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Know Your Lore, Tin Foil Hat: All according to plan

Matthew Rossi

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.

We stopped Algalon from sending Reply Code Omega, saving Azeroth from planetary re-origination at the hands of the Titans. We stopped Deathwing the Destroyer from unleashing the Cataclysm and destroying all life on Azeroth. We should feel pretty good about ourselves. We balked C'thun, Yogg-Saron, The Lich King and the Burning Legion, going so far as to slay Archimonde and banish Kil'Jaeden back through the Sunwell portal. We defeated Ragnaros and Al'Akir, destroying them in their elemental palaces and in so doing ending them forever. On the face of it, things are looking up for Azeroth. Sure, the mortal races are engaging in their pointless, dangerous war with one another that will soon embroil the long-hidden land of Pandaria in the conflict, but at least the planet itself is safe for now.

At least it would appear to be so.

But we've all been played. All of us, Alliance and Horde, Legion and Old Gods, mortal and more-than-mortal alike. Azeroth teeters, its support systems toppled one by one. The Ancients forced to manifest again, and thus placed in the same jeopardy they were in during the original Legion invasion millennia ago. The loa of the trolls caught off guard and polarized just as the trolls themselves are... those that weren't slain or enslaved in Zul'Drak and Zul'Aman, are still reeling from the near disaster and the clash between Gurubashi and Darkspear. The Dragon Aspects are no longer blessed with the power of the Titans, the Elemental Lords are gone save one, and the mortals are occupied with their wars and petty conflicts.

On Earth, there's a saying - the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled off was convincing the world he didn't exist. Azeroth is about to learn exactly how true that saying is.

This is a Tinfoil Hat Edition of Know Your Lore. The ideas in this column are pure speculation, and not intended to be taken for the official lore of the game.

Sibilant whispers beneath the skin

Consider the path to glory for Azeroth's heroes ever since Azeroth and Draenor came into contact. It's all been one extremely long sequence of events, where these two separate worlds became so thoroughly intertwined that today whole colonies of Draenor's races live on Azeroth, and the remnants of Draenor that twist in the Nether are dotted with colonies of Azerothians. The two worlds are close, conceptually. The destruction of Draenor that pulled it into the Twisting Nether effectively severed it from reality, allowing it to serve as a twisted, jagged reflection, a dark portent of the potential fate of Azeroth itself.

It was to Outland that mortal heroes born on Azeroth, and ones who escaped the fate of Draenor, came to fight the Legion in the footsteps of the Alliance Expedition that once fought Deathwing himself on that same red world, or to retrace the steps of the original Horde as Gul'dan led it through the Dark Portal, to try and recapture the society lost when the Shadow Council twisted their nature to its own ends. It was on Outland that the Legion and the Illidari both fought against the Naaru, where the sons and daughters of Deathwing grew into the Nether Dragonflight after their exposure to the energies of Draenor's destruction. Without the nether dragons, there would have been no cure for Malygos, and thus no Nexus War that pitted the Blue Dragonflight against the rest of the flights. Without the Nether Dragons, there would have been no Dargonax, greatest of Sinestra's experiments and the model for Deathwing's Twilight Dragonflight.

How can sanity come from the children of madness?

Now, consider for a moment that Malygos' whole purpose for the Nexus War came out of his restored clarity, lost when Neltharion used the Dragon Soul to destroy the blue dragons (killing Sindragosa, Malygos' consort) and became Deathwing during the War of the Ancients. Does it strike anyone else as odd that Malygos' regained his sanity by draining the nether essences out of the same nether dragons whose power was used to create the Twilight Dragonflight in the first place, the same power that led to Dargonax's creation... and remember, also, that the nether dragons are Deathwing's progeny. Nether dragons are born from black dragon eggs left to be bathed in the chaotic raw magic of the Nether itself, created when Draenor was destroyed by Ner'zhul's use of the Skull of Gul'dan to open reckless portals to other worlds. And as we've covered before, Deathwing helped gain the Skull of Gul'dan for Ner'zhul and his Horde of Draenor in the first place. Before Ner'zhul held the Skull, Deathwing did.

Consider this, also - Sabellian, last of Deathwing's acknowledged children, currently resides in Outland, in the Blade's Edge Mountains where many nether dragons make their homes. It's as if Sabellian was left there to guard these eggs, just as Sartharion watches over the twilight eggs (former black dragon eggs exposed to the same nether essences that 'cured' Malygos) in the Obsidian Sanctum.

I mentioned before, that trick of the devil. But there's a better trick. Imagine being so determined to win that you were not only willing, but eager to die in order to achieve your victory. Imagine being so hungry for revenge that you were able to conceive of a plan that would get you your revenge no matter what, that would not only work whether or not you died, but which would actually work better if you died. A plan that would pull the best trick of them all, destroying everyone and everything you hate by lulling them into a sense of false relief and confidence that you were destroyed, a plan that would work perfectly because you were willing to be destroyed to make it work.

