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Know Your Lore: The curse of the worgen and the Scythe of Elune, part two

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.

Last week we uncovered the true origins of the worgen, and of the Scythe of Elune. Far from the mysterious object it appeared to be throughout vanilla World of Warcraft, the Scythe was actually constructed for a specific purpose, though the results of its construction were a horrifying disaster. The Scythe of Elune would not be seen again in anyone's hands for thousands of years, presumably stowed away somewhere for safekeeping.

As for the worgen, they continued their existence in the Emerald Dream to which they were banished. But this was not the end of the worgen; though they dreamed the dream of the wild, they always sought a way to escape. The exile of the Dream, a paradise to most druids, was a torture beyond comprehension to the followers of Goldrinn. Malfurion had done what he thought best for all considered -- the tree Daral'nir would supposedly keep the worgen at rest. Yet how, exactly, did Malfurion know of the tree's existence?

Please note: Today's Know Your Lore contains spoilers for the five-issue miniseries Curse of the Worgen -- an excellent series that I cannot recommend enough -- go pick it up if you haven't! If you do not wish to be spoiled, now would be a very good time to turn back.

Ralaar and the Druids of the Pack weren't the only druids to experiment with pack form. The reason Malfurion knew so much about pack form and the reason he forbid it was that at one point in his studies, he'd attempted the form himself. Unable to control the savage essence of the form, he turned on Cenarius -- who quickly put Stormrage in his place. It was Cenarius that took Malfurion to Daral'nir, and managed to bring the druid back to himself. This is why Malfurion banished the worgen -- because he understood what Daral'nir could do, and hoped to bring the worgen back to sanity.

It didn't work. The worgen were just as vicious as ever, perhaps more so given their imprisonment. And thousands of years later, a magician of Dalaran named Ur began researching the worgen, though he could not comprehend what they actually were.
The worgen's home is a dark place, a place of nightmare. If that world fosters locations safe from the cursed Worgen, then my research has revealed no such bastions. And if one considers the ferocity and wickedness of the Worgen, it is likely that no such bastions exist. It is surmised that the Worgen are content to remain on their world, for although some Worgen possess powerful magic, they have made no attempts to reach Azeroth of their own accord. And for this, we are fortunate.

It is my hope that no Dalaran wizard seeks out the Worgen, even if done in light conscience. For no pact may be struck, no secrets may be learned, no good can come from these beasts. They are best left to their world. For if found in ours and not destroyed, our peril will be dire... -- The Book of Ur
Though Ur stopped short of actually trying to use the worgen against the Scourge, his teachings found their way to another mage -- Arugal. Archmage Arugal was a former mage of Dalaran, but more importantly he was a patriot of Gilneas. After the destruction of Dalaran at the hands of the Scourge, he fled to Shadowfang Keep above Pyrewood Village, just outside of the great wall that blocked Gilneas from the rest of the world. But that wall wasn't the only way into Gilneas -- there were passages, secret passages under the wall that would allow certain outsiders in. And when the Scourge began to threaten the gates of Gilneas, King Genn Greymane sought out Arugal and asked for his help as a Gilnean in fending off the Scourge forces.

Ur was hesitant about experimenting with the worgen -- but Arugal was not. Under Greymane's orders and using Ur's research, Arugal summoned the worgen from whatever strange world they originated in. To a human, the Emerald Dream was an utter mystery, and viewing it would indeed be like viewing an entirely different dimension or world. Fortunately for Arugal, the summoning worked as intended. Unfortunately for Arugal, Ralaar -- now Alpha Prime -- and the rest of the worgen weren't really the allies they'd hoped for.

Alpha Prime and the worgen took care of the Scourge as instructed, and then promptly turned on Arugal and the rest of the wizards and armies of Gilneas that they were supposedly fighting beside. Though originally the bite of the worgen was an immediate catalyst for the transformation into worgen, thousands of years in the Emerald Dream had dulled the effects. Soldiers that were taken back into Gilneas to recuperate and recover eventually turned into worgen themselves, and began attacking their fellow Gilneans.

