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.
Two weeks ago, we looked briefly at the Timewalkers and the strange goings-on on the Timeless Isle. Since then, players that have been dutifully completing Kairoz's weekly quests have reached the end of the mysterious visions Kairoz has been trying to pinpoint -- with some disturbing results and implications. In fact, the whole mad journey has been a steady trickle of unanswered questions and dizzying scenarios that might or might not be true. Or perhaps they're all true, just in different versions of reality.
And that's the bronze dragonflight in a nutshell. It's a headache-inducing puzzle of events that might have been, have been, never been, and may have meant to be but hadn't, that can't quite be untangled. Led by Nozdormu, the bronze dragonflight's missive has always been to protect and observe the pathways of time. The Titans gifted Nozdormu with the knowledge of when and how he would die as a warning, a lesson -- that no matter how powerful Nozdormu might think he was, he, just like any mortal, would have to answer to time eventually. This was meant to keep the Timeless One in check, an effective plan.
But did it really work?
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.
Please note: This post contains spoilers for events on the Timeless Isle.
Nozdormu and the War of the Ancients
The first known incident of time anomalies, the first recorded, the first that involved those from our current timeline took place when Nozdormu was caught in one at some point in the recent past. Although he did not know the cause, he witnessed events unfolding that should not have been -- events surrounding the War of the Ancients and the Well of Eternity. This anomaly held Nozdormu in check, and the only thing he could do was send a plea for help, one that would hopefully be heard by the only dragon he thought capable of helping him -- Korialstrasz, the red dragon who spent most of his days disguised as a mortal sorcerer, a member of the Kirin Tor named Krasus.
Krasus, was swept into the anomaly along with Rhonin and the orc Broxigar, plunked back in time just before the War of the Ancients began. Once there, they lived out the events of the War, interacting with key figures in the timeline as they did so. Malfurion and Tyrande became friends, Illidan became well acquainted as well, if not in friendship. And in the end, the War played out exactly as it was supposed to. Sargeras' emergence on Azeroth was stopped, Nozdormu was inexplicably freed just in time to save Malfurion Stormrage, and the great tree Nordrassil was planted and grown. All was well.
... sort of.
You see, if these events had actually happened, if these events were the truth, then the game we played in Warcraft III would have been a very different one. Tyrande Whisperwind would have recognized the orcs the moment she laid eyes on them, and the entire situation with Grom Hellscream's continent of orcs, encroaching upon the forests of Ashenvale, would have likely played out very differently. Instead, in Warcraft III there is no acknowledgment that Tyrande or Malfurion had even heard of the orcs. Yet later novels suggest that Tyrande did, in fact, remember Broxigar -- in the novel Stormrage, it's made very clear that both she and Malfurion recalled him. So what does this mean?
From a technical standpoint, it means that of course, obviously, Warcraft III was completed before the War of the Ancients books came out, so the events in game don't reflect the events in the novel. But if you want to twist it from a lore standpoint ... the events in Warcraft III are an alternate timeline. One in which Nozdormu was never caught in the time anomaly in the first place. It was blatantly implied in the novels that Nozdormu was caught as a result of the Old Gods attempting to encroach on the timeline. So ... if we take that into account, the events of Warcraft III take place in a timeline where the Old Gods either didn't take an interest in getting rid of the Aspects, or simply didn't exist.
The Infinite Dragonflight
In Burning Crusade, we were introduced to the Caverns of Time -- the place that the bronze dragonflight called home, the place where they watched over the different timelines and made sure they were kept in line. It was there that we found the first traces of the Infinite dragonflight, a new dragonflight that seemed to be intent on warping the timeways of Azeroth and changing history in drastically different fashions. In one of these, Thrall's escape from Durnholde Keep was to be prevented at all costs. In another, the Infinite struggled to keep Medivh from opening the Dark Portal and letting the orcish race into Azeroth.
And in another, the events of the Third War were in danger of being forever altered. The Infinite dragonflight didn't make a direct appearance at the Battle for Mount Hyjal -- yet according to NPCs, the Battle for Mount Hyjal was being disrupted by the Infinite dragonflight. It was later clarified by CM Drysc that there was no intended link to the Infinite dragonflight.
But let's look at what was going on, what was really going on with the Infinite dragonflight in Burning Crusade. We were sent to three key moments in time -- and all were linked by the presence of orcs. Old Hillsbrad appeared to be trying to prevent the rise of the New Horde, while Black Morass appeared to be trying to prevent the presence of orcs on Azeroth at all. As for the Battle of Mount Hyjal, the orcs played an important role in the raid, just as they did in Warcraft III.
Just as they did in the timeline of a game that, according to a series of novels, should not have existed in the first place.
Later expansions saw more of these alternate paths introduced. In Wrath of the Lich King, we were sent to the days of the Third War, this time on the Eastern Kingdoms, to help Arthas purge Stratholme and continue onward in his destiny of eventually assuming the mantle of the Lich King. In Dragonblight, Nozdormu made a brief appearance at the Bronze Dragonshrine, where he appeared as the supposed leader of the Infinite dragonflight. At the time, this made no sense to Chromie, who sent players to unmask the Infinite leader -- and so she dismissed the vision as incorrect, although she was glad to see Nozdormu, because he'd been missing.
Chromie was right -- Nozdormu had disappeared at some point. This time, when at last he was found, his motives behind that disappearance were laid bare for all of the Aspects to see. Nozdormu knew, because of the Titans, the moment of his demise. He knew there was something strange going on, and he saw, in at least one future thread, the moment in which he would become Murozond. Nozdormu wasn't trapped in an anomaly so much as he was trapped in contemplation -- scattered across every moment in time simultaneously, trying to find the one thread in which he chose to take the path that lead him to the creation of the Infinite.
