Urban Legends of Warcraft: The key, the essence and the ship

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|08.30.10

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Urban Legends of Warcraft: The key, the essence and the ship
Everyone seems to be talking about Cataclysm these days -- and that's not a bad thing, after all the expansion is completely overhauling everything we knew and were familiar with. A lot of the Cataclysm hype surrounds the thought of "finishing" the original game as completely as possible, because many of those beloved quest chains and moments from vanilla will be gone without a trace when the expansion launches. Yet even as these chains are recommended, players forget some of the earliest quests in the game -- mysteries that were never fully explained.

There has been a long-running idea since the days of vanilla that there are still quests out there in vanilla that have not been completed. Despite the addition of the Loremaster achievement, there still isn't a single player in this game who has finished "every quest," because some quests have never been completed or even discovered. The thought of undiscovered quests sets people on a flurry of activity, speculation and forum threads that often provided more entertainment than whatever quest they were seeking answers for. One of the biggest mysteries in vanilla WoW didn't involve dragons or legendary swords or epic moments at all -- instead, it all began with a simple, unassuming box located in a quiet glade.

The Key to Salem's Chest

The box in question looked like any other lootable item in game -- a lockbox similar to those used for enterprising rogues that were leveling their lockpicking skill -- but mousing over the box revealed a name: Dark Cleric Salem's Chest. Trying to open the box prompted text that informed players that they could not open the box without the Key to Salem's Chest. This box can still be found in Tirisfal Glades, at a small camp east of the Scarlet Monastery. The camp is predictably full of Scarlet Crusade members, including Lieutenant Sanders, the only named NPC in the area.

Endless speculation surrounded this box. Some believed it held gold, others that it held epic gear or items, and still others believed that it had something to do with Ashbringer and the quest to obtain the legendary weapon. At this time, one of the only places to look up quest and item information was Thottbot -- and players who traveled to Thottbot to look up the item found a very odd comment that has since been removed from the site, by a poster named A Natural Shadow.
The lost key is what ur [sic] looking for. Once hidden amongst the rubble of a statue out of place in the great city turned forsaken. Humans will never return for the sounds of the dead ring loud in the halls surrounding the throne room closed from the world. The sense of the unseen bushes you as you pass. The key has been stolen by one man not quite dead, but not quite alive, cursed by the touch of Salem. He lost himself to the world so that only those whom can save him, who would risk their own life to hand him an unseen arm of salvation. The man has been driven mad by his solitude and often speaks to himself to easy the loneliness of eternity torn.
Have you paid attention to the voices that land on deaf ears in the hall of the undead?
Naturally riddles spur interest -- even if the riddle means nothing at all. Players continued to come up with wild theories surrounding the chest, its contents and the location of the mysterious key to no avail. Players asked GMs at every opportunity about the key and the chest, what it meant and where the key was located, but GM response was just as cryptic as the faux riddles posted on Thottbot. Speaking of Thottbot, other riddles appeared and prompted another flurry of speculation, including the one quoted below by a poster calling himself Trust of Whisper.
Find the being in lustrous sheen, in the pale grey nothing alone!
Up in the fingers of lively boughs, Above the calm of this present.
Down in the roots of the grey and thin,
Below their chaos of the past: staying between these two before the last turn.
Lift from the flesh of the earth, the eloquent posture was never praised at all.
Rights of the wild in the rough, there is the scar of life.
Left alone: A woman and man, calm and chaos.
Write to him from Lordaeron, rotting with laughter remember:
Be shy and smile softly to easily trick him.
A meeting will take place, that has taken place before!
Begin in the cavernous tapestry of mortality, knowing forsaken's bright lore.
Undead concentration wrought of pure mana...
Thrust of whisper on green,
hushed body to pull
taught and stir.
Rushed azure
wide arching null,
flooding upside-down deep.
In the same location but ages, ages past.
Terribly interesting yet not at all useful, the poem seems to make vague reference to both the dragonflights, and the crypts below Karazhan and the room known as Upside Down Sinners -- places that hadn't been implemented with any quests or information but were still some of the creepiest locations in Azeroth. Much like the riddles before them, these led exactly nowhere.

Frustration with the key and the chest grew, and players continued to beg GMs for clarification about the key's existence. Finally, in 2007, a blue poster named Eilanai confirmed what everyone had been fervently hoping wasn't the case for the past three years:

Hi Xive,
You cannot currently gain this item in game; perhaps it will be introduced in the future :)

So much for that mystery. With the announcement of Cataclysm's launch, players who were around for the original flurry of interest involving Dark Cleric Salem's Chest have hopes of the chest finally, at last, being implemented in game. Unfortunately, for now, it looks as though something odd went on at that little camp of Scarlet Crusaders -- the corpses of the camp's occupants lie charred on the ground, bathed in violet flame -- and as for Lieutenant Sanders, well, at least he's still hanging around.

Oddly, though, he seems to be in a bit of a jam; he is currently flagged as a green mob to players. You cannot attack him, but you cannot speak with him, either -- he merely hangs suspended from a chain next to a suspended cage, cowering occasionally. What decimated the camp? Why is Sanders hanging there, and how did he avoid the fate of his comrades? Most importantly, it's no longer a question of "Where do you get the Key to Salem's Chest?" Instead, it's "Where has Dark Cleric Salem's Chest gone?" The box is mysteriously absent from the glade. Either something wanted the chest very, very badly, or whatever was in the chest escaped, to the horror of the camp's terrified inhabitants ...

The Essence of Eranikus
"Mortal, heed this plea. I am Eranikus of the Green Dragonflight, keeper of this accursed temple. My charge to ensure that the trolls never again bring forth their abomination of a god has for now ended in failure. As I imbue this gem with part of my essence, I sense my grip on the Dream twisting into chaos. Please - place this gem into the essence font in my lair, and let our magic there purge the taint from my psyche so that I may rest."
The Sunken Temple was never a fan favorite as far as instances went. A maze of narrow passageways and endless stairwells, the temple was tricky to navigate at best, and at worst, one could expect to be lost in the passages for hours, trying to complete quests that originated all over the world.

While most players considered the instance itself "complete" when Hakkar was resurrected and summarily defeated, there were other portions of the temple that had to be cleared out, including an area filled with hostile green dragons, headed by the Shade of Eranikus. Killing Eranikus prompted the drop of the Essence of Eranikus, a quest item that started the dialogue quoted above. Cleansing the essence did not have the effect that the green dragon hoped for:
"Thank you mortal, you have -- no... this, this cannot be! No! The corruption of this accursed god even taints the sanctity of a Green Dragonflight Essence Font! No please, I feel my essence ripping from me! THE PAIN! I feel the grip of an eternal nightmare taking hold on me..."

"Mortal, I implore you! Find one of the Green Dragonflight to stop this ... help me ... I am chained in darkness... forever in agony ... please do not torture ..."
It also gave players a trinket called the Chained Essence of Eranikus that could be used to release a poison cloud that would harm enemies. More interesting than the trinket were the whispers of the chained essence:
"Will the nightmare ever end?! I cannot force myself awake!"
"My soul is not a trinket! Mortal, you must release me from these chains!"
"My eyes! It burns ... it burns ..."
"Torture me no more! Release me, mortal! The Swamp of Sorrows ... mortal ... please ..."
"Foolish mortal, I will rend your soul in two once I am released!"
"Foolish mortals you do not yet see the potential of that Artifact."
"You are an agent of their wicked god, fool. I will see you destroyed!"
"My charge to watch the temple has failed ... my corrupted soul knows no peace ..."
"It hurts so much ... Itharius, my old friend ... Please help me ..."

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