as dull as Iron.”

The decidedly less creative ones would struggle a bit, then come up with witticisms like “Dumb ogre” or “Flame’s Flame!”

I’ll never know what possessed my mother when she decided to name me with the Gold Legion’s appellation, but I was the one who had to live with it.

Funny thing was, if they finally got too annoying or some idiot decided to lay a paw on my stuff and provoke me into standing up, they’d all quickly back off a step or two and glance towards their ring leader.

That was the cub I would stomp towards and grab.

I don’t know if it was just my parents’ genes or if my mother’s mission and birthing in the field delayed her in getting me to a fahrar, but I do know that I was very big for my age. Still am, even decades later.

He or she would spit and snarl and claw and bite, but I was taller and outweighed any of them. I’d use that leverage to my advantage, remembering as much of our teachers’ lessons as I could, and eventually, some scrapes and ripped fur and toothmarks later, the ring leader would be pinned down under my four paws or I’d be sitting on their head or something like that.

Most of the time, that would be the end of it.

If two or three moved at once, I’d toss an insult in their faces about being too scared to take me one on one, which usually stopped them in their tracks, or at least got them to try their luck one at a time. It never did work out for them.

After that, they’d leave me alone for a while and I’d be careful to spend more time around adults until their short attention spans found another target or they got riled up amongst themselves by someone squabbling for a higher position in the gang.

It wasn’t too hard because I found the defensive perimeter turrets and mortars fascinating and would always ask any soldier willing to humor me a million and one questions about how it all worked – loading the ammo, differences between the ammo types and when you used each, calibration, tuning and maintenance and so on. As I said, I looked old for my age, so many gave me more measured and considered answers than they might have for any random youngling.

The problem was Rakis.

Rakis had a mean streak in him wider than a marmox, and an ego far larger than you’d think his slim and small frame could accommodate. He somehow took it personal when I flipped him over during one of his attempted bully sessions and got his horns stuck inches deep in muddy snow. His buddies had to dig him out while he was flopping about and squealing like a slaughtered piglet and he never quite got over the humiliation.

He didn’t dare face me head on for years after that, but I was aware that he’d started treating everything we did in the fahrar as a competition between the two of us.

He’d race to raise his hand and answer a question first, and on the off chance that he managed to get it right, he’d shoot me some kind of triumphant look like he was trying to make a point.

While we were training with the guest scouts and stalkers, he’d swagger around with a happy smirk when he always arrived faster than me, which wasn’t hard at all since I had to take special care of where I placed my big feet and bulk in order to stay as silent as Ash Legion expects of its future operations groups.

It was all ridiculously weird because I certainly wasn’t the least bit interested in this imaginary competition that only existed in his head. The more I ignored it, the more he seemed to think that it was on, always sneaking glances when he thought I wasn’t looking, bragging loudly to his friends, or conversely, sulking if I scored better marks on any test, be it marksmanship or chemistry or tech devices.

When we were teenagers, I recall a casual acquaintance jokingly ask me if Rakis was sweet on me. I sighed and told her it’d been going on for years and I was still trying to figure out myself if it was a crush or a rivalry. She laughed, I laughed, then forgot about it.

In hindsight, that was a mistake.

You see, I didn’t cultivate any really close friendships in the fahrar, but I did try to stay on civil terms with everybody that allowed it, since after all, we were all going to be in the same warband. As one of our mentors told us gruffly, you don’t have to like or be pals with all your bandmates, just learn to work together and trust that you’ll have each others’ backs when the bullets start flying. Which was how I assumed things would be. It’s our tradition, after all.

I should have maybe listened more intently to the brief conversations I had with our veteran spies, all grizzled and scarred. “In our line of work, you can’t trust anybody, cub. Don’t ever let down your guard.” They didn’t get to their age by being foolish and stupid. They were survivors.

Those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it.

It wasn’t a rivalry, or a crush. It was a grudge.

A grudge Rakis’d had nursed within his black heart for ages until he finally worked up the courage and found the right opportunity.

It was our seventeenth year in the fahrar, and the night before a very important term project was due. Scoring a good grade would help get you into the first pick, those promising recruits that the better soldiers – craftsmen and artisans of their art, be it assassination or reconnaissance, scouting or sniping, traps or turrets – wanted to mentor and groom. Flunk it, and you’d be left in the bottom ranks and assigned the grunt work that nobody else in the warband wanted.

I was up past midnight in one of the workshops, determined to synthesize better and better variants of the chemical glue that was going to be submitted along with my lab report and improved valve release mechanism for a portable glue turret model that Ash scouts favored.

And I was alone. Absorbed in my thoughts and the steady bubbling of my experiments.

I didn’t hear them come in.

Something or someone landed a heavy blow on my head, sending me snout first into the lab bench, and clawed hands grabbed my arms.

Reacting with more instinct than thought, I roared with rage and fought back, shoving backwards and grappling with my attackers. I only succeeded in flipping myself over and seeing that there were three of them. Rakis, of course, and he’d brought his two closest flunkies, bigger than him but not much in the brains department, which was probably why they followed him and laughed at his jokes.

They pinned me against the lab bench, still snarling with fury, while Rakis dumped the hot glue I’d been making all over the counter and my back to help snare me in place.

“Grrrarrrgh,” I yelled as some of the goop got past my fur and scalded my hide. “Back off!” I raised one clawed foot warningly, ready to kick and rip anyone within reach.

Unfortunately, his two friends, beyond holding my arms down while I was getting increasingly glued to the table, were keeping a wary distance on each side and Rakis quickly slid out of range, an ugly smirk on his slimy snout.

