Loyalty, and its limits, are pretty big underlying themes in WoW's
current story arc. As of patch 5.1, the WoW
poster child for complex loyalties and their consequences is Aethas Sunreaver
. Aethas has a divided heart. He is a blood elf (and was, once upon a time, a high elf) and as such, he is loyal to Quel'Thalas. But he is also a citizen of Dalaran, it's his adopted homeland, and he also wishes to be loyal to Dalaran. These are loyalties he has tried to juggle for three expansions now, and they finally, inevitably, came to a head. Aethas' failure in patch 5.1 lies in either his own arrogance or naivete, that he couldn't see the truth: in this day and age, in Azeroth, those loyalties were irreconcilable. Once Quel'Thalas had decided to ally with the Horde, a longtime enemy of Dalaran, it was only a matter of time before that political division bore consequences for individuals. Aethas' own refusal to choose is ultimately what led to his choice being forced.
I feel for Aethas, in this sense. I sympathize with his impulse toward reconciliation. Why shouldn't he have tried? History was on his side. Quel'Thalas and Dalaran have, in fact, been traditional allies for quite a long time, much longer than they have been enemies. I don't think his hope was unreasonable, but it did turn out to be impossible. There is just too much bad blood - on many sides - for any sort of truce to exist at this point, and it will likely be a very long time before those wounds are healed enough for bridges to be rebuilt. Sometimes compromise just isn't an option.
Fair warning: there are minor spoilers for patch 5.3 below the cut.
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Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Lore, Mists of Pandaria