Hello everyone, I want to talk story today. If you are invested in the plot, even though we are yet again balls-deep into Elder Dragon business - this is for you. TL; DR at the end.
The recent release is stirring up a lot of questions in regard to Jormag and Primordus, the role of Bangar Ruinbringer in Jormag's schemes, and what Jormag may want to propose to the Commander. These are all valid and interesting questions, and as of the Visions release, I am starting to see the potential for some really juicy speculation. We have this much more to include in our analysis.
However, today I want to talk about the plot of the last episode, Shadow In The Ice. Because there are some big implications there, too.
The story on the surface
The story of last episode essentially seemed to center about Braham fulfilling his "destiny of becoming a true Norn", in the sense of developing the ability to finally shapeshift into his Wolf form. Braham sought out to achieve this by absorbing the essence of three spirits of the Wild, who reluctantly granted him their powers even though they are corrupted by Jormag.
The finale of the episode saw Braham using these powers against Drakkar and ultimately transforming into his Wolf form to fight off Bangar and Ryland and get his friends to safety. Braham achieved his destiny, and by wolf's blessing he can now shapeshift at will. A happy end, for now.
But wasn't there something else?
Why Braham is in trouble (and we are, too)
The finale of the story had a lot of things happening. And some of you might already have noticed this. However, it took me a second playthrough of the story to catch something that may have been the most crucial moment of the entire episode. More crucial than Drakkar's death, more crucial than fighting Rytlock, and more crucial than everything that happened with Ryland and Bangar. Perhaps more crucial than Jormag's conversation with us.
Let me cite this passage of "Voice in the Deep":
The Whisper of Jormag: Braham, you earned all three of the Spirits' blessings. Why then do you still fight me as a norn?
Braham Eirsson: What...what are you talking about?
: Don't listen to it, Braham! Shut it out!
The Whisper of Jormag: It was Wolf, wasn't it? Said you could take their power, maybe even become Wolf yourself. Yet here you are. Just a norn.
Braham Eirsson: Just...just a norn.
Rytlock Brimstone: Commander, you gotta...you gotta kill it! Quick!
The Whisper of Jormag: Your whole life you've tried to become Wolf, but never could. Braham, please—let me give you my power. Let me help you.
Braham Eirsson: Yeah... Help me...
: Braham, concentrate! Braham! kitten!
The Whisper of Jormag: Commander. It's finally time for us to talk.
You realize that the Whisper focuses Braham, taunts him, like he did with Crecia and Rytlock who turned against us as a result. Braham does not turn. But something happened in that moment. And I believe that a deal was made.
I think the writers were being sly here. Because with such a "lore bomb" as the following conversation between Jormag and the Commander was, we were bound to forget the seconds before.
But what if Braham let Jormag in?
I would like you to recount some of Jormag's whispers. The ones that even we, the Commander, heard during Whisper In The Dark.
1: You can't help them.
2: You're stronger with me...
3: I can show you the way...
3: Let me help you...
4: Take it.
And this one, from before the Drakkar world boss fight:
1: Drakkar is only a vessel of my voice. An innocent. Svanir asked for power, and I freely gave it to him.
2: I have never in the history of this world given something to one who did not ask.
This is it. Because Braham did ask him. And in the end, he was able to become the wolf.
But Jormag doesn't make gifts. His corruption is based on an exchange, akin to a devil's pact.
As Cloudseeker says in "Chasing Ghosts":
Cloudseeker: Jormag's truth becomes your truth. If you desire power, Jormag will give it to you. And you give yourself to Jormag.
This is the irony of it. We were warned, and we still did not see it coming. Not even Jhavi, Jora's granddaughter, saw it coming. She rooted for Braham, because of her faithfulness to wolf.
But the faithfulness to the spirits of the wild may be not just Braham's folly, or Jhavi's, but that of the entire Norn race. I am talking of a really huge lore bomb, akin to the moment where we realized that the Sylvari were actually purified Mordrem. So let's talk Norn history, let's talk Jormag, and let's talk Spirits.