“Fuck you!” I said, in lieu of anything better that came to mind with adrenaline pounding through my veins. I regreted it the moment I said it, afraid it might have given him ideas.

“In your dreams, Flame.” Rakis leered at me lasciviously for the space of one worrying breath, then he chuckled. “You don’t have to worry about us raping you. Nobody wants to fuck a gorilla.”

His two flunkies sniggered in unison.

“Then what the hell do you want?” I snarled back.

“I want you to fucking -fail-, bitch,” he said, as he reached around me carefully and grabbed the file with my lab report and my valve mechanism. He held both of them up for me to see. He let the valve drop on the floor, and grabbed all the pages out of the file, report, tests, diagrams, schematics and all – everything I had spent weeks and months working on – and tore them up theatrically.

“You’re going to crawl to the Primus tomorrow with your tail between your legs and tell him you have nothing to submit. Nothing at all.”

Like an afterthought, he lifted his booted foot to stomp on my valve. The dramatic effect was rather lost when he suddenly screeched in pain, having discovered how sturdy well-assembled steel could be, even in small packages. It must have been like trying to step on a caltrops.

I couldn’t help it. I laughed.

That really pissed him off. He picked up the offending valve and pitched it out the window, with so much fury that it must have bounced off some structure outside. The air rang with a resounding metallic clang. A muffled “Hey! What was that!” followed it up.

“Oh, look,” I drawled,” You’ve gone and alerted a sentry. Better run, boys.”

His flunkies were aiming worried looks at him now, and he’d half-turned to check that the coast was still clear.

That’s when I screwed up.

Despite outside appearances, inside I was boiling with rage and worry over what tomorrow would bring and how I was going to salvage what remained. There weren’t many hours left till dawn. I just wanted him -gone.-

I hawked up a gob of something disgusting and spat it at him.

It went right into his eye.

Then he went mad.

Rakis grabbed me by the throat in a one-handed choke as he yanked a random bottle off the bench and drenched -my- eye with it.

I later found out it was ascetic acid, but at the time, I just knew that half my face felt like it was on fire, that I couldn’t see and that he was right in front of me within reach.

I screamed in pain, kicking and biting and trying to rip all the fur off my arms and back in an attempt to get free from the glue and KILL him.

After what seemed like an eon of snapping ineffectually at air, I managed to sink my teeth into his arm with a lucky lunge. He howled in turn.

By this time, his flunkies were fighting to separate the both of us. “We gotta go, Rakis!” One of them gasped.

To this day, I don’t know if it was rage or desperation that drove him to it, but he pulled out his dagger and stabbed me. Twice. The practiced doubled motion that Ash Legion assassins are trained to use.

He was, thankfully, still a novice-in-training or I might not be here telling this story today. The sharp agony blossoming in my chest took most of the resistance out of me and he pulled free.

There was the soft patter of padded feet and a sudden silence only broken by my ragged wheezing. Everything hurt, but my eye was what hurt the most.

My thinking had gotten very fuzzy by this point, my vision out the working eye near nonexistent, everything was dark and blurry and I just remember being convinced that if I could just wash my face I would be fine. I knew there was a bucket of water that I had drawn earlier just over by that stool there… if I could just get to it…

That was how the patrol investigating the ruckus found me.

Half-drowned, face-first in a bucket of well water, what remained of my fur in shambles and covered in glue gloop, bleeding out on the floor.

To say that the Primus was incensed, would be an understatement.

In the first few days, I spent more hours lying unconscious than awake in the infirmary, full of medication and with more bandages than fur on my body. But during one of my brief periods of lucidity, I overheard our Primus bellowing at the medic demanding answers and wanting to speak to me.

Arc Steeltrap had been a Legionnaire leading Ash Commando Group 43 through many successful actions against Ebonhawke before his final sortie, when a human-rigged explosive device blew half his leg off. The story went that he picked up his leg, limped over to the next room where the insurgents were hiding, and beat their heads in with it.

He survived, of course, but his stealthy days were done. They made him Primus of our little fahrar instead, where he seemed to spend his time hobbling around with his walking cane, making grumpy faces at everyone and grumbling about cubs these days.

It really wasn’t a face I wanted to see looming over me while I still hurt all over and couldn’t even crawl out of bed to the latrine.

All credit where it was due, Medic Kludge Steelsuture, one of his wounded bandmates that had been moved back from the front with Steeltrap, managed to dissuade him twice before he finally ran out of patience on the third visit and pushed his way through.

“All right, cub,” he glowered, “What happened?”

I wriggled as far back into the bedsheets as I could. I’d been dreading this question.

I mean, what was I going to say? If I blurted out the whole truth to all the adults, Rakis and his friends would doubtless get punished but the rest of the warband would probably never trust or even tolerate me near them again. I was a loner by nature, yes, but gladium was a word even I didn’t want to hear.

“Cub, we went over the perimeter defenses,” said Primus Steeltrap, in a surprisingly gentle, if gruff, tone. “Nothing was broken or showed signs of being tampered with. Sentries report seeing nothing until they heard sounds of a struggle in the workshop and went to investigate. We need to know if we have Flame Legion spies in our midst or if intruders managed to sneak in without us realizing.”

I shook my head mutely.

“No? So no outsiders attacked you, is what you’re saying,” he continued, with a persistent logic. “Which makes it an inside job. And since all the adults in the settlement should have more sense than to threaten and nearly kill one of my fahrar trainees, coupled with your reticence to say anything, it must have been one of your band mates. Am I right? You don’t have to say anything, just shake your head or nod.”

