Among the many, many, many tomes distributed by the Durmand Priory, Bitter Ashes: Memoirs of a Former Flame Shaman has been one of the more controversial pieces. It has been debated whether or not the various accounts of Flame Legion life are factual or simply elaborate fabrications, but when cross-referenced with details provided by sources in the Ash Legion the contents of the book hold up. Copies of the tell-all are usually leather-bound and written in a plain typed font, with the infamous emblem of Gaheron Baelfire’s faithful providing a backdrop to the title. It has sold fairly well although reviews vary, with some critics praising it for providing a bold insight into the inner workings of one of Tyria’s most reviled factions and others denouncing it as a thinly veiled attempt to garner sympathy. Regardless, the book has stayed in circulation since its first publishing in 1327 AE and is unlikely to be removed from shelves en masse anytime soon.
((Hi! Here's a preemptive thanks for slogging through my mass of headcanon! If I've glossed over some lore, please let me know!))
Table of Contents
-Flame, Smoke, and Lava: Life of a Shaman
-Concerning the Legions
-Tyria Through a Lens of Flame
My name, as well as the names of my former warband will not be mentioned in this writing. For my own safety as well as the safety of the community I currently live in, specific details of my upbringing and life within the Flame Citadel will be kept as sparse as possible. I will also not relay the events that led to my dissociation with the Legion proper and my relocation.
This is not an attempt to gain pity, or an attempt to glorify the events of the past. What I wish to convey in this book is a sense of understanding, so that current and future generations might understand the attitudes and motives that sparked so much violence.
Thank you for not burning this book, as I would have been forced to had I come across it in years past.
No account of the Flame Legion (or Gold Legion, as we had been dubbed in the past) as it exists today would be complete without mention of its single most influential modern figure, Gaheron Baelfire. He was as a god to us, divine in both the manner with which he carried himself and the absolute mastery he possessed over his magics and his people. To question the will of Baelfire was unthinkable, grounds for corporal punishment for the rank and file troops and cause for suspicion and subsequent quiet assassination for those few charr with enough clout to be missed.
Baelfire was our reason for existence. Baelfire drove our every action, our every order, our every thought. Baelfire was synonymous with the Flame Legion itself; the personification of centuries of doctrine and culture. While he lived he was an absolute presence, tied inexorably to all aspects of our lives by strict protocol. Every flame lit was said to be a gift by his will, burning hotter and brighter than those of the heretics who would try to defy him and only snuffed out because its power had been recalled to him. We shaman were well-versed in his many virtues, extolling tales of his burning passion, blazing wrath, and infernal might to the grunts below us at every opportunity. Repetition has a way of bending the mind, much as a hammer bends hot iron fresh from the forge. Our people’s minds were cherry-red and ready to be shaped, and in Baelfire’s name we did so gladly.
The Flame Imperator’s rise to power began when his warband sacrificed themselves in his name. In retrospect, he and those that supported him more than likely did away with the other members secretly, but the report we had been given was one of selfless sacrifice for the greater good. Everything that a soldier did was always for the greater good; the good of the Legion and therefore the good of Baelfire. Some early detractors pointed out that with his bandmates dead, he was reduced to a lowly Gladium and was no longer fit to be Imperator. Those voices were silenced immediately, and it soon became common knowledge that a god was above even the bonds of a warband and could not be held to the same standards as those beneath him. Once his dominance was secure and no other contenders for his rank remained, Baelfire began his experimentation with the Eternal Flame.
The Eternal Flame has existed long before the Flame Legion and long before the charr. It is said to be the heart of all fire, an impartial and immortal font of power that rests in the very core of Tyria itself and may well be linked to the Mists as well. Only Baelfire and his handpicked Godforged were ever allowed to fully partake in its blazing might, and the rituals that allowed one to truly tap into it were known only to the Imperator himself. Those that assisted him in the channeling were typically allowed only a few months by his side before they were selected to be sacrificed and add to his strength.
