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Know Your Lore: Gnome priests and the failure of the flesh

Anne Stickney

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.

In the however many years I've been playing World of Warcraft, there has always been one constant that has stayed popular opinion since the games launch: Gnomes. People hate gnomes, for whatever reason they use to justify it. I've heard every excuse in the book from "They're short" to "They're so cheery and annoying," but none of the reasons have any real meaning behind them -- it's just popular opinion. The other side of the equation are the people that love gnomes and think they're the best thing since sliced bread, and will not tolerate any disparaging remarks about this tiny and affable race. With Cataclysm's launch comes a new class for the gnomish race -- gnomes will now be able to roll the priest class and heal right along with their Alliance brethren that have been doing this for years.

By and large, gnome priests have already existed in some fashion -- Gnomeregan had the presence of a group of gnome "medics" that were healers. When you're dealing with a society that is constantly mid-invention that may or may not accidentally detonate, it's probably a good idea to have a medic or two on hand to patch people up. But these medics didn't really seem to follow the path of the Light, something that dwarves and humans have been using for years as a tool for healing. Gnomes, however, are very good at inventing -- so it may be that they simply found a way to utilize their creations to heal people, hence the medics.

The gnome priest of Cataclysm is an entirely different creature, however -- these gnomes appear to use the Light just like their dwarven friends. There are two ways you can look at the gnome priest in Cataclysm -- the easy way, and the more difficult (yet in my mind, more entertaining) way. Since gnome medics already existed in Gnomeregan, and even now players on live servers are working to retake their irradiated home, you could simply assume that the gnome priests are medics that were rescued. Or we can look at gnomes and their past -- and how recent discoveries may be altering how they view their future in a big way.

Gnomes are an odd race -- unlike the rest of the various races of Azeroth, the gnomes seemed to have absolutely no inkling of where it was they came from, nor did they particularly care about this lack of information. Instead of a drive to record and discover their history, gnomes are driven to inventing and discovering new and sometimes dysfunctional ways of making the world a better, more efficient place. To this end, the gnomes are highly intelligent -- more so than any other race on Azeroth. The first recorded mention of gnomish contact was a gnome named Indus, who was a gnomish representative to the Council of Tirisfal about 2,600 years before the First War.
The story of the "discovery" of the gnomish race is a tale handed down among the dwarves. A dwarven explorer was traversing the mountains when he stumbled across a small gnomish village. The residents were kind, friendly and downright chatty -- but what was more interesting were the homes and other structures of the village itself. These creatures, the gnomes, possessed a level of technology that had never been seen before, or even imagined. The dwarves and gnomes quickly formed a close friendship, and the two races joined the Alliance in the Second War. The gnomes didn't join out of any sense of loyalty to the Alliance; it was because their friends the dwarves said this was a good thing to do.

But one thing the gnomish race lacked, and to a dwarf this would be a glaring omission, was any kind of recorded history. The gnomes had no record of where they came from, what their past had been, how they came to be -- and stranger than that, they really didn't seem to care. Instead their focus was, as always, firmly fixed on their inventions and their friends. To dwarves, who are deeply entrenched in discovering their roots, this must have seemed at least a little out of place. But as the gnomes were happy enough to help, and didn't seem to offer any kind of threat -- indeed, the gnomish race is friendly to anyone, as long as that person isn't threatening them or their allies -- the dwarves didn't bother asking.

Perhaps they should have. All through vanilla and The Burning Crusade, the gnomes didn't really have any extended story or plot beyond the fact that they were betrayed by Mekgineer Sicco Thermaplugg, who irradiated the majority of their home and rendered it unlivable. The gnomes, led by High Tinker Mekkatorque, relocated to Ironforge shortly before WoW's launch, and lived there peacefully for a number of years, all the while attempting to take back the home that they were forced to abandon.
But this did nothing to answer any questions that anyone might have had about gnomish history. Where did they come from? How did they originate? On top of this, gnomes appeared to be good at anything they put their mind to -- and disturbingly so. Yet despite their almost chilling ability to instantly grasp and comprehend technology, they remained friendly and good-natured. Given this, it's no wonder the majority of the world thinks that gnomes are good for punting -- there's nothing worse than someone who bests you in every possible way, all the while being endearing and charming and nice about it.

The lack of gnomish priests or paladins in vanilla was pretty much a direct result of this -- gnomes were a race that didn't have a religion or a set of beliefs or faith in some higher unknown power. To a gnome, their faith and loyalty was best placed in themselves, their friends and their inventions. To go one step further and begin to speculate a little here -- gnomes didn't believe in a higher power because to them, theology and the like was a highly illogical practice. There was no proof or evidence of anything ever existing along those lines -- so why waste time on what could possibly be a fictitious creation, when there were so many wonderful things to create?

It's not to say that the gnomes poo-poo'd the idea of religion altogether. There were a few gnomes who paid their respects to the Light, because their friends the dwarves placed so much faith in it. But by and large, the gnomes simply had no interest in it. Instead, their focus was again completely set on inventions, technology, and making the world a better, more efficient place to be.
In Wrath of the Lich King, everything changed for the gnomish race in a really huge, substantial, and profound way. Alliance players that quest through Borean Tundra get to listen to the tale of Fizzcrank Fullthrottle, who discovered something utterly shocking and life-changing to the gnomish race:
Anyway, we needed to pump up lots of sand and oil for the machinery. The nearby pools proved to be perfect for that. Some of the sand even proved to have magical properties ... can you say possibilities!? But that's a different tale.

So, we drained most of the water out and build the pumping station smack dab in the middle. Everything was going swimmingly until one day the main suction pipe got clogged. Mind you, this part I learned later because I wasn't out there at the time. When they ratcheted up the suction on the pump, up came pieces of a robot that looked like a gnome! Of course the fools worked night and day to put it back together without telling us. This is when we lost communication with the pumping station.

After a couple of days of silence, I sent a scouting party out to the platform. They never returned. I sent another group the next day with the same results, and lost a couple of flying machines out on aerial recon. At that point I sent someone south to find help, and we hunkered down to prepare for the worst. We turned all of our attention to making armor, weapons and robots so that we could head out there in full force.

When we did a few days ago, we couldn't believe our eyes! As I was saying, what we saw out there defied explanation.

My people where nowhere to be found, but in their place as a veritable army of robots and androids going about their business! The droids all looked like gnomes and they said that they'd been expecting us. In fact, in their own strange way, they acted like they knew us. We were surrounded and quickly taken to the top of the pumping station. That's where we saw their leader and what he was doing to the surviving gnomes!

He called himself Gearmaster Mechazod. When we arrived he was busy transforming the survivors into mechanical beings! He greeted us warmly and explained that he was one of the first gnomes ever to be created by something he called "The Grand Architect," a Titan keeper from within the halls of fabled Ulduar.

Apparently, he was the blockage that my team had accidentally sucked up from where he'd malfunctioned thousands of years ago. It was just our luck that we'd built the pumping station right above him. The station's mechanics had put him back together, bringing him back to "life."

And now, by way of thanks, he was going to return the favor by curing all of us of what he called the "Curse of the Flesh."

According to Mechazod, it's a condition that eventually befalls all creations of the Titans! In other words, we all supposedly start out as robots of some kind, and, over thousands of years, slowly turn into fleshy beings!

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