Oct 282013

The Kessex Hills region has changed a lot over the past 250 years. It encompasses parts of old regions such as the Talmark Wilderness, Tears of the Fallen, the Black Curtain, and Kessex Peak. Looking back on my ancestor’s notes, this area used to be inhabited by animate undead skeletons, minotaurs, imps, oakhearts, and mergoyles. Now it’s mostly filled with centaurs, bandits, krait, Destroyers, ettins, and trolls.

During her struggle to overthrow the White Mantle, Princess Salma and the Shining Blade used the Talmark Wilderness to setup a camp to launch their coup on Lion’s Arch. Her success transformed their simple tents and training grounds into the fortified complex we have today: Fort Salma.

With the passing of time, Fort Salma serves a new purpose for Kryta. Seraph soldiers train, protect and watch over the people that live in Kessex Hills. Centaurs and bandits have several large camps and regularly raid human settlements.

kessex hills-fort salma

The Seraph are constantly trying to drive away the centaurs and take their camps. Their success never lasts long, but it keeps the centaurs distracted from Fort Salma and other settlements. Several of the key camps are the Wallwatcher (pictured below), Greyhoof Camp, and Cavernhold Camp.

kessex hills-wallwatcher camp

When all of the centaur camps have been secured, the Seraph focus their forces on the Overlord’s Greatcamp. Here, key Harathi tribe centaurs give orders and plan assaults for the Tamini tribes.

For such “uncivilized” beasts, such tight coordination between different tribes would seem impossible to achieve. But they have been united for 200 years now under the rule of Ulgoth the Mighty. He’s of the Modniir centaur tribe that used to inhabit the Shiverpeaks, but were driven away. The combined might of the Modniir, Harathi and Tamini tribes make the centaurs a serious threat to Kryta.

kessex hills-overlords greatcamp

South of the Overlord’s Greatcamp I barged into the Mudbay Digs. It’s run by bandits that work together with the centaurs. There’s no doubt the alliance was forged to make Queen Jennah look bad. The rumors surrounding the partnership are troubling. Minister Caudecus is rumored to be covertly leading the bandits, and if that’s true, this alliance is truly disturbing. Since there is no direct evidence and only rumors to rely on, he remains in power and is still popular with people in Divinity’s Reach.

kessex hills-mudbay digs

Bandits at Mudbay Digs mine ore and forge weapons for the centaurs. Along with other adventurers we stopped this day’s shipment and killed off the current foreman. Initially we were met with little resistance, until the foreman arrived and entered his asura hazmat suit. I don’t know where he acquired it, so I can’t fault an asura for working with the bandits. But it took us a while to chip away at his tough armor until the device fell apart, leaving his squishy human body vulnerable to our weapons.

kessex hills-bandit foreman

Following south along the west coast, we reached the edge of Kessex Hills and the site of a new sylvari settlement: Shadowheart. Like all sylvari buildings, it’s gorgeous and breathtaking. But the site of Shadowheart was built on the Lychcroft Mere, which is filled with Zhaitan’s minions. Some of the sylvari are trained to fight them, but they are outnumbered and constantly being poisoned, driven away or killed. Sylvari have a natural resistance to Zhaitan; none of them return as undead when they die. They live on the mere to combat the undead and stop them from spreading through Kryta.

kessex hills-shadowheart

It’s nearly always raining in the Lychcroft Mere, not that the undead care.

kessex hills-lychcroft mere

At the crossroads to Caledon Forest, Ireko Tradecamp attracts sylvari and asura travelers. Strangely there were also some Caromi tengu on site, and their reasons for being here are interesting. Their leader Gezhou Talonrend left the confines of the Dominion of Wind because of the threat posed by the dragons to the north and south. It was fun to chat with a tengu. They’re a rare sight in Tyria because their Dominion of Winds is enclosed in a great wall that is well-defended.

kessex hills-ireko tradecamp

A hylek named Matal waved to me as I approached an opening to the Eukaryan Caves. She was gathering truffles for her starving village and needed my assistance. The best solution (in her mind) was to transform adventurers into pigs to sniff out the truffles. I agreed to her strange request. At first I was amused by my new pig form, until I had to kill grubs and avoid ettins all while trying to gather and roll the truffles back to Matal.

