This one isn't your usual Tinfoil Hat edition - it is going to be one of the weirder ones. Why, you may ask? Well, it's because of Heroes of the Storm, the upcoming Blizzard DOTA style game. And specifically, how that game interacts with Warlords of Draenor. You see, I'm starting to believe that our travel to Draenor is only the beginning of a much longer, much stranger trip that will have us dealing with the consequences of actions we undertook long before - a travel through a crisis point of unimaginable, unfathomable extent.
The defeat of Deathwing in our world, the breaking of the future we saw in the End Time instance may have had further reaching consequences than we could have guessed. Our choices were simple - allow ourselves to die at the Destroyer's talons, or fight - but we still saw Nozdormu, the Aspect of Time, charged with maintaining time make choices that seem almost unfathomable. He chose to send us back to ultimately steal the Dragon Soul, to help us use it against Deathwing.
Since then, since the depowering of the Aspects, we've begun to see clues that the one, true timeline that Nozdormu was charged by the Titans with protecting is anything but, and that without his Titan granted powers the Bronze Dragonflight can no longer maintain the barriers between worlds. Kairoz on the Timeless Isle flat out says that the Bronzes have lost a great deal of their power. Which brings me to this simple idea - what was Nozdormu doing that he can no longer do?
Unto you is charged the great task of keeping the purity of time. Know that there is only one true timeline, though there are those who would have it otherwise. You must protect it. Without the truth of time as it is meant to unfold, more will be lost than you can possibly imagine. The fabric of reality will unravel. It is a heavy task--the base of all tasks of this world, for nothing can transpire without time.
What Nozdormu can no longer do is this great task itself. He cannot keep the purity of time, for he has not the power granted to him by Aman'Thul, Highfather of the Pantheon, to do so. Whether or not Aman'Thul is correct and there is only one true timeline is irrelevant, when the Bronzes can no longer protect it. There is no truth of time as it is meant to unfold, because no one can stand up and say that there is - no one has the power to prevent an upstart from attempting to alter time, and in the process create a rival timeline.
When Garrosh Hellscream travels from our world to Draenor to attempt to prevent the drinking of the blood of Mannoroth, he creates a new history, a rival world that he then seeks to lead to conquest over our own. In and of itself that's bad enough - if we don't stop the Iron Horde it will crush all the people of Azeroth under its boot. But what if the danger is far more extensive? What if that rival universe itself is a threat to us, to our very existence? Without the truth of time as it was meant to unfold, more will be lost than you can possibly imagine. We no longer have that truth of time - we no longer have one history, but now two. Two Draenors, one the shattered land of Outland, the other the still-vibrant, savage and fecund world that seeks to invade ours... to supplant it.
Now we can move to consider this in light of the Heroes of the Storm information revealed recently. Because while it can simply be taken as a fun game that plays with Blizzard properties (and indeed, that's exactly what it is, so take anything you read in this column with an enormous grain of salt, I'm just speculating here) it can also make us wonder. Take this text, for instance - "Arthas Frost Wyrm - After the death of the Ashen Verdict's champions none could halt the Lich King's advance. As an eternal reminder of his victory he grafted the very bones of his enemies onto his armor."
Think about that. That's a clear reference to an alternate timeline where Arthas defeats us and wears us as armor. And it's hardly the only alternate timeline Heroes of the Storm presents. "Illidan Shando - Stormrage was born with amber eyes; a sign of great destiny...But the more he learned from the Forest Lord Cenarius, the more distant his brother grew. Still, none expected Malfurion's betrayal." Malfurion's betrayal? It's strange to consider, but absolutely plausible - it's been said many times that both Illidan and Azshara had the golden eyes that proclaim the potential for great druidic power - potential neither of them ever realized. But what if they had? There are more, too - "It was hard for Magni to swallow his pride and accept Moira as member of the Council of Three Hammers, but he knew his deceased brother Muradin would have wanted peace in Ironforge." Trying to imagine a series of events that has Magni alive, Muradin dead and Moira on a variant Council of Three Hammers could literally occupy this column all by itself. Many of the tidbits we've had revealed so far indicate that the gameplay of Heroes of the Storm involves random dimensional gateways being opened between realities and drawing the combatants to a place between realities known as the Nexus. We still don't know what the Storm in question is, or why these powerful figures from many various worlds are fighting.
One thing occurs to me, however. When Nozdormu brought us to the future of the End Time he said it was simply a potential timeway. The Caverns of Time had never been used in this manner before - always in the past, we'd been taken to a point in time where someone was attempting to change the course of history, and we stopped them. In End Time we're presented with the natural order of events as the destruction of all life on Azeroth - even Deathwing was dead. And we sought to change it. And in order to change it, we took up arms against Murozond, leader of the Infinite Dragonflight... Aspect of Time. Murozond still had the powers of an Aspect. Murozond was therefore not our Nozdormu. And just as obviously, Murozond called out to Aman'Thul at his death, in shock and horror. Why?
