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.
Once upon a time, godlike creatures of order called Titans landed on a small, unassuming planet named Azeroth and proceeded to reorganize it. After they left, the planet was invaded by malevolent creatures called Old Gods -- creatures of chaos and destruction. The Titans returned to the little planet, horrified at what had happened, and rose up against the Old Gods and their elemental lieutenants in what was the most horrific war the planet had ever seen. But instead of destroying the Old Gods, the Titans were forced to imprison them deep within the planet.
They set safeguards over the fragile world -- draconic aspects to watch over the various domains of life, the earth, magic, time, and nature. They created new guardians to watch over the prisons of the Old Gods. They created a magical font of energy, tied to the Twisting Nether -- the Well of Eternity. And satisfied with their work, the Titans left. No one on the fragile planet has seen them since; they are spoken of in history and in legend, but they've never returned.
Why? Of all the questions in Azeroth, this is the biggest by far. Why did the Titans imprison the Old Gods, instead of starting over from scratch? Common theory suggests they liked the planet too much to re-originate it, yet they left behind safeguards that would do exactly that, if the Old Gods escaped again. So why not simply do so to begin with? Why leave the world as it stood? More importantly -- why are we here?
Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition, meaning the following is a look into what has gone before with pure speculation on why it happened. The events presented are events that happened in Azeroth's history, but the conclusion is simply a theory and shouldn't be taken as fact.
Azeroth was not the be-all and end-all of the Titan's work. For an unfathomable number of years, the Titans reorganized worlds, traveling across the universe and creating worlds of order similar to what they eventually did with Azeroth. The Titans were ruled by the Pantheon, made up of six Titans: Aman'Thul the leader, Eonar the Lifebinder, Norgannon the keeper of magic and secrets, Khaz'goroth the shaper of mountains and earth, Golganneth the thunderer, and Sargeras, guardian and champion of the Pantheon.
Sargeras was the leader of the Titan armies, charged with eliminating any threat to the Titan's plans of universal order. He fought anything that posed a threat to order -- primarily demons native to the Twisting Nether, horrific entities of pure evil. This task was performed for millennia, but as time slowly progressed, something happened to Sargeras. In being exposed to all of this evil, in witnessing its work, Sargeras began to wonder if the Titans' task would ever be completed, and he slipped into despair.
After all, it seemed like no matter where the Titans went, evil was always present. And as he pondered this concept, he came to the realization that perhaps the order the Titans were trying to set to the universe was an act of utmost folly. If the very nature of the universe was chaos, destruction, and evil, then why were the Titans bothering to reorder worlds? Why bother trying to change the nature of the universe? Perhaps the Titans were wrong to try and set the universe in order, if the universe wasn't meant for order to begin with. As he sank further into depression, Sargeras eventually left the Pantheon, overcome with madness and convinced that if the nature of the universe was chaotic and evil, that was what he should spread -- not order. Not peace.
In his madness, Sargeras surmised that the very cause of evil in the universe was the Titans themselves. They were deliberately trying to change the nature of existence, and for doing so, the universe was rising up against them, creating demons and other evil entities in order to stop them from changing what was meant to be. Sargeras sought out those demons, many of which he'd imprisoned himself -- sought them out and brought them together into a great army known as the Burning Legion.
But these demons weren't intelligent enough to run an army. So Sargeras sought out intelligent creatures that could be swayed to join his purpose and run things, creatures intelligent enough to understand tactics, cunning, and power. He found those leaders on a remote planet called Argus, in a race known as the eredar. Two of the three leaders of Argus agreed to serve him -- Kil'jaeden and Archimonde. The third leader, Velen, declined his offer, an act that infuriated his fellow leaders.
Velen had had a vision, granted by the naaru K'ure, that told him of Sargeras' ultimate plans. Rather than ally himself with evil, Velen joined with the naaru, and his people became servants of the Light, directly opposed to the Burning Legion and all it stood for. Velen and his people fled, eventually renaming themselves draenei, or "exiled ones."
Meanwhile, the Titans of the Pantheon chose a successor for Sargeras, one of his former lieutenants called Aggramar. While the Titans were saddened at Sargeras' departure, they continued on with their mission -- creating order within worlds. And one of the worlds they encountered after Sargeras' departure was Azeroth.
It is history ... A history of Silithus ... of Ahn'Qiraj ... of Titans and Old Gods ... I read from the Prophecy of C'Thun as written by the Qiraji Prophet Skeram. A prophecy that portends a cataclysm ...
In the time before time, when the world was still in its infancy, a battle between a Titan and a being of unimaginable evil and power raged on this very soil. The prophecy is unclear about whether or not the Titan was vanquished in this battle but it illustrates that a Titan fell. An Old God had also fallen -- or so it was thought.
-- The Prophecy of C'Thun
The Titans' return to Azeroth resulted in a war between the Titans and the Old Gods -- a war between order and chaos. To date, the only known recorded death of a Titan exists in historical recounts of this war. A nameless Titan had fallen at the hands of an Old God, although it appeared the Old God had fallen as well. This was proven incorrect thousands of years later when C'thun arose and fought against the night elves in the first war of Ahn'Qiraj.
The Titans did manage to get the upper hand in the war with the Old Gods, but they discovered that the Old Gods had integrated themselves so closely with Azeroth that the world and the Old Gods' fate were forever intertwined. If the Old Gods were destroyed, so too would Azeroth cease to exist. Rather than re-originate the world, the Titans put in safeguards -- the Aspects, the titanic watchers, the strongholds of Uldum, Ulduar and Uldaman -- and created the Well of Eternity.
