Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: When is a well not a well?

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|11.04.12

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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: When is a well not a well?
Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition When is a well not a well SUN
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.

When is a well not a well?

The Well of Eternity is one of the most important objects in Azeroth's history. A font of magical water with incredible properties, it has been the subject of at least two wars. First, there was the War of the Ancients, in which kaldorei fought Highborne while the Burning Legion threatened to invade. Next, the Third War, in which Archimonde sought to dominate Hyjal and the powers of the Well beneath it's roots.

But the Well has also changed Azeroth in a significant way. The kaldorei wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the waters of the Well. Neither would the sin'dorei or their curious state of magical addiction. And if rumors are to be believed, there are several races on Pandaria whose roots tie into the mysterious waters of the Vale of Eternal Blossoms -- also speculated to be a remnant of that original Well of Eternity.

The origins of the Well are shrouded in mystery. It's simply something the Titans created countless centuries ago. Or ... is it? When is a well not a well at all?

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition, meaning the following is a look into what has gone before with pure speculation on what is to come as a result. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition When is a well not a well SUN

The origin of the Well of Eternity

We don't really have much information at all about the Well of Eternity. We know it was vast, and it took up a giant chunk of the original Kalimdor continent prior to the Sundering. It drew its energies from the Great Dark Beyond itself, and it was a never-ending supply of one of Azeroth's most precious, sought after and fought-over resources: magic. Various texts in troll history suggest that the night elves themselves were a product of the Well of Eternity, trolls that stumbled upon the waters and evolved.

Those trolls were then transformed into the kaldorei. And the kaldorei grew smarter, stronger, and more powerful than the trolls they evolved from. The kaldorei nation proceeded to decimate the mighty troll Empires, claiming the lands around the Well as just one small fraction of their settlements. Because the kaldorei have always been tied to the Well of Eternity; it's something that's in their blood. And the sin'dorei, with their curious addiction to magic, are still tied to it as well.

In Pandaria, the Vale of Eternal Blossoms contains water that is identical to the Well at the foot of Nordrassil on Hyjal Summit. Many suggest that the water in the Vale is in fact a remnant of the Well of Eternity. Documented pandaren history suggests that this is true, given the origin of the jinyu, grummles and saurok -- all shaped, much like the kaldorei of old, by the magical water. The evidence is further suggested by quality of the water; crops watered in the Valley of the Four Winds grow to monstrous proportions, as do the flowers that dot the edges of the Well in Hyjal.

History states that the Titans carefully placed the Well on Azeroth, but the reasons for its placement are unknown. Some would say it was obviously to fuel the Titans' efforts at creating life and order on our fragile world. I've speculated in the past that the Well was a trap of sorts, something to lure the Burning Legion to Azeroth, suggesting that perhaps our existence is nothing more than a trap waiting to be sprung on Sargeras.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition When is a well not a well SUN

Sargeras and the Well of Eternity

Which makes sense in its own odd way, given what we've been presented with so far. History states that the kaldorei grew so powerful that they began experimenting with the Well of Eternity, harnessing its magical properties and using them at their own whim and fancy. It was this usage that supposedly caught the attention of Sargeras, who then made his presence known to the Highborne.

He presented himself to Queen Azshara and her councilor Xavius, and they took him for a god. Worshiping his presence, they swore to bring him to Azeroth in exchange for his knowledge and the power he could grant them. To Azshara, this was the beginning of a world of divine perfection, one in which those she deemed unfit would simply cease to exist, and all would bow to her majesty as was only proper.

History states that Sargeras wanted the Well and its powers for his own. But why would a being of ultimate power want a Well of ultimate power? If Sargeras is powerful enough to command an army the size of the Burning Legion, if he is powerful enough to end worlds, if he is powerful enough to bend the universe to a path of chaos and destruction at his whim, what does he need with a Well of Eternity? Why would he hunger for something that is, at its heart, a source of creation -- not a source of destruction?

