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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Everything is connected

Anne Stickney

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.

Last week, we looked at the true origins of the mogu as revealed in patch 5.2. Let's face it -- Pandaria is full of mysteries. It's been feeding us answers to questions very, very slowly, but each answer raises another score of questions as a result. And despite getting answers to the unique origins of the mogu, it still leaves us wondering who Ra-den really was. More importantly, it raises the question of Titan Keepers, and how those Keepers are assigned.

By all rights, Pandaria should have more than Ra-den to watch over it. The mysterious continent is chock-full of Titan technology, and due to the death of Y'shaarj, it presents far more problems than even Ulduar had to offer up in Northrend. With all that said, where are the other Keepers of Pandaria? Do any still exist? Are they in stasis, or guarding something in an area still unexplored? More importantly -- all of Pandaria is connected, but how? And how does Emperor Shaohao fit into all of this?

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.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Everything is connected

What is Pandaria?

What do we know about Pandaria? In patch 5.2, it becomes even more clear that this place is an incredibly important piece of Azeroth's history. The entire continent is literally sitting on top of what appears to be some sort of Titan playground. If this is the case, what was the purpose of this particular Titan facility? From what we can see, it obviously involved the creation of new life. Elegon, the Will of the Emperor, and the waters of the Vale of Eternal Blossoms all clearly point to this particular task.

And unlike Ulduar and Uldum, Pandaria is absolutely teeming with life. It's not there to lock up an Old God. It's not there to re-originate the planet. If anything, Pandaria seems to fit most closely with Un'goro Crater and Sholazar Basin -- petri dishes of the Titans. But there's a twist to this particular observation, and it lies within the strange waters of the Vale. Those waters are a dead ringer for the Well of Eternity, and their properties seem to be relatively similar. Given Wrathion's fascination with the waters, we can presume that they are incredibly important. So what gives?

Far more curious however, is the nature of Pandaria's creation. Mogu legends tell the tale of Y'shaarj's demise and the release of the Sha. They speak of the eventual silence of the Titans. When the mogu enslaved Pandaria, there is little doubt that they supposed they were doing the right thing. Lei Shen and the rest of the mogu knew of Ra-den. They knew he'd fallen silent. And as far as Lei Shen was concerned, that was the point at which mogu culture began its slide into failure -- with no purpose to complete, the mogu had little reason to exist. The Thunder King rose to power by merit of giving his people a purpose again, something to accomplish.

So here we have Pandaria, and here we have the mogu, Titan creations that are simply following orders. Without orders, they fall into chaos, perhaps victims of the Sha that they may very well have released on Pandaria, according to legends. And even when one rises to give them that order they so desperately need, that creature, the Thunder King, is still in the end just another mogu. His terrifying reign was built on the concept of crushing others until they submitted. And if they refused to submit, his response was to find more power. It's a very robotic response.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Everything is connected

The August Celestials

Where are the other Keepers of Pandaria? With something as powerful as an engine of creation on the line, one would expect more than one one Keeper overseeing things. Where are those other Keepers, and what is keeping them occupied?

Some have theorized that the August Celestials are the Keepers, which makes a certain degree of sense. After all, the four Celestials watch over Pandaria in much the same way as any good Titan guardian would. Yet the August Celestials seem to be much closer in appearance and nature to the Ancients than any Titan construct -- living deities that watch over various aspects of the world and keep it safe. Dave Kosak has all but confirmed this on Twitter as well.

We've never really made a connection as to where the Ancients fit in with traditional Titan theory. In fact, in the novel Wolfheart, it's mentioned that Azeroth itself gave rise to the spirits and demigods, not the Titans. They are there to guard the planet, tied to the world in a way that no other creature could be. In regards to Pandaria, this also makes perfect sense when you think about the Celestials.

Yu'lon in particular is very perceptive, and frequently mentions the world as a living creature. Everything on Pandaria is connected, according to Yu'lon -- a lesson she also shared with the Last Emperor of Pandaria, Shaohao. But what does that mean, exactly?

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Everything is connected

The Emperor's Burden

For this, we have to return to the tale of the Emperor's Burden, an eight-part saga that details the visions of the jinyu and the sudden realization of Emperor Shaohao.
"And the Waterspeaker saw before him a kingdom of sorcerers surrounding a great well, and from this well they called forth a host of demons. Green fire rained from the skies, and all the world's continents shattered."
Obviously the events in this story took place in the weeks or months prior to the Sundering. The Jinyu Waterspeaker read this tale from the water -- water that originated in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. If this water is indeed connected to the original Well of Eternity, it explains much about why the Jinyu saw these visions in particular. Seeking a way to save his people, Shaohao traveled to the peak of Mount Neverest to speak with the Jade Serpent and find a way to save his people. And the Jade Serpent had a perfectly logical path for him to follow -- Shaohao needed to divest himself of his burdens, purify his spirit, and become one with the land.

Basically, Shaohao was sent to find and defeat the Sha. One by one, he found them, and one by one, he defeated them, imprisoning them away. But simply imprisoning them wasn't enough, and he founded the Shado-pan to watch over, restrain and control the Sha. For ten thousand years, the Shado-pan have continued to do so, while the rest of Pandaria lived in relatively idyllic peace.

