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Know Your Lore: Algalon the Observer

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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.
I have seen worlds bathed in the Makers' flames. Their denizens fading without so much as a whimper. Entire planetary systems born and razed in the time that it takes your mortal hearts to beat once.
The Titans are creatures of myth and mystery to the mortals of Azeroth. While some Azerothians (most notably Brann Bronzebeard) seek to unravel their secrets, most remain blissfully unaware and uncaring of the origins of the world. But the mysteries Brann works so hard to uncover more often than not raise far more questions than they answer, and in some cases, create havoc that could reduce our world to ashes in the blink of an eye.

In Ulduar, Brann sought to uncover the further secrets of the origin of the dwarves, something that the Explorer's League has been working on since the early days of WoW and the first player steps into the Titan stronghold of Uldaman. But what Brann uncovered was a massive facility that wasn't just for the storage of information from times long past. The facility of Ulduar and its corrupt Titans weren't anywhere near as much of a threat to the world as what came after Loken's defeat in the Halls of Lightning. For it was the moment of his defeat that the failsafe was tripped and the signal was sent.

And it was Loken's death that heralded the arrival of Algalon the Observer and the end of the world.

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The Watchers

The grand mission of the Titans involves traveling the vast, chaotic universe, finding worlds and bringing stability and order to those worlds. To that end, they shaped the worlds, raising mountains, creating oceans, breathing the atmosphere into existence, and even empowering some of the mortal, primitive races of these planets. The purpose was a simple one: to create order from chaos, thus ensuring a safe future for those who would come after the Titans were done.

But their task wasn't just as simple as that sounds. In the vastness of the Great Dark Beyond, there are countless worlds waiting to be put to order, and the Titans did not have an eternity to devote to each world. So the Pantheon would arrive, set things to right, and then appoint Watchers to keep an eye on the many, many worlds they ordered. These Titanic Watchers undoubtedly vary from planet to planet. On Azeroth, there were plenty of these Watchers put into place, the most easily recognizable of these are the Watchers of Ulduar.

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Though the Watchers are Titan-created, the term Watcher doesn't refer to a race; it's more like a designation or title. One could argue that the dragon Aspects were also Watchers of a kind, since they were Titan-created, though their purpose was more intimately tied to the world and they did not come into play until after the war between Old Gods and Titans. The Watchers purpose varies depending on their assignment. Each generally has a distinct aspect of the world that they preside over, and each works to fulfill their particular task.

As for the Watchers of Ulduar, their particular task was to watch over the prison of Yogg-Saron and make sure that the Old God never escaped. One Watcher, Loken, was elevated to the role of Prime Designate, chief jailor of Yogg-Saron. But these are just the Watchers of Ulduar. There are also Watchers scattered all over Azeroth, each with their own purpose. The only one we currently know of with the specific job of keeping an Old God contained, however, was Loken.

Which meant when Loken died, a signal was sent to the next level of Watchers -- one who observed the cosmos from afar, judge and juror in the same breath. This was Algalon.

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Algalon

Much like the other Watchers of Azeroth, Algalon had his own purpose. However, his particular purpose was on a much larger, universal scale. By his own words, Algalon has been to countless worlds and performed the same task repeatedly: Analyze the world the Titans created, and detect any "systemic corruption" -- anything that would keep that world from thriving as the Titans had planned. Once it was determined that the world was indeed corrupt, Algalon would send one of two signals to the Titans: Reply code Alpha, signaling that the world was in fact, just fine, or Reply code Omega, signaling that corruption had been detected and the world would be re-originated.

The Titans didn't bother returning to the world in question; instead, a signal would be sent to a re-origination device that would proceed to melt the world into its core elements and rebuild it according to its Titanic blueprint. There was nothing horrific in this process, as far as Algalon was concerned; he was merely doing his job. Think of Algalon as an exterminator. He shows up to check and see if your house is full of termite, only rather than simply tenting the house, Algalon would break the whole thing down and rebuild it, termite-free.

Unlike an exterminator, however, Algalon has little caring or empathy for the mortals of the worlds he observes. To him, they are inconsequential. Highly logical and systematic in his observations, Algalon is almost like a machine. He was built with one purpose in mind, and he goes about and fills that purpose without question, because that is what he was programmed to do.

Until, that is, he encountered Azeroth.


Had they all loved life as you do?