Now, most everything on that list makes sense. The Aspects would watch over the various areas that the Titans themselves specialized in. The strongholds were made to hold history, to hold the Old Gods, and in the event of an uprising of the Old Gods, to trigger a re-origination of the planet. Yet it's the third action the Titans took that continues to confuse me, and that's where the theorizing starts. Why create the Well of Eternity? Why create a font of unimaginable power on a planet infested by Old Gods?
Look at what happened with the Well of Eternity -- the night elves discovered it or were perhaps created from it. After an undetermined amount of time, the night elves began using the Well in ways that the Titans surely didn't intend. This reckless use of magic attracted the attention of Sargeras, Dark Titan and leader of the Burning Legion. It's because of the Well's presence that the Burning Legion was ever drawn to Azeroth. So why create it?
Because the Titans wanted Sargeras to come to Azeroth.
We are not a planet of heroes, of super-intelligent creatures brought to life by benevolent beings that only wished our eventual success. What we are is the Titans' version of biological warfare, a planet of tiny, unassuming creatures that have been created, ordered, and bred to defeat the greatest evil that has ever threatened the universe -- the Burning Legion and more importantly, its leader, Sargeras.
There was a reason the Titans didn't simply re-originate Azeroth, and it lies within the Prophecy of C'thun. The only recorded instance of Titanic death is by the hands of an Old God. Wouldn't it make sense then, that the only creature capable of destroying Sargeras, a former Titan, would be either an Old God or the world of heroes that managed to figure out a way to defeat that Old God? And what better way to take the former Titan by surprise than to continue on with their task -- organizing worlds -- while creating one, perhaps two worlds with a purpose other than simple order? Sargeras would never suspect it.
There was a reason the Titans created the Well of Eternity and left it on the inconspicuous planet: to eventually attract the attention of Sargeras. We were meant to fight the War of the Ancients; it was the beginning of our training. By defeating the agents of the Burning Legion, we began to understand the enemy and better prepare ourselves for future conflicts.
And those conflicts just kept coming. Over the course of Azeroth's history, the Burning Legion would rise up time and time again. And each time, we pushed them back. It wasn't a total victory, but it was a way to silently train us, to teach us how to fight back. We created the Council of Tirisfal, the Guardian, and we found a way to destroy the Dark Portal. We fought the armies of the Burning Legion, orcs from another world altogether, and beat them. We not only beat them, they settled on Azeroth and joined the fight against the Burning Legion as well.
During the Third War, the Alliance took the hands of their enemies and allied with the Horde in order to defeat one of Sargeras' lieutenants. Later, in Outland, they did the same to defeat Kil'jaeden. Neither eredar was wiped from existence; they were merely pushed back to the Twisting Nether. Every instance that the Burning Legion rose against Azeroth, the planet responded by pushing them back. Every single time.
And in between these struggles with the Burning Legion, the citizens of Azeroth have slowly become aware of the existence of the Old Gods. The odd penchant of the dwarves for digging up historical information revealed more about the Old Gods than we'd ever contemplated before -- that the Old Gods were tied to Azeroth, and the destruction of the Old Gods meant Azeroth's destruction as well.
Yet despite this information, we continued to prevail against these enemies. Allies of the Old Gods were brought down in Silithus. In Northrend, we fought tooth and nail against Nerubians that had allied with Yogg-Saron. And when push came to shove and it was discovered that a titanic watcher, Loken, had fallen to the will of the Old Gods, we destroyed him. That destruction sent a signal to the Titans, and their response was Algalon the Observer.
Algalon's purpose seemed cut and dry -- he was sent to examine the world, detect any Old God activity, and in the event of corruption, the planet was to be re-originated. But the same thing could have been done countless thousands of years before, when the Titans first discovered the Old Gods' influence, and how they had integrated with Azeroth's structure. So why wait until now?
Perhaps Algalon's purpose wasn't to destroy Azeroth. Perhaps his purpose was to determine what, exactly, had happened with the denizens of the planet, the tiny weapons the Titans had planted on Azeroth so many millennia before. Algalon's reaction after his defeat seems to suggest that we've accomplished far more in much shorter time than the Titans had ever expected us to do:
I have seen worlds bathed in the Makers' flames. Their denizens fading without so much as a whimper. Entire planetary systems born and raised in the time that it takes your mortal hearts to beat once. Yet all throughout, my own heart, devoid of emotion... of empathy. I... have... felt... NOTHING! A million, million lives wasted. Had they all held within them your tenacity? Had they all loved life as you do?
Perhaps it is your imperfection that which grants you free will. That allows you to persevere against cosmically calculated odds. You prevailed where the Titans' own perfect creations have failed.
Algalon remained behind on Azeroth, supposedly to observe and understand what makes Azeroth so different from other Titanic worlds. But perhaps he remained behind for a different reason -- to watch us, observe us, and report back to the Titans. To let them know that their creations on Azeroth had grown stronger than originally anticipated. That the Old Gods, creatures responsible for the death of Titans, were being defeated -- slowly, not without struggle, but still being defeated.
Will we see the Titans come to Azeroth? Perhaps, some day. But I am beginning to doubt that the Titans will appear just in time to rescue us from the Old Gods. It may very well be that when the Titans appear, it will be to ask for our help, to ask for our aid in defeating the one creature that poses the largest threat to the universe -- Sargeras.
And it may very well be that we're the only creatures in the universe capable of destroying him.
For more information on related subjects, please look at these other Know Your Lore entries:
- Yogg Saron
- The Council of Tirisfal and the last Guardian
- The Eternals: The Titans
- The Old Horde
- The Third War, part one and part two
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.