Warning: this post contains spoilers up to and including Book Four: Trinity Rising, chapter thirteen, Sylvari Understanding of the Tassof Series and Heart of Thorns, act four, mission two, Hearts and Minds of Guild Wars 2 and All or Nothing Requiem: Caithe. Read at your own peril.
Yes, I know I said I would write about why I was worried about the true motives behind my friendships, but I took a long break from posting for some reason (I’ve been writing the Tassof Series too much), and I forget most of what I was going to say. And this is more pressing.
Speaking of the Tassof Series, that’s what I’m writing about today. In chapter thirteen of Trinity Rising, I had to come up with a theory for how the sylvari connection through the Dream works, and then implement it.
This is just a theory – it has absolutely no canon or Anet-approved source. The only things I know for sure – the facts I worked off of – are that the sylvari do, indeed, have a connection with each other through the Dream, the fact that Mordremoth struck through the Dream to corrupt sylvari, the fact that Mordremoth’s voice is very similar to that of the Dream’s, the way the Soundless speak of everything feeling dead and lifeless, the fact that you can’t tell a Nightmare Courtier on sight if they don’t want you to, the way Aerin (one of the Soundless) spoke of the sylvari and the Pale Tree as ‘the hive,’ and other sources and facts of information, mostly derived from the Guild Wars 2 Wiki and my own experience. Besides the ones I just listed, however, they are mostly about what they can’t do – such as reading each other’s minds or knowing exactly what they know or other things that have just never been displayed as possible in the world of Tyria.
In all of my ‘theories,’ I try to take everything into account. Sometimes I have an ulterior motive in deciding one way or another – and some of them I know for certain to be false – but this one, I think, has a very good chance of being true.
I am writing this post because, after I had written chapter thirteen and all the rest of Trinity Rising, and started on Book Five: The Unbroken, I realized that I had been wrong about most of what I had said in Sylvari Understanding. I went back and edited it, but – like all things concerning the Dream – telling it from the perspective of one person in a story – particularly a person who had never Dreamed before awakening – a non-sylvari – is always fallible and not particularly understandable.
So – to give you the bigger picture, since readers of fanfiction are used to having the bigger picture – I write this blog post. The other reason is because you might not particularly feel like going back and rereading Sylvari Understanding – much less know that you would need to do this in the first place, unless I told you.
First I will give you an illustration of how I imagine the connection to exist in the first place. Several illustrations, in fact.
Imagine a family tree. (I just realized how literal that is. No, imagine a normal family tree, on paper.) The Dream, entwined with the Pale Tree, is the top of the paper. You can put Mordremoth on there, as well, if you like, though I mostly ignored him for this idea. Coming down from the Pale Tree there are a bunch of lines to all the children. Unlike a normal family tree, all the rest of the people connect to the same dot. This is the sylvari relationship to the Pale Tree by heritage and bloodline or however the sylvari refer to it.
In short, that’s their relationship on paper, whether they like it or not, similar to the way Braham is related to Eir and he didn’t particularly like it at first. But their relationship – how they relate to each other and care for each other and are friends – is expressed both through normal means – like how Braham and Eir got to be friends in addition to familial relationship – and through the Dream. The Dream is the invisible connection.
I am explaining this rather poorly, but I am using only words and without my normal hand gestures.
The Dream links all sylvari to the Pale Tree. It also links sylvari to each other – like how I can be friends with somebody who isn’t in my family, and it isn’t in official records anywhere, but it still exists.
The Dream, in the back of your head like a soft, comforting glow, knows exactly what you are feeling. It knows everything you know and why, and even your subconscious. It knows this about all the sylvari, and can tell you.
Say Sylvari 1 – you – sees Sylvari 2 smiling. The guess that they are happy is really reaching through the Dream to them, opening a bond to share emotion through. If you are reaching for the wrong emotion, however – if they aren’t happy and are only faking it – it won’t be there, and you won’t feel anything from them. If they are feeling happy, you’ll find the emotion and you’ll feel it yourself.
