At this year’s MomoCon, members of the Narrative Team hosted a panel on the fundamentals of narrative design for Guild Wars 2. With help from the audience, they created the basic concept for Vikki and her moa, Momo, who you can read more about in chapters one and two of their story.
In addition to helping create the character concept for Vikki, players were asked to vote on where they’d like to see her visit. A winning vote was cast for the Dominion of Winds, home of the insular tengu.
We got as far as the waypoint near Mabon Market before I noticed Momo was limping.
I led her over to the big bridge connecting the mainland to the tengu gate, with my stomach doing uneasy flips. She didn’t seem lethargic or listless, but she favored one leg. I told myself she’d just picked up a pebble—that it was nothing to be worried about—but my brain supplied dozens of horrible possibilities.
While I examined her, a tengu merchant rattled past us, leading a handcart and a small herd of moas. Momo strained toward them, trilling, and I had my work cut out for me getting her to hold still. Maybe I hadn’t done such a stellar job training her after all.
I sat down with her foot in my lap. There were metallic flakes stuck to the bottom of her toes, and something bristly poked my thumb when I rubbed them away. I leaned in close. Wires? Maybe she’d stepped on something at the junk auction.
Momo whistled, distressed. “I know you hate having your feet messed with,” I said, “but give me half a second.”
The wires were too short to pull out with my fingers alone, but I didn’t have any tweezers or delicate implements. I worked my nails around them and tugged. Poor Momo—they were really stuck in there!
Momo tried to yank her foot away. I’d have to work fast, before she got fed up and refused to hold still at all. “Shhh, just a little more…”
I pulled hard. Three things happened at once: the wires came free, I fell backward onto my tailbone, and my glasses flew off and clattered away. Momo squawked, shooting an arrow of guilt straight through my heart.
“Momo!” I patted around, frantic. Where were my glasses? Everything was blurry, and a pink blob wobbled down the bridge away from me. “Momo, come back!”
Finding my glasses took a few minutes, but Momo couldn’t have gotten far. And yet…the only way she could have gone was toward the Dominion of Winds. I’d heard that during the attack on Lion’s Arch, the tengu ruthlessly shot down anyone who came near the gate. Would they hurt a defenseless moa? I shoved my glasses back on and ran.
The sides of the bridge were too high for Momo to have hopped into the water, and I didn’t see her wandering around the wall. But I did see two tengu guards, who stopped talking as soon as they saw me and moved into defensive positions.
“Moa,” I gasped, careening to a halt. “Pink.”
The tengu exchanged a look. One was slender, dressed in a blue tunic. The other wore brown, and I thought they looked a little older. “No further,” the slender one said. “What do you want from us?”
I gulped air and tried again. “Pink moa. I lost her. She ran this way, and—” I raised my head, casting around to see if she was hiding in one of the flowery bushes, or if she’d run down the strip of shoreline near the gate. Nothing.
The gate itself caught my eye, and I couldn’t help looking up…and up…and up. It made me dizzy. My breathing felt louder, as though the sheer size had sucked the sound out of the air. It was like the cubes in Rata Sum—beautiful, but too big. Monstrously big.
“Your moa?” the slender tengu said, startling me back to attention.
“Yes, have you seen her? She’s about as tall as your bow, and she’s electric pink, and she’s wearing a spiked collar. Her name is Momo, and she’s my—”
The older tengu raised a clawed hand. “We’ve seen no such moa.”
“But she had to have come this way.” I couldn’t see any reason for them to lie, but— “I only lost her down there, at the other end of the bridge.”
“No such moa,” the tengu repeated, head feathers ruffling. “Be on your way, please.”
The slender tengu looked at me. “I might have seen such a moa.”
“Hayato,” the older one said. I knew a warning when I heard it.
“There were one or two pink ones in the merchant’s herd.”
My stomach flopped. “She must have gotten mixed in with them! Please, I don’t want to impose on you, but Momo’s all I’ve got, really, and I could never forgive myself if I lost her.”
The tengu bent their heads together, talking in whispers.
“Oh, come now,” I heard the one called Hayato say. “It’s certainly her pet.”
The other guard turned away. “Do as you like, then. I won’t be part of it.”
Hayato approached me. “It wouldn’t do to have a strange animal inside the aerie. She wears a spiked collar, you said?”
“Yes.” There was a strange tension in the air, but I was too worried to be afraid. “And ankle guards.”
“Can you see without your eyepieces?”
“My glasses? No, not well.”
“Go to the waypoint and take them off, please. And turn your back. And wait.”
I nodded, taking a deep breath. I turned and walked down the bridge.
When I reached the waypoint, I took my glasses off and waited. It was very hard not to turn around, but Momo’s life could depend on me doing exactly as Hayato said. I’m not sure how much time passed, but it was long enough that I’d started to lean on a stone when I heard someone call, “Hello!”
I turned. A blue blur and a pink blur were coming toward me. I heard Momo peep, and I just remembered to put my glasses on before running to her.
“Thank you, thank you.” I buried my face in Momo’s feathers. She nipped at my hair, not upset at all. “I’m so sorry for the trouble. I don’t know how to thank you!”
Hayato crouched down next to us and scratched under Momo’s beak. “You can thank me by never passing this close to the gate again.”
Even though I didn’t know how to read a tengu’s expression, the tone was deadly serious. It sunk in that they had done something enormous for me, and I felt like I was standing beneath the gate again, with all the sound leeched from the air.
“I understand.” I swallowed. “Thank you.”
“And promise me,” Hayato said wryly, walking away, “that you’ll never invent anything that allows a moa to speak.”