kessex hills-eukaryan caves

Once I helped Matlal, she pointed me to a secluded underwater passage to their Tagotl hylek village. They live between the krait infested waters of Viathan Lake and the smaller Viathan’s Arm. The Tagotl are in constant battle with the krait for survival and food.  They have lived here slightly longer than the krait, which is why they were unprepared for tough competition. Both races were driven north by the threat of dragons. Their chief, Tlatoa told me that “Hylek care most about tribe, food, and territory – in that order”. I’m glad they are open to dialogue and receiving help from strangers.

kessex hills-tagotl grounds

Atop the caves, Toactl asked me to help test his stinky turret (which I did). But what really caught my attention were the burnt ruins of Auld Red Wharf to the north. Humans used to live there before krait came and destroyed it. I found an old man weeping over the loss of his grandmother, and a man searching through the ruins for heirlooms, only to find the ghosts of his wife and daughter.

kessex hills-auld red wharf old

Diving into Viathan Lake, I headed towards the Lair of the Seawitch. I was curious as to how many krait lived here and what could be done about them.

kessex hills-vaithan lake1

Inside the Seawitch’s cave, there were many krait pillars and cages to to hold their prey for sacrifice (humans, quaggans, and hylek). Suddenly the Blood Witch emerged from the darkness and tried to drive myself and some other curious adventurers away. While some of us tried to hold our ground, others left the cave to find help and before long, large groups of adventurers came to kill the Blood Witch for glory.

kessex hills-blood witch

After our success, I traveled further north in the lake to visit Moogooloo, a quaggan village. Like the hyleks to the south, they are regularly forced to battle with the krait. Unfortunately, it’s taboo in quaggan culture to become enraged and fight. Their anger transforms them physically and mentally into frenzied berserkers. Most quaggans are very ashamed and embarrassed of this, and refuse to talk about it. Their situation always attracts sympathic adventurers because otherwise the quaggans would perish.

kessex hills-moogooloo village

On Viathan’s Arm, a smaller lake to the east, sits Triskell Quay. It used to be a prime fishing location until the krait arrived. It’s villagers and fishermen are always targeted and are sometimes captured. A few Seraph soldiers are stationed here, but it’s not enough to secure the town. With the best fish taken by the krait, it’d be wise if they moved on. Civilians can’t defend themselves against the krait threat, and there’s always the risk of being captured during the daily raids.

kessex hills-triskell quay

North of the Triskell Quay, workers at Quarryside mine ore for Seraph weapons. Centaurs know of it’s importance and assault it on a daily basis.  As with the fishing village, there are too few Seraph to keep it safe.

kessex hills-quarryside

Kessex Haven is located to the east of the quarry. Lionguards, not Seraph are stationed here. Their objective is to escort goods to Lion’s Arch and see that their treaty with the centaurs goes unbroken. Under the treaty, centaurs can trade in Kessex Haven, and they won’t harm merchants heading to Lion’s Arch. Unfortunately all the treaty does is keep centaurs off trade routes. Lionguards can’t go to the rescue of villages being attacked by centaurs under this treaty.

kessex hills-kessex haven

Motivated by the plight of people in Kessex Hills, I visited several well known centaur and bandit bases of operation to even the odds.

Kenna’s bandits camp is north west of the Quarryside. Human bandits and centaurs work together and practice on targets. It would have been a risky fight going in alone, but plenty of other adventurers had the same idea.

kessex hills-kennas bandits

South of that, I found a secluded camp that only housed three centaurs. However they were all from the Harathi tribe, so they must have camped there with an objective in mind.

kessex hills-manefire hills

Deep in the rocky mountains to the north that border Queensdale, Goff’s bandit camp has a special meaning to me. It’s here where I found one of my sisters Deborah (that was presumed to be deceased), being caged up. A lot of time has passed since then, and I didn’t liberate anyone on my visit today. Only two trolls were caged up in the pens. Goff’s used them as “security” against intruders.

kessex hills-goffs bandits

Wrapping up my tour and passing the Cavernhold Camp, I finally reached the Earthworks Camp. It was being held by the Seraph on my arrival, but it never stays that way for too long. Sergeant Reeves was stationed inside and told me that the Earthworks was made by centaurs from the Harathi tribe to produce weapons. Surrounding the camp are deforested plains and piles of cut logs.

kessex hills-earthworks camp

Heading east, Black Haven is another stronghold owned by the Lionguards. It’s built beside a road that goes to Gendarran Fields and eventually leads to Lion’s Arch. You can see the centaur’s Earthworks Camp in the background.

