Know Your Lore, Infinite Paths: The golden-eyed

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|11.23.11

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Know Your Lore, Infinite Paths: The golden-eyed
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.

Last week, I talked about Murozond and the End Time. Some astute readers noted that upon confronting the players and Nozdormu, Murozond claims, "I have witnessed the true End Time. This? This is a blessing you simply cannot comprehend." What does this mean, exactly? Granted, we could simply dismiss this as insanity brought on by the Old Gods. But what if the issue isn't insanity? What if the Old Gods didn't drive Murozond mad at all?

Aman'Thul, the Highfather of the Titanic Pantheon, granted Nozdormu a vision of his own death. It is said to be this very fate that Murozond is attempting to avoid by fracturing time. What, however, if that's not the case at all? What if in his case, much madness was and is divine sense?

Murozond's End - End Time
Murozond: You know not what you have done. Aman'Thul... What I... have... seen...
Nozdormu: At last it has come to pass. The moment of my demise. The loop is closed. My future self will cause no more harm from this day on.
Nozdormu: Still, in the future, I will... fall to madness. And you, heroes... will vanquish me. The cycle will repeat. So it goes.
Nozdormu: What matters is that Azeroth did not fall; that humanity survived to live another day.
Nozdormu: All that matters... is this moment.

Why does Murozond call out to Aman'Thul in his moment of death? Beyond his own death, what has Murozond seen? Did the Infinite Dragonflight seek to break this clockwork universe, and if so, has it already done so? This week's KYL continues based on last week's Tinfoil Hat Edition and presents an entire alternate time line based on the question What if Murozond was the hero all along?

Bronze hide, golden eyes

To really understand the difficulty in untangling Murozond's intentions and Nozdormu's assumptions, we first must look at the time line Murozond was preventing us from accessing.

Specifically, Murozond didn't want players to go back in time to the battle between the Burning Legion and the ancient kaldorei and the dragon aspects at the Well of Eternity. Why? Why did it matter to the master of the Infinite Dragonflight if we went back to the Well, especially since once we get there, we find no Infinite Dragons are there at all? Yes, Nozdormu says his future self will cause no harm from the moment we slay him on. But time travel being what it is, Murozond could easily have secured his dragonflight into the time of the Well before his death. He does not. And this reminds us of the other time we're sent by the Bronze Dragonflight to a time period only to discover there are no Infinites present at all -- namely, the Battle for Mount Hyjal.

The Bronze Dragonflight gathers an army of heroes and sends them back in time to prevent the Infinites from interfering. Those heroes never encounter a single Infinite. They do, however, ensure that Archimonde is defeated by the destruction of Nordrassil, exactly on schedule. And this leads me to wonder: What if Murozond, instead of trying to kill player characters and Thrall throughout his attacks on the past, was trying to shepherd them?

Nozdormu, having only seen End Time from his own perspective and that of the vision shown him by Aman'Thul, cannot understand it as Murozond does. Murozond has been Nozdormu. Nothing Nozdormu can do can surprise him. What if rather than fallen to insanity (as Nozdormu assumes), Murozond is instead living up to Aman'Thul's vision for him? What if he very deliberately created the Infinites, shattered the timeways, and orchestrated his own death at his own hands to fulfill his role and create the time line that we now exist in?

What Nozdormu sees as madness (a deliberate attempt to change history) becomes divinest sense when Murozond does it in order to prevent the victory of the Old Gods. Nozdormu's first step along that path that will lead to his death is when he leads heroes to the End Time and kills himself in order that he might go back in time and alter history just as Murozond would.

Closed loops open again

When Murozond dies, Nozdormu has become Murozond.

When Nozdormu sends us back to the Well, he is acting as Murozond would. Nozdormu blindly protects time's sanctity. Murozond actively alters it. Why? Because a timeline left to its own devices would head to the true End Time, the ultimate victory of the Old Gods. We have never lived in the real time line. That time line was altered, changed, warped and shifted by the Infinites, working under Murozond's directions.

The time storm that attacked Nozdormu and sent Rhonin, Krasus and Broxigar back to the War of the Ancients was nothing more than a smokescreen intended to give everyone a false impression. Malfurion was never intended to be the Shan'do of the kaldorei, and Illidan was never intended to be the sorcerer. And Tyrande Whisperwind was never to be the hand on the reins of the kaldorei.

Azshara was.

Azshara and Illidan had very different lives and upbringings. Azshara was born royalty, the direct scion of thousands of years of kaldorei rulership, while Illidan was effectively a peasant, born to the to-that-point-unremarkable Stormrage lineage. Azshara was from birth given every advantage, treated like the future queen she was, while Illidan had to claw and scratch for every bit of recognition he got, not just in general but in direct conflict against his twin brother Malfurion. Azshara loved herself and her own perfection, while Illidan obsessed over Tyrande and sought perfection in order to attain her.

