Know Your Lore: Gift of the Naaru
The concept of destiny is a powerful thing in World of Warcraft. It’s a big, weighty word — one that has written the fates of both heroes and villains in lore. It was destiny that Arthas would eventually fall to corruption and become the Lich King. It was prophesized that Jaina Proudmoore would eventually lead the Kirin Tor in her own destiny. And it was destiny that the Orcs would drink the Blood of Mannoroth and invade Azeroth.
In fact, destiny has had a heavy hand in most of the major lore moments in WoW. But what shapes that destiny? Is it simply fate? Are we just pieces of some great story moving inexorably onward? Or are we chess pieces, our destinies written and orchestrated by a higher hand?
And if so…is that higher hand a benevolent force, or a malevolent one?
Please note: This Know Your Lore contains spoilers for the second cinematic in 7.3’s storyline. If you haven’t gotten there yet, you may want to go experience it for yourself before reading on.
Path of the Naaru
Once, a very long time ago, the Prophet Velen prayed for a solution to a very specific problem. Sargeras came calling to his people, and he alone was the sole member of the Triumvirate that questioned Sargeras’ motives. A vision spoke to him of a terrible future — a future of worlds razed to ash, his people twisted into man’ari, malevolent shadows of what they once were. It was a destiny he wanted no part of. It was a fate he wanted to save his people from.
The Naaru K’ure answered his call, and offered an escape. He instructed Velen to gather his followers and head to the highest mountain of Argus during the longest day of the year. There, they would leave Argus behind…and over the next 25,000 years try to escape the Legion’s clutches. As Velen watched his world grow smaller in the distance, he begged the Naaru to go back, but they told him it was not his path. It wasn’t his destiny — it wasn’t his choice.
Oddly, this is not the first time the Naaru had a hand in the fate of the Eredar. An artifact called the Ata’mal crystal was in fact a gift bestowed to the Eredar by the Naaru in ancient times. This artifact actually helped the Eredar develop their society into the powerhouse it was when it drew Sargeras’ attention in the first place. Without it, the Eredar may never have developed their civilization — or their mastery over the arcane.
Meanwhile, those left behind were twisted into man’ari, and they razed worlds to ash — just as Velen had witnessed in his vision. Destiny, it seemed, was inescapable — at least for those unlucky enough to accept Sargeras’ offer.
Azeroth and the Light
Thousands of years later on Azeroth, a number of Human Priests began having curious, faint dreams of angelic forces that thrummed with living light. It was the first time the Humans encountered the Naaru — though they didn’t know it at the time. It was also their first introduction to the Holy Light, a concept that would eventually shape their civilization into what we know today.
From that concept, Paladins were eventually brought into being — Priests capable of fighting. Turalyon was one of these Paladins. His power was undeniable, as was the Light that seemingly coursed through his very veins. Turalyon turned the tide of the Second War after Anduin Lothar’s death. Without him, the Horde may very well have succeeded in their rampage. If that had happened, the Burning Legion would have won.
But the Human race wasn’t the first instance of the Naaru introducing their influence on the world. For there was already one born whose destiny would supposedly shape the cosmos. His eyes burned with that golden Light of destiny the moment he was born. And despite the troubles he’d encountered over the course of his lifetime, the Naaru still had hope he would fulfill his fate. His name was Illidan Stormrage.
Here’s the interesting thing about Illidan — he bought into that destiny of the golden eyes. His early years were a struggle in trying to find the path that fate had set him on. But although Malfurion and Tyrande discovered their paths in time, Illidan was left still searching. The War of the Ancients ended up being a pivotal part of that path. Illidan wanted to help save his people — but he also hoped that in doing so, he could prove the greatness he’d supposedly been born with.
It was a greatness he also hoped would impress Tyrande and win her heart. But when it became clear that Tyrande’s heart had already been given to his brother, Illidan struck out on his own. Alone, embittered, he traveled to Zin-Ashari with his own plan. He feigned allegiance to Queen Azshara, in an attempt to obtain the Demon Soul “for the Legion.” In truth, Illidan hoped to use the artifact bring an end to the War, and to the Legion invasion. But before he could complete his plans, Illidan was brought before Sargeras himself.
