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Know Your Lore, TFH edition: The true battle between Light and Darkness

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.
Even now, the true battle between the forces of Light and Darkness approaches. We will all be called to join, and in the face of this conflict, all mortal suffering will be meaningless.
Cataclysm is an expansion about the struggle to stop the end of the world and the struggle between Horde and Alliance. But in the 1-to-60 zone revamps, there are fascinating little bits of lore to be discovered. Most of these involve the Alliance/Horde conflict, but every now and again, you'll find a quest chain that leaves more questions than answers, more mystery than resolution.

One of these chains begins for Alliance players in the Swamp of Sorrows, and it seems to be harmless enough. A Broken draenei named Magtoor is on his deathbed, and Anchorite Avuun is desperately looking for a cure. In Magtoor's final moments, Prophet Velen appears and returns Magtoor to the embrace of the Light with a little speech, including the quote above. The quest chain is fairly straightforward ... until we start picking at the potential meanings of that phrase.

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 how it happened. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.

What is Darkness?

What does Velen mean by the Darkness? Well, the draenei came from a very dark place -- they were the eredar who fled Sargeras' offer of a place in the Burning Legion. They saw their brethren irrevocably corrupted into the eredar we know today; they watched two of their three former leaders, Kil'jaeden and Archimonde, twisted and warped into evil. It was the appearance of the naaru that saved the draenei; without the naaru's assistance, the rest of the eredar would have surely wiped them out.

And the naaru in and of themselves are utterly fascinating. They are the creatures who taught the draenei of the Light, what it was, what it was for, and how to use it. They sheltered the draenei and helped them escape what was most certainly a dark fate on Argus. But the naaru have odd properties of their own. Dying naaru enter a "darkened" state. They appear to stay in this state and do one of two things: slowly regenerate, like D'ore in Auchindoun, or give themselves over fully to the darkness and ascend into a creature of the void, like M'uru in Sunwell Plateau.

A third darkened naaru is K'ure in Oshu'gun, who was injured when Oshu'gun crashed into Draenor. Over the centuries, K'ure bled energy, and in its place, the void grew. This void devoured the souls of spirits in Nagrand, notably those of the orcs native to the area. So the naaru life cycle seems to be one that is destined to eventually delve into darkness, whether the naaru wishes it or not. As D'ore says, "Without the void, the Light cannot exist."

Given all we know of the draenei and the naaru, it's easy to leap to the assumption that this battle between Light and Darkness involves the Burning Legion, maybe even Sargeras himself, right? After all, every bit of the darkness the draenei have experienced has involved the Burning Legion. If Velen is having a vision, surely said vision would be about that.

Or ... maybe not.

Mists of Pandaria and the Sha

Then again, we have Mists coming out soon and with it, the Sha. We don't know a whole heck of a lot about the Sha, other than they are living manifestations of negative energy. We also know that illustrations of the Sha bear a striking resemblance to the stained glass windows in The Descent into Madness in Ulduar, possibly suggesting a connection between the Sha and the Old Gods.

The other odd connection that's been pointed out is their name -- Sha. In the draenic language, Sha means "Light." Sha'tar are "Born of Light," Shattrath is "City of Light." Yet as far as the pandaren are concerned -- if the pandaren coined the term -- the Sha are beings of negative energy. Beings of darkness. That's a really, really odd coincidence ... and I don't believe in coincidences at all, not as far as Blizzard lore is concerned.

What if that battle between Light and Darkness that Velen is talking about has nothing to do with the Burning Legion or Sargeras at all? What if his vision was actually a vision of Pandaria, of the Sha, of the Darkness that these odd creatures bring? What if that vision wasn't a battle between demons and mortals but a battle between inner demons and mortals?

But it isn't just the reference to the battle that we have to look at, here. According to Velen, the face of this conflict will make all mortal suffering meaningless. Now that's another statement that could be taken several different ways. It could be a war so terrible that everything else pales in comparison to it -- one where the stakes are so incredibly high that everything else we've faced is simply insignificant. Illidan, Kil'jaeden, the Lich King, Deathwing -- all of these things will be trivial compared to what we are facing.

Or ... perhaps mortal suffering will be meaningless, because that mortal suffering is what spawns the war in the first place. The Sha are creatures born of negative energy. Hate, anger, fear, suffering -- all of these could be considered negative things. We don't know yet what we have to do to combat the Sha, but logic suggests if we are to keep these things from appearing, we must rid ourselves of the negative energy that brings them into being.

And if we do that, Velen's vision is absolutely right. Mortal suffering will truly be meaningless -- because it will no longer exist.

The Sha and the Naaru

If we really want to get out into left field here, let's face facts: We really haven't seen any draenei lore or naaru lore since The Burning Crusade. We know very, very little about the draenei and even less about the naaru, other than their curious life cycle. It's that life cycle that fascinates me, because the naaru are invariably drawn to darkness at one point in their life or another. Eventually, all naaru will enter that void state, and they will either die or regenerate anew. This has been addressed in Ask a CDev round 1:
Q: What is the nature of the Void state of the Na'aru? For a being of the Light, turning into such a dark being seems like a heavy weakness. Sucking in souls and causing destruction simply because of a loss in strength greatly diminishes their saintly image. Though, this might be a reason they don't act in combat very much, as turning on your army due to fatigue wouldn't be good for morale.