I didn’t know what to do. In a miserable whisper, I said, “I don’t want to rat out my warband.”

Medic Steelsuture, who had been hovering in the background like a mother hen, spoke up then. “This is serious, Flame. It’s not snitching. It’s not your regular bar brawl amongst soldiers that got a bit more drunk than they should have, that we can close an eye to, or some pushing and shoving and slapping each other around. Someone pulled a knife on you, and damned near killed you. His or her own band mate.”

Primus Steeltrap’s voice was a low growl. “Blood may tolerate their damned “field promotions” where some rager kills his superior officer and takes over, but we’re Ash and better than that. We have companies and a chain of command for a reason. We train assassins, for crying out loud. You think we’ll have much of a Legion left if we let every random hotshot think they can solve all their problems by stabbing any charr they don’t like?”

I shook my head.

“Exactly. So tell us who did it.”

I shook my head again.

“Suit yourself, but this isn’t going to get any easier. I can’t graduate the warband with a loose cannon in their midst. If we can’t solve it in-house right now, we’ll have to make a report. The higher ups will send an investigator. One way or the other, the culprit will get caught.”

Bastia the Bloodhound was… stern, regal, focused. Sharper than an obsidian blade. I’d never met anyone like her.

She was my only visitor during my recovery, which did, I’ll admit, leave me feeling lonely and a little disappointed. I told myself that the adults were probably barring the others from entry, but I never even saw anyone try to talk to Medic Steelsuture and I couldn’t shake the feeling that nobody cared enough to make the effort.

She did visit very regularly though, with a very pointed look at Medic Steelsuture, who would wordlessly get up and walk to the front of the infirmary out of earshot and give us privacy.

I was always very wary about what I said to her, in case I gave away something I didn’t want to.

For lack of anyone better to talk to though, and out of sheer boredom, I let her speak and I listened, instead of feigning tiredness and going to sleep, something I was already doing for too many hours of the day.

“Good morning, Flame.” Or afternoon, or evening, but she always called me by name, and without that little twinge of lip that many others would use when saying the word.

“Morning, ma’am,” I would mumble, or “Evening, Investigator” to stay polite. There was something about the way she carried herself that demanded that respect.

“A little update for you.” She always prefaced herself with that phrase, which sometimes felt odd, as if I were her superior officer and she was reporting to me, but I think she was just used to reporting whatever she found to various parties in that clipped, terse tone of hers that it’d become a habit.

She’d been to the workshop and examined the scene and found these various colors of fur stuck to the glue. These ones over here were probably mine, wouldn’t I agree? These others were probably from the perpetrators, yes, plural, because these were black or very dark grey hairs and these were an off-brown or orange that seemed more than a touch darker than mine.

Problem is, these are fairly common coat colors and more than one charr in your warband shares that sort of coloration, right?

Or they’d kept my warband on barracks arrest until she had a chance to interview them all. You’re not very liked by your warband, are you, Flame? They’re all claiming innocence and ignorance of why anyone would want to attack you.

That you’re a loner and kept yourself to yourself and burning the midnight oil would be something you’d do while most other self-respecting trainees would be catching all the sleep they could get. Which was what they all say they were doing. But you and I know that some of them are lying… want to tell me how many is “some?”

I’d peek my one eye at her – Medic Steelsuture still wasn’t sure if my other eye would heal, he said he’d irrigated it further after my fogged up attempt at it but that its best chance now was bandages and time – and say something noncommittal, and more often than not, Bastia’s amber eyes would be glittering right back, watching my every expression.

Or well, regardless, there was someone who was going to get into a spot of trouble. Brek? Did I know him?

I kept my face as still as possible. Brek was one of Rakis’ flunkies who was there that night.

Did I want to know how she sussed him out? My band mates were all on lockdown, as she said. I was stabbed, and the culprit wouldn’t have been able to clean the weapon they used very thoroughly under the watchful eyes of both the posted sentries and the rest of the warband. So she made them produce all their belt knives, spares and all. There weren’t any ill-cleaned weapons, but Brek was missing one of his spares.

But you know, she didn’t think he was the one. A little too thick, and he seemed genuinely shocked to find out that he was missing a blade. All he can say is that he thinks someone stole it. He’s been told the Quaestor’s going to hang him by his entrails for losing an issued weapon, and that he may very well get charged with assaulting you, if no one else comes forward.

I tried not to blink or react, while inside, I was cursing Rakis’ duplicity and cunning. He must have decided to throw Brek in front of the grenade in order to save himself. I was stuck debating with myself if I really should name Rakis to this outsider, or settle for Brek catching the punishment – I mean, he was there, after all.

Then Bastia laughed.

“Flame, you younglings may think you’re being clever by saying nothing, but all your faces are like open books. I can tell you recognize the name, and that you’re not immediately protesting his innocence. If I wanted to, I could just read to you your entire warband roster right here, and I guarantee I’ll see you twitch at the right names.”

That earned her a glare, which she only seemed to find more funny.

“Oh, you’re not the only one I can read. Brek looked immediately to his friend Rakis for help, who pretended to find a spot on the wall utterly fascinating. Then he sort of caught the hint and tried not to look anywhere, but couldn’t help but exchange a pleading look for help at Clinker when he thought no one was watching, who gave him a helpless shrug. We hauled him off after that, and he’s having some serious alone time to consider his future in a cell at the moment.”

She aimed an arched eyebrow at me. “How am I doing so far?”

“Congratulations, I guess?” I rasped. I leaned back against my pillows, trying to determine if the strange feeling in my chest was the stress of trying to keep a secret I wasn’t sure I should be keeping being released, or if it was more tension from anticipating what the rest of the warband would say when I returned, or how Rakis would react.

