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Video GamesFeb 21, 2022 2:00 pm CT

Who is Shiro Tagachi, the Betrayer? How are his actions still shaping the world of Guild Wars?

In the annals of the Guild Wars games, there are few mortals whose impact on the world are as deep and lasting as Shiro Tagachi, the Betrayer. His actions nearly 500 years ago still resonate throughout the lands of Cantha, and his return during the events of Guild Wars: Factions nearly succeeded in overthrowing the Empire of Dragons. With End of Dragons taking us back to Cantha, players will be encountering his legacy at every turn. But who was Shiro Tagachi, and will he return yet again to torment us?

From bodyguard to betrayer

Shiro Tagachi’s career started as a guardsman for the Empire of Dragons, but in his veins ran the blood of the first Emperor, Kaineng Tah. Whether his ancestry was the source of his prowess with swords is not known, but it certainly was the wellspring for his ambition. Noticed for his talents as an assassin, Shiro became a bodyguard for the Emperor Angsiyan, where his ruthlessness and loyalty were proven repeatedly — defeating (and beheading) rebels or rescuing the Emperor’s son from a conspiracy led by Canthan ministers, who were summarily executed by Shiro.

While his ambition was always present, thoughts of disloyalty did not appear until Abaddon, a fallen god of the humans, sent a demon disguised as a fortune teller to stir dark thoughts within Shiro’s heart. Treachery and paranoia welled up inside him, and he turned to forbidden magics — increasing his powers while diminishing his sanity. He became convinced that the Emperor meant to have him killed during the Harvest Festival and thus the stage was set for his betrayal.

During the Harvest Festival he made his choice, and slew the Emperor during the ceremony to receive the blessing of Dwayna, the human goddess of air and life. In doing so he absorbed both the soul of Angsiyan and the powerful magic given to him by Dwayna, letting him easily fight off the other soldiers gathered at the ceremony. Also present at the ceremony were the leaders of two factions: Archemorus, champion of the Luxons, and Saint Viktor, champion of the Kurzicks. These two factions had only ceased their fighting with each other and the Empire due to the influence of Shiro, so it was no small irony that these champions had a part to play that day.

They would not have survived Shiro’s onslaught if it weren’t for the assassin Vizu, whose attack crippled and distracted Shiro long enough for Archemorus and Viktor to each grab a blade of Shiro’s and slice him nearly in twain. While his life was ended in that moment, the devastation had just begun — empowered by the corrupted energies of the Harvest Festival, Shiro’s death wail unleashed the Jade Wind across Cantha, killing the heroes who had struck Shiro down, petrifying the Echovald Forest and crystallizing the Jade Sea. While the Empire of Dragons survived, the land was scarred immeasurably.

Shiro’s return and final defeat — for now

In the world of Guild Wars, death is just the next step in a soul’s journey, so Shiro’s story does not end there. The most wicked of souls are typically turned into Envoys, shepherds of the souls of the dead who guide them into the Mists, and that was the fate assigned for the Betrayer, although it took nearly two centuries of lurking in the fringes of the afterlife before he agreed. Once he became an Envoy, however, Shiro turned the position to his advantage and began to plot his return.

His malevolent spirit started to haunt Cantha, turning unfortunates that encountered him into the Afflicted, deformed living creatures who attacked others on sight and who could only be cured by death. The players in Guild Wars: Factions have been summoned to Cantha by Master Togo, headmaster of the Shing Jea Monastery and half-brother of the emperor, to help stop the Afflicted assault on Shing Jea Island. In the Daijun Library the Afflicted are finally defeated, but therein Togo makes a startling discovery — the guild symbol of Shiro Tagachi.

From there the players work to stop Shiro, fighting his Afflicted and Shiro’ken — flesh constructs imbued with the souls of Canthan champions — while seeking any means to defeat him. After overcoming challenges throughout Cantha, even going against the corrupted dragon Kuunavang to break his hold on her, they soon that he is attempting to return to life and he needs but one more ingredient to fulfill his plan: the blood of one from the imperial bloodline.

Racing to protect the Emperor Kisu, the players arrive a moment too late as Shiro is moments away from killing him. Master Togo intervenes, sacrificing his life to save that of his half-brother. Togo’s blood is from the imperial bloodline, however, so Shiro departs having gained what he needed.

Of course, returning to life means also returning to mortality, and Shiro’s moment of triumph also ends up costing him, as through great effort the players are able to defeat him in his mortal form. No longer an envoy, his soul is taken to the Realm of Torment to be kept locked away from the mortal realm.

Unknown to the other envoys or the players, the Realm of Torment has become Abaddon’s playground, and in the expansion Nightfall he threatens to unleash Torment on Tyria. The players journey into the Realm of Torment and defeat Abaddon, but not before encountering Shiro Tagachi as one of the fallen god’s generals. While his presence in Nightfall is more a footnote to his legend than another chapter, there is one consequence of the events in the Realm of Torment: it is unknown what the current fate of his soul is.

The legacy of Shiro in End of Dragons

The Cantha that players will be returning to in End of Dragons is still feeling the effects of the death and rebirth of Shiro Tagachi centuries later. While the Empire of Dragons remains intact despite his attempts to seize it, the crystalline Jade Sea is still a reminder of his actions, even if the jade itself is used to power the empire. The Fortune Teller that helped set him on his treacherous path predicted that his name will live on for “a thousand years” — there’s still another 500 years remaining in that prophecy.

The Revenant profession is intimately familiar with Shiro, summoning a “mists-copy” of his spirit to empower them while in Assassin Stance. With End of Dragons the Revenant elite spec Vindicator is given access to a new Legendary Alliance Stance, calling upon the spirits of the slayers of Shiro — Saint Viktor and Archemorus — to empower both their attacks and their healing.

Whether this foretells another return in End of Dragons or is simply a nod to Canthan history is unknown, but the spirit of the Betrayer has bided its time before and is likely doing so again. Players would do well to remember all of the legends of Shiro Tagachi, for the next chapter in his story may very well be the last in theirs.

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