A: Because three cases of this "cycle" have been demonstrated in Nagrand, Auchindoun, and Sunwell Plateau (K'ure, D'ore, and M'uru, respectively), players may have received the wrong impression with regard to the magnitude and rarity of these events: it is EXCEEDINGLY rare for a naaru to fall into a void state, and even rarer for a fallen naaru to be brought back into the Light. A naaru's fall into the void represents a catastrophic loss for the naaru and for the forces of the Light, and it is the saddest, most heart-wrenching event for the naaru to witness. Conversely, a naaru being reborn into the Light brings renewed hope and sense of purpose to every naaru; if energy beings could weep tears of joy, this would do it.

It's really rare for a naaru to enter that darkened state. It makes sense in a way -- the naaru would have to be severely injured in order to do it, from what we have seen. Since the naaru seem to be composed of Light, it would be pretty rare for one of them to receive an injury severe enough to damage it to the point of void state.

But it's a weird correlation that I can't let go of. Naaru are creatures of both Light and Dark, but the Light far, far outweighs the darkness. Sha means Light, in draenic, on Draenor -- and it means something completely different to the pandaren of Azeroth, a polar opposite of the meaning given to the word by the draenei. If the word Sha is referring to dark creatures on Azeroth, is it possible, then, that these creatures are essentially anti-naaru?

The naaru spread the message of the Light and seek to put an end to the Darkness -- but they are part of that Darkness themselves. They willingly admit to it, though it happens rarely, very rarely. They seem to be composed of the Light itself, but we don't know where they came from, other than a vague reference that they have been around since the dawn of creation itself in a scene at the end of Sunwell Plateau.

Maybe the darkness the naaru are so hell-bent on fighting has nothing to do with the Burning Legion, except in the most cursory of fashions. They aren't fighting a physical army -- they're fighting the darkness that lies within us all.

The Old Gods connection

And that's where things get really, really interesting. Because the Sha seem to have this really odd connection with the Old Gods, if the stained glass in Uldar really is a reference to these weird little guys. And in another theory I wrote about the Old Gods, it's possible that the Old Gods get their powers and their strength from negative energy -- just like the Sha are called into being by it. So if the naaru are fighting the darkness that lies within us, it all connects.

The Burning Legion was created by Sargeras, who fell to his own inner demons -- he succumbed to his inner darkness and let it consume him, then promptly began corrupting everything he could in order to create a vast army of chaos. The naaru just happened to be near Argus when Sargeras arrived and began corrupting the eredar -- and most of those eredar went ahead and follow the path of darkness as well, save Velen and the draenei. Instead, the draenei embraced the Light.

Meanwhile on Azeroth, we've got the Old Gods. We don't really know where they came from -- just that they appeared and they started corrupting everything on the planet.

As the children of the earth roamed the fields of dawn, they harkened to dark whispers from deep beneath the world. The whispers told the children of the arts of war and deceit. Many of the Shu'halo fell under the shadow's sway and embraced the ways of malice and wickedness. -- Sorrow of the Earthmother

The Old Gods caused mortals and immortals alike to fall into darkness, and the Titans imprisoned the Old Gods deep within the earth. But their whispers still reach the ears of those in Azeroth, and there are still those that fall into corruption and darkness. We can't kill the Old Gods, because they are intertwined with Azeroth. Our world is just as corrupt as Argus was, back in the day. So where were the naaru when we needed them?

Well ... if that other crazy theory about Elune and Mu'sha both being naaru is correct, they've been here all along. But two of them wasn't really enough to combat the darkness, as it turns out. Thank goodness we had a ship crash land into the world and bring some more naaru with it, right? Sure is a crazy coincidence that one of the darkest planets in the universe would just happen to be the one the naaru ship crash landed on -- if you believe in coincidences.

What the future holds

If what we're seeing is correct and all these threads are intertwined with each other, that war that Velen prophesied isn't going to happen sometime in the distant future -- it's going to be in the next expansion, or at least the start of it will be. And maybe everyone that's been begging for draenei lore (myself wholeheartedly included) will be getting some -- just not in the way we envisioned. No need to visit Argus yet, at least not until matters at home are settled.

We cannot fight the Burning Legion or Sargeras as we are, as we stand, as mortals who still haven't figured out the link between our own anger and the evil we fight. Until we make that connection and recognize it, the Sha and the Old Gods will still be a malevolent force to contend with. The draenei started the process by restoring the Sunwell with the heart of a naaru -- and those sin'dorei that were present witnessed firsthand the power that the Light holds.

But the draenei have been largely quiet as of late, and I don't expect them to remain quiet for much longer -- not if Velen's prophecy is this close to coming to pass.

For more information on the people, places and history mentioned here, check out other Know Your Lore columns, such as:
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: Know your Lore, Lore

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