“You don’t sound too happy. Did you fancy him?”

“HELL, no,” I snarled.

“Ah good, you have some life in you still. As I was saying, I don’t just want Brek. I want his two friends also. All their coats match the hairs left in the workshop and I don’t hear any protest from you that I’ve got the wrong individuals. Have I?”

This time she didn’t fill in the silence like she usually did. She just looked straight at me for so long that Medic Steelsuture looked up from where he was busying himself with some tools disinfecting to check that she hadn’t left. He looked down again though when he saw her, so I couldn’t expect any reprieve from that direction.

“I…” I didn’t want to fight. Or get anyone in trouble. I just wanted to be left alone and accepted for who I was in the warband. It was always everybody else who couldn’t leave me be, always said I was sucking up to adults and outsiders for help, teacher’s pet and all.

But I couldn’t make myself lie and say she got the wrong charr. That would be wrong too. I couldn’t bring myself to cover up for the warband that much when I doubted they’d do the same for me.

Now they were going to blame me for this too.

“No, you haven’t…” I whispered.

Bastia nodded like she had been expecting it, and turned on her heels to cross the room and speak to Medic Steelsuture in a low whisper.

He nodded, saluted and left.

Then she came back, pulling up a chair right next to my bed. Bastia settled into it, leaning back and grooming her claws with a small switchblade.

She seemed content with not saying anything, just studied me while I looked back worriedly at her.

Finally, I broke the silence. “What’s going to happen now?”

“The barracks arrest should be released shortly, if it hasn’t been already,” she replied. “A trap has been set for Rakis and Clinker. Both are under close surveillance. I’m staying out of sight to ensure they don’t spook further. I’m positive they’ll do something hasty and stupid soon, like try to dispose of the real weapon, or get in contact with Brek to get their stories straight.

“There’s the very distant possibility that they’ll go rogue and try to run, but the sentries have been doubled today, just in case. Or they’ll think you blabbed and come here to get some revenge and silence you, which is why I’m here, standing guard.

“They’re young and not really hardened criminal types, so I find the latter unlikely. Hopefully, they’ll be caught in the middle of doing something very incriminating.”

“If they aren’t?” I said.

Bastia gave me a level, even look then. “There will be a tribunal called, Flame. There should be enough circumstantial evidence to make a decent case, but the tribunal won’t give two hoots about my hunches on how they obviously looked the guiltiest. The only one who can give direct evidence was a witness who was there. That’s your decision if you want to testify.”

“I… I don’t know…”

“Your loyalty is commendable, Flame, if rather misplaced.” She steepled her fingers. “ I’ve interviewed your warband, remember? I’ve read all your dossiers. They don’t like you. Their distaste is quite clear. Maybe your name put you on the wrong foot from the beginning, maybe it was the age disparity, but you’ve never quite found a good fit with them.”

“Still, I’m no traitor,” I protested weakly. “And… I know he stabbed me, bbut it still feels like telling on them.”

Bastia grunted. She stood up and looked out the window.

“What about you,” I asked, “If it was your warband, wouldn’t you want to defend them? Keep them together, not lose anyone?”

“These days, my loyalty is to the Legion first,” she said. “My warband comes a distant second. As an Investigator, I travel around too much to really form close ties anymore.”

“These days, you said.” I pointed out.

She smiled, a wry, sad smile. “You’re pretty sharp. I like that.”

“That’s not answering my question,” I said.

“Long fucked-up stories are boring, kiddo.”

I gestured weakly to my bandaged, mummified self. “I don’t think I’m going anywhere in a hurry.”

Bastia laughed again. “Fine. You wanna hear a story so bad? One about misplaced loyalties?

“Once upon a time, there were some charr I knew…”

And it starts with a love triangle, Bastia said, two males, one female, all Ash and from the same warband.

One of the males, the one the female thought she loved more, was assigned to a deep cover operation in the Iron Legion. The rest of the warband was posted alongside the Iron Legion group, ostensibly to reconnoiter and combat a Flame Legion incursion in the Iron Marches, but to help pick up his covert reports, run interference and so on, minimizing contact otherwise.

Problem was, the operation went on so long, with the Iron Legion warband under such intense fire from the Goldies, that the Ash male started to believe his cover story, that they really were a band of brothers and the reports back to Ash started drying up, getting more terse and infrequent, until one day they stopped completely.

Fearing that he’d gone over for good, the Ash female disobeyed orders and went to talk to him. He confirmed as much, saying his loyalties were now with his warband, who would die for him and vice versa, that the unit was being moved north to support a big battle in three days, and that he was done with deceit and might even fess up who he was if Ash didn’t leave him be.

The Ash female returned to her warband. She didn’t get into trouble, only because the Legionnaire was the other male involved in the story and was crazy over her.

For a day, she brooded over the right thing to do before deciding to report what she’d found out from him. She was dreading the order that would come down to clean up the mess, likely by offing the errant Ash male.

Instead, a priority message came down that the warband was to intercept a Flame Legion group to the southeast, containing a contingent of shamans that were not to be allowed to reinforce the battle up north, and to ignore the Ash male that had gone AWOL for now.

Realizing that she had suddenly been given one more chance to convince the Ash male to come back to his senses, the female decided she had to break away from the warband and head north.

Some would call that desertion, you know?

The Legionnaire caught up with her while she was barely half a day away. He’d sent the rest of the warband onward with the intercept orders for the Flame Legion group.