Once all was accomplished, on the very eve of the Sundering itself, Emperor Shaohao went to his people and delivered a proclamation -- that one should live each day to its fullest, and sleep each night with the peace of a mind unburdened. Yet when Shaohao made that final journey to the Terrace of Eternal Spring in order to separate and protect Pandaria forever, something odd happened.

But try as he might, he was unable: the ground trembled, but did not move. Soon, he began to doubt, and the Sha of Doubt began to emerge from the east. He began to fear, and the Sha of Fear begain ripping out its shackles to the west. Desperately, he called out to the Jade Serpent for help. 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. His staff clattered to the floor as his spirit became one with the land. When the world tore itself apart, Pandaria drifted quietly into the ocean. And as the Emperor's robes fluttered empty to the ground, the land became enveloped in impenetrable mists, hidden away from the rest of the world.

This all sounds very pat and dry, doesn't it? Let's look a little deeper and indulge in some crazy speculation.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Everything is connected

Everything is connected

In the beginning, there was Azeroth -- and whatever Azeroth might be, from planet to possible baby Titan, it thrived. Not only did it thrive, it created its own set of defense mechanisms, spirits and demigods, in order to watch over it and keep it safe. Nothing, however, could prepare for the arrival of the Old Gods and the chaos they unleashed on the world. And when the Titans returned, they were faced with the horror that their beautiful creation had become horribly corrupt. This was in its own way doubly painful, given the corruption of their former comrade Sargeras.

And so the Titans set to work, attempting to rid the world of the Old Gods that corrupted it. With a mighty blow, one Old God was slain -- yet the results were disastrous. Y'shaarj breathed one last, terrible breath as it died and its breath intertwined with the very matrix of the world itself, infesting not only the land, but the creatures that lived upon it. The Sha would always remain a part of Azeroth. It wasn't really alive, so it could never really die -- and neither could the Old Gods.

Between the death of the Old God and the discovery of the Curse of Flesh, the Titans realized they had very few options for keeping the planet safe. Destroying the Old Gods would literally unleash them across the world and entangle them so utterly and completely that they could never be pried apart. And so the Titans set up guardians, created the Aspects, and placed the Well of Eternity on Azeroth -- a mystical font of energy that was rumored to pull its powers directly from the Great Dark Beyond itself.

Well, that might actually be a little backwards, come to think of it. How about we spin that on its head and look at it a little differently? How did the Titans create the Well of Eternity?

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Everything is connected

When is a well not a well

I've written theories on the Well of Eternity, the most recent suggesting that perhaps the Well isn't a Well at all, but instead the blood of a fallen Titan. But I'm beginning to think that perhaps that wasn't the case at all. It's still blood, yes. But it's not the blood of a fallen Titan. It's not the blood of any Titan, living or dead.

It's the blood of Y'shaarj.

Consider this -- Azeroth has very much been a place of balance, and it has never, ever been emphasized quite as much as it has with Mists of Pandaria. Given this, it would be incredibly interesting, not to mention incredibly poetic, if the blood of chaos was in fact life itself. And when you consider what the Well of Eternity has actually done over the years, it begins to make far more sense. The Well and its offshoots have caused more wars and destruction than any other thing on Azeroth. The elves considered the Well a curious sort of drug, one to which they quickly became addicted.

The Well was magic. Wild, chaotic magic connected deeply to the very universe. The Titans didn't just plunk down the Well of Eternity, they created it when they killed Y'shaarj. And to this day, it continues to spring from whatever remains of the Old God's corpse, a constant reminder that yes, all of Pandaria is connected. All of Azeroth is connected. The entire universe is connected, and there is nothing we can do to counter it but live in peace with ourselves and our place within that universe.

Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition Everything is connected
Does that sound familiar? Because it's one of the very basic tenets of the Holy Light. Which brings in yet another thread of connection -- the naaru know all about the Light. And due to their unusual life cycle, they also know everything about the darkness of chaos. The naaru may very well understand what is going on with our crazy world in a way that we simply cannot comprehend. So let's put all the pieces together here, as best as we can.

The Ancients and Celestials were born of Azeroth, whether Azeroth is a planet or some other crazy concept we simply haven't divined. Azeroth is connected to the rest of the universe via the Well of Eternity. The Well is connected to the Old Gods by merit of being the blood of one of its fallen. Pandaria is connected to Azeroth and the rest of the world by merit of Titan structures and facilities that could not be torn apart -- including the mogu, who were meant to be the guardians of that facility. It had to be hidden away from the Sundering -- it had to be preserved and kept intact.

Every creature, every facet, whether lesser race, greater race, Titan creation or Old God, is innately tied together in such a tangle that removing even one element out of that equation would throw the entire planet into turmoil. It might even, given the Well's connection to the Great Dark Beyond, throw the very universe into turmoil. Chaos unending.

Come to think of it, that must be incredibly interesting to the Burning Legion. And since Pandaria has once more popped up on the radar, we may have to contend with the fallout from that far sooner than you'd think.

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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