The Warcraft Encyclopedia - Illidan Stormrage & Queen Azshara entries
Unlike Malfurion, Illidan had no patience for the subtleties of druidism and proved to be a poor student despite their teacher, the demigod Cenarius.

Yet Illidan was talented at sorcery, which at the time was a staple of night elf society. His magical abilities were cold comfort, though, for he had been born with golden eyes, which were quite rare in night elves before the Sundering. Golden eyes were thus commonly regarded as a sign of future greatness, but Illidan showed no signs of achieving anything out of the ordinary. Little did Illidan know that his eyes actually indicated strong druidic potential.

Queen Azshara was born with golden eyes, which were quite rare in night elves before the Great Sundering. Thus, golden eyes were commonly regarded as a sign of future greatness.

Yet both Illidan and Azshara were born supremely gifted in one key way: Both were born with the golden eyes that bespoke greatness to their people. They shared an affinity with the arcane that marked them as superlative spellcasters, greater even than Xavius or the other Highborne. Azshara was so powerful even Mannoroth couldn't harm her, while Illidan defeated every demon that ever put itself in front of him. Their great power and great destinies ended up turned against one another, and their people paid the price. Yet this price? It was the means by which the world was ultimately saved from the Legion as well as the Old Gods.

Crowns of endless glory trod under abhorrent feet

Imagine if Azshara had come to Cenarius. Imagine Azshara, Queen of the World, Light of Lights, training at the hooves of Cenarius, son of Elune. Imagine if the beloved one had turned to her people and spoken of abandoning the Well. Imagine a druid world empire, ruled by a benevolent dictator who turned her people away from arcane magic. (It's possible that Azshara could have found in the entire world of Azeroth and the Emerald Dream beyond and behind it a contentment to match her personal greatness.)

Illidan, with his enormous potential and no rivalry with Malfurion to force his hand, rises to be Archdruid of this society perfectly in tune with nature. With no one tapping the Well, there's no need to hide its power from the Legion. There's no new Well created, no Nordrassil, no pact with the dragon aspects. Azshara rules a long but mortal reign and dies beloved by her people, as does Archdruid Illidan.

For that matter, could even Illidan Stormrage maintain his obsessive love for his brother's beloved in the face of an Azshara who was neither vain nor self-absorbed, one who had found her calling and her mission in life? Or would he have served her as dilligently as Xavius or Varo'then had, but with the shared knowledge of Cenarius' teaching to keep both balanced and sane?

And so, in 9,000 years, when the forces of C'thun boil out of the titanic ruins now called Ahn'Qiraj, there is no battle-hardened warrior druid to stand against them, for Fandral Staghelm, Karsis, is dead. Illidan dead, Azshara dead, Malfurion, Tyrande, Shandris Feathermoon, Maiev, none of them ever became immortal. Without access to arcane magic and no threats in their eternally perfect empire of natural balance, no ancient and terrible catastrophe and no almost lost war with the Burning Legion to harden and prepare them, the night elves fall before the Qiraji. C'thun's forces begin their march on the Caverns of Time, where the Bronze Dragonflight battles along against an army that nearly defeated three dragonflights and the night elf armies.

A monster he was lest monsters destroy us all

This is the secret Murozond knows, the true End Time for Azeroth. And it happened 1,000 years ago. If Azshara and Illidan were allowed to have their peaceful, enlightened, untainted histories, the world itself would end, split in half to free itself from itself, perhaps. This is what Murozond saw in his moment of madness, when he split the timeways and learned the true meaning of Aman'Thul's vision for him. That he was never meant to simply behave as time's warden, keeping it locked free from interference. No, he was to be time's gardener and root out the rot the Old Gods would inflict in their effort to force time to chaotic stagnation. His was to pull out the weeds, and he knew (because he had just experienced it) that in order to come to this realization, he would have to see himself die.

Murozond did what he had to do. Murozond died that the Old Gods' rule would never come to pass again. Murozond died to prevent the End Time. And so, Murozond lives on exactly as long as we do. It was Murozond who made it possible for Xavius to reach Sargeras, who kept Azshara and Illidan isolated from those who might have reached them, who manipulated Malfurion and Tyrande into inflaming Illdan's jealousy. He sabotaged an eden and warped two souls into parodies of their own potential greatness for fear of where that greatness led, feeling that a world in conflict would be a better crucible for heroes fit to stand against the end -- the kind that could storm his own bastion and slay him.

Next week, why Orgrimmar needs to burn.

While you don't need to have played the previous Warcraft games to enjoy World of Warcraft, a little history goes a long way toward making the game a lot more fun. Dig into even more of the lore and history behind the World of Warcraft in WoW Insider's Guide to Warcraft Lore.
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