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What's going on with Karazhan?

Anne Stickney

It's no secret that I love Karazhan. Making its debut in Burning Crusade, Karazhan was and still is, to me, the perfect raid. The sheer scope of the instance and the variety of bosses within it were more than enough to keep my raid guild at the time happily occupied. But for myself, it wasn't just the raid, it was the story behind it. I spent most of vanilla plaintively wondering when we'd see Medivh's tower open for visitors ... and I wasn't disappointed in the slightest with what we eventually saw inside.

On the 5.4.2 PTR, Karazhan is in the middle of what seems to be not a revamp, but a restoration. Mobs aren't changing, neither are bosses. But the cobwebs, the overturned chairs, the randomly placed skeletons of the dead are all being quietly swept away. One has to wonder ... what's up with that? What's going on with the tower of Karazhan, and why the sudden makeover now? Rather than indulge in yet another speculative edition of Know Your Lore, let's just take a quick look at the possibilities.

As I mentioned in last week's Know Your Lore, Karazhan wasn't always the home of Medivh. In fact, the place sat deserted for untold years before Medivh discovered it and made it his home. In the novel The Last Guardian, the origins of Karazhan and Deadwind Pass are explored -- and it states very clearly that Deadwind Pass itself was started by an explosion whose origins were unknown. Later, the tower appeared, although no one seems to have any record of who actually built it. But the fabric of reality is an iffy thing around Karazhan -- the tower itself traps the souls of the dead, forever dooming them to wander its halls.

And the tower is also host to various pockets of time, events that can and have sucked the viewer into scenes of the future, past, and present. Garona saw herself murder King Llane in Karazhan's hallowed halls, long before it actually happened. And although she despaired, although she railed against it, she was helpless against that vision of history coming to pass. But Medivh met his end in that tower, and it ceased to be a place of any importance until the Burning Crusade, when Prince Malchezaar moved into the upper floors.

Here's where things get interesting. Prince Malchezzar may not be a prince, but he claims to be one -- and he's an eredar of the Burning Legion. This means that his origins ultimately tie in with Argus, the planet from which the draenei led by Prophet Velen escaped so many years ago, eventually settling on Draenor. And, as Prince Malchezaar puts it, "All realities, all dimensions are open to me!" Between the strange vortex opening to Netherspace at the top of the tower, and Malchezaar's professed powers, one has to wonder where he came from ... and when he came from.

His origins were never really explained. In fact, his appearance was a mystery to the Violet Eye. One would assume that Malchezaar simply discovered Karazhan's vast and powerful potential, and decided to claim it for the Burning Legion. But there's something else incredibly interesting about Malchezaar. On his loot table is Gorehowl, the axe wielded by Grom Hellscream and later passed on to Garrosh. While this was questioned by players, and later waved away as a strange coincidence, one has to wonder this: If Malchezaar is indeed able to pass through dimensions and realities, which version of Gorehowl was in his possession? Did he somehow take it from Grom Hellscream when he was living in Kalimdor, then travel to Karazhan? Or did he take it from an alternate version of Grom Hellscream, in a reality that to that date, we hadn't yet seen -- one which is quickly coming into play in the next expansion?

The errant Prince met his end atop Karazhan, brought to his knees by players and summarily looted. Much like Medivh's death years before, this left the tower a deserted wasteland, still home to the haunted spirits of the dead, but otherwise unoccupied. This makes the phase changes seen in patch 5.4.2 all the stranger as a result. Who is cleaning up Karazhan? Why would someone go to the trouble of clearing out cobwebs and skeletons, setting the furniture to right? Certainly the spirits that haunt the location don't really care about its physical state -- so why would they be doing any housecleaning? And if it isn't the spirits, why would someone go to the trouble of cleaning up the area, without addressing all those pesky ghosts?

What if Karazhan isn't being cleaned up by an outside source? What if it is simply being altered because, as a strange tower that overlaps reality, that reality is being changed by the moment? Consider the Timeless Isle: It exists, and then disappears in the blink of an eye. We've suggested that perhaps the Timeless Isle doesn't change at all -- its disappearances are a result of reality changing around it. One moment, reality allows for a Timeless Isle, the next, reality shifts and the island is no longer there. But it always exists. The inhabitants of the Timeless Isle don't suddenly cease to be, then pop back into existence -- they're always there, on the Timeless Isle. It's just whether or not our reality is currently allowing us to see the Isle that is changing.

Karazhan, in a way, seems to be acting in the same way. It came into being because, as Medivh theorized in The Last Guardian, it knew that he was supposed to live in it, some day. It showed those that walked its halls various aspects of their past, present, and future in startlingly realistic visions, because perhaps it knew somehow that those were visions that the residents needed to see. It wasn't a slave to Medivh's existence -- in fact, it allowed Khadgar to see the visions of Medivh's betrayal, paving the way for Medivh's ultimate demise.

The Timeless Isle and Karazhan both represent different versions of the same thing -- a stable moment that exists across all times, all realities. Although the Timeless Isle appears and disappears according to whether or not reality allows it to exist, Karazhan seems to be the opposite. It has always existed. Perhaps it wasn't built, but simply appeared, fully formed, in the version of reality that brought Deadwind Pass into being. Perhaps even before the explosions that created Deadwind Pass came about, Karazhan was still there -- hidden away, inaccessible, but still there. It is a constant in all realities, all dimensions. Perhaps Prince Malchezaar wasn't always able to reach across all dimensions -- it was standing atop the apex of Karazhan that allowed him to do so, from Netherspace.

And if that's actually the case, then perhaps there isn't a mysterious person tidying up Karazhan at all. Reality is simply shifting inside and out, altering the tower itself as a result. There isn't some stranger cleaning up Karazhan and ignoring the ghosts -- there is simply the tower shifting from a reality in which cobwebs were allowed to grow, skeletons were allowed to rot away, to a reality in which the spiders were never there to make the cobwebs. The bodies of those skeletons were never allowed to die. The chairs were never overturned.

In the end of The Last Guardian, Medivh -- some distant version of a future Medivh -- takes the pieces, the memories, the visions, the power of the tower into himself. According to the novel, by the time Medivh finished his task, the tower was nothing more than a tower, with no power contained therein. But Karazhan was never just a tower. And while Medivh may have taken that power, those memories, those visions in one version of reality, other versions existed, continue to exist and persist beyond time. Versions in which eredar Princes were able to invade, versions in which dragons that only existed in Outland were able to suddenly appear in a deserted observatory. Versions in which noble bands of heroic adventurers were able to seek out and put an end to the supposed evils within Karazhan.

And versions in which the tower mysteriously rearranges its reality for an impromptu cleanup. Nothing too major, not just yet. But life breathes anew in Karazhan, and reality is adjusting as a result. Is the tower rearranging itself for Khadgar's move in day, in preparation for his appearance in Warlords? Is it shifting to note that the invasion of Malchezaar, something spurred by the Burning Legion, will never have come to pass in some version of its reality? Is it undoing what might have been -- all the events of The Last Guardian, spurred by the corruption of the orcs, something that will suddenly change in at least one version of reality? Is it quietly undoing the demise of Medivh, former Guardian of Tirisfal? Is our reality in fact about to be effected by Warlords, if not in the massive quantity we'd expected we might experience? We'll see in patch 5.4.2, or possibly in Warlords itself.

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