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.
A large portion of the new Elemental Bonds quest line available for players in Hyjal involves ex-Warchief Thrall struggling to come to terms with different facets of himself and his life to date: Uncontrolled, unchecked anger at the circumstances of his youth, worry and fear that no matter what he does in his life, it will never be the right thing. And in the midst of all of this, a strong, overbearing desire to just settle down with his woman, have some kids, and just be a family man -- something for which he feels incredibly guilty. After all, when the weight of a dying world rests on your shoulders, the last thing you should be thinking about is starting a family.
He comes to terms with all of this, however, and emerges even stronger than before. It seems as though Thrall is prepared to be the savior of Azeroth, the one who will stand with the Aspects at whatever designated time lies before us in the not too distant future and make certain that the world is restored, whole and complete. The one who can properly fill in as Earthwarder. Except ... being the world's savior doesn't leave much time for raising a family, does it? That deep-down desire to just be a normal orc and raise a normal family doesn't seem to be an option at this point -- after all, the world will need someone to continue to faithfully watch it, after Deathwing is gone. Unless, of course, Thrall isn't the savior of Azeroth at all.
Perhaps that fate rests on one tiny, fragile egg.
Let's back off from that for a moment and travel to the Badlands -- a harsh, unforgiving desert that was annoying to level through in vanilla but almost required, as it was home to the Uldaman instance as well as the beginnings of the quest line that allowed Horde players to confront Onyxia. These days, the Badlands are just as harsh, if not more so than before. The destruction wrought by Deathwing's emergence from Deepholm is far more evident here than arguably anywhere else in Azeroth.
Deathwing's presence here is understandable; after all, the Badlands is one of the few areas in Azeroth where the Black Dragonflight continued to breed largely unmolested (save for those who hunted the elusive Dark Whelpling). In order to continue his plans for a flight of his own design, Deathwing needed eggs. Since Sinestra is long gone -- at least from a standpoint of being alive -- he is left with the eggs in the Badlands for examples from the black flight's clutch.
Deathwing has always been about the eggs. In the novel Day of the Dragon, the red dragonqueen Alexstrasza was captured by the Dragonmaw orcs and forced to produce eggs for the orc forces. Deathwing has his own plans for the eggs and wrangles Rhonin into a clever ploy to "free" Alexstrasza -- or rather, get her eggs out in the open where he can steal them for his own purposes. It seems like Deathwing has always had a master plan for creating a new breed of dragonflight, subservient to him and him alone. That's where the Twilight Dragonflight comes in.
In the Badlands, the black dragons continue Deathwing's plans, quietly breeding and raising their young without interference -- except, that is, for one small goblin who isn't really a goblin at all. A goblin woman named Rhea waits for players at a small camp in the southern part of Lethlor Ravine, where the black dragons make their home. Rhea's there with a purpose in mind; she wants to know more about the procreation process of the black dragons. Players are asked to collect black dragon eggs for her research, as well as the corpses of the whelps that fly around the area.
But Rhea has other tricks up her sleeve, in the form of a cloaked black dragon she's taken prisoner. In an eerie echo of what happened to Alexstrasza in Day of the Dragon, Rhea has captured the black dragon Nyxondra, holding her against her will and forcing her to lay eggs. The eggs are then collected and used for Rhea's research -- and her research is far more involved than previously shown. Rhea isn't just looking into black dragon procreation; she is trying to locate something that hasn't been seen in Azeroth in thousands of years.
Rhea is trying to find an untainted black dragon.
As for Rhea herself, she may look like a goblin, but appearances are deceiving. Rhea's real name is Rheastrasza, a member of the Red Dragonflight, and the similarities between what she is doing to Nyxondra and what had been done to Alexstrasza haven't escaped her notice. Though somewhat guilty about her actions, she insists that the work she is doing and the results of that work far outweigh what she has done to the captive dragon. After stealing an egg from Nyxondra, players are asked to take the samples to a Dr. Hieronymus Blam, with the intent of continuing Rhea's research.
Dr. Blam, a brilliant gnome, soon comes up with a plan of sorts. Recent digging in the Badlands uncovered a new set of Titan ruins. Blam's heard rumors that the Titans created the dragons, so he sends players to investigate the ruins and find something that might help with Rhea's research. In the ruins is an object called the Eye of the Watchers -- a Titan artifact, though the purpose of the device isn't clear. The results when the artifact is brought to Dr. Blam, however, are astounding.
Dr. Hieronymus Blam says: Hey, look! It's flying! Eye of the Watchers says: Boot-up protocol completed. Scanning for objective... Eye of the Watchers says: Objective identified. Scanning... The eye hovers over the dragon whelp corpse. Eye of the Watchers says: Anomaly detected. Probable source: Azerothian Old God. Attempting to excise anomaly... The Eye channels something into the corpse, and black smoke floats up above... Eye of the Watchers says: Anomaly excised. Repeating sub-protocol... It flies over the wild black dragon egg... Eye of the Watchers says: Anomaly excised. Repeating sub-protocol... It flies over Nyxondra's egg... Eye of the Watchers says: Anomaly excised. Re-assembling remaining material... Eye of the Watchers says: Viable subject compiled. No anomalies detected. The three objects are combined into a Purified Black Dragon Egg. Eye of the Watchers says: User-objective protocol complete. Stasis protocol re-enabled. The eye flies away, back toward the tomb.
