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.
Deathwing's explosive eruption into Azeroth from his lair in Deepholm began the Cataclysm we are all enduring and opposing now. The former Aspect of Earth has upset the balance of the world, and through his machinations, he brought both Ragnaros the Firelord and Al'akir the Windlord to an alliance with him. These alliances were chosen poorly. Both the wind and the fire have been, for the moment, stilled. New lords may well be chosen, but for now, the power of the fire and air elementals has been broken. Therazane of Earth remains, although it is as yet unknown how secure she can possibly feel, with two of her greatest rivals destroyed.
What, then, of the Tidehunter? What fate has been made for him who is the lord of water? Alone among the lords of the elements, the whereabouts of Neptulon are unknown. It is clear, however, that he has suffered for his refusal to ally with Deathwing, and through the Destroyer, the Old Gods.
You guys know the tinfoil hat drill. Our own Anne Stickney pioneered it on our site, but I've been known to spin a crazy theory or two myself. This week, I had to ask the question of what exactly is going on with Neptulon following the end of the Throne of the Tides dungeon? As is the case with all other TFH posts, I'm speculating hardcore on what might be the case here.
The story as we know it
A brief history of Neptulon and why he's missing now is necessary. One of the four elemental lords who served the Old Gods while those unfathomable monstrosities contended with one another across the face of Azeroth, Neptulon led the water elemental host against those of fire, earth and air. The world was frothing madness then, as pleased the Old Gods. The coming of the Titans led to each of the elemental hosts imprisonment alongside their greatest exemplars, and Neptulon was no exception. However, the Tidehunter seems the least discomfited by his captivity and by far the last to mourn the end of the Old God's rule.
In the dim past, Neptulon even unleashed a mighty kraken to destroy the Gurubashi Empire. This means that, alone among the elemental lords, Neptulon was somehow able to make himself felt on Azeroth in the dim past. Only Ragnaros was previously known to have been summoned to Azeroth before this revelation, and unlike Ragnaros, Neptulon was clearly at or at least near his full potency when he destroyed the Gurubashi. Furthermore, if Neptulon was summoned to Azeroth, no one is claiming credit for it.
Neptulon appeared on Azeroth again following Deathwing's cataclysm. The destruction of the World Pillar caused instability throughout the world and causes the barriers between the four elemental realms and the world to erode. Neptulon's Anyssal Maw (the elemental plane of water) erupted through a fissure in the seabed called the Abyssal Breach, and the Naga servitors of Queen Azshara made a power play against Neptulon and his loyal elemental servitors.
Neptulon himself appeared to quash this attack, and despite the aid of Faceless Ones (whose presence indicated that the Naga had allied with the Old Gods), the lord of water seemed to easily defeat their forces. However, Lady Naz'jar revealed that her entire goal had been getting Neptulon to manifest on Azeroth when she unleashed Ozumat, patriarch of the kraken, to attack the Tidehunter. Ozumat attacks Neptulon in the manner of a merciless one, seizing the elemental lord's face and seemingly nearly usurping the Tidehunter's body.
Lady Naz'jar leads the combined host of Faceless Ones and Naga into the very Abyssal Maw itself, laying siege to Neptulon's Throne of the Tides complex. Thanks to the aid of Azerothians who seek to balk the Naga, Ozumat is forced to release the Throne complex and Neptulon. Then, while defending Neptulon from the pollution of the Faceless Ones, the same heroes are forced to watch as Ozumat manages to seize Neptulon again and departs with the diminished Tidehunter to no known location.
This is the last we see of Neptulon.
Piecing together the clues
Let's put all the knowns together in one place.
We know that Neptulon was either summoned past the Titan's restrictions or somehow able to bypass them and manifest in Azeroth's oceans before any of the other elemental lords could do likewise. While Ragnaros was so diminished the first time he was summoned that he needed centuries to recover and could not stand against Cenarius, Malfurion and Hamuul Runetotem when Deathwing summoned him, Neptulon was powerful enough to entirely destroy the Gurubashi Empire (despite the presence of Hakkar the Soulflayer) with his kraken servitors. Neptulon also manifested himself in the Abyssal Breach; he needed no help from Deathwing or any other force but his own will.
The krakens have served Neptulon's will for untold thousands of years. The Kvaldir who invaded Northrend were loyal to a kraken named Leviroth, and the ones who fought the Naga in Vashj'ir seemed loyal to Neptulon.
Ozumat is called "patriarch of the kraken" and certainly seems to match the ancient Troll legends of the beasts that destroyed the Gurubashi, yet he attacks Neptulon not once but twice. Both times he operates under the direction of the Naga invasion force, which contains both Faceless Ones (known servants of the Old Gods) and Merciless Ones, who resemble Faceless One heads that can wrap themselves around another being's head and usurp control of its body. Ozumat does exactly this to Neptulon.
Neptulon appears to halt the Naga/Faceless One invasion of the Throne of the Tides, but his subsequent disappearance at Ozumat's tentacles puts that outcome into question.
Despite his ancient service to the Old Gods, Neptulon is clealy under attack by those currently serving them, the Faceless Ones. Since these entities have allied with the Naga, we can assume that the Naga are at least indirectly serving them as well. Neptulon appears to have either rejected or never been consulted by Deathwing, perhaps because the Aspect of Death had already allied with Queen Azshara.
The conspiracy and the conspirators
Is it possible that Deathwing intended to destroy all of the elemental lords? His machinations in Deepholm (using the Twilight's Hammer to pit the Horde and Alliance against one another while trying to use an ancient Titan waygate to enter Uldum) could be seen as tailor-made to destabilize further the elemental plane of Earth. For a time, Therazane herself attacks not the Twilights but rather the Earthen Ring. Even though the Stonemother is eventually convinced to aid the Ring against the Twilight's Hammer (and in so doing, help repair the World Pillar), it's also true that for an extended period of time, her attention was fixed entirely on events occurring in her realm and not on any Azerothian specifics.
With Al'Akir coerced into fighting the Ramkahen and Ragnaros occupied trying to burn down Hyjal (both of which ended in these lords' deaths), and Therazane distracted by the death of her daughter during the elemental invasion and the invasion of the mortals after, this would have left only Neptulon unoccupied. While the Naga and Faceless Ones do not appear to have killed the Tidehunter, he too is no longer in control of his domain.
What if the goal was to do exactly this -- to distract or force abdication of each elemental lord in order that they could not or would not be able to oppose the Old Gods at the crucial moment when those entities were releasing enormous elemental forces to reshape the very surface of Azeroth? What if Deathwing's cataclysm was not merely a disaster in the conventional sense or a metaphoric attempt to bring about a new order, but literally a gigantic ritual aimed entirely at changing the face of Azeroth to make it more suitable for the release of the Old Gods? Had Deathwing succeeded in Uldum, he could have used the power of the grand Halls of Origination to have directly shaped the planet to his exact desires. Failing that, perhaps he simply made do with the destruction of two elemental lords, the forceful distraction of a third, and the abduction of the fourth?