Using the Eternal Flame as well as absorbing the magics of all who were sacrificed in his name, Baelfire’s powers grew exponentially. He glimpsed secrets of fire that most mortals cannot even dream of and bathed in the radiant, all-encompassing heat of magma from atop his blazing altar. The Tribunes below him were only seldom granted slivers of his potency, as Baelfire only poured any real power into the souls of his Godforged. Only the most devoted were allowed to taste true might, which both granted him an elite, obedient force capable of crushing any other the Legion could muster as well as provided incentive for loyalty among his troops. Baelfire used his Godforged to crush dissent and ruled with an iron fist, allowing there to be no question that his will was law and his power was absolute.
His death rocked us to our very core.
In a single, finite instant an entire generation’s worth of doctrine was proven irrefutably false. A god was eternal and all-powerful, and Baelfire was the only true god that the charr had ever known. The humans had their laughable pretenders from beyond the Mists; the norn worshiped their Spirits that could be slain, and the Dragons were raging animals to be hunted and exterminated when the time was right. Baelfire was a true god; a Tyrian god; a charr god. When the news of his death reached the rank and file troops the Legion went still for a moment before erupting into utter chaos.
When I first heard the reports, I did not believe them. My faith in my god had been absolute and had infused every facet of my life. For months thereafter I held the hope that this was all somehow a trick; a ploy by the heretics to shake our faith and to make us waver in the hopes that we would incur Baelfire’s wrath. After two long years of introspection I am finally certain that like all other gods, Baelfire was merely a despot that used the desperation of his people to garner power and constricted the flow of information to ensure that the very idea of disbelief was inconceivable. If anyone had been raised in the same conditions I had, your faith would have been as unwavering as mine was.
My sire was a Centurion, although he held no remarkable innate magical talent. My dam was never spoken of, as females were widely disregarded by the Legion unless they were being selected as a mate or unless they stepped out of line and required ‘reeducation.’ That was the term for the various methods of control forced upon unruly females, from drugs that dulled the mind, mandatory declawing for first offences, and various other tortures designed specifically to cause as much pain without affecting the body’s functions. Like all charr, those responsible for the females carried out what they saw as their duty with brutal efficiency.
That task was reserved for the lesser soldiers. Shaman, such as myself, did not involve ourselves with such trivial matters and instead busied ourselves with the task of maintaining the Flame Legion’s magical superiority and ensuring that the will of Baelfire was carried out without question. I was selected from birth to join their ranks thanks to a ritual that all cubs are subject to that sensed my magical potential, with certain physical attributes such as my fur color touted as additional omens that I was destined to become a powerful wielder of flame. My sire then conceded me to the Kindleflash Fahrar, one of a handful of exclusive fahrars reserved for the shaman caste.
Our education consisted of a token amount of martial training, rigorous magical drills, and ceaseless indoctrination concerning the divinity of Baelfire. From my earliest memories I can recall a sense of superiority, a notion drilled into my mind that because of my skill with fire I was innately superior to the vast majority of the Legion, save for shaman who outranked me and of course Baelfire himself. We lived on a diet of seemingly justified hubris, the sight of lesser cubs kept in line by their own indoctrination only adding to our pride and vanity.
We were not immune to criticism and consequence, however. Branding was by far the most popular form of discipline for any offences, as the Legion favored disfiguring those who made mistakes in an effort to encourage perfection. The practicing of any magics that did not directly relate to fire (and subsequently the glorification of Baelfire) was strictly forbidden, with offenders receiving tallies administered by a hot iron for each infraction as well as additional punishment meted out by our Primus. These varied from simply having the other cubs beat the offender for a set amount of time to an offending cub being suspended in a cage over lava to reinforce the absolute power of fire. I recall one unfortunate cub who had dared to draw water from the ground and quench his thirst after a drill being left for three days in one of those cages, with horrific blisters lining his flesh and mutilating his body beyond repair or recognition. Such displays were understandably effective in keeping the rest of us in line, and only grew harsher as we grew older.
As years went by we were groomed for leadership, with warbands of shaman expected to take command over lesser troops immediately upon finishing the fahrar. The finest tactical minds of the Flame Legion instructed us in how to properly utilize our superiority, and thanks to their careful teachings only a few warbands per generation ever managed to utterly fail in leading their soldiers properly. We were also given access to more potent rituals and deeper understanding of fire as we progressed, with knowledge of both our magic and our history dispensed one measly pellet at a time. Seeking answers before a Primus deemed you worthy of them was strictly prohibited and warranted extreme punishment; more often than not sacrifice to Baelfire along with heretics and those charr foolish enough to defy him. I was almost an adult before I had even heard the name Kalla Scorchrazor, and it was given only as an example of the lengths the other Legions would stoop to in order to usurp Flame’s dominance.