Part 1: A Burden
Deep in the icebrood-infested area of Asgeir's Legacy, we found his journal. A journal that should already have shaken Norn society to its very foundations by now. Except it does not, because, as Asgeir himself notes, the Norn can never know what he did, and I suppose the Commander is keeping his secret, for better or for worse.
In short, to those who might not have read A Burden:
Asgeir Dragonrender made a deal with Jormag. About a hundred and fifty years ago, Asgeir went to Jormag to slay him in battle and secure safety for his people. The battle must have been epic in proportion, it lasted for days on end, and in the end, Asgeir was losing. But instead of dealing the killing blow, Jormag offered a deal. They both knew that the Norn race would perish if it were to continue fighting Jormag. They both also knew the Norn would never just "exist at Jormag's mercy".
So Jormag offered Asgeir a tooth. And Asgeir offered his people a lie. He took them south, along with four Spirits of the Wild, and founded Hoelbrak.
The Norn of today exist because Jormag willed it. He could have wiped them out back then. In fact, he probably could have wiped them out until he was weakened by Taimi's machine. It is my belief that the Icebrood have never actually fought the Norn to the fullest of their potential. Both the Norn and the Svanir/ Icebrood are pieces on a game board, perhaps both of them not really knowing it.
Jormag has been giving the Norn a fight they can manage, and he continues to play for time, creating ever more fodder for his army. He doesn't corrupt creatures by force. If he speaks the truth about what he did in history, maybe he never could corrupt creatures by force, he has always had to persuade. So his choice was between a huge pile of dead warriors or an army of willing ones. During those one-hundred and fifty years, the Svanir cult and the Icebrood became the greatest threat to the Norn people. But it is a threat that is meant to occupy. Jormag is keeping the children busy.
Why would Jormag do this if he could have wiped out the Norn? Let's keep in mind what Elder Dragons usually do: Elder Dragons ravage civilizations. They kill and corrupt indiscriminately, consuming magic in the process. When they have consumed their fill, they drop back into slumber. Some of them go mad over time because they have consumed too many different magics. But what does Jormag want?
Part 2: What Jormag wants
Jormag's position is somewhat unique. If we go by the lore, Jormag has never, in his last ~250 years of being awake, actively sought to consume vast quantities of magic; at least this is not something we can prove he did. He has not truly carried the fight to the Norn either - they suffered from a blizzard caused by his awakening, they saw their territories being threatened, and they brought the battle him.
Despite of all of his history with the Norn, Jormag has been a pretty kitten passive Elder Dragon. For all we know, he might be consuming only so much magic as to keep himself sustained - he is in control of his hunger. And from all the Dragons we know, he might be the furthest removed from madness, the exact opposite of Kralkatorrik. He seeks to be in control of the situation at all times.
It is my theory that Jormag does, in fact, tire of the Elder Dragon cycle. He does not want to sleep, as that limits his power and his control over the world. So what is his goal? I am not sure.
The most obvious answer is: Jormag wants to be at the peak of all things. Instead of just co-existing with other Elder Dragons and laying waste to worlds to sate his hunger, he wants to rule them. Not just Tyria, Jormag wants to spread beyond Tyria. He wants to rule the mists, and other worlds, and gods and dragons, and everything there is.
That's why he expands with restraint. That is why he wants a real army, not a heap of mindless thralls. That's why he needs an alliance with Aurene and the Commander.
The only real threat to Jormag is Primordus, because they are each other's weakness. If he manages to win over Aurene and the Commander, and take care of Primordus, that's it. The remaining Dragon would be the Deep Sea Dragon. I won't speculate much about Bubbles, because what do we know, really? But it's then one dragon against two, and their armies. Because if Jormag can convince the Commander to join him, Jormag can likely also persuade the Pact... or at least turn one half and make them slaughter the ones that remain.
But then, for all we know, Bubbles might have the power to make the oceans flood all of Tyria, and is simply exhibiting restraint the way Jormag is. Time will tell us more about the Deep Sea Dragon.