kessex hills-blackhaven

Jannaj’s bandits have built tree houses to the north of Black Haven on the road to Queensdale. Rich traveling nobles are prime targets.

kessex hills-jannajs bandits

Below the bandits in Blackroot Cut on a stretch of swamp land there are several unmarked graves. A man named Shady Hammon that seemed to be the caretaker, invited me to look at something strange at the back of his catacomb. Once we reached the back, demonic fleshreavers appeared and attacked me. Hammon had either summoned them, or perhaps was a demon in disguise. As a skilled adventurer, they didn’t pose a threat, but I am sure many foolish or greedy people have fallen for his tricks.

kessex hills-blackroot cut cemetery

Portals to the Underworld on the Blackroot Cut waters opened, allowing shades and aatxe to roam free among the living. A whisper from one of the portals challenged us to defeat it’s champion to gain more power. It turned out to be a real challenge and not a trap, and I felt stronger after the encounter.

kessex hills-blackroot cut sp

A centaur necromancer named Draithor eyes the road from Gendarran Fields for test subjects. From speaking with Aria Venom, a necromancer from Blackhaven, Draithor craves magic but doesn’t understand his powers. Aria also helped us raise minions from the merchant’s remains to fight Draithor.

kessex hills-draithor

The centaur’s cave is known as Draithor’s Demesnes. Pale translucent purple minions remained here after his death. A strange mechanism in the back couldn’t be identified, but it looks complex.

kessex hills-draithors demesnes1

Inside a room, I found cages and the remains of animals. There was also a meat rack at the back. Having just killed Draithor for murdering merchants, I couldn’t in good conscience eat the meat.

kessex hills-draithors demesnes2

Heading south towards the east corner of Kessex Hills, I heard shouting between some ettins and a giant in a cave. What I didn’t expect to see, was a group of ettins kicking the giant out of his home. He pleaded with me and other adventurers to take it back, and rewarded us with a bit of his treasure for the good deed.

kessex hills-gorts pit

Approaching the Cereboth Canyon, a breathtaking view of a waterfall caught my attention.

kessex hills-cereboth canyon waterfall

Following the sour water further south, entry to a large cave with ooze revealed some ruins. It was tricky to explore deeper due to the unsafe stairs and platforms, but I managed not to fall below to the drakes that live in shallow water of the cave floor.

kessex hills-collapsed observatory1

After killing a troll that was guarding treasure in a collapsed observatory, I couldn’t discover anything else about this strange cave. None of the towers and buildings I walked by had any furnishings or books.

kessex hills-collapsed observatory2

On my way west to see the Destroyer rift, I heard a small cry from a hole.  A young girl had fallen and needed help escaping the Destroyer’s cave to reach her home of Overlake Haven.

kessex hills-kari1

Once others got wind of the young girl’s misfortune, a group of us fought our way through the cave and escorted her back to her mother.

kessex hills-kari2

Backtracking to the Destroyer rift, a tengu named Sangdo Swiftwing thanked me for helping cull his enemy.

For assisting him, I was given more information about his people. The tengu built the Dominion of Wind’s walls after the Great Tsunami. Due to the threat posed by Orr, they consolidated their many clans into four houses, each with different cultures. And perhaps most importantly, he shared what they value the most: honor, family, and history. It’s the value of history that keeps them secluded behind the wall. Their violent expulsion from Cantha has certainly made them wary of humans and governments.

kessex hills-sangdo swiftwing

Lastly I went to the town of Garenhoff to spend the rest of my time talking to it’s citizens about the floating Wizard’s Tower.

kessex hills-garenhoff2

Thanks to Isgarren the wizard, friendly elementals work, guard, and help people in Garenhoff with their everyday needs. They’ve been around for as long as anyone can remember. Few people question the safety of the elementals and Isgarren’s intentions. Even Mayor Manrin spends much of his time turning the town into a tourist attraction and thinking of souvenirs to sell.

People that go to the tower disappear forever. No one in Garenhoff seemed to care or worry about it, because they believe Isgarren is their benevolent protector.

kessex hills-garenhoff

Looking back on my ancestor’s notes, a wizard tower existed in the same region. A cliff near the tower attracted a necromancer named Verata and his cult followers. None of her notes mentions who lived there.

There are a lot of magic users in Tyria, so I wonder why no one has found a way in and come back to tell about it. It suggests that either it’s very difficult (or impossible) to teleport in, or Isegarren holds trespassers there indefinitely.

kessex hills-wizards tower