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.
Its existence is an enigma that even the wisest of pandaren have yet to unravel. A place of great reverence for the pandaren, many warriors and aspiring leaders once traveled to this remote isle to test their mettle against the great Celestials themselves. Yet at some point, some moment in history, the Timeless Isle vanished. And as history continued to wind on in Pandaria, the Isle would reappear from time to time -- long enough to perhaps be noticed, but never quite long enough to allow more than a few unfortunate adventurers upon its shores before blinking out into history once more.
The Timeless Isle represents a curiosity both to the pandaren, who are glad to see the Isle back again and stable -- for now -- and to the Bronze Dragonflight and their allies, the Timewalkers. To many players, the Timeless Isle simply represents a fun way to pass a few hours, killing rare spawns, picking up enticing Bind-on-Account item tokens for alts, and of course gathering tons of Timeless Coins to turn in for other rare rewards. But there's something ... different about the Timeless Isle. It's a puzzle, one that has yet to be fully solved. And of all the questions I have about this odd island in the middle of nowhere, the one that stands out at the front of my mind is quite simply -- why now?
According to what little we know of the Timeless Isle, there was once a point in time in which it was stable within the myriad timeways that exist on Azeroth. Stable enough that Emperor Shaohao and those that sought to follow in his footsteps went through the trials of the Celestials -- tests of strength, wisdom, fortitude and hope. The name Timeless Isle didn't originate with its odd proclivity for popping in and out of time -- it was named as such because the Isle was in a curious state of perpetual sunset, regardless of the time on the rest of Pandaria. This didn't really discourage anyone from using the area as a testing ground for pandaren mettle -- nor did it sway the Celestials from calling the place something akin to a home away from home.
And that's really odd. What's even more odd is the fact that the Timeless Isle, so many thousands of years ago, up and vanished one day with no explanation. We don't know the precise moment in history that it flickered out of existence -- we have no idea if this ties into the story of Shaohao and the dense mists that enshrouded Pandaria for ten thousand years. In fact, what we do know about the Timeless Isle is very, very little: Once it was there, and then it was not. The rest was left to history, for the most part.
The Timeless Isle reappeared every now and again, but never for very long. Oddly enough, not only did the Isle blink in and out of existence, it also changed locations every now and again. Anyone unfortunate enough to set foot on the Isle while it was briefly present in time vanished when the Isle did. Now one may ask why the pandaren didn't tell us of this strange Isle and its even stranger properties in the first place -- but one would do well to remember that the pandaren by and large had other, darker, more pressing things to think about than the whereabouts of an island lost in time.
And for some inexplicable, strange, bizarre reason, the Isle has chosen this precise moment in time to pop up into existence again. Why? Why now? Obviously Pandaria is now crawling with heroes -- Alliance, Horde, and pandaren alike that are definitely suited to going through the challenges of the Celestials. But if the Timeless Isle is nothing more than a testing ground for heroes, wouldn't have made more sense for it to appear as we were in the throes of being tested by Pandaria itself? To challenge ourselves against the Celestials, grow stronger as a result before we fought the sha, or the Thunder King? Fortunately, I'm not the only one puzzled by the existence of this strange little corner of Pandaria.
With the conclusion of Cataclysm, the great dragon Aspects expended their powers defeating Deathwing. Most assumed that this meant the end of the dragonflights -- and many others wondered what this meant for the future of Aspects with more active roles in the world, like Ysera and the Emerald Dream, or Nozdormu and the massive tangle of infinite timeways. We have an answer of sorts to the latter Aspect in the Timewalkers -- a faction of mortals who were formed to protect, guard, and catalog the timeways from any that try to harm or change them.
The bronze dragons are still part of the action, as far as that goes -- Chromie is still actively involved in curious chronological anomalies, as is Kairoz, who has settled on the Timeless Isle to study its strange properties. And although the Timewalkers have a vested interest and presence on the Timeless Isle, it's Kairoz himself who presents the most interesting mystery. He has a confession for players that travel to the Isle -- as expected, the bronze dragonflight's powers have diminished considerably with Deathwing's defeat. No longer able to simply pinpoint events in time, Kairoz hopes to use the strange properties of the Timeless Isle to craft an artifact that the bronze flight can use to once more gaze clearly through the fog of time. Or at least that's what Kairoz tells us at first.
Kairoz is intent on using items called Epoch Stones as sands for his artifact -- a Vision of Time. These strange little stones are found all over the island, and are actually crystallized essences of Time itself. More importantly, as Kairoz reveals, the stones suggest that the Timeless Isle may not actually have a proper timeway at all -- it simply shuffles from timeway to timeway, which is why the place seems to blink in and out of existence. The Epoch Stones represent a poor man's version of the sands of the Hourglass of Time -- sands lost once Nozdormu expended his powers. If used correctly, the Vision of Time should grant the bronze dragonflight the ability to once again pinpoint moments in time, and it's up to players to test this creation.
And that's where it starts to get really weird. The visions offered by the Vision of Time are presented largely without context. The Epoch Stones aren't quite attuned enough to grant a complete visual of what we see. But Kairoz wants us to use the Vision of Time in the Siege of Orgrimmar, where an important event in history is taking place. He figures that being so close to a powerful moment in history should prove whether or not the Vision of Time is actually useful. The first vision? Warchief Thrall arriving in Orgrimmar with Saurfang, trying to gain entrance into the city. After some talk, it seems as though General Nazgrim lets them inside.
Nothing major, right? Nothing earth-shattering. The following week, Kairoz has made adjustments, and sends the players in again. Warchief Thrall and Saurfang are shown facing off with the Paragons of the Klaxxi. Again, nothing unusual. The third week ... the third week is where things get a little strange. Instead of his usual request, Kairoz confesses that although he cannot tell us everything, there appears to be a traitor among the Timewalkers -- and he's attempting to track that traitor down.
