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.
Mists of Pandaria contains an utter truckload of new lore. Pandaria has been hidden behind mists for ten thousand years and the elusive pandaren were little more than a myth to most, a rare sighting to others. Because of this, there was little to no record of anything related to the lost continent of Pandaria or its history. And because of that, Pandaria is packed with tons of new stories and information regarding the continent and the races that live upon it.
Even to someone familiar with lore, that overload of information can be a little overwhelming. We're all starting out at the same point in Pandaria, a point where we know nothing at all. So I find myself frequently getting asked questions about what's going on in this strange new world, and why we're doing what we're doing. As I answered the questions to various friends and guildmates, I thought perhaps I should share the answers to the most frequently asked of these questions with you all.
If Pandaria was shrouded in mists for ten thousand years, what made the mists go away?
Oddly enough, we still don't have the answer to that question. It hasn't been addressed directly. There are those that point out that the cataclysm likely made the mists go away, but this is not the case. In the short story Charge of the Aspects by Matt Burns, Thrall very specifically has a vision of a "mysterious island shrouded in mists." This suggests that at the time of the story, Pandaria was still encased in the odd mists that have blanketed it for thousands of years. This story takes place just before the events of patch 4.3 -- well after the cataclysm occurred.
And to be perfectly honest, we've only got the vaguest of ideas as to how those mists got there in the first place. Part of the lore objects you find scattered around Pandaria tell the tale of the last Emperor of Pandaria, Shaohao. When he rose to power, the Waterspeaker of the Jinyu had a horrific vision of demons and green fire surrounding a great well. It was a vision of the War of the Ancents and the Sundering, and Shaohao knew he had to somehow prevent Pandaria from falling prey to certain disaster.
The tale continues as Shaohao consults with the Jade Serpent, who advises him to divest himself of his burdens and become one with the land in order to save it. At the end of the story, Shaohao does precisely that, his spirit becoming one with the land, Pandaria separating from the rest of the world, and the mists rolling in to hide the continent. We don't know if the tale is true, or how much of the tale is embellishment, but we do know that the mists absolutely were there, and now they are not.
Because this hasn't been directly addressed anywhere in the lore we currently have access to, it's probably one of those important plot points that will rear its head at a later date. There has to be a reason Pandaria decided to be revealed at this precise moment in time, but we have yet to see what that reason was, and how it ties in to the rest of Azeroth.
Why are there trolls in Pandaria? I thought it was hidden away?
The trolls currently invading the north coasts of Pandaria are the Zandalar. They're the original tribe of trolls from thousands upon thousands of years ago -- the tribe predates the night elves. And at some point in history, that tribe was allied with the mogu, although the reasons for this alliance are lost in history. Kalimdor was one continent, and the trolls ruled over much of the continent. Over time, the mighty Zandalar empire split into two; the Amani of the forestlands, and the Gurubashi of the jungles.
But before the Zandalar Empire split, they were apparently allied with the mogu of Pandaria. The mogu have been presented as ruthless, powerful overlords with a firm grasp on stolen Titan technology -- it's easy to see why the Zandalar would consider them formidable allies. The Zandalar tried to help the mogu quash the pandaren rebellion that threatened to crush the Mogu Empire, but they were unsuccessful. Pushed out from what was now pandaren land, the Zandalar were stranded on a remote island after the Sundering, and there they stayed for thousands of years.
But the Zandalar were mostly a mystery to the rest of Azeroth until they made an appearance in vanilla, when Zul'Gurub was introduced as a raid. At that point, it seemed that the Zandalar had Azeroth's best interests at heart. They wanted to quash the rising of Hakkar the Soulflayer, whose tremendous thirst for blood threatened to consume what was left of the Gurubashi Empire. When Hakkar was defeated, it seemed that the Zandalar's plans had come to fruition. But the truth was that this was only the first step in a master plan.
The great troll empires of old were dying out. It was clear to the Zandalar that if they did not unite the scattered tribes of Azeroth, the troll race would soon fall to ruin and possible extinction. The Zandalar representatives called the leaders of the tribes together and plotted out a master plan, one that involved a re-establishment of Zul'Gurub to the south, and Zul'Aman to the north. But these strongholds could not stand against an assault by the other races of Azeroth -- one that was brought together by Vol'jin, leader of the Darkspear.
With their plans in ruin, the Zandalar fell back to reconsider their plans. And though we may know nothing of that old alliance with the mogu, the Zandalar had record of it. When Pandaria was unveiled, the Zandalar discovered a unique opportunity to renew their old alliance with the mogu, and regain the power that they so desperately wanted back. The mogu are working on some mysterious task deep within the heart of Pandaria, using Titan technology, obviously bent on reclaiming the empire they lost -- and the Zandalar are perfectly happy to assist them, in exchange for power of their own.
If the mantid are the enemies of the pandaren, why are we helping them out?
We aren't exactly helping out the mantid -- we're helping the Klaxxi, who are a special group of mantid. The organization known as the Klaxxi are the record-keepers and preservers of mantid history, elders that are completely untouched by the corruption of the sha that has filtered through the Dread Wastes. These guys are old, far older than the rest of the mantid, and they recognize the sha corruption and realize that it has tainted their Empress, causing the unending life cycle of the mantid to be disrupted.
