Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Carved by similar hands

Matthew Rossi
M. Rossi|03.27.13

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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Carved by similar hands
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 patch 5.3 to follow.

Well, if you like spoilers, this is going to be the post for you. Because it is based heavily in the spoilers revealed in Olivia's post about datamined patch 5.3 sound files, and my own musings about what certain things revealed in those files really mean. We find out that yes, as we've already suspected, the seventh Sha did in fact remain free from bondage for the past ten thousand years, that its sinister hand can be felt in everything that's befallen Pandaria, and that the mists parting did in fact have to happen for the good of all. We also hear hints that Y'shaarj may not be as dead as we all hope he is. The fact that digging in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms has something to do with his return is even more portentous. What does this all mean?

This week, I'm going to speculate wildly on one possible thing it could all mean. The Prophecy of C'thun has always fascinated me.

In the time before time, when the world was still in its infancy, a battle between a Titan and a being of unimaginable evil and power raged on this very soil. The prophecy is unclear about whether or not the Titan was vanquished in this battle but it illustrates that a Titan fell. An Old God had also fallen - or so it was thought.

The interesting thing is in the lines "The prophecy is unclear about whether or not the Titan was vanquished in this battle but it illustrates that a Titan fell." Falling doesn't have to mean death. There are many different ways to fall, after all.

Time is our difficulty in all of this, in that we don't know exactly when the Titans first came to Azeroth. The Old Gods, who are clearly not to be trusted, call the Titans Usurpers and claim that Azeroth was theirs first, while the Titans themselves have left records such as the Tribunal of Ages that indicate that Azeroth was first ordered by them, then infested by the parasitic Old Gods, and the Titans returned to find their creation seething with the corrupting chaos of Elemental Lords making endless war against one another for the Old Gods amusement. This all took place many tens of thousands of years ago.

To drown in deep time

We're generally told that Sargeras' began to lose his faith after his encounters with demonic forces while serving as the Champion of the Pantheon. That he eventually despaired, believing that the Pantheon's goals of ordering creation were doomed to failure, and that he sought out those that could serve as the foundation for a Legion that would scour the universe of the Titanic failure. He found the Eredar some 25,000 years ago, and although Velen turned his back (aided by the artifact Ata'mal Crystal) Kil'jaeden and Archimonde accepted Sargeras' offer and led the majority of the Eredar into the fallen Titan's fold.

The fallen Titan. Sargeras is often referred to as the Fallen Titan. "The prophecy is unclear about whether or not the Titan was vanquished in this battle but it illustrates that a Titan fell." Sargeras is the only Titan ever described as Fallen. Only Sargeras fell.

Consider this - when we find Ulduar, we find Titan Keepers, constructed entities of singular power and purpose, and we find similar entities in Uldum's Halls of Origination. Similarly, there appear to be corrupted Keepers in Anh'Qiraj, originally a sister complex to Uldum (Ossirion and the Anubisath would appear not to be creations of the Twin Emperors as was originally claimed, but Keepers corrupted just as Loken was) and many of the Keepers seem to invoke various members of the Pantheon. Thorim calls upon the power of Golganneth the Thunderer, Freya calls upon Eonar. Now, in patch 5.2 we've come to learn that, just as the watchers of Ulduar had their constructed servants (the earthen, mechagnomes and vrykul in addition to Aesir and Vanir giants), and the watchers of Uldum had the constructs that would become the tol'vir, there was a watcher in what is now the Mogu'shan Vaults named Ra-den, and that watcher too had construct servants. These were the mogu.

Why did Ra-Den turn his back on his charges?

We know very little of Ra-Den as yet. We know only that he was a Titan Keeper, that somehow one of his mogu servitors tore the heart out of him and became Lei Shen, the Thunder King, and that Ra-Dem was imprisoned beneath Lei Shen's Throne of Thunder. But this happened thousands upon thousands of years after Ra-Den had already isolated himself beneath the Mogu'shan Vaults, in an era when the mogu had tired of the lack of instruction from their Titan masters. Lei Shen traveled to the Vaults because he sought a means to unify his mogu brethren, long squabbling after thousands of years of neglect. In short, the Titan constructs of Pandaria were already isolated from Loken, the Prime Designate, for Ra-Den had shuttered himself away and neither answered his superior nor gave instructions to his charges. When Loken engineered the global war between the Storm and Earth Giants, many tens of thousands of years before the Sundering and the mists that enshrouded Pandaria, Ra-Den was already sealed below the Vaults.