They had a righteous quarrel, with heated words and not a few blows exchanged, but the female got her way by shamelessly manipulating his ego and his love for her. He left with the impression that he wasn’t as good as the other male she was chasing, that he wasn’t good enough for her.

The Ash female raced north to find out that she had been too late.

At dawn, just before the coming battle, the Ash male had come clean to his Iron brothers, naïvely thinking that they’d saved each others’ lives so many times over that they’d clap him on his shoulder and say all was forgiven. Or at least, not overreact.

Instead, they tore him apart, and hung his carcass on their siege engine as a traitor.

There would be some strongly worded inter-Legion messages exchanged from one Tribune to another, after the fact.

There was nothing the Ash female could do but trek back south to rejoin her warband, suspecting that she would also be gutted, hung or stuck on punishment squad for the rest of her life for going AWOL.

Except she found out that no one ever had the chance to report it.

You know what the dumb fuck of a Legionnaire did, after his quarrel? He decided he would singlehandedly infiltrate the Flame Legion group to assassinate the shamans. Because male ego.

They caught him. His torture drew in the rest of the warband, whose loyalty to their Legionnaire overrode their common sense. Some were captured, some they slew, some converted.

The only lucky thing was that the Flame Legion was delayed because they were so busy destroying the Ash warband.

The Ash female managed to sneak into the camp and free the few remaining captives. Half of those were lost assassinating the shamans and some of the converted, before the bedraggled survivors managed to make their escape in the chaos and limp home. With their warband decimated, the handful were all reassigned elsewhere.

“The End,” Bastia said.

“That was you,” I said.

She shrugged. “I didn’t name any names. I just said they were charr I knew a long time ago. The moral of the story is not to get shortsighted about your loyalties, I suppose. Or maybe that shit happens, and you deal with it the best you can.”

I thought in silence for a while.

“You do know,” she said, “that while you’re recovering, the rest of your warband has turned in their term projects and you’ll miss the first draft.”

“Probably the second and third as well,” I mumbled.

“Your future with them is an omega wolf’s lot. Always getting bullied, gnawing at the fringes for some acceptance.”

Put like that, it sounded so bleak. I said nothing.

“I’ve read your dossier. You’re intelligent, competent enough with a rifle – though that eye may affect your marksmanship from now on – good with mechanical devices. You’d make a decent enough investigator. Or even an Iron Legion infiltrator if you don’t forget your true loyalties.”

I stared at her with my good eye. “Are you…”

“Yes, Flame. I’m offering to be your mentor.”

“If I testify and leave with you, of course,” I said bitterly.

“As I said, you’re sharp. I can’t very well separate you from your fahrar and warband without just cause.”

“Sometimes,” I said, to no one in particular, “I hate the way Ash Legion works. All this subterfuge and plans within plans. Charr watching charr, hoarding information and secrets.”

Bastia chuckled. “Kiddo, we’re not here to be liked. Internal Affairs is here to make sure the whole machinery works. Do you know your history? What happened when the charr kept losing to the humans, and what happened when we won?”

“We trusted the Flame Legion blindly and believed in false gods?”

“For a time, we actually won doing that, even if it was completely misguided and under chauvinistic rule.” She corrected.

“No, we fought amongst ourselves. Each time the charr were driven back, we were too busy killing each other to prove we were right. We forgot the chain of command, let renegades have their way, and got undisciplined and disorganized.

“Ash Legion is here to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Yeah, we watch and spy on the other Legions. If charr don’t police other charr, who’d you want in their place? The humans?”

A deep cough interrupted. Primus Steeltrap had joined us. “We have them, Investigator Bastia. Trying to drop the knife down the well the gladium use.”

“Ah, excellent work, Primus.” Bastia turned smoothly. “Please have them ready to be transported to the Black Citadel by this evening.”

“What’s going to happen to them,” I asked.

“A tribunal,” Primus Steeltrap rumbled. “They’re juveniles, probably punishment detail of some sort, if they’re found guilty of the assault.”

“They will be,” Bastia said.

“If,” said Primus Steeltrap firmly.

Bastia the Bloodhound grunted noncommittally. She stalked towards the infirmary entrance without another word, but she paused before leaving and turned her head to look directly at me.

“Well?” she said, as she stood silhouetted in the doorway.

And I knew that she wouldn’t wait a second longer if I hesitated. “All right,” I said, sealing my fate down one path for good.

“You’ll hear from me soon.”


It’s been nearly twenty years since that day. I’ve gone through multiple warbands, always remembering what Bastia said. “Loyalty to the Legion.”

People sometimes ask how I can hunt and kill my fellow charr, or turn them in on orders, without the least bit of regret.

They’re wrong.

I regret the senseless waste and the need for all this fighting and subterfuge every single day.

But every society has its criminals and its renegades, and if charr don’t catch other charr, who will?

GW2: Candidate Trials Redux – Berserk Guardian Edition

As mentioned in a prior post, I’d been having a good time with T2 “on farm” with the warrior, who is a hybrid mix of axe berserker and banner/horn support.

A couple days ago, I decided to use some of the “free” 400 gems from the achievement chest to buy a doubled support buff and dump in my support tokens. (One at a freaking time, which led to a hasty rebinding of my mouse wheel – thank you Razer profile management – to left click. Lots of left click.)

407 more clicks to go...
407 more clicks to go…

After I finished, I noted there was still 15 minutes left on the buff and decided to log off the character to save the time for the next round of support token dumping. Er, voting. Whatever.

Except that I had outsmarted myself in my miserliness since I had used the buff on my farming warrior.


Well, it was way past time to upgrade spikey charr again.