Arugal, driven mad with guilt and shame over his actions, adopted the worgen as his twisted children of sorts -- after all, it was his fault they were released on the world in the first place. As for Gilneas, its people slowly began to realize there was a problem in the city, something far direr than a simple civilian uprising. People were turning up dead, brutally murdered. A detective named Halford Ramsey began to investigate the strange deaths and reports of a supposed "wolf cult," eventually uncovering the truth -- the worgen, Alpha Prime and all, were planning on taking over Gilneas. Not only that, they were working in league with the Forsaken. Alpha Prime intended to convert as many Gilneans to his cause as possible -- and those that did not accept his terms would be killed.

Halford was "gifted" with the worgen curse by Alpha Prime, and as he progressed from man to worgen, discovered the story of the worgen -- their origins and how they came to be. Alpha Prime's actions did not go unnoticed by the night elves, however. Belysra, still alive after thousands of years, traveled to Gilneas presumably upon hearing of the rampaging worgen in the area. But in order to defeat Alpha Prime, Belysra would need the object that Alpha Prime was desperately searching for, the object that imprisoned him so long ago, and could very well do so again -- the Scythe of Elune.

The Scythe had been absent from history for thousands of years -- presumably locked away by Malfurion and the Cenarion Circle so that its powers could not be used to release the worgen from their imprisonment. But the powers of the Scythe would be unleashed again, this time by a night elf named Velinde Starsong -- an elf of no particularly high rank or note. Velinde was charged with clearing the forests of Felwood of the demons that plagued it -- demonic agents of the Burning Legion and satyr alike, presumably left over from the Third War.

Though the travels of the Scythe in present day are semi-documented, they're still shrouded in an incomprehensible tangle of mystery that requires a little speculation. The following is an account of the events of the Scythe's appearance from the journal of Velinde Starsong:

Elune has granted my wishes. The lives of my fallen comrades will not be in vain, and I shall avenge their deaths using the Scythe of Elune. It is an ancient thing, a branch, twisted and gnarled of wood that could be older than even the Kaldorei.

For many hours I examined the tool that the goddess granted to me. It is no ordinary weapon, that is for certain, nor is it a simple magical implement. With it... it is as though the barriers of time and space are weakened. Holding the Scythe in my hands, I received a vision of chaos. Wolf-men... the worgen... battled an incredible enemy. The worgen fought savagely, as fit their primitive race, but their enemy was unflinching: the Lords of the Emerald Flame.

And that was when I realized the true power of the Scythe. By focusing on it, I became able to communicate with the worgen. It was not speech I used to contact them, however. It was something different... I could not describe it.

Velinde didn't, couldn't know what the true power of the Scythe actually was. She also had no knowledge of the true identity of the Lords of Emerald Flame -- the satyr that battled the night elves thousands of years before, during the War of the Satyr -- the same war that sparked the creation of the worgen. But something gave her the Scythe of Elune and urged her to open the portal between Azeroth and the Emerald Dream, to release the worgen as a weapon against the demons she'd been sent to conquer.

This is where we fall into speculation territory, because one thing is absolutely clear after learning the origins of the Scythe of Elune: Elune would not, under any circumstances, openly allow someone to free the worgen, not after they had been "tamed" in the Emerald Dream. Wherever the Scythe manifested from, it is incredibly doubtful it had anything to do with Elune. Goldrinn, on the other hand ...

Goldrinn died during the War of the Ancients, but even in death the Ancients are quite possibly powerful enough to continue to affect the real world. Given Goldrinn's nature and his eternal conflict with Elune, he may have found a way to get the Scythe to Velinde in order to release his "children" of sorts -- but again, this is just speculation. Regardless, the events afterward were typical for the worgen we now have the origin story for; they fought the demons of Felwood, and gradually grew more and more powerful, their numbers increasing despite the fact that Velinde halted summoning the creatures. They grew more feral and more dangerous, and Velinde decided to seek advice from a man reported to have summoned the worgen without the help of the Scythe -- Archmage Arugal.