Why? Just how long ago was the death of Y'shaarj, and the creation of the Sha? How long ago was the war between Titan and Old God? It had to be far enough ago that the world could recover from the ages of Elemental War, long enough that great empires could rise and fall and battle across the surface of Azeroth, and long enough before that so we could have enormous primordial beasts walking the surface of the world in test labs like Sholozar, Un'goro and the Isle of Giants, then potentially not an isle yet. The Emerald Dream, a kind of blueprint for Azeroth, had to be created. The Titan complexes were created, staffed with ageless constructs, and the Curse of Flesh was unleashed upon them. The war between the Titans and Old Gods itself lasted for unknown millennia. There's no real way to know just how long it was, but one thing is clear - it was far, far longer ago than a mere ten thousand years. The Sundering, the distant past where Pandaria sealed itself behind the mists of Pride, was many many thousands of years after that terrible dawn war concluded, much less its beginning.

So imagine this - as Thorim serves Golganneth, and Freya Eonar, perhaps Ra-Den too served a Titan directly. (It's even feasible that Ra-Den is brother to Loken and Thorim, two Titan Keepers with power over storm and lightning similar to his own.) Think of it this way - with Pandaria so far to the south, it was clearly in direct contact with both Silithus and Stranglethorn, both of which today contain Old God structures and legends. Who did Ra-Den serve, in the distant past? The Titanic Pantheon had a protector, a force of righteous power that defended it and its works from all threats, a champion regarded by them all as their most noble,most powerful guardian. If they were forced to do battle, who would they call upon?

The Champion stops defending, the defender no longer champions

Sargeras. It was Sargeras who commanded Ra-Den. It was Sargeras who led the armies of Mogu against the Old God Y'shaarj. It was Sargeras who ultimately gave battle to the Old God, when no other force proved sufficient, and it was Sargeras who slew Y'shaarj and created the Sha. If you're looking for a reason to start doubting the Titan's plan for the universe, imagine striking down a monster endangering one of their creation and making it worse. Imagine how Sargeras would have reeled - here he was, doing exactly as he had always done, protecting the Pantheon and its plan, and in so doing he nearly destroys it. And imagine how Ra-Den would have reacted to seeing Sargeras, his master, the noblest soul in creation, recoil in doubt (doubt mind you, something actually born from Y'shaarj's death) and horror.

Imagine Ra-Den, so shocked and stricken, that he seals himself away beneath the Vaults and stops communicating with his bretheren around the world. Loken orchestrates a global war and Ra-Den doesn't even notice. The mogu never even get their marching orders, even as the Curse of Flesh begins to affect them - was it born out of Y'shaarj's death? (One notes that in southern Uldum the Curse was nearly universal, affecting all tol'vir until Deathwing begins reversing it, while in Northrend new Vrukul and Earthen are engineered to resist it - by Loken, the Prime Designate who like Deathwing served an Old God) and eventually one of these flesh-cursed mogu descends into the Vaults and tears a demoralized Ra-Den's heart out, stealing the power the Titan Keeper could no longer bring himself to use. Even Ra-Den's quotes in the game's sound files remind us of Sargeras' lost faith in the Titan plan.

Makers of more than one world

So then, if we assume that Sargeras was the one who slew the Old God, and it was this experience that led him to start doubting the Titans and their plan (and thus, as Skeram's prophecy indicates, it was this that led the Titan to 'fall') then there's another question to answer, and it's a simple one - why do the mogu and the eredar resemble one another? Because the mogu are patterened after the eredar. Sargeras clearly knew about the eredar well before he visited them.

It is a small matter to control the mind of the weak... for I bear allegiance to powers untouched by time, unmoved by fate. No force on this world or beyond harbors the strength to bend our knee... not even the mighty Legion!
Harbinger Skyriss

We have no way of knowing if Argus was a world encountered by Sargeras or if he knew of it because he'd had a hand in its creation, but the fact is, there are many of the Old Gods and their creations throughout the universe. We see Old God servitors in Outland, Skyriss claims that "We span the universe, as countless as the stars" and there seems to be no reason to disbelieve it. So it's possible that the eredar were once Titan constructs, corrupted by a Curse of Flesh of their own (just as the Cipher of Damnation exists on many worlds so could the Curse of Flesh) and that Sargeras made use of them because he was already aware of them. It's also interesting to realize that the mogu, perhaps because they'd worked to reverse-engineer the Curse of Flesh, had to actually create females and even then only two were made, but the draenei have both male and female genders. Since the vrykul, earthen and mechagnomes infected by the Curse also developed genders, it's possible that the mogu would have as well if they'd allowed the Curse to continue instead of harnessing it. Lei Shen in particular greatly resemebles a draenei or eredar with his face tentacles and his clawed feet are very similar to those of a broken.

Of course this is all supposition. We have no way of knowing if the war was long enough ago that Sargeras could have taken part, if he could have begun his fall by creating the Sha and shocking himself, or if Ra-Den's mogu were part of a cosmic army of constructs which included the ancestors of the eredar, and thus the draenei. Were the Ata'mal Crystal and the naaru part of a Titan complex originally left on Argus that developed along its own lines, becoming artifical beings of light and crystal that sought to save their 'cousins' from the corruption their own maker had fallen prey to? Probably not. But its fun to think about.

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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