Know Your Lore: Otherworldly mysteries

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|05.09.12

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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.

Draenor has always interested me. Note that I didn't say Outland, which is a part of the former world Draenor. While Outland itself is very interesting in its own right, one of the things I find fascinating about Draenor is that we do not know what it looked like. While we have a good understanding of one large continent (of which most survived as Outland), we don't know the entirety of that continent, nor do we know whether or not any other pieces of the lost red world survived.

What we do know is that Draenor died when Ner'zhul, the former elder shaman and de facto ruler of the Horde remnants that survived Gul'dan's treachery and Doomhammer's defeat, tried to use stolen magical artifacts to open portals to new worlds, hoping to find one to lead his people to settle on. He did this because the warlock magics taught to Gul'dan by Kil'jaeden had effectively rendered Draenor unlivable.

While Draenor was the homeworld of the orcish people, who evolved there, it was not named by them. Rather, it was the draenei fleeing the Burning Legion who gave the world its name. Draenor means "exile's refuge" in the eredun language. In addition, it was the arrival of the draenei and the naaru that led to the entrenched ancestor worship of the orcish people, as K'ure's tomb in Oshu'gun (the remains of the draenei vessel) attracted the spirits of the deceased to it. In turn, these spirits deliberately created a religion among their own descendents that would venerate K'ure's resting place, weaving orc and draenei together spiritually.

Draenor was a world of its own, and we barely knew it. And it's not the only world we know about in the Warcraft cosmos with strange, unexplained mysteries.

The mystery of the satyrs

For starters, why are there satyrs on Xoroth? Xoroth itself is a world claimed by the Burning Legion at some point. Some speculate that it might be the Nathrezim home world, but it is primarily known from the old warlock epic mount quest as the world where the dreadsteeds originate. The problem is, we supposedly know the origins of the satyr. They were highborne night elves, servants of Lord Xavius. We're repeatedly told that Xavius was the first of the satyr, transformed by Sargeras himself, and that all satyrs extant today descend from Xavius, who could transform willing night elves into the same monstrous form that Sargeras gave him.

But the presence of the Xorothian branch of satyrs in the Mazthoril caves during Haleh's attempt to restore the former Matron Protectorate in Winterspring gives us tha tantalizing possibility that Xavius was either not the first satyr after all ... or that Sargeras was so taken with his creations that he either brought many of them with him and they ended up disseminated to Legion worlds throughout the cosmos ... or that he started making new satyrs on other worlds from other races. Either way, it's something we don't have an explanation of as yet, and it interests me. Since Xavius himself ended up as the Nightmare Lord, we know he wasn't on Xoroth making more satyrs during this time.

The grom and their ilk

Going back to Draenor, one mystery is the grom. Also known as earth giants, their bones are found throughout Draenor, and they were even used in the construction of Grombolar or Temples of the Damned during the Second War. Gul'dan came up with that particular innovation. As we know from Anne's evolution post this week, Brann Bronzebeard thinks that the grom were the ancestors not only of the gronn and ogres but eventually also of the ettins and even the orcs.

The grom seem to have nothing at all to do with the colossi that range various sites in modern Outland, including Hellfire Peninsula and Shadowmoon Valley. Even though those giants are on Outland, they don't seem to be native to Draenor but rather summoned and warped by Kael'thas Sunstrider. Yet their connection to the Stone Lords of Deepholm is unknown as well. They certainly look to be the same kind of entity, yet the Stone Lords serve Therazane the Elemental Lord of Earth herself, while the colossi are to some degree created or at least unearthed by Titan-created races.

Then again, since the Titans created Deepholm and there are Titan-created races like the earthen also in the elemental plane, perhaps the colossi are simply a consequence of Draenor's destruction, freed from the rock of the shattered land the same way the colossi of Northrend were pulled from the earth. Kael'thas dropped huge crystals on Outland to summon the colossi, but he never said where he was summoning them from in the first place.

Could they be the ancestral grom? And if they are, do the gronn, the ogres, and even the ettins and orcs descend from them? And if the earth giants are the colossi and are therefore related to the Stone Lords (and as such are elementals such as Gordawg in Nagrand), then perhaps Draenor has some sort of degenerative condition similar to the Curse of Flesh, and the gronn and their descendants are suffering its effects.

