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.
On a lone island located in the middle of Darrowmere Lake it sits, the remnants of the keep of Caer Darrow. The history of this isle dates all the way back to the high elves of Quel'Danas, who used the site as the location of one of many runestones the quel'dorei used. But the history of this isle has been lost in the face of far more recent history -- the history of the noble Barov family and their downfall, the history of a school dedicated to horrors the rest of Azeroth would rather forget.
During the Second War, the ancient site was invaded by the Horde, who took the runestone and broke it into pieces that were taken to create Altars of Storms. And some time after that, the Barov line came to own the property, as well as several others across Lordaeron. The Barovs, however, were not content with their mass amounts of land -- they wanted to make sure they held that land and their fortune for as long as possible. And so they struck a deal with a powerful mage, one who could easily give them all they asked and more ... for a price.
The mage's name was Kel'Thuzad.
Kel'Thuzad was more than a mage. He was the leader of the Cult of the Damned, a group of humans who swore fealty to the Lich King. In exchange for this fealty, Kel'Thuzad promised immortality, something that the Barovs were keen to have.
But Kel'Thuzad didn't just want the Barovs; he wanted Caer Darrow. Once he had it, the former house of the Barovs was turned into a school for the Cult of the Damned, one that researched the forbidden art of necromancy and the Plague of Undeath that would hopefully wipe the living from Lordaeron for good.
As for the Barovs, in exchange for their land and their devotion to the Scourge, Kel'Thuzad guaranteed that they would live forever, in a way. Lord Alexei became a death knight, and his wife Illucia and his daughter Jandice are now ghosts that haunt the halls of their former home, now known as Scholomance. The Barov family boasted two sons -- Alexi, now a Forsaken, and Weldon, the last living human heir to the Barov fortune. In classic WoW, Alexi and Weldon fought mercilessly for their rightful inheritance, both sending players to retrieve the deeds of Barov lands and ultimately sending players on assassination runs.
Scholomance is no longer a home for the rich and wealthy; it is a monument to the depravity of Kel'Thuzad and those that he corrupted with promises of eternal life. Though the Cataclysm may have shaken up the rest of the world, Scholomance continues to run as it always has -- Darkmaster Gandling still runs the school as headmaster, the Barovs work behind the scenes. The halls are littered with dark cultists and Scourge, and none seem to have paid any attention to the goings-on of the outside world.
Well, most haven't.
In the new quests for the Western Plaguelands, Darkmaster Gandling and other members of the Cult are hard at work creating plague cauldrons, trying to continue the spread of the plague. Gandling himself can be seen at Andorhal, but he manages to flee after being confronted by Koltira Deathweaver and Thassarian. However, aside from these few small changes, there really haven't been any major changes to Scholomance in Cataclysm other than the relocation of quest givers. With a revamp to Scholomance in the works for Mists of Pandaria, what exactly could Blizzard do with this instance?
It's been mentioned that Scholomance will be changing from a whopping 13-boss instance all the way down to just five bosses -- which makes the instance a heck of a lot smaller. In addition, there is even an example of the new Scholomance map with all bosses listed -- Kirtonos the Herald, Jandice Barov, Ras Frostwhisper, Rattlegore, and finally Darkmaster Gandling. However, whether or not that boss list is accurate hasn't really been confirmed, to my knowledge -- and as with everything in development, nothing is really finalized until it's final and released. That said, those bosses may change, or they may stay the same as what has already been revealed.
But let's take a look at what's going on with Scholomance right now and what that could possibly say for the future of the instance.
Cult of the Damned The Cult of the Damned was originally created for the Scourge and for the Lich King. But the Lich King is no longer a power worth worrying about. Whether or not the Cult of the Damned knows this, however, is up in the air -- it could be that they are simply unaware of Arthas and Kel'Thuzad's defeat, and they are awaiting their return. Or it could be that the Cult of the Damned has realized the Lich King and Kel'Thuzad are no longer a force to be reckoned with, so they have decided to begin work for their own motives ... which is a bit more dangerous than simply being brainwashed by the Lich King. People with motives aren't mad. They aren't corrupt. They're simply working for their own cause, whatever that cause may be. And people working for their own cause? Well ... they'll likely use whoever or whatever means necessary to get what they want.