I open world PvE with him a lot, in magic find gear even, and while playing with spirit weapons is fun during the actual combat portion, I couldn’t help but notice that I ended up swapping in Retreat! and Save Yourselves! in between battles simply to get from place to place at a decent clip.

Trying to fit in all the spirit weapon traits also meant I was giving up a decent amount of sword-related and survival/might buff traits too.

Plus, my original fiery dragon sword was reskinned from the cheapest exotic sword I could afford at the time of my first 80 (a mystic forged Rusttooth – yeah, power, vitality, condition damage. Hem.) The focus had equally scatter shot stats and cheap sigils.

And I may have been more than a little drunk when I put four major sigils of divinity on my berserker armor as an experimental stopgap for more expensive superior sigils of divinity. In the cold hard light of relooking at a past decision and numerically adding stuff up, I was getting +20 to all stats, which is a mere blip to performance, most likely, barely noticeable.

Definitely way past time to upgrade.

Ruby orbs went on all six slots of the berserker armor. Berserker trinkets. Used badges of honor to buy new berserker weapons – sword/focus, scepter/shield.

The biggest expenditure, as usual, was the superior sigil of fire and superior sigil of bloodlust on the sword and focus respectively. I’ve gotten fond of the fire sigil after enjoying it on the warrior, but I believe it is possible to do without. It just makes farming mass numbers of mobs a little easier. The bloodlust sigil should be a priority to anyone wanting to solo this with high damage though. 250 power makes quite a difference.

I went cheaper on the ranged weapon, superior sigil of air on the scepter and superior sigil of accuracy for the shield to increase overall crit chance.

New traits:


Zeal 10: II – Fiery Wrath

Radiance 30: VI – Blind Exposure, X – Powerful Blades, XI – Right Hand Strength

Honor 20: II – Superior Aria, VIII – Empowering Might

Virtues 10: I – Unscathed Contender

Now, I do not claim that this is a good build for WvW, dungeons, or indeed anything group at all. With some 13k hp, you’ll probably fall over whenever something big sneezes that you failed to notice.

What this does do, is output a surprisingly good amount of damage when soloing, while having a decent amount of active defence tools for surviving long enough to burst stuff down. Spamming F1 is bread and butter. It sets stuff on fire (see all the increased damage done to stuff on fire and affected by conditions), makes them vulnerable and blinds them. You have two more blinds in sword 2 and focus 4 to be timed well. Focus 5 is an emergency 3 hit block.

Standard slot skills are Signet of Resolve for a condition clear and a big burst emergency heal. Hold the Line and Save Yourselves to keep layering protection and regeneration, F3 Virtue of Courage may also help protection-wise. Retreat for placing on aegis (see unscathed contender) and for swiftness when traveling, moving, kiting. In cases of major emergency, fire off F2 and F3 and renewed focus then fire virtues once more, but you’re probably in trouble by that point.

This performs on par with my warrior in T2 – which is admittedly not as berserk as pure berserker warriors – but really, 60 odd kills is fine for farming.


I switch Retreat for Smite Condition, which helps to deal a bit more damage and deal with the very minor conditions the Aetherblades apply at Tier 2 of the candidate trials. To address the speed issue, I use Bowl of Sage and Asparagus Salad, which has a 50% chance to give swiftness on kill and supposedly more damage when moving. If you’re feeling richer than me, you could use the seaweed salad version, but I think it’s overkill.

You could also use plenty of other food, like stuff that gives more power or might on kill, or lifesteal on crit, but I like being swift and maneuverable for this horde mode affair.

The recommendation is also to use Potent or Powerful Potions of Outlaw Slaying for a little extra oomph. (I’m not 100% positive that the Aetherblade faction classifies as bandits or outlaws, but it can’t hurt.)

T2 tactics are pretty much kill everything that appears as fast as possible. Punch F1 whenever, let sword autoattack for 2k+ damage each swing, only use sword 3 for a burst/projectile absorb when you know stuff will stand still. You have the option of chasing down plunderers with a swiftness-boosted sword, or quickly switching to scepter and immobilize/smite and autoattack, which will also pound it for 2k-ish damage a hit and kill it relatively fast.

Things to watch out for:

Aetherblade Strikers – can deal a lot of damage with their lightning channel, has a shield that will daze you if you hit it while the shield is up

What not to do. Ideally, wait for icon to flash off first.
What not to do. Ideally, wait for icon to flash off first.

You do not want to be dazed. It cuts your dps. Wait for the shield to drop, then attack. Hit something else while you’re waiting. But do not forget them or they’ll give you a bad time as the spawn keeps adding up. Prioritize them about the same as plunderers, to be dropped very quickly.

Aetherblade Thumpers – mace wielders, with a highly annoying protective shield that acts like a renewed focus invulnerable.

Getting a taste of one's own medicine. Grrr.
Getting a taste of one’s own medicine. Grrr.

Same thing. Attacking them when their shield is up is a waste of dps that can be spent downing a grenadier in the same few swings. They also seem to be a touch sturdier than the other mobs. They are melee, so they can be kited and ignored till the field is clear of more important targets.

Aetherblade Thugs – highly annoying immobilize from range, hammer knockdown in melee


These guys will screw you up by setting you up as an unmoving target for other mobs to beat on, and tangle you up when trying to get at a plunderer. Smite condition (or focus 4 or flashing blade teleport if desperate) to deal with the immobilize. Circle strafing in melee (ie. run around it in a tight circle while still in range to hit it with your sword) will generally put you out of range of their very slow to windup hammer knockdown attack, while still taking them down.