The mantid were not supposed to swarm at this point in history. Essentially, the Empress Shek'zeer has been possessed by the Sha of Fear, and she's willing her subjects to embrace the corruption of the Sha and tearing mantid civilization apart. The Klaxxi recognize what is happening and know that something has to be done, so they've formed a tentative alliance of sorts with us. We're travelers from another land, so we don't have the history with the mantid that the pandaren do.
And the Klaxxi have a secret weapon in their arsenal -- the paragons. These mantid are champions from past eras of mantid history, champions who were preserved in amber at the height of their power and scattered all across the Dread Wastes. Why these paragons were buried is unknown, but it was likely as a defense mechanism for extreme cases just like the one the Klaxxi are dealing with now.
But just because we're helping the Klaxxi out, it doesn't mean that they're our friends. They have one purpose in mind, and one alone -- stopping the Empress and preventing her from destroying mantid civilization. Once that task is accomplished, the Klaxxi may not be so friendly anymore ... and they definitely don't have the best interests of Pandaria at heart. They worship something far older, far deadlier than Titans, and their loyalty remains true to the ancient deity. If push comes to shove and it's a war between Titans and Old Gods, the Klaxxi know where their loyalties lie, and they will not waver from that path.
What are we doing in Mogu'shan Vaults?
In Mogu'shan Vaults, we're launching an expedition of sorts into the ancient mogu ruins, to try and glean more information about what the mogu are up to, given their resurgence in Mists. But the vaults themselves are far from empty, and our meddling unleashes some powerful enemies who have been lost to the annals of time. The Stone Guard are merely guardians protecting the vaults themselves, but Feng the Accursed is another matter altogether.
Long ago, Feng was the caretaker of the vaults, watching over the treasures in the halls and making sure nothing happened to them. But he was caught stealing from the treasures, although some stories say he was framed for the crime. As punishment, he was cursed, his body destroyed -- and his spirit has been roaming the Vaults ever since. Our entry into Mogu'shan Vaults has disturbed this spirit, and we have to defeat him to continue on.
But the next boss is a direct result of the Zandalar invasion mentioned above. Gara'jal the Spiritbinder is a powerful mystic, and the leader of an expedition much like our own. Unlike our own, Gara'jal is seeking powerful artifacts to bring back to his people and use to further their power. The Zandalar were attempting to revive the Thunder King, first emperor of the mogu, so it's likely this expedition was to try and find some artifact to help with that process.
As we traverse deeper into the Vaults, we stumble across a startling revelation -- the vaults aren't quite deserted. And what we thought were mere mogu ruins is in fact some sort of ancient Titan facility, much like the ones located in Ulduar, Uldaman and Uldum. The mogu aren't just warlords bent on domination, they're intelligent enough to have salavaged these Titans devices, and they're using them for some unknown purpose. That purpose is still unclear at the end of the raid, but it's clear that the fight with the mogu is far from over.
Are the stories for the raids for this tier linked together?
Yes and no. While Mogu'shan Vaults stands on its own, the other two raids are very much linked together. The Heart of Fear will lead us deep into the Dread Wastes, into the home of Grand Empress Shek'zeer. Shek'zeer has been driven to madness by the Sha of Fear, and the Klaxxi seek to depose her. Traditionally this task is performed by the successor to the throne, but Shek'zeer's replacement is still far too young to assume this task -- so it's up to us to get rid of the Empress before the mantid swarm destroys Pandaria.
But Shek'zeer is being possessed by the Sha of Fear. And although we might succeed in killing the Empress, the Sha is still out in the world, continuing its campaign of terror. This is what will lead to the last raid of this tier, the Terrace of Endless Spring. The Terrace is a sacred refuge nestled between the Veiled Stair and the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. As its name indicates, the place is a paradise of water, the same water that courses through the Vale and all over Pandaria -- the water that has the life-giving properties that make the plants in the Valley of the Four Winds so plentiful.
It's also a sacred haven teeming with life-giving power, and where there is power, the Sha will soon follow. The Terrace has been corrupted by the Sha of Fear, and it's up to us to put an end to its assault. The Sha of Fear is one of the original Sha imprisoned by Emperor Shaohao, and it's an immensely powerful being. It's the physical manifestation of terror, and we must fight it just as Emperor Shaohao did so many years ago. Whether or not we actually kill the Sha, or simply put an end to it and effectively send it back to its prison remains to be seen.
Although sometimes it can be hard to determine the story for raid zones, particularly when raids are focused on killing bosses rather than experiencing lore, it's still worthwhile to pay attention to the events going on around you. In Mogu'shan Vaults, Lorewalker Cho provides a narrative throughout the entire zone that explains what's going on. While we have yet to see the Heart of Fear, it's likely that we'll have more story cues to lead us from boss to boss throughout the raid zone.
If you're really interested in the lore that Pandaria has to offer, the best advice I can give is to pay attention. Read the quests you're being sent on, watch the cut scenes you encounter. Listen to whatever conversations happen to be going on around you, read the flavor text on quest items and other relics you happen to find in your travels. Despite the sheer amount of new lore present in Pandaria, Blizzard's done an amazing job wrapping it all up and presenting it in a way that it can be easily absorbed.
For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries: