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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The Dark Below

Anne Stickney
Anne Stickney|August 18, 2013 8:00 PM
Know Your Lore, TFH Edition The Dark Below
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.
I see them! A million worlds glittering in their perfection! One above all others! We have fallen, we must rebuild the final Titan! Do not forget.
Wrathion may have just finished chowing down on the heart of the Thunder King when he rattled off that strange speech about this bizarre "final Titan," but what he said seemed to indicate there is far more going on in Pandaria than we'd thought. Or, on the other hand, there is far more going on in Azeroth than we thought. Things that must be taken care of, things so urgent that Wrathion is attempting to set the war between Alliance and Horde on fast-forward so that we can skip that part and simply jump to what he thinks is the important stuff.

Earlier this week, Blizzard appeared to be trademarking something called The Dark Below, and many have speculated that it's the name of the next WoW expansion, largely because of the existence of Ozumat and his title, Fiend of the Dark Below. The trademark was later revealed as a possible hoax -- and later still, revealed to be a trademark in Europe. So is it WoW? If it is a WoW trademark, what could possibly be in an expansion with that title?

I have absolutely no idea. But that makes for some excellent Tinfoil Hat speculation, so why don't we look at what could potentially be lurking in The Dark Below?

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 how it happened. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

Know Your Lore, TFH Edition The Dark Below


The obvious answer here is, of course, Azshara and her legion of naga -- after all, they are in cahoots with Ozumat, the creature that made off with Neptulon at the end of the Throne of the Tides dungeon in Cataclysm. According to the visions of the Battlemaiden in Vash'jir, Ozumat and his kin are allies of the naga, summoned via a great ritual that the Battlemaiden is attempting to defend. Successful, players can only watch through the Battlemaiden's eyes as Ozumat and a legion of dark fiends rise from the ocean depths.

The dungeon journal entry for Ozumat, however, describes something a little more interesting:

Tales of the monstrous kraken that terrorize Azeroth's high seas were once relegated to myth... but no longer. By some ill means, the naga have bent Ozumat - the patriarch of all kraken - to their will and unleashed him against Neptulon and his followers.

Bending things to bow to their will, huh? That sounds a lot more like the Azshara we used to know. Keep in mind that back in the day, Queen Azshara was powerful enough to pretty much keep the entire population of kaldorei in thrall, obsessed with her beauty and apparently happy enough to pop off and die if the Queen wished it, not at all concerned with her delightful plan of wiping out most of the kaldorei race in order to create a world in her perfect image. Once thwarted, Azshara and her closest followers sank to the depths of the sea, where they were transformed and Azshara was given even more power -- presumably by the Old Gods.

Azshara is pretty much one of the biggest threats that the world has yet to face. A mad kaldorei sorceress, incredibly powerful -- so much so that Magtheridon was taken aback by it -- given even more power by the Old Gods, and yet in ten thousand plus years, she has yet to make a move. Other than a brief appearance to taunt Malfurion Stormrage in Cataclysm, Azshara has been noticeably absent. But with the Tidelord firmly under her control, we can only assume that she's up to absolutely no good at all.

What hides in the depths of Nazjatar? We might be on the verge of finding out.

But we've never seen Nazjatar -- and according to the story section on the old Blizzard website, the city is located beneath the Maelstrom. The Maelstrom was wrecked with Deathwing's emergence into the world -- so does the city actually exist? Or was it destroyed in Deathwing's rampage, something that would further anger the Queen of the naga?

Know Your Lore, TFH Edition The Dark Below

The Old Gods

Another likely option is the culmination of the plans of the Old Gods, and their imminent destruction. Obviously Mists of Pandaria included some Old God content -- after all, the heart of Y'Shaarj plays a prominent role in current events. But let's go back, for a moment, to the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, which seems to have inspired much of the Old God names and influences. I've pointed out before how the Old Gods correlate to the various works of Lovecraft, but this was before we even knew about the existence of Y'Shaarj. So where does that Old God fit?