One little egg -- one little, untainted black dragon egg beating with the heart of a creature that hasn't been seen since before the War of the Ancients. It's not just an egg; it's the only uncorrupted black dragon currently in existence. Free of the influence of Deathwing, free of the taint of the Old Gods. The egg is delivered to Rheastrasza, who is holed up against an assault from a horde of very, very angry black dragons -- all of whom want that egg, badly.
But none so badly as Nyxondra, mother of the egg that Rhea quickly manages to hide. Rheastrasza is indeed aware of what she's done, the experiments and torture that she's performed so similar to what was done to the dragon queen years ago. But the future of Azeroth rests in the egg she's so carefully protecting, and she sends players to put Nyxondra out of her misery.
As for the egg ... it cannot be hidden for long. As the former Earthwarder, Deathwing knows all of the secret, hidden places of Azeroth, and even in his madness, it's only a matter of time before he finds the hiding place. And so, Rhea keeps the egg moving, changing locations, ever in motion and never in one place too long. It's a frantic game of chess in which Rhea is only one step ahead of Deathwing -- and once Nyxondra and the black dragon forces attacking Rhea's hideout are taken care of, the egg is safe to be moved again.
But that move really doesn't go as planned.
Deathwing wasn't interested in saving the egg -- as far as he was concerned, the untainted creature deserved to perish, just as Rheastrasza did. But before she brought the egg out of hiding, she left a note that miraculously survived Deathwing's flames.
Heroes: If you are reading this, then my suspicions were correct. Deathwing has found us. The egg is destroyed, as am I. This was, actually, the plan from the beginning. You see... the egg that Deathwing destroyed was not the egg he sought. It was mine.
Rheastrasza was much better at the game of chess than Deathwing was. The egg still exists, having been moved away from the Badlands during the black dragon onslaught. Its whereabouts are currently unknown, but Rhea's sacrifice ensured that the egg would be able to continue growing, out of mind and out of sight from Deathwing.
It has been presumed ever since the lore panel at last year's BlizzCon that Thrall would step up and take the mantle of Aspect of Earth. But the more we see of Thrall's story, the less it seems like something he wants to do. The Elemental Bonds storyline highlights the true desires of the former Warchief -- the desire to settle down and live a simple life with his mate and his children, quietly whiling away the days on an Azeroth that is safe and sound.
Would Thrall take the title and responsibilities of Aspect? Yes -- Thrall has proven time and time again that when it comes to choosing himself, and choosing the fate of the world, the world wins. Would he like it? The answer is leaning further and further away from yes, the Elemental Bonds chain implying that the weight of the world on his shoulders is almost too heavy to bear and that the former Warchief would very much like to put it down.
It could be argued that Thrall's life has been spent in servitude, whether it be to the humans, to the orcs, to the Horde, or to Azeroth itself. In the Elemental Bonds: Fury quest event, it's clear that Thrall has been suppressing years of anger and anguish at the death of his parents, at his treatment from Blackmoore, at the stubborn refusal of Varian Wrynn to accept peace, and even at Garrosh for killing Cairne. Yet through all of the sadness, the sorrow, the hardships, Thrall kept his suffering silent, kept his wishes, his desires firmly in check.
As Thrall states at the conclusion of the quest line, "All my life, I had chosen to be a slave to fear ... a thrall." It was his choices that led him down the path he's followed all his life and completely his decision whether he took that path or not. Though his parent's death and his imprisonment in Durnholde were both entirely out of his hands, the rest of his fate -- taking up the mantle of Warchief, struggling to make an alliance with those that didn't really wish to see it, putting Garrosh in as Warchief -- were all decisions squarely on his shoulders.
When Thrall returns to Hyjal, he does not, as expected, immediately return to the ceremony at hand. As a matter of fact, that ceremony seems to be all but forgotten as Thrall swears his devotion and love to Aggra, and she to him. So what happens to Thrall's dreams of family and a quiet life, if he does indeed step up to the mantle of Aspect of Earth as so many have predicted? They're gone -- as far away as that unreachable dream of a peaceful treaty between Alliance and Horde.
Unless, of course, there is another that can take up that task. A black dragon, uncorrupted by Old Gods, brought up far away from Deathwing's reach, taught the history of his or her flight and the destructive, tragic lives they now lead. A black dragon raised with the knowledge and foresight to see the folly of power and the end result of corruption, capable of being an uncorrupt Aspect and perhaps even cleansing the corruption from the rest of the Black Dragonflight.
It all rests on the fate of one tiny, fragile little egg.
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.