As we now know, Jormag is incredibly interested in having the Commander at his side. He wants this to such an extent, I believe, that he is willing to save the Commander's life. If Braham turned wolf because Jormag granted him this power at the right moment, then Jormag de facto saved the Commander from Bangar.
Bangar is way less important to Jormag than the Commander, but he is an opportunity. Jormag still needs to expand his army, especially while he is asleep and thus more vulnerable. The renegade Charr are basically coming to his lair. If the Dragonspawn and Drakkar could already turn people, then coming to Jormag's lair will spell doom for the renegade army. All Jormag needs to do is to tell them that his power is theirs to command.
Fortunately, the Commander has more experience with Dragons. He is not making the same mistakes that Bangar is making. But Jormag seems to have an argument to win over the Commander, too. And now he also has Braham.
Part 3. Braham, the Norn, and the Spirits of the Wild
Remember that lore twist I talked about earlier? Well, in a way we already knew that the Norn exist at Jormag's mercy. My theory that the battle between Icebrood and Norn is sort of a farce is a mere extension of that theory. But I would like to extend it even further, by claiming this:
ALL spirits already serve Jormag.
Think of it. We know that, like many Norn, Owl Spirit perished by fighting Jormag. The rest, is said, were taken, corrupted. But we know now that Jormag doesn't take, he makes deals.
Jormag's truth becomes your truth. If you desire power, Jormag will give it to you. And you give yourself to Jormag.
Braham claimed the power of the corrupted spirits of Ox, Eagle and Wolverine, and they seemed like they were fighting against Jormag's influence in giving him these powers. But Jormag doesn't force - he persuades. By all rights, the spirits should not merely be corrupted, the should be Jormag's willing champions.
And if we take this further, what is to say that the remaining spirits like Wolf and Raven are not his servants, too?
Because they aided the Norn in coming south? But that's what Jormag wanted.
Because they grant their power to Norn as they go to battle with the Icebrood? But that's what Jormag wants.
The powers of all the spirits are already at Jormag's command. Three more arguments for this:
Svanir's power of becoming the bear was twisted by Jormag, indicating that Jormag commands bear's magic.
Jora's power of becoming the bear was taken, possibly by Jormag, indicating the same thing.
Wolf instructed Braham to take power from corrupted Spirits of the Wild that serve Jormag. This would have to mean that he also serves or works with Jormag.
While in the Raven sanctum, Raven spoke to us, making us think about choices. Right ones, and wrong ones, and how sometimes, both options are bad, but one still must make a choice. This must not necessarily imply that Raven serves Jormag. However, it certainly made the Commander consider his options, which interestingly, if you are playing a human, already has an effect on you after facing the Fraenir in the sanctum:
Braham Eirsson: Commander... About what Jormag said. We're not gonna take it seriously, right?
If human: : Uhm... Right.
In the end, this is still just a theory. But if I am correct, a lot of exciting things could happen.
Jormag can further manipulate Braham to an extent where Braham needs to choose Jormag for good or Jormag will deny him the transformation in crucial moment, meaning someone will die
Jormag might twist Braham into a "Nornwolf", essentially Svanir 2.0., since Braham has already taken all the steps that Svanir has taken, which means we will have to fight Braham, and possibly kill him
Likewise, since Braham now bears the power of three more corrupted spirits, he might transition between Nornwolf, Norneagle, Nornox, and Nornwolverine, or he might become a horrifying lovecraftian amalgamation of all four (though I think that's a stretch)
If we want to avoid killing Braham, Jormag might try and make it a condition that we join him to save Braham's life
Should any other Norn decide to help us, for example Jhavi, Jormag can deny them the powers of becoming their spirits, as he once denied Jora, long ago, and might still deny others without them knowing it (they essentially just keep believing the Spirits don't deem them worthy)
TL; DR as promised:
Jormag has begun to make Braham into Svanir 2.0., and the evidence is in the story
Jormag wants to break the Elder Dragon cycle so he can stop destroying civilizations that war with him and instead rule everything there is, for which he needs the Commander and Aurene
Jormag commands all the Spirits of the Wild and can deny the Norn their shapeshifting