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Know Your Lore: Ahn'Qiraj, Uldum and the Tol'Vir

Matthew Rossi

The World of Warcraft is an expansive universe. You're playing the game, you're fighting the bosses, you know the how, but do you know the why? Each week Matthew Rossi and Anne Stickney make sure you Know Your Lore by covering the history of the story behind World of Warcraft.

This week saw a monumental post on the story forum that answered a variety of World of Warcraft lore questions. One of the questions asked got an answer that blew the metaphorical doors off of a long, puzzling situation. (There will be a lot of Cataclysm spoilers in this post. Be warned.)

Bornakk - Ask CDev #1 Answers - Round 1

Q: What happened to all of the Scourge's Obsidian Destroyers?

A: The entities known as obsidian destroyers are actually enslaved titan constructs that were once called the tol'vir. The tol'vir were created to maintain titan lore repositories and titan machinery surrounding the titan cities of Ulduar and Uldum. Not long after the troll empires divided the insectoid kingdom of the aqir, the aqir that travelled north discovered and overthrew the tol'vir society in Northrend. These aqir would eventually become the race we know as the nerubians today, having adapted the tol'vir's architecture for their own purposes. Similarly, the aqir that travelled south ransacked and overthrew a titan research station near Uldum, renaming themselves the qiraji and calling their new home Ahn'Qiraj. Although the Scourge would eventually consume the nerubian empire and throw its few remaining tol'vir slaves into the front lines, it's possible that more tol'vir still exist in the hidden titan city of Uldum or deep within the remnants of Azjol-Nerub.

Now, this is huge. It answered for folks who played Warcraft III why a unit they associated with the Scourge was in AQ. It gave us an idea of what the tol'vir first mentioned at BlizzCon '09 would look like and what they were. The implications are staggering. If you've been wondering (like, frankly, I had been) why the pictures of Uldum coming out looked so much like Anh'Qiraj, now you know. Uldum looks like AQ because both Uldum and AQ were build by the titans, not the old gods or their aqir/qiraji/nerubian servants. It also explains why the nerubian take on architecture derived so decisively from the qiraji model. Both the nerubians and qiraji found and enslaved tol'vir, but the nerubians didn't get their hands on an actual titan built facility the way the qiraji did.

Now, we can see that the architecture of Ulduar and Uldum are vastly different. There are similarities, to be sure, but Uldum/AQ definitely have their own aesthetic. Did the Northrend tol'vir have their own style as well, and that's why nerubian art and construction looks so different from their qiraji cousins? It probably contributed, to be sure. I'm actually ridiculously hopeful that a full-fledged Azjol-Nerub zone will be introduced in Cataclysm the way the Isle of Quel'Danas was at the end of Burning Crusade now.

However, this raises all sorts of further questions for Uldaman, Ulduar and Uldum, as well as AQ. It's fairly easy to justify the construction of a vast complex like AQ so close to Uldum ... Just go to Northrend and you can see that in addition to Ulduar, you see vast titan construction all throughout the Storm Peaks, in Wintergrasp and Strand of the Ancients, and finally in the Sholazar Basin itself. Since Sholozar Basin and Un'Goro are linked, it makes sense that Un'Goro (called the God Lands by the ancient qiraji who attempted to conquer them when fighting the night elves and Bronze Dragonflight) would have similar constructions on or near it. These would have been linked to Uldum in terms of their construction and possible even directly by a southern offshoot of the Path of the Titans that has since been destroyed or fallen into disuse. Since Kalimdor and the Easten Kingdoms were separated by the Sundering, it's entirely possible that Uldaman served as the hub linking Ulduar and Uldum in ancient times.

Furthermore, if you have been paying attention to the various Cataclsym images being released since the NDA has been lifted on sites like MMO-Champion, you've probably seen this one. Compare it to the image of Moam that opened this post and you get a sense of the uncorrupted southern tol'vir versus their enslaved brethren. But what's more, you also got to see Isiset, Setesh and the Uldum Watchers. Obviously they're meant to perform a similar role in Uldum to the watchers of Ulduar. But look at Setesh again. Remind you of anyone? Anyone at all? We've been told in the past that entities like the Anubisath and Ossirian the Unscarred were the creations of the Anh'Qiraj emperors. But we were told that about the Obsidian Destroyers, too, and they're not.

