Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The Black Prince

Anne Stickney
A. Stickney|02.17.14

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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The Black Prince
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.

Wrathion, the last black dragon -- to his knowledge -- on the entirety of Azeroth has been a puzzle from the moment his egg was created. His immediate response upon hatching was a vicious, calculated attack on his own flight via the use of assassins, which resulted in the nigh-extinction of the black dragonflight. And after completing that mission, he curiously chose, instead of going somewhere to be left alone as he stated he wanted, to go to Pandaria -- where he began an even curiouser journey that players were quickly swept into upon reaching level 90.

Wrathion's travels in Pandaria, his sudden gaining of a multitude of Blacktalon Agents, even the spot in which he chose to make his temporary home are all increasingly questionable, especially given what little we know about Wrathion himself. He gives us a grand, magnanimous story about how he's looking out for the world because he's seen visions of the Burning Legion coming to call, and of our world's destruction.

But he also said he was firmly on the side of the Horde, or the side of the Alliance, then swapped sides as efficiently as possible when it was convenient. In other words, Wrathion lies. He lies all the time. So the question we should be asking here is whether Wrathion has been giving us the real truth at all -- and what is the truth behind Wrathion's puzzling journey?

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation and history based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.


In order to pick apart what Wrathion is up to, we have to go back to the beginning -- which thankfully, we were present for, if you've played through the quests in the Badlands. Wrathion wasn't an ordinary dragon. He is actually the compilation of three different dragons -- the purified corpse of a black whelp, a wild black dragon egg, and an egg from his "mother," Nyxondra. In the quest that results in his creation, a strange artifact called the Eye of the Watchers examined each object, identified the source of the anomaly -- an Old God -- and excised the anomaly. After doing so, it combined the purified remnants into one egg, complete with baby dragon waiting to be hatched.

In other words, while Deathwing might be considered Wrathion's father, and Nyxondra his mother, that really isn't the case at all. The wild dragon egg, the dead whelp, both may have had completely different sets of parents. Wrathion's only real, true "parent" is the Eye of the Watchers itself -- without the artifact, he never would have come into existence. But a baby born from a purification process that involves Titan artifacts isn't going to be your normal, average, run-of-the-mill baby. Even before Wrathion was hatched, he was planning, plotting, scheming his escape.

Once he was rescued by the rogues of Ravenholdt Manor, he quickly set to work. Certainly he wasn't old enough or strong enough to carry out the task he wanted fulfilled himself -- but there were plenty of assassins that were willing to take on that task for him. One by one, he systematically wiped out the entirety of his own dragonflight, up to and including Deathwing himself. With the task complete, he headed to Pandaria -- from there, to set players on a dizzying journey to prove their worth and presumably try and hasten the process of the war between Alliance and Horde. Why? So that we would be prepared when the Burning Legion inevitably attacked.

Or at least, that's what he decided to tell us.

Stories and deeds

But let's look at the difference between what Wrathion is saying, and what he's actually doing in Pandaria. He says he has had a disturbing vision in which Azeroth is consumed by darkness, accompanied by a full-on illustration of Azeroth itself being attacked by green fire raining from the sky, consumed by flame and ultimately destroyed. He says that a divided Azeroth cannot rightly stand against the coming onslaught of darkness, so the war must be ended soon, before it consumes too many resources, too much strength. When the Siege of Orgrimmar is over, he throws a fit that the Alliance did not crush the Horde entirely when it had the chance. He says he will stop at nothing to prepare the world for the battle to come, and next time, he will leave nothing to chance.