Red mortar circle – DODGE. RUN AWAY. DON’T STAY IN THERE. ROCKETS INCOMING. In berserk gear especially, you do not want to tank a single mortar shell.


You can supposedly reflect the mortars as they are projectiles, but I’ve found it easier to just get out of the circle and either continue hitting the mobs around the vicinity, or ambling over to pound the grenadier’s head in. Taking out the operator should shut off the mortar unless something bugs.

Swashbucklers bleed and grenadiers have grenades that chill and apply vulnerability and such depending on the tier. They die fairly easily so you want to be targeting them with extreme prejudice to keep the spawn sizes manageable anyway.

How about T4 though?

The new post-patch T4 was stumping me for a bit, but the two day break from anything achievement-obsessed seems to have done wonders for my gameplay.

I would first of all watch Liefbread’s video of a solo T4 with a berserker thief.

When you are done gnashing your teeth with jealousy over two-hit plunderer kills, a 1200 range pull to yank plunderers further away from aggro zones, and an on-call long duration stealth to break aggro if accidents happen, you can rejoin me in pondering how to get a guardian T4 capable.

The goal, if you will notice in the video, is to kill the plunderers very quickly and very near to their spawn points so that the other veteran mobs react as little as possible. If you kill them fast enough so that their treasure-tossing animation doesn’t complete, the treasure counter does not go down. Break aggro the moment the vets do take notice of you.

The good news is that with the above berserk build, a scepter guardian can take down plunderers solo pretty quickly also, just maybe 1-3 seconds longer than the thief does. (You may want to do a T2 to build 25 stacks of bloodlust first too.)

The bad news is that a guardian has no pull except binding blade (and it’s only 600 range and it’s AoE, yanking a vet with a plunderer would become fairly ugly in short order.)

This means your window of opportunity for killing plunderers is quite a bit smaller, and you risk aggroing stuff a lot more easily than the thief.

While lamenting the lack of anything trap-related (like I saw a ranger and a necro do with their traps/marks) and scrutinizing my skills, this little beauty suddenly came into focus for me. Shrapnel Mine. It can be laid on in advance, it cripples and even does a bit of bleed to help out.

Sure enough, using this got me past post-patch T4.

This is almost as far forward as you want to get. (Maybe a bit more to the right and forward to hit the right plunderer when needed.)
This is almost as far forward as you want to get. (Maybe a bit more to the right and forward to hit the right plunderer when needed.) You will get aggro from anything in the middle, run to the back, behind the rock, to break this.

The idea of the trap is that it trains you to anticipate each plunderer spawn. 5 will spawn from the left side first. The first plunderer on the right side shows up at around 5 minutes 30 seconds. As each plunderer spawns, they trigger the trap and that’s your cue to immobilize them, then smash down smite and autoattack them to death. Don’t bother with shield skills or anything, just let scepter machine gun them down before they can finish their animation.

Later, once you start missing the plunderer spawn because it gets so hectic, the mine can also be used to slow down the laden plunderer’s approach to its spawn point – just make sure you get the correct spawn point. A bit of memory work here, they will return to the same point they spawned from.

You may have to let the right-most plunderer go a couple of times. It’s easier to intercept both the left and middle plunderers without aggroing all and sundry.

This is about the range you want to be for the rightmost plunderer. You will aggro anything in the middle, so break aggro whenever possible to let vets wander to the end first.
This is about the range you want to be for the rightmost plunderer. You will aggro anything in the middle, so break aggro whenever possible to let vets wander to the end first.

To get the right plunderer when things are not so chaotic, approach from the middle and only go close enough to immob the plunderer on the spawn point, just a little before the exact place where it will start treasure tossing. This minimizes the aggro risk.

When you aggro, and you will, kill the plunderer if you can in a few seconds without dying, let it go if you can’t, then drop everything and run behind the rock and a bit further if you need to.

Break aggro behind rock. Retreat further back to the south tip of the land if they chase. If you didn't hit them by accident, they shouldn't.
Break aggro behind rock. Retreat further back to the south tip of the land if they chase. If you didn’t hit them by accident, they shouldn’t.

This is when I usually fire Save Yourselves for extra swiftness to break aggro and some protection/regeneration to survive. Since we’re not aiming to actually kill much of anything in T4, switching Smite Condition for Contemplation of Purity may also help to convert the thick layer of conditions that arrive once you attract aggro and keep you alive long enough to run away.

Oh, come on, you scream. Does this mean that only Charr guardians get to manage this?

The real issue, I note, is preventing those sneaky plunderers from dashing off into the big morass of veterans where you dare not attack them, and also preventing them from reaching the point where they throw the treasure for long enough to do damage to them.

One scepter immobilize only goes so far. But I suddenly noticed that a guardian DOES have a second utility immobilize in Signet of Wrath – no weapons need be switched, you want the constant range autoattack damage as your bread-and-butter plunderer killer. It has a slight activation time to get used to, but it’s a handy 3s of immobilize that comes in handy when you’ve already used scepter 3 and when things are hectic with 2 or 3 plunderers in play.

With some patience and practice juggling plunderer spawns and killing them fast enough that they can’t toss their treasure, you too, can manage T4 post-patch.

The double immobilize version.
The double immobilize version.

How about T3?

Well, T3 is sort of a mix of T2 and T4.

You can generally start like T2 and kill stuff in the center. With the amount of damage you output, you can take down a Veteran Grenadier in fairly short order. Things get dicey once the mortar starts firing and the lone Veteran shows up. That Veteran with a gun is a major bane of my existence. It confuses. I hate confuse. Don’t we all? Do anything, including try to remove a condition, and you get hit for ugly amounts of damage.