It seems at this point extremely likely that the Anubisath and Ossirian were in fact titan watchers, similar to Cretus and the watchers of Ulduar, assigned either to Uldum or the complex that would become AQ. LIke the tol'vir, they fell in battle or were otherwise enslaved by the qiraji or their dark master, C'thun. The Anubisath certainly look different from the images of the Uldum Watchers we're seeing, but they bear a striking resemblance to Setesh. Did Uldum originally attempt to investigate what happened at AQ?

This is all deeply fascinating to me because of events in the comics. We saw the Twilight's Hammer attempt to infest the ruins of AQ, and Cho'gall himself attempted to raise C'thun from torpor after a band of adventurers "killed" him. Cho'gall even became horribly deformed as a result of C'thun's presence. So we've now established that C'thun isn't entirely dead, that he's infesting a former titan facitilty with ties to Uldum, and that both the Twilight's Hammer (including Cho'gall, who once served C'thun directly and who may still be somehow) and Uldum play heavily in this expansion. We also know that Deathwing currently controls the Twilight's Hammer, but that it was the whispering of the Old Gods (including, one assumes, C'thun and Yogg-Saron) that drove him mad, and (SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER, although this whole post is spoilers) the Twilight's Hammer that is nominally serving Deathwing is still trying to summon or raise Old Gods. I have no idea if Soggoth the Slitherer is the Old God with a giant titan glaive in his/her head in Darkshore, but since that's where they're supposedly attempting to summon him, I'd put good money on it.

It seems very apparent now that the Old Gods and their servants suck at actually making anything new. The entities that became the aqir were twisted from a naturally occurring animal, not created ex nihilo, and their descendants seem to have twisted and corrupted titan constructed beings like the tol'vir and watchers rather than made them. Even the old god's infamous curse of flesh seems aimed at making these entities more malleable servants, but it doesn't make anything new. In the war between Old Gods and titans, the power of invention and creation seems far more aligned with the titans, all the Old Gods know how to do is manipulate, destroy and corrupt. The contrast between Uldum and AQ and the fate of the tol'vir seems a perfect illustration of this failure. The Old Gods may not die as we do, but they also don't live as we do, and as such they have a poor grasp on how to actually make much of anything.

It's interesting that while we see major Old God influences at both Ulduar and in the vicinity of Uldum, we don't see any aside from trogg infestations near Uldaman. But since Uldaman is so close to Ironforge and Gnomeregan, home to the dwarves and gnomes (both descended from titan constructs) and both Uldaman and Gnomeregan have seen trogg infestations, it's possible another old god sleeps below it, one of the architects of the very curse of flesh itself? With Soggoth the Slitherer's introduction, we know the name of three of the five Old Gods, and in at least two cases those Old Gods lie in or near ancient titan sites. Were the sites built entirely because the Old Gods were near them? The Explorer's League was digging up a supposedly ancient site in Darkshore and another, similar one at Bael Modan. Are these remnants of the titan complex built to monitor Soggoth? Hard to say, but a fascinating possibility. In the end the Sundering may have done exactly what the Old Gods wanted, destroying much of the titan early warning system that would have brought Algalon to Azeroth before they could awaken.

Now, with Yogg-Saron conveniently having arranged for Loken's death, Algalon's summoning and defeat by mortals and his own "death" (as much as an Old God of death can die), Deathwing, corrupted by the same old gods, commands the same Twilight's Hammer who are still shown to be working for the Old Gods and tries to break the world anew.

It seems that for the Old Gods at least, the stars may finally be right. And that doesn't even touch on whether or not the prefix "tol" seen in the name of the tol'vir has anything to do with places like Tol Barad. Were there tol'vir survivors in the Eastern Kingdoms, too, perhaps working at or near Uldaman the way the northern ones worked at Ulduar and its satellite constructions before the nerubians enslaved them? Could there even be deeper levels to Uldaman as well, with surviving tol'vir battling the troggs? Was Archaedas really just guarding a vault, or are there deeper secrets yet to be revealed?

No idea -- but it's fun to speculate, huh?

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