When you think about Azeroth as of right now, in a way, the stage has been set for some massive changes to the status quo. I mean, seriously, contemplate the following:
- Ragnaros the Firelord, ruler of the Firelands and mastermind behind the invasion of Mount Hyjal and power behind the Molten Core, has been ultimately defeated in his own demesne, and the fire elementals are now scattered and leaderless. They pose little threat to the world for some time to come.
- Likewise, Al'Akir's servants can call for his aid, but he's not likely to answer, having himself been deposed and slain alongside his son Thunderaan and even powerful servants like the Conclave of Wind and Prince Sarsarun. The air elementals are even more disrupted than those of fire.
- Neptulon the Tidehunter may not be dead, but he's currently missing, having been seized by Ozumat and taken elsewhere, his ultimate fate as yet unknown. The naga invaded the elemental plane of water itself and may well still be there alongside the faceless ones.
- While Therazane the Stonemother herself endures (the only elemental lord to still rule a plane), Deepholm itself has suffered much throughout the Cataclysm. Not only did Deathwing shatter the World Pillar (it was repaired, but for a time the Maelstrom threatened to collapse into Deepholm and Azeroth along with it), but wars broke out between the Twilight's Hammer and the servants of Therazane as well as the stone troggs and the earthen. Meanwhile, a titan designed waygate leading directly to Uldum was found.
- With all of this, one might almost forget that the Destroyer himself, Deathwing, has met his own end at last. In addition, the four remaining dragon aspects (Nozdormu, Alexstrasza, Ysera and Kalecgos) have lost some measure of their former titan-bestowed power -- at least their immortality, and possibly more. With Deathwing's death, the Twilight's Hammer cult (the main instrument of the Old God's will on Azeroth) has also suffered greatly, their forces destroyed, their leaders such as Cho'gall, the Twilight Prophet and lesser lights like Warmaster Blackhorn.
And that's all just during the Cataclysm itself. In the past few years, C'thun was defeated, as was Yogg-Saron. Algalon the Observer was prevented from reoriginating Azeroth, a process that would have completely destroyed the world's inhabitants. Even the grim and terrible Scourge was penned back when Arthas Menethil died and a new Lich King arose. What this all means is not, however, that peace and prosperity is just around the corner.
If anything, we're entering a dangerous new period. Much of the forces that were once held in check by powerful masters are now up for grabs, and mortal hands are the ones doing the grabbing.
If you've been on the Mists of Pandaria beta, then you've potentially heard about the Legacy of the Masters book in the warlock training area. It's a nice little piece of warlock-centric lore, yes, but it's also something more. The text of this book is the first sign in the post-Cataclysm world that the great powers once held by elemental lords, dragon aspects, and demon lords are now being wrested from these powerful entities and wielded by mortals.
In the text, details are revealed about a new cabal of warlocks who are seeking to do exactly that. These six warlocks make a pact to form the Council of Six Daggers and together find the means to capture and control the power left behind when Ragnaros died, when Deathwing was destroyed, even the twisted and corrupting magics used by Cho'gall and the Twilight's Hammer. It's even hinted that there is some power left to tap in the Black Temple following Illidan's demise (perhaps related to the true reason for the existence of the Reliquary of Souls?) and that the Council will seek to tap that power as well.
The Council and its members (Risstyn the orc, Shinfel the blood elf, Zinnin the worgen, Kanrethad the human, Zelfrax the gnome and Jubeka the forsaken) made a pact to destroy any one member of the Council who turned on a fellow to ensure their loyalty, but it is neither their hunger for dark magical power nor their fanaticism that makes them dangerous. It is that they are merely one such group.
In the text, we see references to the death knights of Acherus continuing to study the necromancy originally gifted to them as part of their own undeath by Arthas, the Lich King. We see that the mages of the Kirin Tor have studied the magic of time itself, now that Nozdormu seemingly no longer possesses the power to stop them and Kalecgos, the aspect of magic, is similarly lacking. Warriors now walk the surface of Azeroth who possess sufficient might to kill old gods, balk two entities that could call themselves masters of death, even drive the harbinger of the titans from its purpose. Rogues exist so skilled they could steal into the premier thieves guild of Azeroth and make off with the last uncorrupted black dragon egg in existence. Shamanism has proved its potency, as the World-Shaman Thrall successfully led the Earthen Ring in its quest to prevent the death of a world. The forces that have been defeated are staggering, and in their defeat, they are now free to the hand quickest to grasp them.