It is safest to address this one from long range. It actually has a long telegraphed animation where it will pause and charge up its gun. Then it fires a projectile that does the confusing. You could maybe experiment with reflects or projectile absorbs. Or you could try to dodge – count off 2-3 seconds then dodge. I haven’t got the timing quite down pat, but it -is- dodgable and prevents the annoying confuse.


The problem tends to be that it always shows up at the same time as the mortars and a bunch of other spawns so a lot of things are wrestling for your attention and stuff can go wrong in fairly short order. Once you start to lose control of all the spawns, it’s time to break aggro and do like T4 for the remaining time.

I still fail this one with some regularity, mostly because taking risks to defeat more mobs means that plunderers get to sneak by unnoticed and nasty stuff shoots you in the back. But it’s doable.

Zero Aetherblade weapons and counting, by the way.

GW2: New Shiny Armor

Shock, horror, a post that -isn’t- about WvW!

The last patch on Tuesday finally unbugged the Temple of Melandru and I could pick up two more pieces of the exotic armor I wanted.

That left one more rare to replace with an exotic, and I sat down, bought the ectos and crafted it.

Now to worry about the jewelry and the weapons, the former of which are all green karma rewards and the latter yellow rares. The weapons will probably keep, the jewelry is a mite embarassing. I seriously have no idea how to make enough gold to buy them off the trading post, I’m a terrible money earner and spender. I’ll probably buckle down to craft up to jewelry 400 on an alt at some point, it earns xp after all, and the alts can make use of them too.

But that’s a goal that can be achieved in its own time.

I sat around for a bit, playing with my available dye colors and reminding myself of the simple joys outside of WvW.

Halp, a ghost!

So in one of those incredible moments, a celestial (white) dye was one of the first dyes to pop for me when opening an unidentified dye. I stared at it for a while, knowing how much white sells for in GW1… then on impulse, double-clicked it to own it.

I don’t know if I regret it or not. White is actually not a color I need on this Charr, it’s too bright on shiny heavy armor most of the time. But the sheer specialness of having the color is nice. I just refuse to look at how much it’s selling for on the trading post now.

It makes for an interesting way to start deciding how to coloring in one’s armor though. Looks funny too.

I settled for a red and gold-ish color scheme.

In part because it was the darkest color I had to hand, and light to medium grey metallic is so boring… and as a thematic nod to the Blood Legion he belongs to.

May be overdoing it a touch, perhaps. 🙂

I rather like it, it reminds me of a Warhammer 40k Space Marine (probably Chaos and Khorne to boot) with the skulls and the spikes and the tabard-like thing that hangs down from the belt. (I have no idea what it’s supposed to be called. Dress vocabulary = zero.)

And still has that encased Charr in heavy armor look.

And it’s NOT blue and white and grey, which seem to be the typical guardian “knightly” colors. Fits a human maybe, but not a Charr.

For the record, the helm and boots are crafted Draconic armor. The rest is karma armor pieces from the Orr temples, Melandru specifically, but Balthazar’s also seemed to look the same when I last checked.

The main color is Wrath dye. It looks almost entirely similar to Brick dye, if you ask me, except that Wrath dye seems to produce a darker black in the shadow areas.

Accent color is Antique Silver, which is more muted and realistic looking than the gold that came in the starter set.

The chainmail in shadow is Midnight Rust, the darkest color I had. Turned out for the best as I like the brown tinge it has, as opposed to something more grey or black.

In a way, it is almost fun to limit oneself to the color palette one has from the dyes you get, rather than trying to buy the exact color on the auction house.

(I sold unidentified dyes for a while when they were 5-6s, but now that they’ve dropped to 4s, I’ve been tempted to just open them for the fun of it, like cracking open a collectible card game pack. You know full well that the value of what’s inside will probably degrade the moment you crack the seal, but it’s paying for the thrill of the lottery and the discovery. I have plenty of alts that can use ’em still anyway.)

I also made an interesting observation. Under best appearance settings with the shaders and all turned up, the dye color looks a fair bit different than the lowest appearance settings (no shadows, low everything) that I have on for surviving in WvW (or Lion’s Arch) without crashing out of memory after an hour.

Seems like folks with much better graphics cards and less outdated systems than mine are running around a world that looks more realistic, whereas knocking everything down low still looks decently good, but looks more stylized and dare I say it, WoW-like cartoony. Or at least, brighter colors.

I need to do more PvE soon. I’ve nearly forgotten how good Guild Wars 2 can look.

GW2: Too Sexy For My Shirt…

You know all the griping about the Guild Wars 2’s initial character creator for human and norn females in light armor professions, where practically all the scholar classes are dressed in exceedingly revealing costumes / armor sets?

It turns out that for Charr males in heavy armor professions, they saved the best for last…

Some level 60-70ish chest piece I got as a personal story reward. I forget what it was called.
Level 80 rare crafted chest piece, think it’s called gladiator armor.

The barbaric look is better for tattooed Norns perhaps. Should have given him tiger stripes. He looks… kinda awkward to my eye.

Maybe it’s just my interpretation of his background, which would make him want to steer clear of any Flame Legion half-nekkid shaman kind of look.

If I weren’t so lazy or crashing every two or three zone loading screens since the last build or sick of the HoM chest plate, I would have transmuted it by now. The rest of the armor pieces besides the helm are HoM.

But mostly, I’m just lazy and it’s not the final armor piece to play dress up with yet. So he runs around daring people to poke holes in his exposed chest and back.