One particular rite of passage for young shaman was the first performance of the Baelfire Ritual. Whether or not it existed prior to Baelfire I do not know, but he had certainly developed its concepts far more than anyone else in Tyria. The Ritual provided a means for us to become empowered by our faith and by the Eternal Flame, using the mutilation of our bodies as a catalyst to spark our true potential. We were garbed in ceremonial robes and gilded with jewelry, taken to the very heart of Hrangmer and instructed to spill our blood into the fiery pit below. As the crimson stream began to smolder we breathed in the flame fueled by our own life’s essence, searing our lungs and taking the strength of the volcano into our souls.
Those that survived emerged with eyes that blazed and claws as hot as molten iron, the fire in our lungs burning for as long as our faith did and empowering us beyond any other heretical masters of heat. Over time it would scar the flesh and sear away the fur, leaving nothing but blackened skin and blazing limbs behind as our devotion consumed us. Should our faith ever waver, however, the fire would die, leaving us with nothing but our scars and the promise of immediate sacrifice should we ever be found out. Thus it was encouraged for shaman to repeat the ritual as often as they could bear it, lest their flames die and they be exposed as heretics.
It took three months for the ritual's effects to fade from my body, and I have heard reports of Dredge undergoing the same supposedly sacred ritual that I once had, presumably without dedicating themselves to a dead god. Through careful deliberation I have come to the conclusion that it was never tied to belief at all, and that the fire would always wither away no matter how devoted a charr was to Baelfire. I am left with only the deep regret of my actions and the horrible, mangling scars that serve as a reminder of the price of power.
Flame, Lava, and Smoke: Roles of the Shaman
Shaman are divided into three main groups, along with a special classification known as an Igniter that will be addressed later. First and foremost among our ranks are the Flame Shaman, undisputed masters of the pure and holy energy of fire. These shaman generally serve as commanders even among other wielders of flame, their raw magical power lent to both ritual and the roasting of enemy combatants alike. In most cases a senior Flame Shaman will lead a Castrum and double as a Centurion, ensuring that soldiers in the area were properly inspired and performing with the efficiency and rigorous standards demanded by Baelfire.
Lava Shaman are the Flame Legion’s answer to the Iron Legion and their metallic toys. They specialize in manipulating the very burning blood of the earth itself, and utilize small portions of earth magic in their work to aid them. All fortifications that look like volcanic eruptions frozen in time and cooled to produce an impenetrable stony barrier are the work of Lava Shaman, and their craft includes the production of all idols and magical tools cast from stone and infused with burning might. They have been directly responsible for such items as the cages of flame that house prisoners in the field, charms that teleport our troops in flashes of fire, effigies that smash through defenses, and the various sacrificial tools that are used regularly by other shaman.
The Smoke Shaman serve as keepers of forbidden knowledge and silencers of dissidence. While the Flame Shaman performs rituals and the Lava Shaman produces reagents, the Smoke Shaman will ensure that no one knows more than needed and that everyone involved keeps their trap shut afterwards. If a Smoke Shaman is present in a Castrum then either powerful magic is about to be performed, or rumors of heresy have been heard and are being investigated. They have proven invaluable in sniffing out Ash Legion infiltrators and even traitorous warbands, and I fully expect one to appear at my doorstep should my identity be discovered.
Finally, the Igniters are a special breed of combatant. They are not trained as Shaman, but have been selected by their superiors to undergo the Baelfire Ritual and be forged into living engines of annihilation. Most are driven to the brink of madness by the pain induced during the Ritual, and all are outfitted with specially constructed foci to help channel their newfound destructive potential. Igniters serve as elite shock troops; deployed wherever resistance has proven too strong to crush by traditional means.
All shaman regardless of their station among their fellows demanded absolute obedience from those below them, and a shaman of the same rank as a charr with no magic automatically trumped their authority. Even Tribunes Griefblade and Burntclaw, as cunning and successful as they were, had to obey the orders of any Shaman that rose to their same height regardless of seniority. Some chafed at the idea of being lead by those with less experience, but they were always quickly reminded that the Shaman have served as the mouths of the gods for centuries, and will likely continue to lead the Flame Legion until its destruction.