Thrall, no longer Warchief, was sent to find Nozdormu. And he did -- by going back and forth in different moments in his own lifetime. In this journey, Thrall discovered that Nozdormu was stretched along Time itself, caught in living all moments simultaneously. With this realization, he found the Timeless One and brought him back to the present. But the timeline was still in chaos. The Infinite dragonflight had managed to lock the timeline in such a way that trying to travel it would only spit the travelers out at one specific point in time -- the End Time, in which Nozdormu, having fully transformed into Murozond, set forth the events that would send the Infinite dragonflight across history.
Players were sent to put an end to Murozond, which opened the timeways again and allowed them to travel back to the War of the Ancients once more -- this time, to retrieve the Dragon Soul. The Aspects expended the last of their powers defeating Deathwing. And according to Nozdormu after all was said and done, the Dragon Soul had returned to its proper place in time. But which timeline did it return to? Which version of the War of the Ancients did we actually visit, in Cataclysm? Rhonin, Krasus and Broxigar were not present in that timeline, not that we could see. So did we visit the timeline that they traveled back to, or an alternate version? The Old Gods definitely seemed to be present in that version, whatever it happened to be.
Time in constant flux
The problem with trying to untangle the story of the bronze dragonflight is that it has occurred in bits and pieces in the background, all while we've been doing what's supposedly terribly important. Here's what we know: At some point in time, Nozdormu disappeared. He wasn't dead, he was simply lost, and the rest of the bronze dragonflight searched for him relentlessly. While he was gone, the rest of the bronze dragonflight continued with their tasks in his absence -- and his prime consort, Soridormi, acted in his stead. This wasn't unheard of -- she was the one who met with the other Aspects back when the Dragon Soul was imbued with the powers of all dragonflights, during the War of the Ancients.
And she appeared in the Caverns of Time, sending players to the Battle for Mount Hyjal as well. She was not the only one in charge -- her child, the great bronze Anachronos also led various exploits in Nozdormu's absence, including assisting Fandral Staghelm during the original War of the Shifting Sands. Members of the other dragonflights stepped in to help as well. They were Caelestrasz of the red dragonflight, Arygos of the blue, and Merithra of the green. If these names sound familiar, they ought to -- although they spent an indeterminate amount of time trapped in the Temple of Ahn'Qiraj, they were later freed and continued in their duties.
Arygos and Caelstrasz both later played parts that were pivotal in Deathwing's demise. Merithra was later seen in Dawn of the Aspects telling Ysera of strange activity in the Rift of Aln, where the last remnant of the Emerald Nightmare appeared to be stirring, seeking out a new leader. All of these dragons played important parts in history, all intertwined in some strange tale involving the Old Gods, the Aspects, and Azeroth -- a timeless tale that we may not have seen the end of.
The last vision of the Timeless Isle show's Soridormi's death. In the vision, Kairoz appears to be walking away from the corpse -- and he either witnessed her death and did nothing, or he was the one who killed her. Shaken, Kairoz bids the player to tell no one of this vision, lest the course of time be altered. He says this while standing on a strange island that doesn't really seem to exist in any timeline at all -- it's merely present in some, absent in others, appearing and disappearing seemingly at whim. Now let's bend our brains just a little bit, here, and consider the Timeless Isle for a moment. What if it has never actually disappeared?
The Timeless Isle isn't some strange time-traveling island. It's a fixed point in time, indicated by the sun in the sky. The Timeless Isle is always there -- but history, moving and changing around the Isle, determines whether or not we'll actually see it. In some instances in history, things take place in a way in which the Isle does not exist. In others, events move in succession that allow us to see and interact with the Isle. Think of it this way: the Timeless Isle is a lump, a rock. Time is a waterfall of sand, or moments in history, being poured over that rock. Sometimes you see the rock -- and sometimes all you see is the waterfall of sand. But the rock is always there. It's our perception of the rock that changes.
The bronze dragonflight has the power to change that flow of time -- or it did. They may have lost the power to do so in present day, but the bronze dragons of the past can, and possibly have altered events long ago. It's entirely possible that somewhere way, way, way up that waterfall of sand, there are bronze dragons playing with the flow, engineering it so that we see the Isle at one moment, but not in the next. And that may be what Kairoz is trying to find out -- who played with time, who engineered things in the past in such a way that Time has followed the weird path that has led us to where we are.
What is reality? What is time? How do we know if we exist at all? What does all of this mean? One thing is fairly certain in my mind right now -- we aren't done with the dragonflights. The interconnected layers of influential dragons scattered throughout history's most important moments, the ways in which all of these influential dragons have been affected by the Old Gods, implies, to me, that we aren't done with their tale. We may appear to be done in the present -- but perhaps the present isn't the present that is actually supposed to be.
Were we meant to defeat Deathwing, or was his timeline purposefully trying to put an end to a history that had been shamefully altered in ways it was never meant to be? Was Nozdormu's evolution into Murozond a result of Deathwing's meddling -- or was it because at some point, Nozdormu realized the subtle alterations that had been made to Azeroth's history needed to be fixed? Were the Infinite dragonflight trying to wreak havoc with history -- or were they trying to return it to what it was supposed to ultimately be?
It all ties back to Azeroth. The Aspects were created to protect the world, because for some unknown reason the Titans deemed it direly important. And we're not done with that tale, not yet. We may be in the Age of Mortals, but maybe this Age of Mortals isn't what was supposed to come to pass. Whatever the actual end of this tale, it's an incredibly fascinating story that we're only seeing in bits and pieces, scattered across history. Perhaps its purpose -- and Azeroth's purpose -- will be revealed, in due time.
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.