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Know Your Lore TFH: The Big Lie

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.

You guys know how the Tinfoil Hat essays work by now - this is my musings, and not officially sanctioned in any way by Blizzard.

We've been lied to all along, and the evidence is mounting up.

I started to be uncomfortable with events when I first went through Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects and we were introduced to the concept of 'false timeways', alternate realities that were somehow less than real despite being filled with real people living real lives and dying real deaths. If the alternate Blackmoore who attempts to kill Thrall several times is somehow not real, then his final confrontation with Thrall and his death at the shaman's hands lacks. Furthermore, how can a person who isn't real kill you? Nozdormu's explanation for his own inactivity I bought, but the idea that the other timeline was in some way not a true timeline bothered me.

Then we went to End Time. And I really started to wonder about Nozdormu.

There we were, in a potential future - moreover, a potential future that we were attempting to avert. And in order to do so, we had to kill Murozond because he was preventing us from traveling to the distant past and upon arriving there, gleefully altering history. Things we did in the Well of Eternity instance that were not part of history before include palling around with Illidan, Malfurion and Tyrande, fight and kill Peroth'arn, attack Queen Azshara, and steal the freaking Dragon Soul. None of this happened before! Even if we assume that our pilfering of the Dragon Soul was somehow okay, that when Nozdormu lost his Titan-granted powers it was sent back (a statement we only have his word for) we still know that the Aspects and Thrall changed the Dragon Soul. Remember, we all had to grab the Focusing Iris just so they could? Furthermore, at Deathwing's demise, Nozdormu makes a cryptic statement.

It is time! I will expend EVERYTHING to bind every thread here, now, around the Dragon Soul. What comes to pass will never be undone!

Okay, so he expended everything. This is no big deal - all the Aspects make a similar statement that they're channeling their full power (one assumes the very power that they lost, that granted to them by the Titans) into the Dragon Soul. No, the line that gets me is 'bind every thread here, now, around the Dragon Soul. What comes to pass will never be undone!'

I got a Ray, what did you just do? vibe off of that moment. Which leads us to the announcement of Warlords of Draenor and the explanation of how it comes to pass.


We're going to vary between extreme spoilers and extreme speculation here. Anne covered some of these elements, but I need to address them so we can move on, so I'll recap to the best of my ability.

When we go to the Timeless Isle, we meet a fellow named Kairoz. He's a bronze dragon, and part of the new Timewalkers faction that is stepping up to fill the void now that Nozdormu has lost the power the Titan Aman'Thul bestowed upon him. (If words like now can mean much in this situation.) While amazed by the Isle and its strange 'out of time' quality, Kairoz has an ulterior motive, and sets you to work assembling an artifact and empowering it, the Vision of Time. Using the Vision of Time, many future events are witnessed, and their impact clearly affects Kairoz deeply. The last of them, the death of Soridormi (the prime consort of Nozdormu and overall caretaker of the Caverns of Time) shakes Kairoz to the core - because in each of these visions, including Soridormi's death, Kairoz is present. It's also interesting to note that Kairoz's Vision of Time predicts two potential futures - one in which Garrosh Hellscream is humbled and imprisoned at the White Tiger Temple (to be visited by Anduin Wrynn) and one in which Garrosh triumphs and his enemies all die impaled in a Y'Shaarj-infested Stormwind.

At this point Kairoz makes an incredibly ill-advised decision - he decides to keep these visions to himself 'so as to avoid altering the proper flow of time'. This is a classic rookie mistake. It's predestination folly number one, really - Kairoz has seen a series of visions involving himself, and he goes off to muse about what all these visions mean. By himself. But this leads us to another, and to my eyes more interesting question - what are the timeways? What have they ever been? And if you can create an alternate timeway that exists side-by-side with the original timeline and doesn't alter the past of that original timeline, then why have we been going to such great lengths to prevent the Infinite Dragonflight from doing that? Who cares if the Infinites make an alternate Azeroth where Thrall doesn't form the Horde, or the Old Horde doesn't come through the Dark Portal, or Arthas doesn't cull Stratholme if our timeline won't be changed by any of this? Then it occurred to me that we've already seen an alternate timeway created and experienced it firsthand, long before Warlords of Draenor, long before Thrall's trip through the timeways.