Because Murozond still served Aman'Thul's purpose, as revealed to him when he first became Aspect. Murozond says as much. "You crawl unwitting, like a blind, writhing worm, towards endless madness and despair. I have witnessed the true End Time. This? This is a blessing you simply cannot comprehend." Murozond sought to prevent the establishing of alternate timelines. Murozond sought to preserve the one, true time. Murozond sought to prevent the fabric of reality from unraveling. And in order for Murozond to accomplish that aim, Azeroth had to die. Each of the Aspects was created for the Hour of Twilight - each was vouchsafed with their power for that day. All five of them. We even saw that Malygos' demise was accounted for, and there was a process in place for Kalecgos to ascend to the position of Aspect of Magic. And we're told that Nozdormu was given a vision of his own death. As he himself relates in Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects -
It was given unto me to know the very hour and method of my own death. I would never ssubvert it. But only one of the pathwaysss to my destiny can be correct. And in one unfolding future, I became the leader of the infinite dragonflight. That was why I became lost in the timewaysss, Thrall. I was ssseeking understanding of how such a thing came to be. How I, who have always striven to honor the great duty the titans charged me with, could have fallen so far astray.
The Nozdormu that Thrall rescued was the insane one, not Murozond. He was presented with the knot of contradictory timeways and he chose the wrong one - the one where he himself did not die, where Azeroth continued. He slew Murozond, in defiance of the vision given him by Aman'Thul of his own death, and he broke the Aspects on the anvil of his desire to break the loop Aman'Thul had placed him in. He didn't preserve time - he changed time. In so doing, he removed his dragonflight from the scene, abandoned his duty to preserve the one true timeline, and thus allowed the events of Warriors of Draenor to occur.
Without the power of the Bronze Dragonflight, we're not just looking at the one alternate timeline Garrosh will go create. We're now looking at many alternate timelines, all seeking to exist - rival histories, rival universes. A world where Illidan becomes Archdruid. A world where Mal'Ganis becomes the Lich King. A world where Tyrande is a blood elf!
"Tyrande Blood Elf - Named for her ancestor, the first Sun Queen, Tyrande Windrunner serves the Blood elves of Quel'thalas as their Ranger General, preparing them for their pilgrimage into Outland."
All of these and more, all of these usurper realities - all of these universes with their competing histories and completely irreconcilable timelines, all seeking to exist. Pressure exerts itself against the very fabric of reality, as Aman'Thul warned Nozdormu - and eventually, it must give way. And it was this very fate that Murozond sought to avoid - this very collapse of all existence that he sought to prevent by creating the Infinite Dragonflight in the first place. And we killed him for it.
To the animals that live in a forest, a forest fire is a calamity, an unimaginable devastation. Yet without that fire, there can be no new growth, no life and ultimately the forest itself will be unsustainable. Our timeline had to die so that the one true timeline could thrive, but we fought, and we won - and so we created this new reality, unstable and birthing new realities in its wake. How many timelines can there be before the walls fall, and the Storm reaches us? And can it still be saved, or are we doomed in a more profound way than we can possibly imagine?
Then again... perhaps not. For consider this - how sure are we that this isn't exactly the outcome the Titans were planning for? They made Neltharion an aspect, seemingly knowing that the Hour of Twilight would come and he would be the instigator of it. Perhaps they made Nozdormu knowing, hoping that one of his many time-selves would blink - that they refused to reoriginate Azeroth when they first discovered the Old Gods infesting it because they sought to break a stalemate in a war that reached through time and space. Clearly both the Titans and the Old Gods can reach through time - the events of the War of the Ancients imply this. How do you win a war against an enemy that can bend and twist time to its own ends?
Break time. Break reality. Create a hard and fast rule, and dangle the hope of victory, if only the being you appointed to safeguard the plan can be induced to use the power you gave him to change the rules - to take Azeroth outside of the planned pathway. All it would take is one of those many potential Nozdormu to say no to the destruction of his world, and you'd get exactly what you wanted - a multiverse of possibilities instead of one stagnant timeline with the Legion searing all of creation into ash and the Old Gods feasting on what remains. Sargeras saw the futility of shaping creation and went mad - perhaps Aman'Thul saw it, and chose to cheat.
The Titans play with time, with space, and with us. Perhaps even they don't like the rules, and sought to change them. And perhaps through us they succeeded. Now we simply have to find out which when wins.
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.