The origins of Draenor

For that matter, did the Titans create Draenor? There's no real evidence, but there are some strange similarities. Ruins very similar to those unearthed in Bael Modan litter the Zangarmarsh. The Arakkoa of Shadowmoon Valley are seen summoning an entity remarkably similar to C'thun, and Harbinger Skyriss in the Arcatraz makes the point that the minions of the Old Gods "span the universe." We know that the Titans fought and imprisoned the Old Gods within Azeroth, but we don't know if that was true for Draenor as well.

Since Deathwing was very comfortable traveling through the Dark Portal and took part in helping Ner'zhul attain the artifacts that led to Draenor's destruction, it still seems possible that the destruction of Draenor was a test run for what Deathwing had in mind for Azeroth. If there was an Old God trapped under Shadowmoon Valley, did it escape, or is it now trapped even more so by Draenor's being hurled in fragments into the Twisting Nether?

One wonders if the Old Gods, being so numerous, have fought with the Burning Legion before. Clearly, the ones that warped Deathwing at the time of the War of the Ancients did not fear Sargeras. This seems odd to me, since Sargeras was at one time the Champion of the Pantheon, and as such, was a great deal responsible for the Old Gods defeat and imprisonment in the first place. Yet clearly they're willing to try and grab hold of the portal Sargeras intends to use to enter Azeroth bodily and don't seem concerned that he might object. Why is that? Is there a vast war between the chaotic minions of the Old Gods and the rather aggressively orderly Burning Legion (if you view complete and utter devastation and ruin as a form of order, anyway) raging through the cosmos? Skyriss's speech seems to indicate that at the very least, the Old Gods and their servants refuse to kowtow to the Legion.

Something awful below

This leads me back to those strange ruins in Zangarmarsh and their similarity to the ones in Bael Modan. During the Cataclysm beta, Bael Modan excavators said that they dug up something awful in their excavations and that they hoped that the collapse of their tunnels would contain it. What did they find? Is there something similar below Zangarmarsh, perhaps even further down than the Serpentshrine Caverns? Is it that entity or entities whose presence prompted the naga (known at times to work with the Old Gods) to first turn their backs on Neptulon and begin planning to usurp his domain? Did the naga come to Serpentshrine to worship? And since those mysterious ruins above the surface in the Zangarmarsh itself feature a great deal of serpent imagery (as do the Bael Modan ruins), is it possible that the caverns weren't named such for the naga at all? Perhaps Skar'this the Heretic's presence in the Slave Pens shows that, at first, the naga intended something entirely different when they came to the marsh. After all, they brought Skar'this with them. Were they loyal to Neptulon when they arrived? And how does that fit into the naga's current role as allies to the forces behind the Twilight's Hammer and Deathwing?

One begins to wonder if the Dark Portal was the first passage between Azeroth and Draenor. Did the Old Gods often make the trip? Did the Titans follow them and order yet another world? Why are the native beings of Draenor compatible with those of Azeroth? We know that many worlds have felt the hand of the Titans, but we don't know for sure if Draenor was one or not. Perhaps it was the Old Gods, who often enslave elementals for their amusement, who attempted to do to Draenor's elementals what they did to Azeroth's.

Certainly the presence of Draenor of the Cipher of Damnation -- supposedly a spell used on many worlds, believed by some to be the one that Thaurissan used to summon Ragnaros to Azeroth; on Draenor, it summoned and bound another Firelord when Gul'dan used it to raise the Hand of Gul'dan and shatter the orc's ancestral connection to the elementals -- just raises further questions about possible Old Gods on Draenor. Did Deathwing go to Draenor to commune with his masters and attempt to free one or more? Did he succeed or fail? Where is the rest of Draenor, and what secrets does it hold?

More questions

Were the grom just big monsters who ended up littering Draenor with their descendents, or were they the great forces that tamed Draenor's elementals and drove the Old Gods away, perhaps underground? Were the earth giants similar to the Stone Lords or the colossi of Northrend, hewn out of the living rock by Titans? Did Draenor, too, know an ancient war that shaped the elementals, and is that why the Cipher was so potent there? And where did Gul'dan learn it?

If it was the spell the Old Gods used, did Sargeras gain access to it when the Titans defeated them, or did they allow him to? Is that why they don't fear him? I find it interesting that Sargeras made Xavius into a satyr, but the Old Gods then made Xavius into the Nightmare Lord. Perhaps as a Titan, Sargeras still contains the seed of creation that the Old Gods, being inherently corruptive instead, require for their release. Perhaps they don't fear him because they need him.

We have no answers, of course. But sometimes questions are just as much fun. There are many mysteries in the Warcraft cosmos.

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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