Know Your Lore: Warlords, timelines, and the Bronze Dragonflight

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.

Many of the questions that have had players mystified since Warlords of Draenor was introduced last year at BlizzCon surrounded Draenor itself. How did it appear? Why is it different? Why don't the events that occur on Draenor have any kind of bearing on what's going on with Azeroth? If Draenor is an alternate Draenor, is there an alternate Azeroth as well? Does this mean there are duplicate lore characters? Will we see two Thralls, two Velens, two versions of Garrosh? And as the year has slowly marched on, that question has been answered in bits and pieces, but never with enough clarity to really set people's minds at ease.

When the Warlords of Draenor beta was released, it became immediately clear to anyone that knew the history of Warcraft that this Draenor, the one on which we are going to be building garrisons, amassing armies, and defeating the Iron Horde, is not and never was the Draenor we were already familiar with. It's an entirely different planet. We've been using the term "alternate universe" in reference to Draenor because seems the best term to encompass the concept of this strange world. With the release of the short story Hellscream, it has finally been made clear just what is going on with Draenor -- and it has nothing to do with Garrosh's trip, and everything to do with the Bronze Dragonflight.

Please note: The following Know Your Lore contains several spoilers for Warlords of Draenor as well as the short story Hellscream.


In the beginning, when the dragonflights were first created, each Aspect was given dominion of one particular part of Azeroth. Of all of the Aspects, it was Nozdormu who was given by far the most difficult task -- guarding time itself, and policing the pathways of fate and destiny. Over the course of his tenure as warden of time, Nozdormu has had to deal with a variety of mind-boggling and increasingly complex scenarios in which he himself became leader of the Infinite Dragonflight, a flight consumed with altering the paths of time in one fashion or another, for a purpose unknown to us mere mortals.

What does this have to do with Draenor? Everything. Draenor's fate is irrevocably tied to our own. It always has been, it always will be. But more importantly, Azeroth was not the Titan's first project. They had shaped many, many worlds, each unique in its own way, but each world had a connecting thread -- time. When Aman'Thul, Highfather of the Pantheon gave Nozdormu his task, he made certain to impart that information, and his words can be found in the novel Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects.

Unto you is charged the great task of keeping the purity of time. Know that there is only one true timeline, though there are those who would have it otherwise. You must protect it. Without the truth of time as it is meant to unfold, more will be lost than you can possibly imagine. The fabric of reality will unravel. It is a heavy task--the base of all tasks of this world, for nothing can transpire without time.

There is only one "true" timeline. Not just on Azeroth, in the entire universe. Do alternate timelines exist? Yes. And they present a threat to that one true timeline every day. It was possible, in Twilight of the Aspects, for characters to jump from one broken timeline to another. It was possible for Thrall to land in a world in which Taretha Foxton was still very much alive, albeit a very different version of Taretha who at first was going to sell Thrall into slavery. It was possible for Aedelas Blackmoore, now self-proclaimed ruler of Lordaeron, to leap into our own timeline to attempt to kill Thrall once and for all.

These people existed, they lived full lives -- some horrible, some triumphant -- the entire scope of their existence played out in a timeline of their very own. But those timelines weren't the correct, true path. They were never meant to be. And the common thread between them all is the bronze dragonflight, who possessed the power to traverse those infinite, fractured timeways and make sure that the events that transpire on those worlds never happen on our own. That's what Nozdormu was supposed to accomplish, what he and his flight were asked to do.


Nozdormu was given the knowledge of his own demise, when he was given the power to traverse those myriad pathways. Why? To keep the dragon well aware of the knowledge that even he, too, would eventually pass from existence. That even though he was given this great power, that power could not prevent the moment of his demise -- all things must begin and end. All things must play out, one way or another. And he completely understands that the true timeline must be preserved, because he possesses the ability to see exactly what occurs when that timeline isn't maintained.

Yet in one of these fractured timelines, Nozdormu listened to the whispers of the Old Gods and became Murozond, spawning the Infinite Dragonflight. The Infinite Dragonflight were on a mission to change the fate of the world and destroy the true timeway -- our timeway -- by destroying Thrall. The Black Morass, Durnholde Keep, both were attempts to keep Thrall and the new Horde from ever coming into play. If Thrall existed, he would eventually wield the Dragon Soul and prevent the Hour of Twilight from coming to pass. The Old Gods wanted to make sure the Hour of Twilight happened -- it was the hour of their victory over Azeroth.

In the end, we prevailed -- we destroyed Murozond in that fractured timeway, we made sure the Hour of Twilight was thwarted, and we theoretically wiped the Infinite dragonflight from existence. Only ... we didn't do suddenly "uncreate" the Infinite dragonflight, because we can't. Because there are infinite timeways, and each timeway has a infinite number of differences to that one true timeline -- some small, like blades of grass. Some much larger, like a timeway in which Garrosh Hellscream had never been born.

But the defeat of Deathwing also expended the last of the Aspects powers. With Deathwing's defeat, Nozdormu lost the control he had over the timeways. All that work he had done to keep the true timeline in place and preserved, that work is now in mortal hands. The Timewalkers, found on the Timeless Isle, are a united group of mortals and bronze dragons both, dedicated to fulfilling that task and keeping the true timeline pure and intact.