All of these theories tie in to the Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron. Among the whispers of this peculiar trinket is the phrase Have you had the dream again? A black goat with seven eyes that watches from the outside -- I theorized that this was a reference to Shub-Niggurath, who is also known as "the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young." At that point in time, I had no idea where it fit in to any theories I had about the Old Gods, but it's clear that this fits Y'Shaarj: Seven eyes, seven heads, a thousand young, thousands upon thousands of Sha, both major and minor.

But what else does the Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron have to say? Well, there are several references to Ny'alotha -- a city of old, terrible, unnumbered crimes. In the sleeping city of Ny'alotha walk only mad things, in the land of Ny'alotha there is only sleep. Is Ny'alotha the city, or the land? Or is Ny'alotha another Old God, perhaps a reference to Nyarlathoptep from Lovecraft's works -- the herald, the messenger of the outer gods? And if Ny'alotha exists, where is it? The Puzzle Box offers yet another clue: The fish know all the secrets. They know the cold. They know the dark.

It would make sense for "fish" to correlate with the naga, given the relationship between naga and Old God. The naga would not even exist if it weren't for the Old Gods. Perhaps, given Deathwing's emergence in Cataclysm and the subsequent damage to Nazjatar, Queen Azshara and the naga found a new, much darker home to call their own. A city of old, terrible, unnumbered crimes -- the crimes of the unrepentant naga and their Queen, who willingly, gladly, and wholeheartedly offered the world of Azeroth to the Burning Legion.

... or it could be somewhere else altogether. Someplace much less expected.
In the sunken city, he lays dreaming.

Know Your Lore, TFH Edition The Dark Below

The Rift of Aln

In one small corner of the vast Emerald Dream exists the Rift of Aln, from which emerged the Emerald Nightmare. This corruption, suggested to have been the work of the Old God N'zoth, seeped into and infected the Emerald Dream, trapping Malfurion Stormrage and corrupting many of the green dragonflight that sought to protect this unspoiled version of Azeroth. In the novel Stormrage, Malfurion managed to escape the Nightmare, and began the cleansing of the Emerald Dream. The effort was by and large successful, except for that pesky Rift of Aln.

Malfurion saw it as a bottomless chasm, radiating with primeval energy that he wasn't willing to investigate -- a strange, almost half-dreamed, surreal rift from which Malfurion sensed an ancient, terrible evil, fighting to keep its grip from somewhere in the depths of Azeroth's oceans. Although Malfurion and Tyrande cleansed the majority of the Emerald Dream, they left the Rift of Aln alone, instead sealing off the area around it. This was a war that would have to wait for a better time. N'zoth was presumably left alone.

A vast, bottomless rift of ancient evil? Perhaps Ny'alotha exists somewhere there, deep in the heart of the world, or at least an ancient version of it. The Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron says "In the sunken city, he lays dreaming," as well as "In the land of Ny'alotha there is only sleep" -- perhaps a reference to this unexplored section of the Emerald Dream? And who is this "he" that is being referred to -- the Old God Ny'alotha? Or perhaps someone far, far more important to the future of Azeroth, according to the supposed last member of the Black Dragonflight?

Know Your Lore, TFH Edition The Dark Below

The Final Titan
I see them! A million worlds glittering in their perfection! One above all others! We have fallen, we must rebuild the final Titan! Do not forget.
What if the "he" being referred to in the Puzzle Box is none other than that mysterious final Titan that Wrathion babbled about in his visions? Of course, he's forgotten everything he's seen, now -- but as a creature touched by the works of the Titans, it's likely that his research into the creations of the beings that purified him is far from over. Something terrible is on its way to Azeroth, Wrathion is certain of it -- and the Thunder King's heart, strengthened by the power of Ra-den, told him more than he could possibly comprehend.

Speaking of Ra-den, upon his defeat, he has some choice words for the heroes that have knocked some sense into him.
"Wait! I am... I am not your enemy. You are powerful, more powerful than he was, even... perhaps you are right. Perhaps there is still hope. But there is a yawning chasm of darkness beneath you mortals, vast, endless, and all consuming. I do not believe that you can correct this doomed course. But you have earned the right to try. Farewell."
That yawning chasm of darkness could be referring to the Rift of Aln. It could be referring to Ny'alotha, the ancient sleeping city. We are powerful, more powerful than "he" was. Who is "he?" The Old God? Ra-den might know something about Old Gods. Or is he talking about someone else entirely? Because the Rift of Aln, the deep, yawning chasm of darkness beneath us, it's not just connected to us. According to the druids, it also holds a connection to the Great Dark Beyond -- outer space, as it's called in Azeroth -- and to someplace else.