And Illidan’s destiny took an unexpected turn. Pleased with Illidan’s plan of obtaining the Demon Soul, Sargeras granted Illidan a gift. He burned out those golden eyes of destiny, replacing them with orbs of mystic fire. And he showed Illidan the true strength of the Burning Legion. It was a vast, endless sea of demonic chaos. Illidan saw the truth in that moment — that defeating the Legion on Azeroth meant absolutely nothing.
It was then that Illidan vowed to do whatever it took to defeat the Burning Legion for good. Not just on Azeroth — everywhere.
Cruel hand of fate
And yet…Illidan’s life was far from glorious after that moment. The War of the Ancients was won, but the Well of Eternity had been destroyed. Illidan knew it would be needed if the Legion made a return. So he traveled to Hyjal’s highest peak and created a new one. For his efforts, he was rewarded a ten-thousand-year stint in the Warden’s finest prisons. There he languished, until Tyrande set him free.
And it wasn’t out of love that she freed him — it was because the Legion had returned. Illidan sought more power to help his efforts, and consumed the powers of the Skull of Gul’dan. The artifact empowered him, but it also transformed him, imbuing him with demonic power. He also caught the attention of Kil’jaeden, who noted Illidan’s sketchy record with the Legion, and offered him a chance to prove himself.
The rest is history, more or less — eventually we traveled to the Black Temple, and we defeated Illidan. His body was taken to the Vault of the Wardens, where his soul would serve the rest of his eternal sentence.
In Legion, Illidan’s body was stolen by Gul’dan. It was intended to be a vessel for Sargeras. His soul was apparently given to Helya in Helheim, where we later retrieved it and placed it in Light’s Heart. After defeating Gul’dan, Illidan was restored — and face-to-face with the front line of a battle he’d been waging since the War of the Ancients.
Child of Light and Shadow
There’s a reason Illidan turns down Xe’ra’s gift. She offers to fix him, to heal his scars and restore his sight. And in doing so, she also implies that his life — the life he’s struggled through — was by and large meaningless. That all the suffering he bore, all the sacrifices he made weren’t made of his own choosing. That it was all part of some great, inescapable plan. He was simply a pawn, a piece on an eternal chessboard that made the right moves. And now, he would receive the reward he’d earned as a good puppet of fate.
Essentially, she was telling Illidan that his search for his destiny was his destiny. He had no control over what he was doing — it was all part of the prophecy of the Naaru. Even the relocation of Argus, of which Illlidan proudly proclaimed was “forcing the hand of fate,” wasn’t that at all. It was already written. He had a place to take in that battle, and it wasn’t the place he’d thought.
Is it any wonder, then, that he turned Xe’ra down? Here Illidan had been under the impression that he was the master of his own destiny — and he wasn’t. When he tried to take back that control, Xe’ra encased him in bonds and tried to force that transfer of Light.
Did Illidan doom us all, the moment he shattered his bonds and murdered Xe’ra? Or did he see something we’ve been missing?
Legion has been heavily influenced by that concept of destiny — of inescapable fate. As early as Khadgar’s first trip to Karazhan we’ve seen it. Medivh’s echo spoke of it — of a circle that was nearing completion. But it’s not the first time destiny has come into play. It’s not the first time the Naaru have interfered, supposedly for altruistic reasons.
We’ve seen it with the Eredar. They would not have earned the attention of Sargeras if the Naaru hadn’t given them the crystal that allowed them to develop their society to the point that it earned that attention. The vision that Velen was given — of the man’ari and the Burning Legion — was a vision gifted by K’ure. K’ure showed Velen what his people would become — and they became it, in his absence.
This idea of a circle — this prophecy, something foreseen — who made that prophecy? Was it Sargeras, when he deviated from the Pantheon and embraced a darker fate? Or was that also part of a greater plan? The Naaru are purportedly set against the Burning Legion — but Light is the antithesis of Void, not Fel. The Burning Legion is trying to break the cycle and restore the universe to a vast expanse of nothing — a place where the Void would have no hold, because there would be nothing left to corrupt.
But without Light, there is no Shadow. Without Void, there is arguably no Light. Are the Naaru really trying to restore the universe to some beatific, Light-filled paradise? Is the gift of the Naaru really a gift at all? Or is it just another signal that destiny is inescapable — that we’re simply playing bit parts in someone else’s game?
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