Only there's one small problem with that particular task: without the great powers that Nozdormu possessed, the bronze dragons now have no way to see through the myriad timeways. They can catch glimpses, but that's all. This is why Kairoz traveled to the Timeless Isle -- with its strange properties, he hoped to create a way in which the bronze dragons could once again see through the different timeways, the better to influence them and protect the true timeline. The Timeless Isle is unique in that it shifts in and out of existence, in and out of timeways. Sometimes it's in the true timeline -- our own -- and sometimes it's in a different one altogether. This rapid passage through multiple timeways has created the Epoch Stones that Kairoz sends us to collect.

With these stones, Kairoz hoped to create something similar to the sands of time that were lost when Nozdormu expended his powers. And he succeeded, to a degreee. He managed to make a device, the Vision of Time, that would allow brief glimpses of various alternate timeways. Timeways in which Garrosh Hellscream succeeded in the Siege of Orgrimmar. Timeways in which Soridomi, prime consort of Nozdormu, was brutally murdered. Did these events come to pass? No -- because they weren't the true timeline. They were merely alternate timeways.

That Vision of Time worked, however. It allowed us to see various points in the past, and it was successfully used during the trial of Garrosh Hellscream in War Crimes to pinpoint and highlight various moments from history. It wasn't until the end of the trial that Kairoz began to tinker with the Vision of Time and reveal what he'd really been working on all along: a plan to free Garrosh Hellscream. The Vision of Time wasn't just capable of seeing into fractured timeways, it was also capable of opening them and allowing passage between them, just as the Timeless Isle slips between various versions of time. It allowed alternate versions of those attending the trial to break through, caused mass chaos ... and it allowed both Kairoz and Garrosh to slip through time itself and escape.


In Warlords of Draenor, we are traveling to an alternate universe in which the events that played out on Draenor happened differently, much like that strange alternate universe in Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects, where Blackmoore is king of Lordaeron. It's a timeway that was never meant to be, never meant to influence our own. It's a version of history that never should have come to pass -- but it exists, because all of these fractured and different timeways exist, simultaneously. The difference is, and has always been, that there is only one true timeline. There is only one true way that history is supposed to fall into place.

Kairoz crossed that line and brought Garrosh to Draenor, with what might have been noble intentions. He wanted Garrosh to create a new Horde, a stronger Horde, one free of the Burning Legion's control. Once that Horde was created, they could find a way to bring it back to Azeroth, to the true timeline, and have an army sufficiently massive enough to defeat the Burning Legion ... in theory, anyway. But Kairoz wouldn't be content with just one army. He wanted to continue jumping to alternate timeways, to create infinite Hordes from infinite shattered paths.

Garrosh Hellscream never gave him the chance to do so.

Was Kairoz working with the best intentions of Azeroth in mind? To a degree. He was associated with a faction of bronze dragons that Chromie briefly mentioned in War Crimes. This splinter group of bronze dragons believed that now that their task was over, they should use what power they had remaining to change history, to create a better future for the world. In a way, it's what the Infinite Dragonflight were trying to do -- only for a different purpose. The Infinite wished to change history and guarantee the Hour of Twilight's success. These bronze dragons don't want to bring about the Hour of Twilight, they simply want to bring about a "better future" -- but as Chromie points out, without the ability to see through history, to see through the myriad paths of time, there is no real way to discern what a "better future" might be.

Shattered glass

That's where we stand with Warlords of Draenor. Draenor itself is an alternate universe of sorts. It's one of those myriad offshoot timeways that were never meant to be. Some things are still the same, some things are very, very different. This particular timeway was chosen specifically by Kairoz because the events that occur on this path are set up in such a way that it should, theoretically, be dead easy for Garrosh Hellscream to infiltrate the Horde, change the fate of the orcish race and rally an army that can then travel to Azeroth. In other words, it was the worst possible timeway to drag Garrosh into, because the deck was pretty much stacked for Garrosh's success. That's great for Garrosh, not so much for us.

Kairoz, of course, didn't know that Garrosh would betray him. He didn't think that Garrosh would turn on him, and he certainly didn't expect Garrosh to flat out murder him. His motives were his own -- in a perfect world, Kairoz would have helped Garrosh amass that army, and then found a way back to the true timeline, bringing Garrosh and the Horde with him. A massive army that could theoretically turn the tide when the Burning Legion brings the battle back to Azeroth as Wrathion saw in his visions at the beginning of Mists.

The problem with Kairoz's plan is that it all relied on the obedience of Garrosh Hellscream to work. Garrosh may be many things, but he is not and will never be beholden to another. He answers to no one. And with his influence, he intends to make sure the scattered orc clans of Draenor will unite, avoid their fate with the Burning Legion, and conquer. First Azeroth, in the true timeline, and from there ... who knows?

And maybe that is the ultimate dilemma of Warlords of Draenor. Certainly we'd like to help out the denizens of this world, but it is a world that was never really meant to be in the first place. Does it matter, ultimately, who we save, who we help while we are there? Yes, actually, it does -- because even if the people of Draenor were never meant to be, even if their fates were never meant to collide with our own, we still need their help to end the Iron Horde and set things right. We need, more than anything, to set things right. We need to keep the Iron Horde from crossing over to the true timeline. We need to keep the true timeline pure.

Because this is the Age of Mortals, now. This is our job -- to protect our world, just as the Aspects did before us. Whether it be from Old Gods, Burning Legion, or the shattered paths of time that were never meant to be.

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.