This is why I said at one point that it is very hard for a sylvari to lie to another sylvari, even though this is not based in official Anet anything. (There’s a lot of rather untrue statements in my story, by the way.)
However, if I was specifically trying to hide something, and I knew the people around me could guess at my emotions and feelings and even thoughts, if they knew me well enough, I would think about happy things if I was pretending to be happy. Or I could just show no emotion at all.
This is why Caithe has the reputation for being mysterious. Most sylvari can guess at the other’s emotions, but Caithe doesn’t give you anything to guess, so you have to go at random. Keeping secrets is easier than hiding your bad mood, because emotions show on your face most of the time. Guessing secrets would require you to both know the person well and be rather lucky – which is why Caithe managed to keep Wynne’s secret for so long. (The Dream is also where the memory seeds came from – straight from her mind at the time of the event.)
In chapter ten of Trinity Rising, Tiffany, Fiona, and Trahearne were taken into the Dream. In chapter thirteen, they came out again, and – from Tiffany’s PoV – experienced for the first time the Dream’s empathy.
One of the things I had to balance was the companion bond – Tiffany’s connection to Beorn. If all the sylvari had that bond with each other, it would be rather overwhelming. You’d be feeling the panic of somebody battling Risen across the Sea of Sorrows when you were sitting in peace somewhere in the Grove. For that matter, you’d also know exactly where they were.
So a key element of how the Dream works in this aspect is that you have to already know or guess the emotion of the other person.
If, for example, you saw somebody crying, you would guess – and believe your guess was fairly accurate – that they were either sad about something, or else extremely happy and/or relieved. On the condition that you and the other person are both sylvari, you would then, through the Dream, feel what they were feeling. You would be sad, or grieved, or lonely, or frustrated – it would be a tad more specific than what you’d guessed, perhaps. But the key is that you would feel it, as if you yourself were sad.
If you knew what the person was sad about, it would be more specific and it would be harder to feel exactly what they were feeling, especially if it didn’t apply to you or you didn’t want to feel what they were feeling.
But if, say, somebody had died, and you knew the relationship the crying person had with the dead person, you would be sad for them and with them, and be able to bond over both being sad over the same person, and you might become better friends with them.
It’s hard to explain out of the context of storytelling, but there are a few examples in the up-and-coming book five.
Sylvari are empathetic and caring by nature – feeling other people’s emotions doesn’t seem to bother them. In fact, when they can’t, even the Soundless describe the world as dead and uncaring.
In Tiffany and Fiona’s situation, of course, this ‘dead and uncaring’ is normal – the liveliness and emotional investment of the sylvari world is new to them. (This is a key point in The Unbroken, book five.)
To give an example of the difference between the Dream and the companion bond of rangers, let’s use Tiffany and Beorn.
Tiffany and Beorn know each others emotions without having to guess – but they don’t feel each other’s emotions through the companion bond the way they do through the Dream. But since they know the emotion, they can feel it.
No normal person could guess and know Beorn’s emotions, but a whole new world has been opened up to Tiffany, the person who knows every last one of his. This also means she has a way to guess more intricate parts of his mind, like his thoughts. Eventually, possibly, they may be sharing thoughts as routinely as other sylvari share emotions.
That is actually something I had hoped to avoid between Tiffany and Beorn. Tiffany has this problem – like me – where she can’t have deep, meaningful conversations with people without actually talking to them. In my previous post concening Aurene’s inability to speak, that was the prime topic.
However, emotion comes a close second to speech, and knowing that somebody cares about her – somebody she can trust and confide in without fear of rejection – is always going to be valuable to Tiffany.
Fiona’s Wyld Hunt – to support Tiffany, in battle, physically, emotionally – was based around Beorn’s inability to communicate to Tiffany more specifically than with emotions. Tiffany can’t have deep, meaningful conversations with Beorn, because he can’t reply.
It will certainly take a great long while for Tiffany and Beorn to master communicating thoughts – I am sure that very few sylvari can do so – but I was using it as an example to explain that this is possible.
