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Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: The Titans, Azeroth, and Wrathion

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.

Last week, we explored the legendary quests offered by Wrathion in detail, and managed to come up with some interesting theories regarding his purpose in Pandaria. No matter which way you look at it, what Wrathion says and what he actually does are two fairly different things. There's a story lying there, waiting to be discovered -- and while we've all been paying attention to what Pandaria has to offer, and the war between Alliance and Horde, Wrathion's clearly been working his own agenda.

But he's only two years old at this point. He's far from a fully grown dragon, yet he seems to be pulling together complicated strategies and plans like they're nothing at all. Certainly he may be a dragon, but is a dragon that young out of the shell really going to be that advanced? Wrathion would certainly like us to believe it. The problem is that we simply don't have any evidence to back up the story he's told us -- nor do we have any evidence of how he should be acting. He may be two, he may say he's a black dragon, but this "dragon" might in fact be something far more important than he claims -- more important than even he knows.

Today's Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn't be taken as fact or official lore.


Titans

In the beginning, there was simply Azeroth, floating somewhere in the Great Dark Beyond. The planet was eventually visited by the Titans, who reworked the world itself, arranging it to their unique specifications. Benevolent giants who served as an ultimate force of order against the chaotic nature of the universe, the Titans did what they had presumably done on countless worlds, according to Algalon -- and then, the Titans disappeared. History tells a tale of a battle against creatures of chaos called the Old Gods, who sought to undo everything the Titans had done -- but records from various Titan facilities muddy the timeline as to when this all happened.

Regardless, the story as we know it is this -- the Titans saw the Old Gods, recognized them for the evil that they were, and sought to excise them from the world. In doing so, they realized that destroying the Old Gods would have destroyed Azeroth itself. So they simply defeated the Old Gods, imprisoning them deep within the planet, and set up safeguards to protect the world and notify them if the Old Gods made an appearance again. Upon arriving in Ulduar, we discovered what that notification would bring -- total destruction of the planet. By defeating Algalon, we halted that signal, and saved the world.

Yet it seems, despite the Titans' efforts to establish and preserve the order they had so carefully crafted, that not even the Titans' works were immune from the Old Gods. Think about it -- how many times have we run into a watcher or a keeper that was ultimately corrupt? How many of Azeroth's races were generated as a result of Old God corruption? Even the Aspects, modified and given their tasks by the Titans, couldn't escape that corruption -- Neltharion became Deathwing. Malygos went mad. Nozdormu, in some alternate path of reality, also went mad.


Azeroth

Which brings us to a question that we've been asking time and time again -- just what is Azeroth? Why is it so important? The answer may lie in the works of the Titans, and the actions of the Old Gods as well. As a world, Azeroth is remarkable in its sheer tenacity to live on, despite whatever dangers lurk below its surface and across the span of the universe. We know that the planet is remarkable in some strange way -- it has to be. It caught the attention of Sargeras, fallen Titan and leader of the Burning Legion, and it has held the Legion's attention ever since.

But was it really the Well of Eternity that brought Sargeras to Azeroth in the first place? Or was it the fact that the kaldorei, the Highborne of Azshara's court, so readily mastered and manipulated the waters of the Well and toyed with the magic of creation as if it were a child's plaything? Because you see, that's the extraordinary thing about Azeroth. It's not the Well, it's not the Titan artifacts, it's not the Keepers, the Watchers, the Aspects. It's us.

The humans -- and in conjunction the Forsaken and the worgen, the gnomes, the dwarves, possibly even the kaldorei. All of these races have been touched in one way or another by the Old Gods. Some were Titan creations that devolved due to the Curse of Flesh. Others were descendants of the original races of the world, who have since evolved -- the humans were in fact vrykul that were affected by the Curse of Flesh. The kaldorei were originally Dark Trolls, who evolved due to a process we still haven't had clearly defined -- it could have been the Well, it could have been Elune, or for all we know, it could have been the Curse of the Flesh.

