At the time, the only legendaryweapons that existed were purely for DPS. All speculation halted until it was revealed that Patch 1.11, "Shadow of the Necropolis," would introduce the dread citadel Naxxramas -- and with it, Atiesh, Greatstaff of the Guardian. A caster legendary -- could this mean that the Ashbringer would at last be obtainable? Yes -- sort of. Data miners found the files for the Corrupted Ashbringer in the loot table of the Four Horsemen encounter. One of the Four Horsemen was none other than Alexandros Mograine, the man known as the Ashbringer and original wielder of the sword.
Once again, players hopes lifted -- if the corrupted version of the sword existed, then surely there must be some way to cleanse the blade. Those few lucky enough to loot and carry the sword were treated to a variety of eerie voice files that would occasionally play:
I ... was ... pure ... once. Fought ... for ... righteousness. I ... was ... once ... called ... Ashbringer. Betrayed ... by ... my ... order. Destroyed ... by ... Kel'Thuzad. Made ... to serve. My ... son ... watched ... me ... die. Crusades ... fed his rage. Truth ... is ... unknown ... to him. Scarlet ... Crusade ... is pure ... no longer. Balnazaar's ... crusade ... corrupted ... my son. Kill ... them ... all!
Astute players realized Alexandros was speaking of his son Renault, who now led the Scarlet Crusade. Equipping the Corrupted Ashbringer had an odd effect -- players found themselves carrying a buff called Will of the Ashbringer that made them hated with the Argent Dawn ... and friendly with the Scarlet Crusade. Taking the blade in at the cathedral section of Scarlet Monastery produced one of the most amazing, shocking and lore-filled moments in the history of vanilla World of Warcraft:
Alexandros' spirit returned to avenge his death, by murdering the son that had betrayed him. Fairbanks was restored and shared the story of his death and the corruption of the Ashbringer. His last words were of the most interest to players:
You tell an incredible tale, Fairbanks. What of the blade? Is it beyond redemption?
I'm afraid that the blade which you hold in your hands is beyond saving. The hatred runs too deep. But do not lose hope, <class>. Where one chapter has ended, a new one begins. Find his son -- a more devout and pious man you may never meet. It is rumored that he is able to build the Ashbringer anew, without requiring the old, tainted blade.
But his son is dead.
<High Inquisitor Fairbanks shakes his head.> No, <race>; only one of his sons is dead. The other lives ... <High Inquisitor Fairbanks points to the sky.> The Outland ... Find him there ...
With the announcement of The Burning Crusade's release, surely this meant that players would be able to cleanse the blade and at last obtain the legendary weapon. Unfortunately, there was no sign of Alexandros' other son, and the Corrupted Ashbringer was to remain corrupted. Players could, however, find another lead to the tale; visiting Old Hillsbrad in the Caverns of Time would allow them to see the origination of the blade in the Southshore Inn. Upon entering the inn, players find Commander Mograine, Abbendis, Fairbanks, Tirion Fordring, Isillien and Arcanist Doan all sitting around a table. The dialogue in the inn is as follows:
Commander Mograine says: Keep your voices down. There are strangers about ... Commander Mograine says: Brothers and sisters, I have called you here today to discuss the fate of Lordaeron. Commander Mograine lowers his voice to a whisper. Commander Mograine says: I hear things ... things that should not be. Commander Mograine says: The dead rise ... Undead, from the frozen northlands. Whole cities have gone missing. I ... Commander Mograine says: I have heard that Northrend is lost ... Gasps can be heard throughout the room. Commander Mograine says: We must stand at the ready. I have faced undead before. They are ruthless killing machines, devoid of any emotion or compassion. Tirion Fordring nods. Tirion Fordring says: Aye, I've battled them as well. We are ill-prepared as a kingdom to withstand such an assault. Arcanist Doan says: What do you propose, Mograine? Commander Mograine says: Propose? I propose that we prepare. That we prepare our loved ones, family and friends for the possibility of an undead holocaust. Commander Mograine says: And there is this ... Commander Mograine unlocks the chest. Abbendis says: By the Light! What is it? Commander Mograine says: I have had this object in my possession for 10 years. Since Blackrock Spire ... Commander Mograine says: I wrested it free from the remains of an orc lieutenant -- a dark caster ... It is from their home world. Commander Mograine says: Do not get too close. I laid a hand upon it once ... Only once and never again. The memories of that day still linger. Commander Mograine removes the gauntlet from his right arm and shows everyone his mangled