There is power up for grabs, and who's going to grab it? Not some distant elemental still trying to understand what's happened. No, it's going to be a mortal woman or man. Because we're the ones who made the vacuum that needs to be filled in the first place.
We have to understand the importance of the shaking of the foundations of the world unleashed by Deathwing. Whether or not he understood it, he was right. He destroyed the world. Because the world that now exists, the Age of Mortals proclaimed by Alexstrasza at the end of the battle with Deathwing's colossal mutated form, is one where fleeting, finite mortal men and women of every race can reach out and grasp powers so great that they can unmake worlds. Consider this: If the Lich King could slay and raise an entire army into undeath, and you killed him, what does that make you? What does that say about the flesh and blood orcs, trolls, elves, draenei who make up the communities of Azeroth?
As the prophet sees
We have to now consider the visions of Velen the Prophet. Velen's many visions of the future have focused him inexorably to the idea that Azeroth will be of pivotal importance in the struggle between Light and Darkness. We've talked here at KYL about why that is, about the possible purpose of Azeroth, about the true nature of the titans and their creation, about magic and the Well of Eternity and the special destiny of our planet.
Now understand this -- this isn't some distant future. We are seeing the writing on the wall. We are seeing gnats, cosmic dust, fleeting sparks that rise and fall off of the great anvil of creation rise up and seek the fire. What Velen has seen -- gulfs of creation, panoply of magical potency beyond current comprehension, armies of vast and terrible power where orcs march shoulder to shoulder with humans, Forsaken, even draenei -- this isn't some pipe dream of the prophet. This is happening, in the arrogance of mortals who dare to steal fire never meant for their hands.
In a sense, too, Gul'dan was right. Immortality and the power of the gods is within reach. The orcs took Kil'Jaeden's teachings and expanded upon them better and more quickly then the immortal eredar could have imagined. The Nathrezim were master necromancers, yes, but look how quickly the Lich King surpassed them, a mortal orc. Illidan stole the demonic power of the Skull of Gul'dan and with it, surpassed Tichondrius the Darkener himself and slew him, becoming such a threat that Kil'Jaeden chose to treat with him, to try and turn him against the Lich King. And when Illidan failed, he still managed to hold off the Burning Legion and usurp control of Outland from an army that spans the cosmos.
And look to Azeroth itself, where mortals blew up Archimonde -- where mortal hearts defeated Kil'Jaeden himself, drove him back into the nether, prevented Varimathras from summoning another power (possibly Sargeras himself), and ultimately beat everything else put in their path.
In the end, the greatest threat and the greatest possible salvation for the universe entire isn't some host of chaos-worshipping demons at the beck and call of a fallen titan, nor is it the rest of the gleaming, distant Pantheon who shape the cosmos with a disinterested obsession. It's not the naaru, with their cycle of light and darkness. No, the force that is most to be feared is that brief, defiant howl of life in the mortal breast that knows it can die and yet refuses to lay down. The hands of the mortal races are reaching out, into darkness and light, into every corner of creation, and they are bringing secrets back with them.
And nothing will be the same again. The old gods and their servants may span the universe, but one force will make them bend their knee. One force will crush the mighty Legion, topple Sargeras himself, and prove that life needs no governors. And that force is ours -- our curiosity, our drive, our lusts and rages, our transient hearts and brief lives. Mortal hands close on the hilt of the cosmos, and we will wield it like a blade. Medivh knew.
The universe does not need a Burning Legion, does not need the old gods, does not need the titans. It has us and our bloody constraint. Because we are power, and nothing can stop us. And this is the first step on that path, we are seeing it right now as it begins. War banners, time, and the reaching out of greedy hands.
While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.