Know Your Lore: The long game of the naaru, part 2

Know Your Lore The Long Game of the Naaru, Part 2

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.

These posts about the naaru are mainly speculative. I hesitate to use the Tinfoil Hat title, because I'm not postulating that they're secretly evil or anything. But the fact remains, we know very little about the naaru. We don't know where they come from, how long they live, if they can enter their Light/Darkness cycle indefinitely, if they ever die naturally or even if they can be really killed. The only one we've ever defeated in combat ended up part of the Sunwell, and who's to say what he's doing in there now? Is M'uru still alive in the Sunwell, or did his mind die with Entropius? We currently have no way of knowing.

We know that despite what we experienced in The Burning Crusade, for the naaru, entering the void phase of their existence is an exceedingly rare and perilous event, at least according to the Ask CDev threads. It is this unknown quality that fascinates me about the naaru.

As we discussed last week, the Ata'mal Crystal that Velen used to create the barrier of Light and hold off Archimonde and Kil'jaeden's followers was an ancient mystery of his people. We don't really know where it comes from or if the naaru gave it to the ancient eredar or if the eredar constructed it somehow. What we do know is that at some point in the distant past before Sargeras came to Argus, the eredar and the naaru had some form of contact. This implies that the naaru may well predate the Titans. What we do know is this: Somehow, in some way, the eredar and the naaru met, and the Ata'mal Crystal was left in eredar hands until Velen came to call upon it for guidance.

Mists of time

We know that Velen himself is well over 25,000 years old. Interestingly, we don't know how long Velen, Archimonde or Kil'jaeden have lived, because we have no idea how long before the coming of Sargeras that they were alive. Clearly the eredar did not shape Argus into a paradise in a day. One could assume that generations of eredar lived and died before they mastered magic to the degree they did and made their world a kind of Eden.

Last week, I postulated that the naaru themselves might well have been the creations of these ancient eredar, due to the naaru's resemblance to the very magical artifacts they themselves use to traverse the cosmos. Now, we have no real evidence for this either way save for the works of the naaru. Tempest Keep and its satellite structures the Exodar, the Arcatraz, the Mechanar and the Botanica are all exceedingly similar in design to the very crystalline structure of the naaru's "bodies."

But for the moment, let's ignore the idea that the eredar might have created the naaru. It seems clear that the naaru themselves created Tempest Keep and its satellites (including the Exodar), and we know that the Exodar is alive, which implies that Tempest Keep itself is alive as well. Why does it allow itself to be used as it does?

The sun of the Light

This leads me to consider the Arcane Guardian, a type of golem apparently designed by the high elves under king Anasterian Sunstrider. Notice anything unusual about the Arcane Guardian type of construct? The large, glowing crystal in its chest? One also notes that the Arcane Guardian matches the interior of Tempest Keep and its satellites very well.

If it was the high elves who originally designed these golems, why do they resemble the technology of the naaru? Is it just a coincidence that Kael'thas Sunstrider managed to invade Tempest Keep when the naaru were away and that he did so with a pack of golems perfectly designed to patrol the hallways of the living structure -- or is that all part of the reason that the living fortress didn't cast them out of itself? Yes, M'uru was there, waiting to be taken by the blood elves. But once he was in their hands, why did Tempest Keep, a living structure, allow the blood elves to continue to use it in their plan to siphon the power out of the Netherstorm? Why did it clearly allow the blood elves to use the technology of the Keep to build Manaforges for that very purpose?

One of the telltale signs of high elf and now blood elf architecture is the arcane sanctum. This structure resembles an orrery, a model of the cosmos. Why do the high elves, obsessed with arcane magic, use the sun as a symbol of its power? Was it merely a rejection of Elune and the night elf lunar ideal, or did Anasterian have a good reason for turning the gaze of his people to the heavens?

We know that upon arriving in Tirisfal, the people who would become the high elves resided for a while in what is now the Glades before being forced to retreat by "whispers in the ground." They made their way to what is now Quel'thalas, created their Sunwell, and built the Arcane Guardians, those crystal-powered golems. The ones that fit into Tempest Keep so well. Let us consider this: In rejecting the ways of their night elf relatives, in turning to the heavens for inspiration, did the high elves discover the naaru? Or did, perhaps, a naaru visit them just as one must have made contact with the ancient eredar and provide Anasterian with a "spark" to ignite his Sunwell? The naaru clearly came to one culture with great arcane power in the distant past. Why not another? How many worlds have they visited? We cannot know, of course.

Know Your Lore The Long Game of the Naaru, Part 2

I have seen you in visions

But considering the ease by which the blood elves adapted Tempest Keep to serve their goals -- and that it allowed them to do so -- considering the similarity between Arcane Guardians and magical structures of naaru origin, and considering the high elven obsession with the Sun (a font of Light, after all), and considering at least one other culture on Azeroth associates the Sun with the Light in a similar manner, and then considering how neatly M'uru managed to turn the blood elves back to the Light by his sacrifice, one wonders if the original Sunwell was so very different than the current one.

Consider that most high elven priests of the Light lost their powers when the Sunwell was destroyed by Arthas. At the time, many considered it a loss of faith. Was it? Or did they lose their power because they literally lost their connection to the Light, a connection they only regained with M'uru's presence in Silvermoon?

It's possible to imagine it working in any one of a number of ways. Anasterian could have been contacted by a naaru, following his people's flight from Tirisfal, and given succor against the cannibalistic trolls to the south of Quel'thalas who dabble in shadow magics. Or he could have seen them in visions (just as Voren'thal would later) and applied all his skill to replicating what he'd seen, designing the orrery of the arcane sanctum to help channel the cosmic forces he sought to tap. Perhaps the naaru allowed him to scry them, hoping to inspire him and his culture toward the Light. And perhaps it even worked, for a time. One could even argue that, following the reignition of the Sunwell, it may be working better than ever with Liadrin serving as their ambassador to her people.

Yes, I'm arguing that the naaru may in fact be that manipulative. It doesn't mean that I believe them to be evil -- merely subtle, when they wish to be. If anything, their nature as crystalline entities of Light who, when gravely injured, enter into a dangerous void state that menaces all they encounter may have forced them into taking an inactive role. Naaru can certainly act with great power, as M'uru demonstrated in the Sunwell, but each time they do so, they risk a fate that is to them worse than death, becoming that which they themselves fear. It would be enough to teach anyone subtlety.

If Velen's vision is to be believed, one day all of the races of Azeroth will band together against a coming threat, and it could be through the Sunwell that the first rapproachment is to be made. Perhaps not. Interesting to consider, though.

Next week, the Ashbringer, the Ata'mal Crystal and its fragments, and cities of living glass.

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.