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Know Your Lore TFH: Something is wrong

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.

Spoilers for Mists of Pandaria in this post

There's a problem in what we're being told.

Upon our arrival on the shores of Pandaria, we brought our war with us. And, if you've run the Jade Forest entry quests, you've seen the fruits of that war as the clash of arms and the battle of racial hatreds allowed the Sha to be released once more. Yes, we're told, it is the war we've brought that has allowed the Sha their freedom, that has caused corruption and madness to be unleased. And it would certainly seem to be the case that this true - we've seen the Sha erupt from underneath the very ground where the Alliance and Horde had their first major battle, right at the feet of the Serpent's Heart.

But I started to have problems with this once I reached the Townlong Steppes and the Dread Wastes.

This is a Tinfoil Hat KYL, speculating on the lore of the game, and is not meant to be taken as established lore

Suspicion reared its head

The problem is this - if we are to believe that it was our actions that released the Sha, then it must have taken us months to reach the Dread Wastes from that point of time. (Ignore for now that the events of Patch 5.1 are stated to be two months after the events of our landing in Pandaria) The reason I say this is because, in the time since the Sha were released, the Sha of Fear has managed to seize control of the Grand Empress, Shek'zeer of the Mantid, mobilize their entire nation and lead it on onslaughts so widespread that they drove the yaungol out of their homes and into Kun-Lai Summit, broke through the Serpent's Spine in the Valley of the Four Winds, and even threatened to breach the Krasarang Wilds.

Indeed, if you stop and look around the Dread Wastes, it becomes kind of absurd to imagine that in less than two months (the established time that elapsed between Jade Forest and patch 5.1) the region could be so completely transformed, huge swatches of land consumed by the Sha's energies, armies of mantid unleashed a full century ahead of schedule and yet, if anything, more numerous than anyone could have expected. How did all of this happen so fast? How did the Sha of Fear so completely enslave the Empress that the Klaxxi felt the need to mobilize to stop her, take total control of the mantid, devastate vast swathes of the wastes, and effectively threaten the stability of the entire western half of Pandaria and have a fallback plan ready to go that involved overtaking the Terrace of Endless Spring which lies nowhere near the Heart of Fear in the Dread Wastes? We know, furthermore, that the Sha of Fear was originally trapped at the Niuzao Temple and was lost through the failure of its guardians there, but what we don't know is when exactly, they lost it. Furthermore, the fact that the mantid swarm (which we know to be under the control of the Sha of Fear) is threatening the Temple of Niuzao becomes interesting to us. Why would Fear care about his former prison unless there was a compelling reason to do so?

Know Your Lore TFH Something is wrong

I'm sorry, but there's something seriously off here. Clearly, the Sha of Fear at the least was active before our arrival on Pandaria. I think it's fair to say that the other Sha may have not been - there's at least one Sha who was clearly imprisoned in the Shado-Pan Monastery (the Sha of Violence) before our arrival. But the widespread eruption of Sha after our arrival, while certainly real enough., But for someone who has read the Seven Burdens of Shaohao, we're left with another question - where is the seventh Sha? There are six known Sha loose in the world - Doubt, Fear, Hatred, Anger, Violence and Despair. Each of these sha was manifest as a burden that Shaohao overcame in his quest to save Pandaria from the Great Sundering. It's interesting to note that Shaohao's defeat of the Sha led to the creation of the mists that enshrouded the land... and that the departure of those mists that allowed the coming of the Alliance and Horde also seems to have heralded the return of Pandaria's greatest threats.

Where did their magic go?

While considering all of this, I started thinking about the Terrace of Endless Spring, the source of ancient power that the Sha of Fear seeks to corrupt. The Terrace is where Shaohao came to save Pandaria. It's where the mists were born, and where the land was originally shrouded for 10,000 years. And it is clearly a mogu site, not only of the same architectural style as the Mogu'shan Vaults and Mogu'shan Palace, but almost directly between the two. The Palace is on the other side of the mountains from the Terrace, which lies in the Veiled Stair and which also contains the same waters that spill out of the font directly at the feet of the Palace. Furthermore, we see jinyu as servitors of the mogu within the Vaults, trapped there for millennia by the mogu, and again in the Terrace we see four jinyu (the Protectors of the Endless) followed by Tsulong, a vast serpent corrupted by the Sha's power. Now, what's interesting about Tsulong and its corruption is, if you've done the Shado-Pan dailies in Townlong, you've seen mogu spiritbinders do the exact same thing, take cloud serpents and bind them to their will and when so bound they look exactly like Tsulong does when bound by the Sha of Fear.

