Because of this odd behavior, players are sent to kill Gearmaster Mechazod -- after all, it wouldn't do to have him turning everyone into robots. But the Gearmaster's words when you encounter him tell a slightly different story:
You were looking for me, child? Why do you come to kill me, <Name>? I only wish to help. Now that I have been reassembled, we can return to a time of perfection... the time of the Titans! But, I can see it in your eyes, hear it in your pulse rate. You would destroy me despite my offer of immortality! Very well. It saddens me that it has come to this. I look upon all of you as if you were my children. I will slay you if I must!
It isn't until reaching the Halls of Stone that players receive the full story behind the Curse of Flesh that Mechazod has been babbling about.
The Curse of Flesh was essentially placed upon Azeroth by the Old Gods with the intent of breaking down the Titan's creations. Once these creatures made of earth, stone and metal were reduced to fleshy form, they could easily be overpowered and destroyed. In other words, the gnomish race was originally a bunch of robots created by Mimiron, which degraded into the gnomes we know today due to the Curse of Flesh.Brann Bronzebeard Right, right! I know that the Earthen were made of stone to shape the deep reaches of the world but what about the anomalies? Matrix non-stabilizing and whatnot.
Abedneum Accessing. In the early stages of its development cycle Azeroth suffered infection by parasitic, necrophotic symbiotes.
Brann Bronzebeard Necro-what? Speak bloody common will ya?
Abedneum Designation: Old Gods. Old Gods rendered all systems, including Earthen defenseless in order to facilitate assimilation. This matrix destabilization has been termed the Curse of Flesh. Effects of destabilization increased over time.
Brann Bronzebeard Old Gods eh? So they zapped the Earthen with this Curse of Flesh. And then what?
Kaddrak Accessing. Creators arrived to extirpate symbiotic infection. Assessment revealed that Old God infestation had grown malignant. Excising parasites would result in loss of host.
Brann Bronzebeard If they killed the Old Gods Azeroth would have been destroyed.
Now step back for a minute and drop all previous connotations you may have had about gnomes, or how much you'd like to punt them. What we have here is a race of beings that were originally robots -- robots created to assist in Azeroth's functionality, by inventing new and efficient ways to keep the world going. These robots were more than likely exceedingly good at making creations, because this was what they were programmed for. This was the sole purpose of their existence, and this was all they knew how to be.
Suddenly a strange disease afflicts these robots -- and their metal bodies, the gears and circuits that make up their brains begins to slowly degrade. Over time, their ability to create spectacular inventions that work flawlessly also begins to degrade. So does their ability to compute and process information, and their ability to do what they'd been designed to do. They have no control over this, and it is nothing that they can cure. As their clockwork brains continue to deteriorate into a fleshy, unstable mass of meat they wander away from Ulduar -- perhaps sent away by Mimiron, or perhaps just getting sick enough that they simply cannot remember their original purpose.
These creatures seek out and create new cities, eerily reminiscent of Ulduar's halls, and begin to create things. There's no reason for them to do it, they don't remember why exactly they are doing so, but it makes sense, somewhere in the back of their brains. Their inventions are sloppy, but mostly functional -- though some have spectacular and unintended side effects. There is no real political system -- whoever is smartest is voted to lead. The creatures of the world around them pay them little attention, so they are content to quietly tinker the days away, undisturbed.
This is the life of a gnome. This is where the gnomes came from. They didn't seek out their origins, rather their origins found them -- and what they discovered is something that would horrify just about anyone. With this information comes the sudden realization that not only were they once robots -- but the fact that their robotic origins, their robotic bodies were in every single way superior to what they have become now.
It is a race of geniuses suddenly discovering that once upon a time, they were super-geniuses, capable of doing far more than their small, mortal, fleshy hands can now create. And these small, fleshy bodies they are confined in suddenly pale in comparison to that awe-inspiring thing that they used to be. Think about that for a minute.
The gnomish race has just discovered that despite the fact that they are without doubt, hands-down the smartest race of living beings on Azeroth, there was once a time in which they were better. They've discovered their own inferiority. Not only that, but they've discovered that they have a higher power, a creator -- something that hadn't even occurred to them. Little wonder they never thought about it, what with their inferior fleshy brains being what they are.
This is why I theorize the gnomes suddenly decided they wanted to follow the path of the Light. Not out of intellectual curiosity, but out of the forlorn desperation of a race of beings coming to the realization that they are not, in fact, the best creatures that they could be. They were a byproduct, a malfunction. In that discovery comes the sudden urge to find out more about these higher beings that were at one point simply fanciful creatures that their allies may or may not have made up. After all, if a gnome can be the product of a higher power, who's to say the humans, dwarves, draenei and naaru don't have the right idea?
In Cataclysm, Mekkatorque finally pulled together enough troops to retake Gnomeregan and establish a new home for the gnomes -- but this does make one wonder. Was his decision made because he'd finally come up with an ingenious plan to take back the place, or was it that in the light of all that they'd discovered, the retaking of Gnomeregan would provide something to revitalize his suddenly downtrodden people? Was it an act of triumphant revenge, or was it a deliberate effort to take the minds of the gnomish race off of the horrible things they'd discovered in Northrend?
It's an intriguing story upon first glance, but upon closer inspection the story of the gnomes is very, very sad -- and it will be interesting to see what happens with the gnomish race as Cataclysm continues. For now, role players can take whichever path they wish when creating new gnomish priests -- the role of the medic who has always been, or the role of the uncertain gnome realizing the depth of what he's lost, and quietly attempting to define a new path in his life.
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.