If somebody explained to you what they were feeling, why, how, and all the other intricate things – you would be able to read their thoughts. You could, at the very least, read the thoughts that directly preceded the words that came out of their mouths, because talking is really reading your thoughts out loud to somebody.
The way I visualize the Dream and your connection to every other sylvari, is that there’s this warm, comforting presence in the back of your head. It’s like a pool that is much deeper than you thought – when you see somebody crying, you guess they are sad and reach into this deep pool. Below the surface is the Dream’s connections to all the other sylvari, floating like differently-colored orbs.
It is as if the Dream is all one entity, with bits of itself taken and put into each sylvari, forming a bond between the Dream and the sylvari, and between the sylvari and the sylvari. The Dream can’t be separated from itself – it’s always connected. Each part is like a subfolder of the Dream, I guess, devoted to a single sylvari. You, starting in your folder, can go back to the main folder and find somebody else’s, and search for ‘happiness.’ Since this folder is always automatically updating, synced with their mind, if they aren’t feeling happy right now, the results will come back with nothing.
That’s the technological explanation. Really, the sylvari are almost automatically – perhaps even subconsciously – querying the Dream. They don’t need to go back to the main folder, because all the folders are interlinked and equal. The Dream puts the emotion they searched for – if it is there – directly into their conscious mind, manifesting it as their own emotion.
I think that makes sense. (Tell me if it doesn’t, I’m kind of bad at that. It’s a wonder I can write stories.)
If it doesn’t make much sense – or if it only scratches the surface of what I am trying to explain – it at least gives you a guideline to work off of when you start reading The Unbroken, without going ‘wait, what’s this?’
Because I said so in the original version of Sylvari Understanding, I have to make sure of a few things: you can’t know where another sylvari is unless you guess right. The same goes for emotions – so if that aforementioned sylvari is fighting Risen in Orr and you are sitting at peace in the Grove, you won’t know about it unless he told you beforehand, and unless you guessed right, that’s all you would know.
The whole ‘guessing’ thing is what keeps the empathy both local, relatively private to people who know you, and actually empathy; if you didn’t guess it, you’d just be feeling a random emotion with no idea why.
This is also a very strong survival mechanism – if you are fighting alongside another sylvari, you will be feeling their desperate desire to survive, and they will be feeling yours. If you want another sylvari to survive as much as he does, he has a very good chance of surviving even if he is incapacitated. The more sylvari, the better.
It may also have been used against them when Mordremoth made his move – feeling what the turned sylvari are feeling, unless Mordremoth somehow blocked that – but that, so far, is an idea or possibility, not a theory that I have thought about for quite some time.
Now, there was a pressing problem that Fiona pointed out to me, and that is that, psychologically, it is a bad thing to have too much empathy. The idea is that if you feel somebody else’s emotions or thoughts too much, you might take their problems as your own, get overloaded, and go crazy. This makes a lot of sense, right? Right, so now I get to explain how it all works on a step deeper level… but I think I’ll save that for a later post, once you have more information on my interpretation of the Dream’s existence.
All these concepts – sad to say – have not been applied to the rest of Trinity Rising. It is really a deplorable state of affairs – one I am consistently not in a mood to fix, because it would require a lot of editing, not to mention changing the structure of conversations. It’s applied in book five, though.
In the next post, I’ll either explain about Aurene and my fear that I might only be friends with people because Tiffany is, or else I’ll write more about the Dream, probably about Wyld Hunts or something. Maybe I’ll explain (to probably a bunch of surprised and weirded out readers) what I meant by ‘the Dream is God’ in the end of chapter ten and up. Or how I’ve deduced that Mordremoth works.
Really, I have a whole bunch of projects to tackle… that I keep not tackling… because I like writing stories better.
But if you want to bump up my schedule, just ask about one thing or another. The accountability helps… wink, wink. (My subconscious is scolding me for saying that without surrounding narrative to set it in its place, and I told it to shut up; if this was a real-life conversation, I’d have said it out loud.)
Or, if you want to really bump up my schedule, join my Discord server – Tassof Friends – for talking about Guild Wars 2, or the story, or my theories – or even share your own stuff!