The vision we then witness is of Garrosh's defeat. All the major players are there, leaders both Alliance and Horde. And far above them all, watching the scene play out is none other than Kairoz himself, witnessing the event. Upon returning the hourglass, Kairoz seems puzzled at best, wondering whether what we were witnessing just one of many possibilities. This week, we witness the destruction of Stormwind and the deaths of those major leaders -- another shock, yet the bronze dragon reassures us that although he knows little about the situation, he'll look into it. He also has another valuable bit of information.
As it stands, right now, the bronze dragonflight cannot repair timeways that are damaged or broken. If, for some reason, something like the Infinite Dragonflight popped up again, there's really very little the bronze flight can do to correct the situation. And that's why the Timewalkers are incredibly useful -- because even though the Aspects and the dragonflights may have lost their powers, the Age of Mortals has begun. The multiple paths and infinite possibilities of time have not simply ceased to exist with Nozdormu's loss of power. Instead, they're now far more vulnerable than they ever were before.
Knowledge of the timeways, when in the wrong hands, can cause catastrophic devastation. My flight has little power to repair it, now. We must be careful.
We don't have a magic dragon to fix things anymore. So far, that hasn't been an issue at all. Mists of Pandaria is the first expansion we've had that hasn't utilized the Caverns of Time in any way at all -- none of the instances or raids have taken place anywhere in the paths of time. One would assume that this is because we fixed the timeways and put an end to Murozond, and presumably the rest of the Infinite Dragonflight. Time is all better now, right?
The mystery of the Timeless Isle
We didn't have a Caverns of Time instance ... but we've got a mysterious Isle that bops in and out of time like it's nothing at all, and there doesn't appear to be a reason for its extended stay in Pandaria. Why did it pop up again? Why now? Nothing on the Isle seems to be out of place or of any great importance other than the Epoch Stones, the Timewalkers, and Kairoz himself. Did the Isle reappear because Kairoz needed the Epoch Stones? Did the Kairoz of the future somehow realize that the Isle was needed so that he could perform whatever tasks he needed to perform? And why did the Isle disappear in the first place?
Azeroth's timeways are one peculiar headache of a puzzle -- the events presented in the War of the Ancients trilogy involved time travel, deliberately changing the past. Now here's an interesting thought -- the Timeless Isle disappeared at some point prior to the Sundering. Rhonin, Krasus and Broxigar were sent back in time, prior to the Sundering. Did their displacement in time, did their meddling with Azeroth's past create some sort of anomaly that caused enough of a ripple that the Timeless Isle simply ceased to be? We don't really know.
What we know is this: Time, as it exists on Azeroth, is a series of paths -- a series of threads woven into a tapestry. Each of these threads are very similar to each other, the same series of events happens on these threads, but with different results. We saw one of these results when we traveled forward in time in Cataclysm to face Murozond and witness Deathwing's triumph in End Time. The bronze dragonflight once had the power to travel to any of the threads in the tapestry -- they could not only go to a moment in history, but view the multiple possible outcomes of that moment in history.
Kairoz has made it clear that the bronze dragonflight doesn't possess those powers anymore. They can't travel the multiple paths of time. They know the tapestry is there, but they lack even the power to see those threads in action. Kairoz's efforts on the Isle will allow the dragons the ability to see again -- but it's not going to let them fix things, if things go wrong. The Timewalkers presumably will take care of that, now. So here's the big question: Why is Kairoz interested in this? What does he know, what has he seen, either through murky vision or premonition, that he isn't telling us?
Ancient Greeks had two words for time. Chronos, which refers to chronological time, a sequence of events that happen one after the other. The other words is "kairos." Kairos, Kairoz -- its nice to see a reference there. But the word kairos addresses a different aspect of time. An opportune moment, an indeterminate place in time in which something special occurs. In Aristotle's scheme of rhetoric, kairos is that moment when the proof will be delivered. In the New Testament, the word is used to mean the appointed time in the purpose of God.
In all of these instances, kairos very clearly refers to that one, shining, glimmering moment of utmost importance in which something pivotal very clearly happens. And in patch 5.4, Kairoz seems to be searching for that moment. So far, we've seen visions of the Siege of Orgrimmar, different aspects of the encounter before we arrive, and after we leave ... and we've seen Kairoz there, witnessing it all. If Kairoz exists in that moment of time, if he's already witnessing that particular moment in history, why is he sending us there to witness it too?
I don't think that the Siege of Orgrimmar is what Kairoz is looking for. It just happens to be the closest major event that occurs simultaneously with whatever it is Kairoz is hoping to find. We've now shown Kairoz that he needs to be at the Siege of Orgrimmar when Garrosh Hellscream is taken down -- he has to leave the Isle and go back to Orgrimmar, because we've already witnessed him there in the vision. But what will he find when he reaches that moment of history? What's next in Kairoz's mysterious search, and what will he discover at the end of it all?
What strikes me as the strangest part in this very strange, murky tale of bronze dragons and time is its placement within Pandaria's tale. The Timeless Isle didn't suddenly pop up in the middle of the expansion -- we're seeing it at the expansion's end. This is the point where stories should theoretically wrap up, and yet we've got a story that seems to be just on the cusp of launching into something amazing.
When we end our adventures in Pandaria, what of Kairoz, the Timewalkers, and the Timeless Isle? Will they once more disappear into history, or is the start of something new? Cataclysm saw a baby dragon born at the end of an expansion, and Mists of Pandaria saw his story well and truly come to light. Are we going to see some sort of time-travel madness in the midst of "The Dark Below," "Heroes of the Storm," or whatever the next expansion happens to be? Only time will tell.
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.