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Know Your Lore: The Old Gods, part four -- their dread shadow

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.

To date we've discussed C'Thun and Yogg-Saron, the Old Gods that have to date made an appearance in the game. But they're far from the only Old Gods on Azeroth, and the Old Gods on Azeroth are far from the only Old Gods in the entire Warcraft universe. As we discussed before, the Old Gods are a universal phenomenon, spreading chaos and destruction wherever they go, whether they're being summoned into Outland's Shadowmoon Valley or having their servitors corrupt the former prison wing of the naaru vessel Tempest Keep.

So far in the Cataclysm beta, we've seen the Twilight's Hammer more or less in full on "Let's bring the Old Gods back!" mode. They're running excavations in Darkshore and the Twilight Higlands, their camps have sprung up on the shores of Thousand Needles' new submerged environment, and entities like Soggoth and Isorath have been discovered. (Until I hear differently, I'm still assuming that Isorath is an actual Old God, because if not man, that's one really big mess of tentacles for a servitor.) But these are far from the only potential places where the Old Gods' presence can be felt.


While not an Old God itself, Soggoth the Slitherer is clearly meant as a major threat to all life on Azeroth, an entity perhaps on the scale of a General Vezax or Rajaxx (perhaps even more potent;he's clearly larger than either of them) that even when only partially resurrected, required the aid of a veritable army of Ancients (the tree ones) to defeat. As we discover through questing in and around his resting place in the Master's Glaive region of Darkshore, Soggoth at his full power defeated an army of over 20 of the Titans' greatest stone giant champions and was only rendered into his current state because one of them accepted destruction in order to be lifted close enough to bury a huge Titan-crafted sword in its head.

Soggoth shares a similar form to Vezax and the faceless ones, a massive tentacled head and a loathsome, shambling body. Where he comes from is as unknown as Vezax, although we may assume that much as Rajaxx in Ahn'Qiraj, both Vezax and Soggoth may have been shaped by one or many Old Gods to serve as a leader of unfathomable armies. It's interesting to note that despite its being stated that C'Thun is directly responsible for the creation of the aqir, qiraji and nerubians, that Harbinger Skyriss in the Arcatraz seems to serve a different group of Old Gods entirely. This suggests that the Old Gods either share information or work from a common pool of corruptive techniques in the creation of their servitors, working with whatever materials come to hand. This itself suggests that Soggoth may be the ultimate outcome of the Curse of Flesh and that its techniques may well have been used elsewhere in the cosmos, perhaps on many different worlds.

Back on Azeroth, any list of potential regions that may or may not have felt the grasping clutch of their dread shadow on Azeroth must include the Tirisfal Glades. Why the Tirisfal Glades? There are no huge tentacled maws or half-buried giant heads with swords in them anywhere around there. No, that's very true. What there is, however, is an interesting story of what happened when the ancestors of the modern blood elves arrived on the shores of the Eastern Kingdoms.

The Warcraft Encyclopedia - High Elves
Many of the elves died from exposure or starvation during their long journey. In addition to these hardships, the elves were forced to flee the site of their first settlement, Tirisfal Glades, due to a mysterious evil influence that drove many of their number mad.


While this tantalizing hint of a submerged evil driving the high elves under Dath'Remar Sunstrider to flee the glades is interesting, it's hardly the only instance of a force connected to the Old Gods wreaking havoc and madness on the minds of mortals. One cannot ignore the possible connection to Hakkar the Soulflayer and the Emerald Nightmare. While we've seen a resolution of sorts of the Emerald Nightmare (certainly it is at the moment a far less pressing threat than, say, a crazy dragon aspect), we must note that it was in Hakkar's prison in the Sunken Temple that Eranikus first fell to its corruption, and that Ysera's consort was only cleansed after another four dragons from the green flight fell to it as well. (It may also be worthwhile to note that Hakkar itself has often been rumored to be connected in some way to the Old Gods.) It's also clear that the Nightmare Lord himself was merely a pawn.

Waking Legends
Malfurion Stormrage: I fear for the worst, old friend. Within the Dream we fight a new foe, born of an ancient evil. Ysera's ancient brood has fallen victim to the old whisperings. It seems as though the Nightmare has broken through the realm and seeks a new host on Azeroth.


The old whisperings are of course the same old whisperings that drove Deathwing himself mad, the siren call of the Old Gods. While we know almost nothing about Isorath besides its name and impressive size, we do know that the Twilight Highlands are a place where the barriers between Azeroth and the Elemental Plane are thin and reality itself twists. Whatever Isorath is, it is fully a part of this twisted and fractured place and it is just one sign that the influence of the Old Gods permeates the land, rotting and corrupting it wherever possible.

In the end, the reach of the Old Gods far exceeds their grasp. They defile dreams, drive minds to madness and always lurk, submerged, beneath the paltry skin of the world to rip everything we believe we know asunder.

Next week, we take a break from cosmic malevolence and take a look at the lost heroes of the Alliance Expedition.

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.com's Guide to Warcraft Lore.

Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore, Cataclysm

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