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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: Infinite Paths and the rise of Murozond

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.

The past week, both Anne and myself have been discussing major lore figures of the Well of Eternity heroic 5-man, Queen Azshara and Illidan Stormrage. This week, however, I wanted to talk about something a little different, namely the nature of how we're going to meet those two figures in the distant past -- why we go there, how we go there, what "there" actually is, and what it means. This KYL is about time, time travel, and the Bronze and Infinite Dragonflights, about Nozdormu and Murozond, and about how you destroyed time.

This KYL is so chock-full of spoilers for the novel Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects and the patch 4.3 heroics that if you read any further, you may well go mad. Or just get mad, I guess. It's also a THE, or Tinfoil Hat Edition, which means it's loaded with speculation. Take it with a grain of hourglass sand.
Once out of time, I shall never take my bodily form from any timely thing.

Yes, I meant that statement above. You destroyed time. You brought about the rise of Murozond and the Infinites. You, doing your best to fix an intolerable situation, helped close a loop tens of thousands of years in the making. You did what you had to do, step by step. With the collusion of those who were supposed to be time's guardians, you pried away at the facade until the presumed orderly progression of time came crashing down around the ears of the Aspect of Time.

We have to start with a simple premise: History as it has been revealed in game has been altered, not once, but many times. There is no longer anything like an original time line to preserve, thanks to the machinations of Murozond and the Infinite Dragonflight. In the book Thrall, Twilight of the Aspects it is revealed that Nozdormu, driven mad by the knowledge of his future death, will at some point be goaded by the Old Gods themselves into attempting to evade that foreknown death, and in so doing will shatter time itself. This act inverts Nozdormu, creates both the twisted future reflection of the Aspect of Time we come to know as Murozond and the Infinite Dragonflight, and causes time itself to be come unfixed. In breaking the timeways, Nozdormu/Murozond creates many alternates that exist and can be collapsed back into the primary time line.

The question becomes which timeline is that, and furthermore, what happens to it when shattered timeways are collapsed into it? This is hardly just an academic exercise, as we have repeatedly traveled to their timeways to attempt to prevent them from being broken further -- fighting alongside Medivh in the Black Morass, escorting Thrall from his captivity in Durnholde Keep, taking part in the Culling of Stratholme and Archimonde's attack upon Nordrassil in Mount Hyjal.

The most recent attempt to alter history, however, isn't the Infinite Dragonflight at all. Rather, it's the Bronze under the modern Nozdormu that leads mortal heroes to face Murozond and his Infinites at the dead end of time in a confrontation with Murozond that Nozdormu witnesses. Therefore, since we are told by Nozdormu himself that he will become Murozond and be so destroyed by the very people he sees do so, we now know exactly how Nozdormu goes insane and breaks the time line. He does so because he witnesses his own death -- indeed causes it -- and yet cannot prevent it even when he experiences it as Murozond.

The Road to Murozond: Paved with Nozdormu's good intention

What do all those temporal incursions the Infinite Dragonflight made have in common? You. It was always you. The Infinites weren't trying to stop Medivh from bringing the orcs to Azeroth. How would that have prevented Murozond's death? They were trying to kill you.

Murozond knows that Nozdormu is going to bring a party of powerful mortal heroes to beard him in his very lair at the end of time, because he remembers doing it. But he can't just go back and kill himself to prevent his death; that would be counterproductive. Indeed, Murozond seeks to avoid any and all contact with Nozdormu for as long as possible, because once Nozdormu and Murozond meet, the possibilities narrow down to two. Either Murozond wins, in which case Murozond loses (because Nozdormu can't become Murozond if he dies fighting Murozond), or Nozdormu wins, in which case Murozond loses. But if Murozond can kill off the chosen proxies of Nozdormu at a crucial point in time where they are most difficult to replace, it becomes more and more likely that Murozond can sidestep the fate Aman'Thul presented to him. He needs the splintered timeways to hide from the destruction this will cause to time's ordered flow, in essence shattering the clockwork universe of the Titans. He also needs them as safe pockets to kill Nozdormu's chosen without tipping Nozdormu off.

Simply going back in time and killing these proxies (or Thrall, who also served as Nozdormu's proxy in Twilight of the Aspects) is completely futile. Not only will history have a much easier time providing alternate assassins if you kill them before they have a chance to do anything, but then Nozdormu would be alerted to their deaths at the hands of the Infinites, and thus their potential importance.

No, Murozond cannot afford the Bronze Aspect and his flight's scrutiny. So he creates a shell game. Pretend you wish to alter key moments in time, and then the Bronzes will take action and send champions to halt your machinations. If you kill them, no one will wonder why you killed them, since they were supposedly interfering in your plans in the first place. The plan sidesteps the difficulty of remembering what you already did (since these champions would die in broken time lines, where the timeways are already in flux) as well as the difficulty in defeating an enemy you need to preserve to become yourself.

The End Times dungeon is in essence the ultimate failure of Murozond's plan, his last-ditch gambit in a broken end of time to defeat not just a group of mortal heroes ... not just his own past self who must live to become him ... but the very power of Aman'Thul that he himself uses to lead and guide the Infinite Dragonflight. It was that same power that Aman'Thul used to show him the death he experiences and orchestrates. Nozdormu, using you as a weapon, commits suicide and, in so doing, confirms when and where he will die and by whose hands.

Your hands hold the knives, the staves, the swords, the bows that slay the golden king, the Timeless One who sees everything.

You are the killers of Nozdormu. You are the breakers, and the menders, of time. Every alternate time line was your doing. Every past you rushed to save, you were rushing to your ambush. When you step into the shattered future world where Deathwing's masters have finally won, you are stepping into the future that would have happened had Murozond killed you in the Black Morass, or Durnholde Keep, or in Stratholme.

Next week: Why did we go to Mount Hyjal to stop Archimonde when there were no Infinites to be found? Why did we need to meet Thrall and Jaina in the past in order to fight Illidan, and why is it that the two greatest mages in night elf history were destined to be druids? All this and more, as we unravel time's torn skein. (I always wanted to work in the word "skein." I'm happy.)

Further reading:

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.

Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

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