Know Your Lore, Tinfoil Hat Edition: There is only one true timeline
Unto you is charged the great task of keeping the purity of time. Know that there is only one true timeline, though there are those who would have it otherwise. You must protect it. Without the truth of time as it is meant to unfold, more will be lost than you can possibly imagine. The fabric of reality will unravel. It is a heavy task—the base of all tasks of this world, for nothing can transpire without time.
This quote from Aman’Thul, the Highfather of the Pantheon, spoken to Nozdormu upon his elevation as the Bronze Aspect, is of great significance. For one thing, it seems well and truly contradicted by current events — if there’s only one true timeline, what the heck are we doing on Draenor?
So far, we seem to be taking part in a weirdly cyclical version of history, where things happen out of place and out of order from the timeline we know. But there’s an undercurrent of familiarity, as if time was attempting to reassert itself — certain actors will not be denied, and if others won’t play the role destiny has decreed for them, their understudies will take up the mantle. What does it all mean? Where are we going, what surprise does time yet have in store for us? Can fate’s hand truly be forced?
If you don’t know, a Tinfoil Hat KYL speculates and plays with what we know, and what we don’t — it is not meant to be taken as actual history of the game. Also, heavy spoiler warnings ahead.
I first thought hard about what was happening with time when I saw this spoiler laden cinematic. I’m going to be talking about what we see and hear there, so if you don’t want spoilers, it’s time to turn back.
Did you turn back?
Good. Okay, here we go.
When we first watched the opening cinematic and saw the Iron Horde attack on Mannoroth and Gul’dan’s overthrow, his debasement at the feet of Garrosh Hellscream, I didn’t see how he could manage to retain any status as a credible villain. I mean, he ended up as a battery to maintain the Iron Horde’s attack portal onto our Azeroth. Garrosh manipulated Grommash into opening a portal onto the Azeroth that had driven him forth in defeat and attacked with a huge army, forcing a last ditch suicide attack on the portal itself led by Archmage Khadgar. How was Gul’dan going to come back from that, especially after Cho’gall betrayed him and attacked Highmaul using the power of the void stolen from K’ure?
I made the same mistake the Alliance and Horde made — I took my eyes off of Gul’dan. I figured he was done. The Shadow Council suffered heavy losses in Auchindoun, losing many members including Teron’gor, Gul’dan’s last ‘loyal’ (it’s debatable) lieutenant after Cho’gall’s betrayal. And yet, here we are, and thanks to the same Alliance and Horde that freed him in Tanaan, Gul’dan now had effectively usurped control of the Iron Horde and put another puppet Warchief in place by subverting Kilrogg Deadeye. Grommash is defeated, Garrosh dead — those that stood in Gul’dan’s path when he stood atop the Throne of Kil’jaeden no longer impede his vision for the orcs of Draenor.
I find that fascinating. Garrosh came to Draenor to try and prevent exactly this outcome. The implication is terrifying — even if you travel back in time to an alternate world at the brink of the exact same disastrous decision, it can’t be stopped. All Garrosh did was delay it, and perhaps we can make an argument that he managed to convince his father’s alternate self not to make the same mistake his father did, but what did that avail the orcs? They were still transformed into a united, conquering Horde even without the blood of Mannoroth, they were still set on the path to conquest and war with the draenei, and now they’re still led by Gul’dan (and far more openly — in the timeline of our Azeroth and Draenor, Gul’dan worked behind the scenes and used the Shadow Council to insulate himself) and a fel-corrupted Kilrogg has taken the role Grom played in our timeline. And how did Gul’dan achieve this stunning reversal of fortune?
He didn’t. We did it for him.
Every step of the way we’ve done Gul’dan’s work for him. We helped Thrall kill Garrosh, who was Gul’dan’s greatest enemy in the Iron Horde, the one who turned the orcs of Draenor against Gul’dan and prepared them with weapons they used to help slaughter the pit lord Mannoroth. We balked the Iron Horde invasion of Azeroth by freeing Gul’dan and his confederates. This helped cause the death of Kargath Bladefist (since Cho’gall’s attack on Highmaul was aided by the same force that helped free him in the first place) and later, that same force also destroyed the Blackrock Foundry and killed Blackhand, as well as pushed the Iron Horde itself back into Tanaan and destroyed Azuka Bladefury and her plan to control magnaron for the Iron Horde. All of these defeats weakened Hellscream’s position, cost him the support of his followers, and cleared the way for Gul’dan to assume direct control, a harbinger of the Burning Legion.
This has all been made possible by the Alliance and Horde. And before we get too guilty, let’s look at it this way. Garrosh Hellscream didn’t have to open the Dark Portal at all. He had Gul’dan at his feet, helpless, easily slain. All it would have taken was one swing of Gorehowl, and Gul’dan would be dead right now. The Iron Horde could easily have rolled over the draenei at that point. They have the numbers, the alliance with the Gorian Empire, the war technology from 35 years in the future from an alien world, and they were fighting a force that didn’t particularly want to fight them, as we saw in the history of the Draenor we know. The draenei are quite capable warriors, when roused, but all signs point to them having been outmatched. There were plenty of other power sources on Draenor that Garrosh could have tapped to power the portal after Grommash had conquered Draenor. His people would have been well satisfied with that conquest as an opening act.
It’s tempting to simply blame Garrosh for being impetuous, for wanting revenge more than he wanted victory. But let’s examine this in the light of the idea that there’s only one true timeline. What did Aman’Thul mean by that? Did he mean there’s only one timeline? If that’s what he meant, why qualify it? His choice of the word ‘true’ implies that there are multiple timelines. And this got me thinking of how the Titans work. When they created Azeroth, they also created a backup — the Emerald Dream, a ‘save point’ if you will, a kind of blueprint of how Azeroth is supposed to be. It’s been corrupted by the Old Gods, just as Azeroth itself has, and that has always struck me as a terrifying possibility — what if the reason Yogg Saron wanted to get Loken killed and trigger the return of Algalon is because he wanted the servant of the Titans to re-originate the planet from its corrupted backup? Now let’s consider this — when Aman’Thus says “Know that there is only one true timeline, though there are those who would have it otherwise” what does he mean?
What if there’s an Emerald Dream for time? A specific set of events that must unfold, in every universe, that lay behind each reality? One true timeline, which each alternate is meant to follow as closely as possible. And what if that timeline isn’t ours? Neither our Azeroth (which, if you recall, saw some horrendous meddling in time by Nozdormu himself) nor this new Draenor we find ourselves on are the true timeline — they’re both heavily altered, twisted by time travel, and yet even now Draenor is attempting to revert to what it is supposed to become. The reason Garrosh didn’t kill Gul’dan isn’t because he’s an impetuous hothead, or at least it isn’t just that — he was forced by the hand of fate. Made to open the Dark Portal onto the one time and place that could undo all his works, and set the orcs on their predestined true path.
For every time meddler there’s resistance, an equal and opposite reaction to that attempt to alter it away from true. Gul’dan here stands as the instrument of destiny, just as he says he is. The hand of fate will not be forced easily.
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