hand. Commander Mograine says: I surmise that this object is the living embodiment of shadows ... darkness... It is a manifestation. It is a void. Isillien says: I do not see how this evil artifact is relevant to the undead. We must destroy it! Commander Mograine shakes his head. Commander Mograine says: No, old friend, it is very relevant. Commander Mograine says: Let me ask you this, brothers and sisters: Can good exist without evil? Can there be light without dark? Commander Mograine says: And if that answer is no, then could it be possible that because this artifact exists, its polar opposite must also exist? Commander Mograine says: Can you imagine what the material manifestation of the Light could do against the undead? Isillien says: Nonsense, Mograine! It must be destroyed! (Isillien blasts the crystal with a smite.) Shock then silence overtakes the crowd. Commander Mograine says: It consumed the Light! Tirion Fordring says: Impossible! (Tirion also blasts it with a smite) Fairbanks says: Is ... Is it getting lighter? Its coloration ... It is changing. (All start hitting it with holy energy) Commander Mograine says: BY THE LIGHT! Could it be? Could this be it? Commander Mograine says: I must know ... I will know ... Commander Mograine reaches out to touch the light crystal. (Mograine is stricken by a lightning shock, falling to his knees.) Commander Mograine says: I ... It ... It is beautiful. What I felt when I touched it ... The Light coursed through me and I through it ... It healed my spirit. Isillien says: Your hand! It is healed! Commander Mograine says: Let us never again speak of this day. Our enemies are many. They need not know we hold such artifacts. Commander Mograine closes the chest. Commander Mograine says: I have seen it ... From this blessed crystal we will forge a weapon. This weapon will hold inside it a piece of each of us ... And when it is used against undead, it shall cast them down. And in its wake, it will leave only ashes ... All: The Ashbringer ...
Still, despite the event in Old Hillsbrad, there was no evidence of the mysterious second son of Highlord Alexandros Mograine to be found. The corrupted Ashbringer remained corrupted, and players began to question whether or not they'd ever see a resolution to the mystery of the fallen blade. When Wrath of the Lich King was released, new death knights could plainly see the corrupted Ashbringer being wielded by Highlord Darion Mograine -- a death knight who happened to be that fabled second son of the Scarlet Highlord.
In addition, a four-part comic miniseries simply titled Ashbringer was released that explained the origins of Mograine and the origins of the Ashbringer -- which was not forged by a mage, as many theorized, but by Magni Bronzebeard -- as well as the origins of the Scarlet Crusade and the Argent Dawn. For more information on Mograine and the Ashbringer, I highly recommend picking up the series; it was really well written, the artwork for it is lovely, and it is now available in graphic novel format.
Unfortunately, over the course of Wrath, nothing further was implemented to further any indication that there would be a player-wielded Ashbringer. The sword itself was purified during the Light of Dawn event that new death knights played through and eventually wound up in the hands of Tirion Fordring, who carries it to this day.
This was confirmed at Blizzcon 2009 at a class panel discussion, when it was stated that players would not be able to purify the Corrupted Ashbringer, ever. It's been stated here and there that Tigole said it was a "mistake" to ever let the weapon get in the hands of players -- and maybe that's true. The weapon itself is still shrouded in much theory and speculation, particularly after the events in Old Hillsbrad; the item that Mograine originally found was from Draenor, after all, and it bore a curious resemblance to the heart of a darkened Naaru.
Could the Ashbringer be the Light of a Naaru, the same thing that powers the Sunwell we know today, forged into weapon form? Were we ever meant to wield the blade of the Scarlet Highlord? What was up with all the pieces and hints we received over the years? Was it a quest line never implemented, or was it simply bait to string the player base along? We'll never really know, but the story of the Ashbringer captivated many over the years, and the hints and red herrings found along the way continue to mystify.
For now, the legend of the Ashbringer is solved, and it looks as though the blade will remain with Tirion Fordring and the Argent Crusade. The teasing hints and small references to the blade may very well disappear for good with Cataclysm's launch, leaving the legend of Ashbringer simply that, a legend. As for the players ... well, you can always fish up the Dustbringer. Come back next time when I discuss quests undiscovered, quest chains broken and keys never found.