Concerning the Legions
The other three High Legions have both influenced and been influenced by Flame doctrine since the time of the Khan-Ur. In a way they owe their modern identities to the actions of the Flame Legion, especially the Iron Legion. If the Searing had never occurred, how many generations would have gone by before we ever saw our homeland again? If the shaman caste had not been rejected and proven to be deceivers and idolaters, would the Iron Legion have ever become the supreme industrial and technological power on Tyria? It is because of that initial revolution that the Legions’ distrust of magic took hold in the first place, without which effigies and cauldrons may still be the dominant powers on any battlefield.
The Iron Legion was looked on with both admiration and contempt by the shaman caste due to all that they had been able to accomplish without large-scale use of sorcery. They proved to be our greatest threat, and it was the siege engines of Iron that eventually broke our walls and pushed us into open combat. Their wide use of gunpowder and coal was typically seen as a liability that we could and did exploit. A single wayward spark could prove disastrous to a munitions or fuel storehouse, and the resulting blaze often eliminated any trace of sabotage. Guns in particular proved to be an insurmountable challenge to the dominance of both our shaman and infantry, cutting through plate and flaming wards alike. Our answer to this threat came from the Lava Shaman, who tirelessly worked to develop teleportation charms that allowed infantry to bypass a line of rifles, thicker walls for our fortresses that could stand up to the toughest artillery shot, and more durable effigies that could stand fast through hails of gunfire. In the end, however, we could not outfit our standard troops with enough magical defenses to make them immune to bullets, forcing us to rely on guerrilla warfare and subterfuge to slow the advance of Iron into our lands.
The Blood Legion has always shared Flame’s utter contempt for humans and singular drive for conquest. However, their stubborn refusal to yield to any power but their own proved disastrous, eventually leading to both our defeat on the Plains of Golghein and eventually Hrangmer itself. The actions of Balthea Havocbringer, Pyre Fierceshot, and Kalla Scorchrazor have been vilified in Flame Legion society to the point where the mention of their names beyond lessons in tactics and sermons warning against sedition is looked upon with suspicion and disgust. I myself was only able to learn the full extent of their stories after I started a life separate from Flame, and was shocked to learn of the dishonest tactics employed by our own Imperator after our defeat at the plains. In our own histories it was Scorchrazor who wielded the poison dagger, denying us any chance of truce or a lasting peace before roasting for her treachery. Given our penchant for distorting the truth in our efforts to maintain control over the common soldiery in our own ranks, I should not have been surprised by the reports past down by the shaman caste of days gone by.
It was our decision to deny females the right to be soldiers that ultimately led to the dismantling of the Flame Legion as a true power in the world, in my opinion. Had our forebears not dismissed half of all charr and instead simply punished those who rejected the Titans as they made themselves known, perhaps Flame and Blood would still be allied today. Their shock troops were a resource that was sorely missed once we turned them against us, and although we tried to emulate their ferocity and martial prowess the fighting spirit of Blood remains something that only they can truly hone to perfection. It subsequently fell to the Ignitors to deter their advances, roasting lines of soldiers alive in gouts of fire in the hope of turning them back. They were not always successful.
Ash Legion has always been a bitter rival to Flame. Jokingly it was referred to by grunts and cubs as “what you got if you took everything good about us away.” In truth, their spies and sabotage were constant and dangerous threats to our own, protecting Iron’s infrastructure and Blood’s infantry at every turn and frustrating our efforts to deal with the more physical threats they posed with subtlety. In addition to this, the fact that they are currently lead by a female Imperator and facilitated the truce between Ebonhawke and the High Legions and yet still managed to outmaneuver our own intelligence agents is a blemish on our military history that likely will never be forgotten, even if Flame were to somehow reconstruct itself.
I have no doubts that the only upper hand Flame has ever held over the other three Legions has been our supreme mastery of fire magic. The shaman caste gained their initial dominion over them the same way they kept their own grunts in line, through lies and fear mongering. Although I feel I will always have difficulty coming to terms with my apostasy, seeing the charr as a whole thrive without a god or even magic gives me some small measure of bittersweet comfort.
Tyria Through a Lens of Flame