Because the Well of Eternity didn't represent power. It represented the answer to a question Sargeras had been asking himself repeatedly, for untold centuries.

How does one kill a Titan?

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition When is a well not a well SUN

The secret of the Well of Eternity

Once upon a time, in the darkest days of Azeroth, the Old Gods came forth and sought to conquer the fragile planet. They appointed Elemental Lords, lieutenants to oversee their vast armies of destruction and death. Because the Old Gods weren't interested in ruling over the world -- they were simply interested in chaos. Beautiful, pure chaos the likes of which even the Burning Legion couldn't comprehend. Sargeras may have only begun to understand the true nature of chaos when he fell from grace, but the Old Gods embraced it. It was their existence.

And as Azeroth quailed under the thrall of these malignant entities, the Titans arrived. They saw what the Old Gods were trying to accomplish, and they wanted to put an end to it. The Titans are the antithesis of everything the Old Gods stand for. While the Old Gods seek death and chaos, the Titans seek order, the order of creation itself. When the two clashed, a war broke out -- the most horrific war that Azeroth had, at that time, witnessed.

Titan clashed against Old God, and at least one Old God fell. The dread beast Y'shaarj was one of those that met his end. In his last, terrible breath, he cursed the lands around him with the Sha that still haunt the lands of Pandaria to this day. Whether other Old Gods were destroyed as well has been lost to the annals of time -- but Titan records state that the Titans discovered killing the Old Gods would end Azeroth's existence. And so the Old Gods were imprisoned deep beneath the earth, left to rot.

The Titans created the Aspects to watch over the world. They created guardians to watch over Titan facilities and keep their secrets safe. They created areas like Un'goro Crater and Sholazar Basin as testing grounds, experimental areas that teemed with all kinds of new life. And according to some portions of history, they created the Well, carefully placing it at the heart of Kalimdor.

According to other portions of history, the Titans did not escape this war unscathed. Some say a Titan died on the fields of Silithus while killing an Old God. Many thought this meant that C'thun was the supposed dead god. But the dead Old God was revealed to be Y'shaarj, on Pandaria. What if the fallen Titan wasn't anywhere near Silithus -- what if he fell in combat with Y'shaarj?

When is a well not a well?

When it is the blood of a Titan that has been dead for centuries.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition When is a well not a well SUN

The blood of Life itself

A Titan is a being of creation. It can bend and shape worlds to its whim. It is nothing more than a catalyst for life -- neverending, teeming life in all its complex beauty. In life is order, in order is everything a Titan stands for. It is everything a Titan is. To kill a Titan is to kill life itself -- and what happens when a Titan dies? We don't know. There isn't a lot of recorded history about that. Because as far as we know, only one Titan in the history of existence has died, and it was on Azeroth.

What do you do with a body? That may be something the Titans asked themselves, and they likely didn't have an appropriate answer for it. The lesser races, the engineered races, bury their dead. Perhaps the Titans thought that an appropriate way to dispose of their fallen comrade, carefully placing him in Azeroth's soil, laying him to rest. The unnamed Titan would sleep at the heart of the planet he had died so valiantly defending. And that's when things got incredibly weird.

Because a Titan is nothing more than a catalyst for life. And just as the Sha proved that the Old Gods can never truly die, the Well of Eternity proved that neither can a Titan. The corpse of that fallen Titan wept life-giving blood, the blood of a maker itself, and flooded Azeroth with the unending power that only the Titans possess. The power of creation, of magic, of the ability to make life itself, to elevate races beyond their normal prowess into something otherworldly, something far beyond what they could ever imagine to be.