Someplace where someone has been sleeping and recovering ever since his last plans for domination were thwarted with the abrupt beheading of the powerful host he inhabited since the moment of that host's conception. The Twisting Nether, home to the demons of the Burning Legion and their leader, Sargeras.

Know Your Lore, TFH Edition The Dark Below

Sargeras Reborn

Here's a fun, unsettling thought -- what if Sargeras didn't arrive plummeting from the skies of Azeroth, raining fire and all manner of unpleasant things onto the world? What if his presence were far more subtle, far more intimate, deep within the world itself? Of course Wrathion's peculiar vision saw flames, so that's right out -- or is it? Here's the plan: Rain fire on the world. Third major advance of the Burning Legion, dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria. We, as heroes of the world, are running willy-nilly around the planet's surface, wiping out the Legion's armies and patting ourselves on the back with every victory we achieve.

But that's not really the real threat. The real threat is deep beneath the world, the primal world of the Emerald Dream. In the sunken city of Ny'alotha he lays dreaming -- the final Titan, the last savior of Azeroth, a being of incredible power ... and of great interest to Sargeras. Luckily, deep within the Emerald Dream there exists a link to the Twisting Nether, a tear in the fabric of the dimensions through which Sargeras can send another avatar to claim that sleeping Titan for his own, destroy it while it dreams, or simply use its latent power to fuel a ritual that will allow him direct access to Azeroth.

If he succeeds, that would certainly fit within the "doomed course" that Ra-den speaks of. If this final Titan is the last hope for Azeroth's continued well-being, Sargeras getting his claws into the thing would be about the last thing we'd ever want to happen. So why would it be sleeping in Ny'alotha? Because the Old Gods saw it too -- and bent on destruction as they are, they imprisoned the thing in eternal slumber, deep within the heart of the wild world of Azeroth, so that they could feed on it as it dreamed.

Know Your Lore, TFH Edition The Dark Below

The Dark Below

Let's just mush all this together into one tidy ball, shall we? Wrathion's plans to unite the Horde and Alliance by having one irrevocably crush the other have failed. But that looming threat of the Legion still exists, and the day of reckoning will soon be at hand. The skies themselves will split asunder as the Legion rains fire onto our already shattered world, leading to mass battles between Azeroth's defenders and the forces of evil. Yet a darker, far more horrifying future is looming from within the depths of the world -- and Wrathion may sense it as well.

On the other hand, it may be Malfurion Stormrage that senses it. Somewhere deep within that unsettling corner of the Emerald Dream, something stirs. The Rift of Aln is yawning wide, and whatever rests within its depths -- be it a sunken, mad city, or the key to that mysterious final Titan -- presents a dangerous threat. And deep in Azeroth's oceans, the Old God N'zoth has once again begun to show its hand -- this time, we must stop it for good.

But there are two other things waiting for us after we've dealt with N'zoth. Within that yawning chasm, Sargeras has once again shown his presence ... and his presence has drawn the attentions of one who, in ancient times, sought to bring him to the world. A powerful ally of unfathomable power who has been changed, shaped into a new form and granted even more power by the Old Gods. Queen Azshara, disenchanted by the failure of the Old Gods' plans in Cataclysm, is more than happy to help her former husband-to-be access Ny'alotha's depths. Easy enough, she has more than enough power, and the captured Tidehunter on her side.

It's a battle for the ages -- a battle that may determine the fate of the world as we know it. Old Gods, Burning Legion, Azshara, Emerald Dream and all, wrapped into one tidy new expansion. No new races, no new character classes, just us with hopefully revamped and beautiful new character models, kicking butt all over the place. Of course, given the shaky nature of whether or not the trademark is real, much less whether or not it relates to WoW is uncertain. We'll have to wait until BlizzCon to find out if it's real, and discover for ourselves what evil lurks in the depths of The Dark Below.

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.
Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The Dark Below