Know Your Lore: The Fall of Argus, part two
Last week we talked about the distant past, when the former Mage Thal’kiel of Argus attempted to destroy the Duumvirate that ruled his people, the Eredar, and rule as a tyrant. As a Warlock, Thal’kiel became known as the first of the Man’ari, a word that meant ‘unnatural ones’ in the Eredar language. But thanks to the heroic efforts of Thal’kiel’s own apprentice Archimonde, the Warlock was slain, Argus was saved, and corruption was driven back for a time.
Unfortunately for the Eredar, time was something the Burning Legion had to waste.
The rot creeping in
Archimonde had many good points. He was a charismatic, inspirational leader who led by example. When Archimonde decided that Thal’kiel had to be stopped, he didn’t let someone else take the risk of opposing the Man’ari and his demon army. He went to the Duumvirate of Kil’jaeden and Velen and he told them he could stop his former master, and personally led the attack that did exactly that. Kil’jaeden was both subtle and intelligent, and Velen was both wise and just, but Archimonde was brave and his bravery made others feel brave. In time, he became an equal to the two leaders of the Eredar, a member of their Triumvirate. The three worked together to safeguard their people.
But Archimonde had already ensured their fall.
After Thal’kiel’s death Archimonde had his severed head (the one Archimonde himself cut from his mentor’s shoulders) plated in special magical metals to preserve it and hung it in his own residence. Both Archimonde and his former master had been students of phrenology — they’d obsessively measured skulls, including their own, and Thal’kiel had long maintained that the shape of his proved beyond a doubt that his magical facility was supreme. Archimonde felt a certain frisson of supremacy in having thus preserved his master’s skull in this way.
But the head wasn’t quite dead. Or, to put it more accurately, being dead and covered in magical gold didn’t stop the thing from whispering at Archimonde. And it found fertile ground in the mind of Thal’kiel’s apprentice, who was an impulsive being. Archimonde’s strength as a leader was that he was brave and daring, others wished to following him and his sublime confidence. His weakness was that he was impulsive, willing to leap before he looked. This was balanced by the other members of the Triumvirate when leading, but when alone in his residence with only the Skull for company, there was no one to counterbalance Archimonde’s hunger for knowledge and experience.
Archimonde had agreed with Velen and Kil’jaeden that the knowledge that Thal’kiel had retrieved through his studies of the void was too dangerous, but he still remembered much of what his mentor had taught him, and still hungered for power and knowledge. He was well prepared for the coming of one who would offer him all the power and knowledge he could possibly want.
The Great Golden One
Argus was at the height of its civilization when Sargeras deemed the time to finally be right. Thal’kiel had never been intended to succeed, for the Eredar would have been less useful to Sargeras as a crushed and suppressed population ruled by a single tyrant. The Fallen Titan needed generals, administrators, a unifying force to impose order on his chaotic Burning Legion. The qualities he prized the most in the Eredar were exactly those qualities they displayed in their defeat of the Man’ari Warlock — their intelligence, wisdom, cohesive society and skill.
When Sargeras came to Argus, he did so not as a seething fel-corrupted being split open from within, fissures and cracks in his once-majestic form. Sargeras chose an avatar that concealed much of his true nature, a form that would appeal to the Eredar and exploit their vanity. The Eredar were intelligent, magically powerful, explorers and discoverers, yes. And they were also very proud of it. They hungered nakedly for more knowledge, more secrets. Archimonde was the foremost example of this trait of the Eredar people. And so Sargeras appeared to the Eredar as a radiant being, a golden beacon of light and power much akin to what he’d once appeared as before he’d allowed the Fel to work on him. In this form, he contacted the three heads of Argus’ government and astonished them with his wisdom and power. In all their many thousands of years the Eredar had never encountered a being like Sargeras.
And what the Golden One told them was crafted exactly to match what they wanted most to hear. He told them that they were special, unique in the universe, that their intelligence and insight made them the perfect choice to help him in his grand crusade. He told them they could be part of something that would change the universe, perfect it. He told them it was their destiny, with his help, to attain heights of mastery and knowledge they could not even dream of. He told them that there was wisdom out there in the great void between worlds and he would show it to them.
Make no mistake, Sargeras came to Argus not as a conqueror or destroyer. He came to Argus in the guise of light, truth, purity and greatness, promising to make Argus paramount. The Eredar would be his chosen people, the masters of the Legion, bringing perfection to all. It was a heady offer. Archimonde was already half convinced of his people’s destiny and quickly moved to accept Sargeras’ offer. Kil’jaeden, who was a much deeper thinker, was less interested in the idea of perfecting the universe — but ever since Thal’kiel’s original demonstration of demonic power, he’d been insatiably stricken with a lust to understand what the former Mage had found, in a way Thal’kiel had never bothered to apply himself to gain. To know everything was an offer too sweet for Kil’jaeden to ignore. He added his voice to that of Archimonde, accepting the Golden One’s offer.
Velen and Kil’jaeden had been friends, almost brothers, since before the existence of the Triumvirate. When it had been a Duumvirate, the two had ruled jointly and had always managed to find a common ground before that point. Now, however, Velen felt a great unease. Everything the Golden One said sounded so wonderful. Endless knowledge, perfection, these were the dreams of the Eredar and had been for millennia. What could possibly be wrong with finally achieving their culture’s greatest dream? Sargeras was offering them what they’d always wanted, the thing every Eredar hungered to attain. Why was Velen uneasy?
Velen, for all his wisdom, could find no fault or flaw in the Golden One’s arguments. How could he deny his people this when both Archimonde and Kil’jaeden had accepted it? In an agony of doubt, he went to the shrine where the precious Ata’mal Crystal lay and meditated upon this ancient relic of the unknown past of his people, focusing his mind and will in an attempt to answer the question plaguing him. If this is a good thing, why does it frighten me so much?
In that moment, he saw. He saw his people, radiant, transformed into near-godlike beings of wisdom and knowledge at the head of Sargeras’ universe-purifying forces. He saw the Eredar dream. And then he saw it curdle in fel fire, saw the Eredar become horrific monsters that scourged world after world clean of life. And he saw Sargeras for what he truly was, a corrupted thing, a monster who sought perfection but saw the only true path to that perfection in the annihilation of all things. To Sargeras, the only perfection was in an ending.
But it was too late for the Eredar. Both Archimonde and Kil’jaeden had agreed to the bargain. Velen could not save his people, not all of them.
But what he could save, he would.
Next week, the flight.
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