If you've read the War of the Ancients books, you know the story - Rhonin and Krasus investigate a time anomaly and get sucked back into the past alongside Broxigar to completely walk all over the concept of preserving the timeline. Even Nozdormu just winks and nods at how Krasus just saves a clutch of blue dragon eggs (to list just one of many such alterations the two of them make, up to and including recruiting tauren and earthen to fight in the War of the Ancients) and after the two of them return to the present no one speaks of the fact that they totally and completely ran around willy nilly altering the timeline. Which would make perfect sense, if we assume that Nozdormu didn't really care because he knew what we're now finding out from observing his later actions, and those of his flight. And that is this - there are no real timeways.

The events of Warlords of Draenor take place on a new world, a Draenor where Gul'dan never convinced the orcs to take part in the drinking of Mannoroth's blood. Perhaps he forestalled them directly, perhaps he simply provided them with an alternative path to conquest that no longer required it (we have yet to see) but one thing is clear - in so doing, an entirely new Draenor resulted. And therefore, an entirely new Azeroth as well. And with us traveling to that Draenor to fight the Iron Horde, that means that said alternate Draenor and alternate Azeroth currently exist. There is a Draenor that never became Outland, and an Azeroth with a completely different history for the past 30 years existing side by side with our Azeroth and Outland timeline. And these worlds are just as real - they exist, populated by living, breathing men and women as real as the Taretha and Aedelas Blackmoore that Thrall encountered were. As real as we are.

How did history unfold? What happened to the great menaces of our own past - we're dealing with that timeline's version of the Horde, but what of their Burning Legion? What of their Arthas? Their Deathwing? Did their Aspects come to their own Hour of Twilight, or are they all still empowered? Their Deathwing didn't go through to Draenor before it exploded because the Dark Portal was never opened, so there was no Nether Dragonflight and thus, no Twilight Dragonflight. Cho'gall never came through, so he never became head of the Twilight's Hammer, which was originally an organization of the Horde under Gul'dan, anyway. Since Gul'dan doesn't lead the Iron Horde... So many questions. So many beautiful questions about this Azeroth that isn't ours. And this leads us to another sobering conclusion - we are an Azeroth that isn't the same as the Azeroth that Rhonin and Krasus left.

Our War of Ancients is different from the one written of in the Warcraft III manual. In our version, Illidan was taught advanced magics by Rhonin (not advanced as in more powerful, literally advanced, spells from many thousands of years to come) and thus, had a greater understanding of how to bank one's own personal magics and thus not be as reliant on the Well of Eternity. In our version, the Blue Dragonflight was saved from absolute extinction when our Krasus saved some blue dragon eggs, thus giving Malygos a flight again. In our version, the tauren and the earthen ancestors of the dwarves took part in the war. History was changed. Who knows how far the alterations go? We don't, because we don't have that original timeline to compare it to. Did the Azeroth that existed before Rhonin and Krasus' trip even have worgen? (Remember, they were created by druids fighting the satyrs, and the first satyr was Xavius, who we know of from the War of the Ancients trilogy - in essence, the history of satyrs might be due to Krasus and Rhonin's meddling, and thus, worgen would be too) - if anything, we should be more amazed that Rhonin and Krasus returned to a world that was recognizable to them. But that begs another question - if they left one timeline, made another, and then traveled forward to the future of that new timeline what happened to the Rhonin and Krasus of that altered timeline?

Nozdormu did. What he did, I can't even hazard a guess - did he bind these two errant threads, somehow, to the timeline that they'd created, merging them with themselves? Is the original timeline spinning on, with a Vereesa who never saw her husband again, an Alexstrasza who had to move forward without a consort? But whatever happened, Nozdormu was a part of it, as he was part of the original anomaly that sent them back in the first place. And this leads me to consider that Nozdormu wasn't trying to prevent alternate timelines - he was simply pruning them. And now? Well, now there's no one to prevent any crazy gardener from grafting any cutting he likes anywhere he chooses.

We were sent to stop the Infinites not to preserve the sanctity of our timeline, but because the specific moments we were sent to would produce timelines of more use to the other side in a competition between the Aspect of Time... and himself. And now, both sides in that conflict have collapsed, one through death, the other through the loss of his power. Indeed, that very loss of power creates yet another alternate timeline - a branching between the timeline where he lives, and becomes no more than another ancient dragon without the powers of an Aspect, or dies with his full Aspect powers, having chosen to preserve the sanctity of time over acting to save the world. And he may have been right.

Without these gardeners, the garden is free to run wild. Draenor isn't the beginning - its merely the latest sign. Time breaks. Worlds live, worlds die. And nothing will ever be the same again. Kairoz is merely a harbinger. There are many, many worlds of Warcraft.
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: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Know your Lore

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