All of these races eventually evolved into what are the dominant species of the world as we know it today. They didn't just fall apart due to the influence of the Old Gods, they thrived because of it. And that's a little weird, when you think about it.


The Burning Legion

It may also be the reason why Sargeras and the Burning Legion are so fixated on the world. Why? Because our actions are so very contradictory. Despite the fact that the majority of Azeroth's races were created with that strange influence from the Old Gods, these races are still intent on wiping the Old Gods out. We, as denizens of Azeroth, recognize the Old Gods not as some sort of parent, but an inherent threat that needs to be destroyed. Every time the Old Gods have made their influence known, we have immediately stopped whatever we were doing at the time and done our best to lay the Old Gods to rest again.

And we haven't done it by killing the Old Gods. In fact, the only Old God we're absolutely certain has been destroyed is Y'shaarj -- who was by and large dead before we even got to Pandaria. The others, C'thun, Yogg-Saron, possibly even N'zoth, have all been "defeated" to our knowledge, but we don't know if that defeat really ended with their deaths. According to the historical records of the Titans, this shouldn't be possible. But here we are. Certainly some of our kind have succumbed to the will of the Old Gods, like the Twilight's Hammer, but there are far more of us who walk that line between order and chaos, and seek to keep that line in balance.

Why? Because it's Azeroth. It's our home, and we're defending it from danger, both from within and without. And we're incredibly, strangely, inexplicably good at it. It could be that our dual nature simply gives us a better foothold on understanding the nature of the Old Gods, and the Titan aspects of ourselves give us an understanding of how to keep that nature in check. Regardless, we are a powerful force to be reckoned with -- and Sargeras perhaps saw that first glimpse of power, and sought to claim it for the Legion. Either that, or he saw that glimpse of power, and for the first time in a very, very long time, was afraid. Because we represented a force that was both order and chaos, working simultaneously as one, and as a result were far more powerful than chaos alone.


Sargeras

Sargeras was originally a Titan -- a Champion of the Pantheon, defender of all that was good and just in the universe. Where the rest of the Pantheon concerned themselves with creating order in the universe, Sargeras was in charge of maintaining that order by destroying the agents and harbingers of chaos wherever they might threaten. Yet as time passed on and Sargeras dealt with more and more of these nefarious demons intent on chaos and evil, he began to despair -- no matter how hard he fought, no matter how many of these creatures he defeated, there were always more of them. And all of them were vicious, cruel, evil, and intent on undoing what the Titans had created.

This line of thinking eventually began to drive him a little mad. If chaos was always present, and the Titans always fought to put order to it, then surely chaos was the only absolute in the universe, the only thing that could be reliably depended upon. And if this were the case, then what the Titans themselves were doing was utterly wrong -- they were trying to place their own ideals of what the universe should be on a universe that fought those ideals every step of the way. In Sargeras' mind, the evil that persisted in the universe was persisting because of what the Titans were doing, not in spite of it.

Sargeras left the Titans, the Pantheon, and the cause of order and good behind entirely, forming his own dark army, the Burning Legion. The Legion set out to undo the works of the Titans, and bring the universe back to its chaotic splendor by destroying the worlds upon worlds that the Titans had so carefully created -- and the Legion was largely successful on that front. Countless unnamed worlds fell before the might of the Legion, crumbled into dust and ash.

But not Azeroth. Azeroth remains the only world we know of that, while battled by the Legion again and again, refuses to fall, refuses to be destroyed. And that is in large part due to us.


Wrathion

But let's go back to Wrathion, for a moment. So here we have this black dragon whelp, who by the very nature of black dragons and Azeroth itself, was destined to be much like the rest of his flight -- riddled with the chaotic insanity of the Old Gods, intent on the world's destruction. Yet this fate was abruptly intervened and halted with the use of a Titan artifact, which cleansed three separate examples of black dragon young, and compiled them together to create one whole, pure, and utterly unique creature -- Wrathion.