Azeroth was just another routine stop on Algalon's continued scanning of the cosmos. Loken, the Primary Designate in charge of keeping Yogg-Saron locked away, had died at the hands of mortals merrily tromping through the Halls of Lightning in search of knowledge and loot. With his last breath, Loken gasped that his death heralded the end of the world -- because he knew that his death was the key to bringing Algalon to Azeroth.

And once Algalon was on Azeroth, he would perform his scan. He would find the Well of Eternity destroyed, one Aspect corrupted by an Old God, another Aspect dead, the Primary Designate dead, and Yogg-Saron breaking his way out of his prison. There was zero chance that Algalon would send anything other than a Reply code Omega, and Azeroth's re-origination was guaranteed ... almost.

Because the only thing Algalon didn't expect was that the tiny mortal races of the world would fight their way to his chamber and try to keep him from sending that Reply code with every ounce of tenacity and strength they possessed. And to Algalon, this simply ... did not compute.
I have seen worlds bathed in the Makers' flames. Their denizens fading without so much as a whimper. Entire planetary systems born and razed 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?
Of all the worlds Algalon had encountered, of all of the worlds he had mechanically scanned and re-originated, not a single one possessed mortal races who were not only cognizant of their world's corruption but intent on fighting it. Not a single one had registered on his radar. And when the mortals of Azeroth broke into the Celestial Planetarium to confront him directly and were successful at doing so, Algalon was at a loss. This was simply not in his programming.

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The mortals of Azeroth had done the unthinkable; they'd showed a stoic Watcher that there was more, far more to the universe than simple order and re-origination. And Algalon was left perplexed and almost angry at this realization, not because the mortals of Azeroth had done anything wrong but because he had suddenly been granted the knowledge that these tiny, inconsequential mortal lives that he had been eradicating for countless years were all quite possibly creatures of free will, creatures that did not want to die. Creatures that perhaps did not deserve to die.

In this realization, Algalon altered the Reply code to Alpha and ordered the mortals who so brazenly interrupted his scanning to take it to a place of power, close to the skies. Once the Reply code was taken to Dalaran, the altered code reset the designation of the world, and it was safe from re-origination ... for now. As for Algalon, he was left with his task incomplete for the first time in his existence. Algalon was an observer, Algalon was assigned to scan the world for any outlying corruption leaching into the order of the world.

With Azeroth, he was presented with a world that was admittedly corrupt -- but in that corruption was perhaps the saving grace of the world itself. This concept was so strange, so foreign that Algalon could not simply let the world be undone. This deviation from the Titans' programming was so unique and bizarre that it deserved further observation.

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The Observer and the observed

Thus, that is exactly what Algalon chose to do. He hasn't left the world of Azeroth, nor has he perished. Instead, Algalon watches the world and the creatures upon it, trying desperately to divine what sort of strange malfunction caused the mortals of Azeroth to turn into creatures with the strength to face him and change a destiny that was nigh irrevocable. These mortals, their passion, their strength, their odd penchant for violence starkly opposed in direct contrast to their keen wish for peace -- all of these things are now being carefully observed.

In a way, as we continue on with our strange destiny, whatever that may be, the mortals of Azeroth are slowly working the training wheels free. In The Burning Crusade, we restored the Sunwell and stopped Kil'jaeden from encroaching upon the world. In Wrath, we found ourselves helping those that were supposed to keep the world safe and orderly by freeing the corrupted Watchers of Ulduar. In Cataclysm, we put an end to Deathwing and assured the safety of our world in such a way that the Aspects themselves stepped down. On top of that, we successfully shut down the re-origination device in Uldum, saving our world from destruction yet again.

We are a continued force to be reckoned with. And in all the calculations Algalon has processed over aeons, we are one calculation he simply cannot compute.
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 is astonished by the mortal races of Azeroth because despite the death of one who was meant to keep an Old God imprisoned, we persevered. And when the Titans' own creations failed to keep themselves free of corruption, we stepped up and freed them ourselves. And when the Titan-created Aspects were driven to madness, we stepped up to take them out. That puts us in a very strange place, in Algalon's opinion, a place where the tiny mortal natives of a tiny planet are suddenly stronger than what the Titans can create.

That makes us two things: fascinating and dangerous. It is likely for both of these reasons that Algalon chose to stay and observe. Our actions and reasoning are a delightful puzzle to the Observer, but in that puzzle is what could be a potential ally to the Titans or a potential threat. Until then, Algalon will continue to observe, taking no sides and staying out of any conflict. After all, emotion might compromise his programming -- and then where would the universe be?

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: Lore, Know your Lore

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