(( Some thoughts from my dwarven rogue Zadya Legenko about her loyalty to the Guardians, and the many characters she's encountered who press ideas of factional neutrality. ))

. . . . .

"It's all good to talk of peace.
I make peace happen."

- Burne Tuftnel, Dwarven Assassin

t is sometimes said that the world's most wretched villains are born of the honest belief that they are heroes, wreaking ruin on the masses in their misguided quest to do what's right and just. Some believe the Guardians embody this truth, thinking us so tainted by faith that we degenerate into hate-filled zealots who would exterminate all outsiders for the glory of our gods.

It's ironic that as we stand together and gaze into the mirror, you fail to realize the sinister and genocidal creature staring back at you isn't my reflection, it's your own.

You're taken aback that anyone would deign to demonize you so. After all, you're naught but a peacemaker seeking the harmonious unity of all, an honorable pursuit by the standards of any sensible soul. Surely you're the enlightened angel while I'm the devil in white, as evidenced by the anger that seethes from my being while you remain placid as a lamb. Yet the peace you advocate is the sort found in fairy tales; your solution is as simple as offering home, hearth and hugs to anyone who returns your smile, an easy trick when you're wallowing in wealth and unburdened by the threat of death.

You pay no mind to the complexities of true peace. You will hear no words spoken against the frightening consequences of your irresponsible behavior. You will not turn your head to witness the ruin left in your wake.

The immediate setting aside of our differences only works in the field. The Empyreal Alliance exists because the nature of Empyrean technology allows us to function together without tearing one another to ribbons over the matter of Sourcestone. At the end of the day, Guardian soldiers are meant to remain Guardians, Defiant soldiers are meant to remain Defiants. Beyond fighting a common foe, nothing ties the two together beyond the green hues of their armor. Unity between societies and cultures is another matter entirely; these are unique civilizations defined by centuries of hallmark beliefs and traditions, not all of which are compatible.

These differences are not reconciled in a year, not in two years, perhaps not even in decades, yet you want it now. You're willing to force it now. The end result isn't peace, it's the worst kind of war.

Explaining these truths accomplishes nothing. You continue to believe that my anger is rooted in hate, yet if you cared as much about reaching across borders as you claim, you would understand that my anger comes from pain, and that pain is the result of the damage you've wrought.

I'm pained by the existence of your grand monuments to avarice. The blessed city of Sanctum is the Guardians' greatest settlement, and while it offers everything Bahralt admires in a city, we have no luxury resorts, no extravagant ballrooms in the stars, no palatial pubs of miraculous stock. Ours is not an existence defined by extraordinary conveniences that allow everyone to live as royalty; our mortal merchants and farmers won't see in a lifetime the amounts of platinum that your lifestyle demands in a week.

I'm pained when I hear tale of claims being staked in Moonshade Highlands by groups and individuals with no cultural or personal ties to the land. Their constructions stand in mocking contrast to Hammerknell and the howling dead who still roam its halls, our great city still far from being fully reclaimed. This is hardly a concern for the invaders, who chose to build on our ancestral land simply because it's a pretty place to live.

I'm pained that my efforts to connect with my once proud kin have resulted in meeting a parade of defectors to Meridian who give little thought to the fate of our delves, lunatics who think themselves impossible halfbloods, wayward souls who seek acceptance through debasing themselves as comic relief, or childlike sidekicks who behave more like housepets than allies, all too eager to accept the demeaning head-patting of their haughty masters.

I'm pained by the campaign to rob the Guardians of our distinction as the Vigil's chosen. As the Lycini honor the gods and are recognized by them, all who open their hearts to them must likewise be accepted, or so the argument goes. In truth, the Vigil still has a clear list of prohibitions as relayed to us by the Messengers. Anyone who violates those prohibitions or knowingly supports a body of people who do so is disgraced by the gods, not blessed.

Above all, I'm pained by the fact that your new order flourishes by feeding on the old. You lure Guardians from their sworn duty with your wealth and wonder, just as I was once led astray by the Golden Maw. Your surrogate reality has grown so bloated that even Argent Glade now feels like a foreign land, treated as neutral ground when no such decree has ever been made, the mortal guards unable to do anything about the nigh-undying beast that chooses to sit there on its haunches. Despite this, you react to my anger with a dismissive shrug of your shoulders, as if the fate of the society you've ravaged is not your concern. You sleep on beds stuffed with angel down, then wonder openly where the angels went when it was you who led them to the slaughter.

What have you left for me? You would have my allies, my religion, my lands. Where am I meant to go to find solidarity with my people, when you've done everything in your power to convert them into the keepers of your private paradise?

Where am I meant to go to be a Guardian?

Where am I meant to go?

I can't escape you. I can't stop you. I can't scratch your great melting pot, never mind having a hope of tipping it over. I can't convince you that you're not the shining beacon of hope you think you are, but as horrid a monstrosity as ever crawled out of the rifts -- a slayer of societies, an assimilator of souls, a gorger of worlds.

I can only pray that your conscience still exists, locked away but living still, and that it might one day break free of its gilded prison and hit you harder than I ever could.