Know Your Lore TFH Something is wrong Wed

Now, when we arrive in the Jade Forest, the mogu are there, and this is a surprise to the local pandaren, who go so far as to deride the mogu as thugs who don't usually concern themselves with ancient ruins (which is surprising to us, because that's the first thing we find the mogu doing, looting ancient ruins) - it's made fairly clear to us that at least some of the mogu are reanimating statues (since we smash those to keep them from doing it) and that their return is in some way connected to the mists. Throughout our journey, we discover that in the past the mogu studied the mantid and it was Lei Shen the Thunder King who discovered that he could use his people's suspicion and fear of the mantid to unite and rule them. Yes, it was through suspicion and fear that the mogu ruled their empire.. Up until now, we've assumed that the mogu and Sha were unrelated terrible threats, but what if they weren't unrelated? What if the mogu spiritbinders draw upon the Sha of Fear? It's through fear that the mogu ruled, and it makes sense that it would be through fear that the mogu would seek to rule again.

When the Sha of Fear escaped Niuzao Temple, did the ancient mogu magics start working again? The pandaren seem surprised that the mogu even have magic, as Kang Bramblestaff himself states:

Mogu are thugs. They have always been thugs. Only when they ruled their empires in the old stories did they ever know any kind of magic. But these mogu are using arcane portals and spells. We need to stop them!

We've seen the titanic constructions of the mogu, using stolen titan secrets. We've seen the soul rending, flesh twisting, stone animating magic of the mogu. We've seen that they are twisting cloud serpents in Townlong, seen them placing potent rune-like traps on the ground while fighting them in Krasarang and Jade Forest. Yet Kang states that it's been since the fall of their empire that they've used magic at all. How is it possible that they forgot how to use magic for thousands of years, and then just as suddenly learned how to use it again? It doesn't make any sense unless their magic comes from an external source and that source suddenly became available to them again. And again remember, Lei Shen the Thunder King was the first mogu to unite his people and he did so by using his people's fear and suspicion of the mantid.

Seven heads, seven burdens, where is the seventh sha?

So again we ask, what is the seventh sha? Is it one of paranoia, of supicion?

If we look at the events since the fall of the mists, we start to wonder if there's a stage manager behind it all, one taking advantage of set pieces and pushing its own agenda forward. A suspicious entity that doesn't trust even its own fellows, that manipulates them into the roles it seeks for them to play. Fear, doubt anger, hatred, violence and despair marshalled and directed to splinter those that could only defeat it through unity. That slowly worked its own bonds free, then sowed the seeds of its fellows in order to release them at the proper time and place to keep its potential jailors busy with other quarrels. Look at how Taran Zhu and the Shado-Pan have run ragged across Pandaria fighting Sha outbreaks in Jade Forest, in their own monastery and in Townlong - while the Sha of Hatred actually succeeded for a time in dominating Taran Zhu and releasing Violence? Look at how the mogu have suddenly regained their magical prowess after thousands upon thousands of years, performing magic suspiciously similar to that the Sha of Fear used to bind Tsulong? Look at Doubt and Despair rising to cripple the August Celestials in their very temples, while Fear assails Niuzao leaving only the Temple of the White Tiger unassailed. And even then, the Sha of Anger runs free in Kun-Lai, not far from Xuen's very doorstep?

Furthermore, the mass mogu assault on the Vale of Eternal Blossoms takes place right as the Sha of Fear retreats back to the Terrace of Endless Spring, just on the other side of the mountains from the Vale and suffused with the very same waters, the very source of the Vale's strange fertility. The same place Shaohao in a very real sense became the mists of Pandaria.

Something is wrong. The seventh burden has not been found. And what we're being told does not add up. I'm suspicious. I can understand why the mogu might channel Sha magics, but I don't understand what the Sha get out of it. Why would the seven Sha, the sundered, disconnected remains of a dead Old God, seek the aid of people who know ways derived from Titan ruins to combine many souls into one form? Why would any Sha of Suspicion, if it existed, seek to unify itself and its six not to be trusted fellows into one being, and so finally be able to trust them as six other heads in a great seven-souled singular entity?

Lei Shen walks again. To the mogu, death is impermanent, a tool that provides the raw materials of souls and flesh to use in creating new life. Do the Sha seek to make use of this gift, this science stolen from Titan hands, and undo the usurpation? Y'Shaarj had seven heads. Will seven become one again?

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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