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Urban Legends of Warcraft: The key, the essence and the ship, page 2

Anne Stickney

Other than the whispered name, there is no hint as to the quest line's next stop -- which ends up being a green dragon named Itharius who lives in a small cave in the Swamp of Sorrows. Itharius, who has taken the form of a high elf, is very concerned with Eranikus' fate -- because he is Eranikus' brother. He has players take an oath to help redeem Eranikus from the Nightmare that has entangled the green dragon and asks that the chained essence be turned over as well, before sending players out to Winterspring to speak with Umbranse the Spiritspeaker who will doubtless be the beginning of a long and interesting quest chain.

Except ... it isn't. Players who turned in the essence and visited Umbranse were treated to the following text:
Itharius was wise to send you to me. While he is not dead as you understand death, Eranikus will soon give us advice in his own words. For now though, I cannot directly help you ... at least not yet.

I will lend my skill at death-speaking to you, but first I need the help of one who -- unlike me -- is not limited by the frailties of old age. My most potent augury device has been taken from me against my will, and unless I have it back we will be at a loss to help Eranikus.
And then the quest line abruptly halted. Not to be outdone, players scoured the corners of Azeroth for possible clues, certain that somehow, someplace in Azeroth there must be a quest giver or an item that would lead to the augury. Or perhaps the augury itself was hidden away, much like the Ashbringer. In fact, some players tried to tie the two together, suggesting that Timolain's Phylactery, an item commonly thought to be a piece of the nonexistent chain for the legendary sword, was in fact the "augury device" that Umbrase sought.

Bringing the Phylactery to Umbranse did nothing, however. And other clever methods were sought out -- some suggested that players needed to bring the Spectral Essence from Scholomance to Umbranse, or even the Eye of Divinity, only obtainable in Molten Core. But none of these items appeared to offer any kind of continuation. Players kept their essences, unwilling to turn them in for fear of the chain eventually being continued and all their work that had been poured into the chain so far being for naught. The plight of the corrupted green dragon drove players crazy for years, and as with other unfinished chains, the response from GMs was either infuriatingly cryptic or just plain unhelpful.

Eventually Ahn'Qiraj was released, and the corruption of Eranikus was addressed. Tyrande Whisperwind redeemed him in Moonglade with the help of players as part of the quest for the Scepter of the Shifting Sands; and Richard A. Knaak also addresses his corruption and redemption in the novel Stormrage that was released earlier this year. Unfortunately, there was nothing more said regarding Umbranse the Spiritspeaker or Itharius. While Umbranse still sits in his tiny shed out in the snowy peaks of Winterspring, Itharius, at least, has gotten a larger role -- you can now find Itharius in Northrend at the temple in Dragonblight, serving as the Ambassador of the Green Dragonflight to the Wyrmrest Accord.

The mystery of the Horizon Scout

Azshara is one of those zones you either hate or love, depending on how much time you've devoted to finding the small handful of quests that are available in the area. One little-known quest lies along the southern coast of Azshara, tucked away in the rocky chasms along the shore. Players that manage to find their way to the southern reaches will encounter a stranded group of sailors led by Captain Vanessa Beltis. The captain explains that her ship was looking for a safe place to anchor when they were attacked by naga.

The crew managed to fight off the naga at first, but it appears that whatever the naga were searching for was important enough that they continue to attack the stranded crew. Players are given a quest to defend Captain Beltis and her crew from the naga attack. Oddly, the quest offers no experience or rewards when it is completed, and it is repeatable -- perhaps one of the lowest-level repeatable quests in the game. Captain Beltis expresses her gratitude and suggests that players speak to the other surviving passengers for more errands, but the crew isn't talking. The quest seems to serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever, a forgotten beginning to yet another chain that looked to be interesting.

Some players were annoyed by the lack of quests and decided to explore the area to see if there was something they were missing -- and there was. Just off the coast of Azshara at the edge of fatigue waters was a mess of floating debris, which wasn't really peculiar -- but the water around the debris appeared to be boiling. A trip down into the depth revealed the sunken remains of the Horizon Scout. While swimming to the ship could flag a player with the fatigue bar, once on the ship, the fatigue bar would disappear.

Interestingly enough, there appeared to be other survivors. In the hull of the ship are a few crew members and a gnome named Roland Geardabbler, who is surrounded by a barrier-like bubble and is casting some sort of spell. Apparently, he's responsible for the crew's being able to breath underwater all this time, and the boiling effect of the water above is simply air bubbles from his spell, rising to the surface. Roland is friendly to both Alliance and Horde, but doesn't have anything to say; the crew members are also silent.

On the floor of the hull is a chunk of azsharite, a mineral found throughout Azshara. Whether this has anything to do with what the naga are after is unknown. Players have long searched for quests regarding this crew, but the only clues that there was more intended for the little band of sailors is one quest, unimplemented, that can be found on Wowhead, and a curious item. The quest, titled <UNUSED>, requires players to slay Roland, the First Mate, the Engineer and the Cook, all aboard the sunken ship. The item is Roland's Mana Gem -- an object that doubtless belonged to the gnome mage.

What exactly was the purpose of the Horizon Scout? What were they carrying that the naga wanted, and why was their story unfinished? Did the developers simply run out of time, or was the chain removed from the original beta and the NPCs left as they were? It's all up in the air, although the unused quest suggests that Roland and friends may have somehow been responsible for the naga attack, or that perhaps the naga were after Roland's mana gem. Likely this was meant to be a hub, similar to the one that exists in Faldir's Cove, and simply wasn't finished in time. While the debris, strange bubbles and sunken remains of the Horizon Scout exist in the Cataclysm beta, Roland, Captain Beltis and the rest of the crew are nowhere to be seen.

The interesting part about these quests isn't the quests themselves but the sheer ingenuity that people displayed in trying to puzzle out the impossible. Despite knowing from a rational standpoint that these things more than likely were just never implemented, players still scoured Thottbot and the game for clues. Gigantic forum threads about the broken quest lines were created that delved into theories behind the quests and possible solutions that would get players to that next step. And then, of course, there were the riddle masters of Thottbot, who came up with clever clues for the sole purpose of keeping people guessing.

It often raised the question of whether it was the item or quest that people were obsessed over, or the simple thrill of the chase -- there's nothing like coming up with a really clever solution to a problem and then sharing it with those around you. Though some unfinished quests like The Missing Diplomat and The Black Shield chains in Dustwallow Marsh received updates that completed them, there were many others that were simply left to sit unfinished, their questions never answered.

Ever since the first coy suggestion from a GM that nobody had ever completed every quest in the game, players have been trying to accomplish just that. As Cataclysm approaches, the deadline to complete the quests that do exist draws ever closer. Back in vanilla, players had Thottbot to go on, but these days they have Wowhead -- and Wowhead is an extremely useful tool. Since the site pulls its information from the game, if there is a quest in the game that exists, it exists on Wowhead -- even the ones that were never implemented. This makes the guessing game a little less mysterious and a lot more analytical. Still, it's fun to reminisce about the days when players spent long, spellbound hours poring over a simple wooden box, finding it firmly locked with nary a key in sight.

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