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.
The Jade Serpent circled the Vale, and spoke to the beleaguered Emperor. "Pandaria is more than just the Pandaren Empire," she told Shaohao. "Your enemies to the west are as much a part of this land as your empire behind the wall." Seeing that all things were connected in an eternal whole, and that his beloved land was more than just the Pandaren Empire, Shaohao at least understood.
We know from the writings in The Emperor's Burdern that all of Pandaria is connected. But is it just Pandaria, or all of Azeroth? This week's Tinfoil Hat Edition leaps off of the theories presented by Matthew Rossi in Wednesday's Know Your Lore. If you haven't read it, I suggest you do so, because conspiracy theories abound in today's edition of Know Your Lore.
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.
Everything is connected
In Wednesday's KYL, Rossi postulated that there was something wrong with what we were being told about Pandaria -- that the amount of time it took for the Sha to wreak havoc on the land quite simply didn't add up. He also suggested that the seventh sha may very well be the Sha of Suspicion or Paranoia, given that the mogu learned their methods of ruling via "suspicion and fear" by observing the mantid. When Pandaria was enshrouded in mists, the mogu presumably lost all ability to practice magic, only beginning to do so again when we arrived and supposedly set the Sha free.
There's a connection there, and where there are connections, there is Pandaria, according to the tales of Shaohao. But what if that connection extends across Azeroth? After all, the Sha are the remnants of the Old God Y'shaarj. And there are an as-yet unknown number of Old Gods beneath Azeroth. Some of these Old Gods may fight with each other, but the end result of any Old God seems to be the same -- mass chaos, unending.
But if there's truly a connection, we really need to look at the commonalities in Pandaria, and in Azeroth as well. All Old Gods want chaos. The mantid take fear presumably from the Sha of Fear. The mogu learned to rule from the mantid, and are trying to harness Sha energy for their own gain. The pandaren overthrew the mogu and sent the world into the mists, which cut off the mogu's magics, and they kept a close eye on the mantid, who proceeded to do nothing unusual at all for ten thousand years.
There was a reason the mogu built the Serpent's Spine -- because they saw the mantid and what the mantid were capable of. But were the mantid active at that time? Did they always have that cycle of swarming and resting, or did that shift into place when the mists were activated? More important -- why did the mists go away? What made them disappear? We know roughly when they were taken down as detailed in the short story Quest for Pandaria, but the exact reason behind their removal has yet to be determined.
So we have the mantid who learned from the Sha and taught the mogu who contained the mantid and harnessed the Sha. In the middle we have the pandaren, who saw this vicious cycle and decided to circumvent it. ... what's the one step we're leaving out of this equation? What's the one thing we've forgotten in all of the speculation regarding Pandaria?
There is no Dana
Who is Zul?
Before answering that question, let's step back and take a look at what we know about the Zandalar. The Zandalar were the progenitors for every troll tribe on Azeroth to date. The Zandalar were scholars, valuing knowledge and dedicated to preserving troll history. When the Zandalar originally arrived in Stranglethorn Vale, it was to ask for our help against the priests of the Atal'ai, who sought to resurrect Hakkar the Soulflayer. They knew what Hakkar was capable of, they knew that he was filled with murderous rage, reveling in the dark emotions of his adherents. They had dealt with Hakkar once before, and they knew that they needed help to defeat him again.
Scholars. Priests. Preservers of knowledge, horrified at the thought of an angry, all-consuming blood god ruining the troll tribes of Azeroth. This ... doesn't really sound like a tribe that is terribly concerned with bringing Hakkar back, does it? This doesn't sound like a tribe that is concerned with wreaking havoc on the world. This doesn't sound like a tribe that would happily try and unite the rest of the troll tribes in some sort of quest for world domination. And this definitely doesn't sound like a troll tribe that would eagerly look to bringing Hakkar back to life again.
Yet in patch 4.1, the Zandalar returned to do precisely that. And Vol'jin attended the meeting of the tribes, saw their plans, and walked away. He wanted nothing to do with them. Oddly enough, the Zandalar didn't try to kill him on the spot. They watched him walk away, even though they were completely aware that he was going to go to his allies, pull them together, stand up and fight, wage a bloody war that would likely wipe out another giant chunk of the troll population that the Zandalar seemed dead keen on preserving. Why? Let's see what Blizzard had to say about that.
In years past, the Zandalar tribe, encompassing the wise and scholarly progenitors of the trolls, heroically assisted the Horde and the Alliance with thwarting the nefarious activities of their brethren in Zul'Gurub and Zul'Drak. Yet the chaos unleashed by the recent Cataclysm has reshaped the Zandalari's philosophy about the world and the dwindling remnants of their race. Led by a mysterious prophet known only as Zul, the Zandalari have issued a call to Azeroth's embattled troll populations: unite into a single mighty empire and save their race from extinction.