That is the reason the Well has those remarkable powers. It's not water at all. It's the blood of the Titan that died defending Azeroth from the Old Gods. As a corpse of a being that is made of creation itself, it can never truly decay, never really fall to dust. It can only weep its essence into the very world it sought to protect, a never-ending stream of creation's power seeping into the soil of Azeroth. Transforming races, causing wars, and providing a source of fascination and ultimately addiction for the Highborne and later, the sin'dorei.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition When is a well not a well SUN

The allure of the Well of Eternity

What the Highborne were unknowingly doing was playing with the essence of a dead Titan. They were using what remained of that corpse's powers to create their own kind of magic. They harnessed the power that leeched from where that Titan had been laid to rest, and they used it to their advantage. Why, exactly, do you think the detonation of the Well was powerful enough to cause continents to separate? Part of it was the portal -- and part of it was because they were literally playing with the powers of a fallen god.

And that is what caught Sargeras' attention. It wasn't the fact that these creatures were playing with untold amounts of power -- goodness knows the eredar had more than enough of their own. We are not remarkable. We have never been remarkable. We were little more than specks, motes of dust in the eyes of Sargeras at that point in time. He didn't care about Azshara, Xavius, or the battle between kaldorei and Highborne. That wasn't what Sargeras was interested in at all.

It was the Well -- or rather, it was the blood of the dead Titan. History only has one recorded instance of a Titan dying, and it happened here on Azeroth. How did it die? What was powerful enough to kill it? That's what Sargeras wanted to know. Because there is one thing that Sargeras would like more than anything else in the universe, and that is to rid existence itself of the Titans and their influence.

He wants them gone. He wants them dead. They are unnatural, the antithesis to everything the universe is and should be, as far as Sargeras is concerned. But there was no real way to destroy the Titans, there was only a way to destroy their creations and wreck the work they had already accomplished. As far as Sargeras knew, there was no method in which one could actually kill a Titan.

Until he encountered Azeroth, saw the Well, saw what the kaldorei were doing with it, and recognized that Well for what it was. Someone, somewhere, somehow on Azeroth, something had figured out how to destroy a Titan. The evidence was there, has been there all along, right under our nose. And Sargeras doesn't care about us, our power, our influence, or anything else -- he wants to know how that Titan was killed, so he can use that power to kill the rest of the Pantheon and eliminate them forever. The water holds the secret. He just has to get his hands on it.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition When is a well not a well SUN

Wrathion's War

Is the water in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms really a remnant of that original Well of Eternity? The answer may not be as far off as you'd think. If one sits long enough at the northern border of the lake at the heart of the Vale, one will eventually encounter visitors. Two of them, to be precise -- agents of Wrathion, last of the Black Dragonflight. The two stroll around the lake, taking surveys and having a quiet conversation about whether or not the pandaren know exactly what they are sitting on. And those agents are worried.

They aren't worried because of the ongoing war between Alliance and Horde. As agents of Wrathion, he's likely told them just as much, if not more, than he tells players when they begin the legendary questline. Azeroth is headed for a reckoning the likes of which has not been seen since the War of the Ancients. The Well at Nordrassil is only a small fraction of that original Well's power -- it's just a tiny pool, fueled by small vials of Titan blood.

Sargeras hasn't made much of a move on Azeroth since getting Medivh to open the Dark Portal. Medivh's defeat set the fallen Titan back, but that doesn't mean he's done with Azeroth. His attention has likely been drawn elsewhere. But Pandaria is no longer shrouded, and the waters of the Vale shine like a beacon, drawing the races of Azeroth like bees to honey. The tauren and night elves both had visions of the Vale, it's what drew them to Pandaria, not the orders of their faction leaders.

It shines like a beacon to the rest of the universe. Sparkling, glimmering, beckoning, it calls to the being who sought it out originally, the one who thought his plan had failed when Malfurion destroyed the Well of Eternity during the War of the Ancients. Mark my words -- when Wrathion says we're headed for a reckoning, he's not talking about Old Gods. He's talking about Sargeras, about the Burning Legion. He knows there's something special about the water in the Vale, he just isn't telling us about it. Yet.

At the moment, we have other, more pressing matters to worry about ... matters that seem to pale in comparison to what will surely come in due time.

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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