What he does, however, tells a different story. All around Pandaria, Blacktalon Agents are making their way from village to village, keeping their ears and eyes open for Wrathion -- who has chosen to make his temporary home at the foot of the Terrace of Endless Spring, a sacred refuge said to contain waters with the power to heal and rejuvenate. Unusual survey teams are sent to the Valley of the Four Winds, and to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, presumably to check out the water at both locations. In the Valley, Zazzo Twinklefingers makes note of the water's unusual properties:
Zazzo Twinklefingers says: How very strange. I wouldn't call these waters enchanted, but there's a faint residual energy.
Zazzo Twinklefingers says: It's similar to a pattern I once noted in Sholazar Basin.
In the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, Zazzo is nowhere to be found. Instead, a survey team looks at the water at the foot of Mogu'shan Palace, and quietly keeps up a running commentary with each other while they're at it. "Do you think the Pandaren realized what they were sitting on here?" "Maybe they've known all along, Maybe that's why they've stayed hidden."

Sholazar Basin, much like Un'goro Crater, is believed to be one of the testing grounds of the Titans -- a place where they routinely created and tested new forms of life. That's why both areas are so green and lush, despite being surrounded by bleak landscapes on all sides -- in Un'goro, the crater is surrounded by the deserts of Tanaris, Uldum, and Silithus. In Sholazar, the basin is surrounded by Borean Tundra to the south, Icecrown to the north, and a high, jagged cliff face to the east. Nothing that would cultivate or nurture life, certainly. But life is there -- and so is water, the same water that runs through the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and into the Valley of the Four Winds.

Why would someone so theoretically embroiled in the conflict between Alliance and Horde, so invested in the idea of preventing the destruction of our world, be so clearly obsessed with the waters of Pandaria? But that's not the only thing Wrathion's been after. Not by a long shot.


In patch 5.0, Wrathion has us run around and collect pieces of power and wisdom from the mogu of Mogu'shan Vaults and the Klaxxi in the Heart of Fear -- presumably to prove ourselves to Wrathion, and to provide him with the means necessary to reward us. After that, we're sent to the Terrace of Endless Spring to obtain a Chimera of Fear from the Sha of Fear. Coincidentally, killing the Sha should theoretically fix the corruption of the waters in the Terrace as well. In patch 5.1, Wrathion abruptly switches course to setting the Alliance and Horde against each other in the Krasarang Wilds -- presumably to weed out those that are too weak to fight in that upcoming huge battle with the Burning Legion.

But in patch 5.2, Wrathion's journey takes an entirely different direction. He has players collect Secrets of the Empire -- stone tablets detailing the origins of the earliest mogu empire. And then he makes a journey to the Isle of Thunder himself, to activate the Thunder Forge with the assistance of players and create an item used, once again, to reward the player. The fact that he's learning about the Titan origins of the mogu and messing with Titan technology isn't really touched on. However, the Titan Runestones later gathered reveal what Wrathion almost certainly already knew -- that yes, the waters of the Vale were indeed used in the same way as those in Un'goro and Sholazar.

And then he discovers the first mention of Y'shaarj -- the Old God whose spirit haunts Pandaria in the form of the sha. After learning everything he needs to know, he sends players to kill Lei Shen, the Thunder King, and bring back his heart as proof of the deed's completion -- and then promptly eats the heart.

We still don't know exactly what it was Wrathion was seeing during that strange vision. But the rest of our quests as players are fairly straightforward -- the blessings of the Celestials are obtained. The Timeless Isle is discovered, and Wrathion finds a way, with the help of the Celestials, to further augment the reward he has given players, then sends them on one final mission -- to kill Garrosh Hellscream. Once that quest is completed, players are treated to a tantrum of draconic fury as Wrathion plainly states that he was trying to get the Alliance to completely crush and absorb the Horde. And then he flies off, irritated and in search of a way to prepare the world for the battle to come.

Except that may very well be a giant load of bunk that Wrathion has been feeding us, all this time. Think about it -- why, if Wrathion were so interested in the waters of the Vale, so curious about their origin, would he ever let Garrosh Hellscream gain access to the heart of Y'shaarj in the first place? He has a veritable army of Blacktalon Agents and players at his command at that point. Why didn't he stop Hellscream from ruining the Vale?