That seems fairly straightforward, except for the part where it makes absolutely no sense what so ever given what we know of the Zandalar to date.
Who is Zul? Why did Zul come to the Zandalar after the Cataclysm? According to claims made by trolls in Kun Lai Summit, the Cataclysm destroyed their home, Zandalar Isle. But what if that wasn't really the whole reasoning behind all of this? The trolls are seeking to reanimate the Thunder King. They're working actively with the mogu who are in turn harnessing the powers of the Sha. What if Zul is the seventh Sha?
Suspicion leads to fear leads to anger leads to war
What did the Zandalar think, as they watched Vol'jin walk away from that fateful meeting? They weren't threatened at all. Why? Because that was exactly what they expected to happen, and it was what they wanted to happen. What happened after Vol'jin left? He sent emissaries to both Horde and Alliance, despite knowing that Garrosh would not approve. He did it right under Garrosh's nose, but events indicate that Garrosh may have had an inkling of what Vol'jin was up to, and he was not particularly happy about it.
What does that do? It makes Garrosh just a little more angry. And as leader of the Horde, when he's angry, he'll take his aggression out at the most suitable target -- the Alliance. What does the Alliance do? They fight back. It goes on and on, escalating further and further until both Alliance and Horde arrive on Pandaria, in the midst of fighting a battle the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Second War. They bring their conflict to Pandaria, and that conflict, that hatred, that mistrust, that suspicion escalates until the Sha break free, spring forth from their prisons and begin their cycle of domination anew.
But let's take another step backward. The reason that Zandalar Isle was supposedly destroyed was the Cataclysm. That was Deathwing's doing, because another Old God, N'zoth, was apparently having a wonderful chat and doing an excellent job of making Deathwing's blood boil with rage. Deathwing's purpose, the entire purpose of his freedom was to bring about the Hour of Twilight that would supposedly end the world. Through the perseverance of adventurers and the Dragonflights, the Hour of Twilight was halted, and the Age of Mortals began.
... what if Deathwing, his emergence, the Hour of Twilight, the battle waged against him -- what if that wasn't really N'zoth's intent at all? What if N'zoth knew that Deathwing would fail? What if N'zoth wanted Deathwing to fail?
Everything is connected
Once upon a time, there was a Aspect named Neltharion, who was appointed by the Titans themselves to watch over the deep places of the earth. Neltharion was corrupted by the Old Gods, who used him to create an artifact known as the Dragon Soul, capable of enslaving all of the dragonflights. This occurred, oddly enough, in the midst of a war broiling between kaldorei and Burning Legion. The Dragon Soul was taken by one Malfurion Stormrage, used to destroy the portal that would bring Sargeras to Azeroth, and then hidden away.
Purely by coincidence, the creation of the Dragon Soul and the corruption of Deathwing occurred somewhere right around the time that Pandaria drifted away, encased in impenetrable mists.
Deathwing spent thousands of years looking for the Dragon Soul, even though he couldn't wield it himself. He used it to enslave Alexstrasza, forcing her to bear countless eggs for his research and to serve as mounts for the Dragonmaw orcs -- orcs that he manipulated, orcs that oddly enough originated on the same distant world as current Warchief Garrosh Hellscream. The Dragon Soul was destroyed once, then its shards were used to create the Twilight Dragonflight, and then it was summarily destroyed again. This time, for good.
Except that it came back. When Deathwing emerged to bring about the Hour of Twilight, adventurers from Azeroth traveled back in time, despite the interference of the Infinite Dragonflight, to retrieve the artifact. Once it arrived in present-day, it was used to destroy Deathwing, and prevent the end of the world. And once that happened, all of the Aspects lost the unique powers that the Titans bestowed upon them. They became mortal. They lost the ability to help us. And the Age of Mortals began.
And, purely by coincidence, the mists of Pandaria dissipated, allowing us war-mongering mortals to finally tromp across the surface, unleashing havoc on the land in the form of the Sha -- the last remains of a dead Old God.
Deathwing's entire existence revolved around that shining golden disc. His beginning, when he took the name we used throughout Cataclysm. Every moment of his life was spent trying to figure out how best to retrieve it and use it again. And ultimately, even his demise was tied to that glittering bauble -- a bauble whose creation was quietly suggested by the Old Gods.
The Old Gods are immortal. They cannot die. As such, they play an incredibly long game, one that is perhaps far, far longer than we'd ever dreamed of imagining. Deathwing was merely a means to an end: a plan to remove the Titan-created Aspects and their protection, a plan to remove the mists from Pandaria and release the Sha, for some unknown purpose. Perhaps Deathwing is the only one who really had any inkling what that purpose ultimately was.
Or perhaps there is one other who knows. One who has realized the greater game. He has the genes of his father, after all, although he's been purified by Titan technology. And he is connected to Pandaria as well, having taken a curious and vested interest in the land for some unforseen reason ...
Wrathion knows far more than he is telling.
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.