I make of myself a sacrifice

First we must consider dragons and dragon eggs. Dragons are hatched intelligent, self aware, with minds easily as sharp as those of adult mortals. We know from Wrathion's emergence that a very, very young dragon seems to possess racial memory of a sort, as if the knowledge and memories of their parents were passed down to them. Wrathion, however, is special because his egg was purified by the Eye of the Watchers, a titan device. This means that he is not subject to the whispers of the Old Gods and their corrupting influence which allows them to manipulate most black dragons, an influence that entered the dragonflight when Deathwing himself fell under their sway. If you played through the quest chain in the Badlands, it seems as if the black dragonflight and Deathwing are eager to slay Rheastrasza and destroy the purified black dragon egg. But Deathwing somehow mistakes one of Rhea's own eggs for the purified black dragon egg and worse, doesn't notice the mortal huddling in the back of the cave clutching the purified egg. Now, Deathwing's fairly arrogant, so perhaps it's simply that he didn't deign to notice them. Or perhaps he deigned just fine, and everything was going according to plan.

Deathwing hated the Titans. He hated them for having cursed him with the task of guarding the deep places of the world, being jailor and warden to the Old Gods. His embrace of the Old Gods, as stated to Thrall in Charge of the Aspects, was due to the hope that they could relieve him of the dreadful burden the Titans placed on him. However, Deathwing is an inherently unreliable narrator. He lies. And it's clear that, when we see Deathwing in the past at the Well of Eternity, he's struggling to reclaim the Dragon Soul, his creation, from the Old Gods and their use of it. He made the Dragon Soul, and then they stole it from him, and in his attempt to reclaim and use its power he was warped and twisted into the monster he became. As insane and full of hate as he was at the end, there's no reason to assume that Deathwing's hate didn't also include his erstwhile masters. Remember, Deathwing wasn't always tainted and corrupted - it was Neltharion, Aspect of Earth, gifted by the Titans who willingly took the first steps on the road that led him to where he is today. So, as an expert in the artifacts and lore of the Titans, perhaps Deathwing intended all along that the egg would be purified, and by being purified, it would become immune to the Old Gods and able to work against them.

So imagine the following - Deathwing, obsessed with reproduction. Deathwing, who raged in fury when the Gronn dared to attack the black dragon whelps of Blade's Edge. So solicitous of these eggs that he entrusts Sabellian to watch over them, but willing to leave them to be exposed to the Nether when Draenor tore itself asunder. And from those eggs, everything else follows. The restoration of Malygos' sanity. The Nexus War. The death of Malygos. The rise of the twilight dragonflight. All of these, born of those dragon eggs in Outland, where Sabellian stands watch... unknown to Wrathion, Sabellian stands watch. Because Wrathion is a purified black dragon. Wrathion is sane. Therefore, he has no taint of the Old Gods in his mind. Therefore, since he is not an aspect, he has no taint of the Titans in his mind. Wrathion's purity makes him the perfect vessel for Deathwing's revenge on the Titans and the Old Gods alike.

To be remade the remaker, no longer unmaker, no longer mad

The entire Nexus War becomes a giant gambit on Deathwing's part to focus the world's attention on Northend and the Titan complex of Ulduar. Why did Malygos' returned sanity cause him to focus so much attention on mortal spellcasters? Because it wasn't sanity at all, it was the mania of Deathwing, focused on moving the ley lines and in so doing destabilizing the very prison that held the massive body of Yogg-Saron in check because that's the only way to get Algalon to come back, and Deathwing needed Algalon to come back so that Reply-Code Alpha could be sent. Only then could the Halls of Origination be found.

If Deathwing had destroyed the world, Azeroth entire, that would have suited his need for revenge. He would have destroyed the ultimate creation of those that cursed him to eternal slavery as an aspect. But in his death, his plans approach an even more perfect end. There is now a mind as sharp as his ever was, unclouded by madness, beholden to no one. Free, ambitious, brilliant. A second coming of Neltharion, but a Neltharion free of the burdens that drove the Earth-Warder mad. The Old Gods, for their part, have suffered great losses, and are still trapped. The aspects are no more, dead or powerless. The mortal races turn their attention away from Deathwing. Of course they do. Why wouldn't they? Deathwing is dead.

And so he is, dead and gone. But although he is dead and gone, we are only beginning to feel his influence upon our world. We took the power we gained in Outland (the world Deathwing shaped, through his meddling with the Horde of Draenor, his tampering with the Skull of Gul'dan, his creation of the shattered land and the nether drakes) and used it to balk Yogg-Saron, while preventing Algalon from activating the Titan complex in Uldum to re-originate the world. Now, with the Old Gods defeated and the black dragons of Azeroth gone, Wrathion knows where it is and there's no one to stop him if he chooses to make use of it. Deathwing died, and in so doing, made a world where in time even the Titans may be destroyed, a world where the Old Gods will no longer matter. Where a sane, stable dragon can with cold, calculating eyes shape the destiny of the world.

Deathwing is dead. But his wrath lives on, although his madness, like Malygos' before him, lies interred with his bones. It's all going according to plan. We busy our giddy minds with quarrels, while the last black dragon grows ever more into his role, and the world edges closer to being saved his way.

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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