Child of the titans

Consider this: Everything that Wrathion has been telling us to this date has been an absolute and utter lie. He didn't come to Pandaria because of some curious, strange, volatile vision in his head. He came because the mists surrounding Pandaria fell, and he could sense the waters of the Vale -- the same waters as Un'goro, Sholazar, the waters of creation itself. Waters used by the Titans, long ago, to create and engineer life -- in the same way that his own unique, bizarre life was created and engineered by the Eye of the Watchers.

Wrathion was composed of three purified remnants of black dragons -- two eggs and a dead black whelp that were purged of the Old God's corruption. His first act out of the shell? To purge the rest of the corrupted black dragonflight from the face of the planet. Once that was complete, he traveled to Pandaria to investigate those waters thoroughly -- and even though he seemed keenly interested in what those waters were, he let Hellscream corrupt them utterly. Why would he do that? Why would he actively try and ruin what he was so keen on observing?

Because he's not observing. He's experimenting. He is an experiment, all on his own -- one could even argue if he could really be considered a dragon in the first place. He was created as a result of purification -- and so he has decided, perhaps even in the shell itself, that purification is the name of the game. He's not protecting Azeroth, he's on a systematic mission to purify it. To excise the Old Gods, one way or another. First by getting rid of the Black Dragonflight, second by testing those of us that have been born, grown and died on Azeroth, each of us holding a link to that Old God corruption. He's not rewarding us for carrying out his plans -- he's watching us, observing, seeing if we are as corrupt as the black dragonflight was. And make no mistake, if we somehow ended up being judged in that fashion, he would not hesitate to begin a mission to wipe all of us out, as well.

Proving your worth

Wrathion isn't on some altruistic mission to protect all life on Azeroth from some Burning Legion invasion. Azeroth's problems lie much, much deeper than an invasion from an outlying source -- they begin with the very nature of the planet itself. The Blacktalon Agent that accompanied Zazzo Twinklefingers on his mission in the Valley of the Four Winds said it plainly, "He is creating a new world for us." What does this new world look like? One that is free from corruption. It's entirely possible that Wrathion knew Y'shaarj's heart was in the Vale -- that might be what the surveyors were talking about all along. Not the Vale, not the waters at the foot of Mogu'shan Palace, but the Old God's heart hidden beneath it all. He let Hellscream use the heart of Y'shaarj to corrupt the Vale because he wanted to see what would happen after it had been done. He wanted to see if we, as mortals of Azeroth, would be able to excise that corruption -- and we did, when we bested Immersus in the Siege of Orgrimmar.

He wanted to see if we could do what supposedly had never been done -- kill and utterly wipe out an Old God, without destroying Azeroth itself. And we did that, in the Siege of Orgrimmar. It played out in the cutscene after the Siege -- we removed the sha. We finished what the Titans could not do, and defeated Y'shaarj in such a way that it will never again be a threat. The Old God is gone -- and not even his spirit remains. So why was Wrathion so angry after the end of the Siege, when Garrosh Hellscream was caught, but not killed?

Because that demonstrated what, in Wrathion's eyes, was a moment of weakness. When push came to shove, we could not coldly destroy with no thought of our morals, of honor. We may be capable of excising an Old God from the face of the planet, but we're still not strong enough, in Wrathion's eyes, to act coldly, intelligently, logically, to remorselessly kill for some unknown "greater good." And that leaves us still open and vulnerable to the Old Gods. They are creatures that prey and feed on our weaknesses, on our emotions. If we cannot withstand our own weaknesses, we cannot withstand the weaknesses the Old Gods subtly feed to us in an attempt to undermine our strength.

But what about the Burning Legion? Where does this all come into play -- is Wrathion telling the truth about a Legion attack? Or is he simply trying to prey on our fears and spur us into action? Next week, we'll take a look at the Titans, Sargeras, Azeroth, and how the fate of our world, and possibly even the universe itself, may lie squarely in the claws of a two-year-old dragon.

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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