His first act out of the shell was to engineer the systematic extinction of his entire corrupted flight, save for himself. His next was a trip to Pandaria, where he established a base in the Tavern in the Mists and spoke to those who came through, both Alliance and Horde. His words were plainly spoken -- Azeroth was destined to come under the Legion's assault again. And if we did not end our faction war and unite as one, there would be no way that we could withstand the Legion's forces. So he set up a gambit, playing each side off of the other, saying that he stood behind each in turn, trying to engineer the war in fast forward to determine who that ultimate victor would be.

But every step of the way, Wrathion was clearly working behind the scenes on his own mission. One which he told us very little about, but was demonstrated with every task we were given. Wrathion's apparent obsession with the waters of Pandaria, his insistence that we collect mogu artifacts and history -- history that ended up tying into the fate of the Titan creations that were established to watch over Pandaria, creations that had fallen, like so many before them, to the Curse of the Flesh. He even, in a bizarre move, ate the heart of one of these fallen creations, seeking to learn the secrets it contained.


Parallels

Consider for a moment the sum of everything Wrathion has done to date. Wrathion has spent the entirety of his very, very young life obsessed not with the Alliance, not with the Horde, not with his supposed family. He's spent it obsessed with Azeroth. Everything that he does, he does for the planet's survival. Even in his most desperate hour, when speaking with the Celestial Chi-ji, Wrathion's hope was not for himself, but for the planet. His worry was not for his own well-being, but that of Azeroth.

Now think about the genesis of Wrathion himself. A creature at its very nature corrupt with the influence of chaos, of evil, purified and set to order by a Titan artifact. Think about that for a moment, then consider this: Wrathion is a mirror of Azeroth. Wrathion's creation is, on a much smaller scale, exactly what was done when the Titans first visited the world. He was set to order. He was purified of corruption. The methods that were used to bring him into existence are a much, much smaller mirror of the methods used to create Azeroth, at the beginning of its history.

And unlike Azeroth, Wrathion is no longer influenced by the Old Gods, because that corruption was systematically purged from his system.

Why do you think Wrathion sought to end the black dragonflight? It wasn't because his life was threatened, it was because they were the first and most blatant evidence he had of the nature of the Old Gods corruption. Why do you think Wrathion went to Pandaria? It wasn't to spur on the war between Alliance and Horde. It was to research his past, his creation, the very nature of how he was brought into being. It was because Wrathion was, and is, trying to find his purpose on Azeroth.

Why do you think Wrathion originally sided with Garrosh Hellscream? Perhaps it was simply because Garrosh was, as Wrathion said, impossibly strong -- or perhaps it was because Garrosh Hellscream is not native to Azeroth. He has never been touched by the Old Gods. He is not part of that systemic corruption that runs through the veins of Azeroth's natives. He is outside that system, as is Wrathion himself -- yet unlike Wrathion, Garrosh was keen to embrace the power of the Old Gods, at which point Wrathion abruptly switched sides.

He has been watching us, observing, taking in who we are, and what we are, our actions, our deeds -- in an effort to determine how best to bring about the new world touted by his orcish follower. A world where the Old Gods do not exist. A world, Azeroth, that is able to completely stand against whatever the Burning Legion might bring in its hellish onslaught. But he is confused, baffled, and continually frustrated by the strange nature of our existence -- a dual nature that embraces both Old God and Titanic origins, as strange as they may be, and uses them not as a force for chaos, as Deathwing and the members of his flight eagerly followed, but as a force for good.

To Wrathion, we certainly seem incredibly strange. And he still has yet to understand us fully -- but make no mistake, we have not seen the last of Wrathion. In his still-young heart beats a message of hope that he has yet to fully comprehend, but the first words of that message are utterly clear: If one black dragon can be purified in the way that the Titans originally intended for the world, then surely Azeroth itself can still be purified.

Someday.


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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