Velinde's journey took her from the forests of Kalimdor to Booty Bay, and then north to Duskwood. And then, inexplicably, Velinde Starsong vanished from the face of Azeroth, never to be seen again. The Scythe was found in a mine, unearthed by a miner named Jitters who unwittingly released a score of worgen in Duskwood. He managed to flee, but dropped the Scythe on the way. But what of Velinde? What happened to her, where did she disappear?

A mound of dirt in the mine where the Scythe was found, when clicked, spawns a ghost of Velinde, who mourns her choices -- she eliminated one enemy from the world, only to spawn another, and lost the Scythe that had been granted to her by "her goddess." This suggests that somehow Velinde met her end in that mine -- but who killed her? The worgen weren't unleashed until after the Scythe had been abandoned and Velinde disappeared. Presumably, Velinde is dead, though her death is a mystery.

But perhaps Velinde met a slightly different fate. After all, the Scythe that she thought was opening a portal to another dimension she'd never seen before was in actuality opening a portal to the Emerald Dream. Perhaps Velinde -- who was not a druid of any kind -- simply had no idea what the Emerald Dream looked like. And in the depths of Duskwood, nestled in the very center of the forests lies one of four portals that lead directly into the Emerald Dream. ...Is it possible that Velinde discovered the portal, and simply stepped through, intent on seeing what the home of the worgen was really like? If so, she could simply be lost somewhere in the Dream -- possibly a victim of the Emerald Nightmare.

More concerning however are the tales of the Dark Riders of Duskwind Pass, a mysterious group of dark figures in search of the Scythe, though their reasons are unknown.

"The Scythe of Elune." one of the Riders shrieked in a voice both harsh and shrill, like the grinding of an axe on stone. And the last word - Elune - it croaked, as if choking on the sound. Dread gripped me when I heard that voice, both from the horrid sound of it, and because...I knew the Scythe of which the Rider spoke. It must be the same cursed thing I drew from the rocks of Roland's Doom days before. It was what the Black Riders sought! -- Jitters' Journal

Are the Dark Riders actually part of Alpha Prime's worgen forces, attempting to retrieve the artifact for their leader? Or do they work for some other entity we have yet to discover? It's never really clarified. What we do know is that the Scythe was found in Duskwood and taken to Gilneas at some point just after Cataclysm, and Alpha Prime and his worgen followers were dispatched and taken care of.

Although the story of the Scythe has been filled out in part, there are still giant gaps in the history of the artifact that have yet to be uncovered. A quest in Grizzly Hills points to a resurrected Arugal using the Scythe to control the worgen there -- but the Scythe would have had to release the worgen in Duskwood, somehow make its way to Gilneas prior to Wrath of the Lich King in order to be taken by a resurrected Arugal to Northrend, and then be returned not to Gilneas, but to Duskwood, where it would be once again taken to Gilneas to be used against Alpha Prime just before Cataclysm. All of this in jammed in a timeline of approximately three years, maybe less -- which makes little sense when one thinks about it too hard. It also makes one's head hurt, so I don't recommend pondering it for overly long.

Though we now know the true origin of the worgen, and how the humans of Gilneas came to be affected with the worgen curse, the ultimate fate of the Scythe of Elune is still up in the air. Was it returned to Kalimdor, now safe in the hands of the kaldorei? Was it taken to Hyjal, where the resurrected Ancient Goldrinn now roams whole once more? And what of the Dark Riders of Deadwind Pass -- where do they fit into the story, and will we ever hear of them again?

While the origins of the Scythe and its ultimate purpose have been revealed, there is much to the mysterious artifact left to be discovered. Even though the playable worgen of Warcraft are humans that have the curse under control, there are still worgen out there in the forests of Duskwood that have no master and no control. It seems as though the Scythe, despite the clarification in its origin, still has elements left that should be explained. Perhaps one day we'll get that clarification -- but for now, we at least have a solid idea of the Scythe's roots and the worgen's origins, something that has been haunting players since vanilla WoW.

For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:

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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