Sylvanas and the Forsaken Now here's an interesting thought: Sylvanas and the Forsaken are currently using the Plague of Undeath, despite Garrosh's orders not to do so. For what purpose, exactly? To retake Lordaeron in the name of the Forsaken. Speaking of retaking things, it was revealed in Tirisfal Glades that Sylvanas has made a deal with the val'kyr so that the Forsaken will not continue to die out. The val'kyr are continuing to bring the Forsaken to life, to serve Sylvanas or not, as they choose. But those val'kyr are apparently limited in number -- so what happens when they die out? Wouldn't it be interesting if Sylvanas approached the Cult of the Damned, a group bent on necromancy research, and perhaps offered something in exchange for the secrets of necromancy? Like say, I don't know -- how about the Plague of Undeath? Now there's a twisty reason for an instance.
Lilian Voss Or we can go back to Lilian, who we mentioned last week as a possible resident of the heroic Scarlet Monastery. Lilian's not exactly sane. Lilian's not likely to want to ally with the Scarlet Crusade, because of their betrayal. Lilian's also not likely to ally with the Forsaken, because they brought her back from the sweet release of death as the very abomination she spent her life fighting against. So what if Lilian decided to take a different outlook entirely? She won't ally with the Scarlet Crusade, she won't ally with the Forsaken -- maybe she'd simply rather wipe everyone from existence and then cease to be as well. And the Cult of the Damned ally with neither the Forsaken nor the Scarlet Crusade, making them a neutral organization of evil-doers, to a degree.
The Argent Crusade Or for a very simple premise, how about we take a look at the Argent Crusade? They're trying to heal the Plaguelands, and the Cult of the Damned is trying to spread the plague. Obviously the two sides aren't playing nice with each other, and we haven't seen the Argent Crusade or Tirion Fordring do much since Wrath. Maybe Tirion will once again ask for our help, seeing as how we're the heroes who helped him dispatch the Lich King and all. ... Or we could go with some really, really out-of-the-box options.
Koltira Deathweaver Say, where exactly did Sylvanas haul Koltira off to, anyway? More importantly, what has she been doing to him since he was dragged there? The only hint we received was that Koltira would get some form of deprogramming, something that would make him bend to Sylvanas' will. Well what if that whole incident blew right up in her face, and Koltira went a little cuckoo? What if he reverted to the creature that was devoted to serving the Lich King? What if he escaped, managed to find the Cult of the Damned, and decided that this was a group of easily manipulated people that would be best suited to carrying out the eradication of Sylvanas? The Banshee Queen certainly wouldn't stand for that, and she'd send anyone she could get her hands on to take care of the problem and get rid of him.
The Risen This faction of undead has a really interesting story. See, they used to be the Scarlet Crusade. However, since the Scarlet Crusade failed so pathetically in its mission, they were killed and resurrected by Balnazzar, and they are now mindless servants of the Burning Legion. It's a sad story, in a way, but it also illustrates that the Burning Legion, no matter how hard we kick them to the curb, are still around and just as active as ever. What would happen if the Burning Legion sank their claws into the Cult of the Damned as well? After all, there's no Lich King to stop them, this time ...
Revamps, lore, and Lordaeron
The biggest and perhaps most interesting part about both of these scheduled revamps is that they take place in Lordaeron, a place that has been inundated with all kinds of new, tasty lore in Cataclysm but hasn't seen any resolution to any of those storylines so far. A lot of people have been sort of upset at the lack of resolution, but these revamps illustrate what I've been saying all along -- the purpose of Cataclysm wasn't just to revamp the world but to inject new pieces of lore and new situations that could propel the game further along.
There doesn't have to be a resolution to Sylvanas' apparent madness right now. There is more than enough going on in Cataclysm that the focus should be on the main storyline of the Dragon Aspects and Deathwing, and these tantalizing tidbits will have to wait until a later date to be addressed.
That said, it would be fantastic to see some of these storylines that have been started up in Lordaeron further addressed in Cataclysm. Let's see what happens with Sylvanas, with the Cult of the Damned, with the Scarlet Crusade, with Koltira Deathweaver. Let's see if Varian Wrynn ever makes good on his promise to try and reclaim the ruined capital from the Forsaken and put it back in Alliance hands. Let's see if The Risen, the fascinating new faction of undead former Scarlet Crusaders now led by the Burning Legion, attempt to make another move.
One thing's for certain -- the Cataclysm revamps to Lordaeron have not turned the former kingdom from Plaguelands to paradise overnight. It's a land still riddled with sorrow and conflict, although the conflicts have changed over the years. Though there are many nostalgic memories tucked away in quests long gone, perhaps it's time to move on. Let's see what comes next.
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.