Know Your Lore: Archimonde and the Twisting Nether
There was a lore development you might have missed on Twitter last week, in which the peculiar dual-nature of Archimonde was at last clarified. Unfortunately, the clarification seems to have confused a lot of people, so this week we’re pretty much going to talk about the tweet, what exactly it means, the nature of the Twisting Nether … and how the Burning Legion suddenly became a much, much larger threat than we’d ever thought. And while we’re at it, we’re going to talk a little bit about Azeroth, because this might just be a bigger lore reveal than it appears to be at first glance.
Archimonde was formerly one of the leaders of the eredar, along with Kil’jaeden and Velen — and this is a story we all know pretty well. Sargeras showed up on Argus, offering immense power that both Archimonde and Kil’jaeden took. Velen turned him down and fled with the help of a naaru, taking the like-minded with him. They renamed themselves draenei, and Kil’jaeden has been relentlessly pursuing them ever since. Archimonde is the military leader of the Burning Legion — he commands the Legion’s armies, while Kil’jaeden’s specialty involves hunting down suitable races to recruit into the Legion’s forces.
And in the Third War, Archimonde met a definitive end at the peak of Mount Hyjal, blow to pieces by wisps. The World Tree Nordrassil and the immortality of the night elves were both casualties. While Nordrassil has since begun to re-grow, the night elves are still very much mortal now. And Archimonde, we assumed, was dead. But he’s show up again on Draenor, and it’s left a lot of people confused as to how he could have been dead, and suddenly is not. People speculated that just as there are infinite versions of Draenor, there are infinite versions of the Burning Legion as well. That’s where the tweet from Alex Afrasiabi comes in.
— Alex Afrasiabi (@Abrosiabi) June 6, 2015
Demons and the Twisting Nether
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, because this is always how demons have worked — demons are bound to the Twisting Nether. When you kill a demon, it goes right back to the Twisting Nether. There, it will slowly regain its power until it’s ready to bounce back again and create more trouble. We’ve seen this at work plenty of times before — Mal’ganis was supposedly killed by Arthas in Northrend, yet he popped up again in Wrath of the Lich King, seemingly unharmed. Demons are immortal in that sense, they cannot be killed unless they are actually killed in the Twisting Nether, where they reside. Think of the demons we see in our world as projections of a demonic soul, rather than a physical demon — it might look and feel like you’ve killed that demon, but all you’ve done is damaged it to the point where it slips back into the Twisting Nether. And sometimes that demon is damaged enough that you don’t see it for years, decades, centuries.
The only exception to this rule was Archimonde. As far as we knew, Archimonde died at the peak of Mount Hyjal. He was blown to smithereens, the assembled armies that fought him there saw it happen with their own eyes. I had speculated before that perhaps the reason Archimonde was able to be fully destroyed was because he had been summoned to Azeroth in an extraordinarily powerful ritual, that perhaps he was able to be killed because his physical form had been pulled from the Twisting Nether when he was summoned. It was honestly the only way it could be explained — every other demon we’ve encountered, including Sargeras himself, has always been sent back to the Nether, rather than dying as an absolute.
The problem with this, of course, is the fact that I assumed Archimonde was an exception. And as it turns out, he was not.
A lot of people have been calling this a major retcon, but I wouldn’t call it a retcon, I’d call it a plot twist — a big one. The fact that this plot twist had to be revealed or clarified on Twitter is a little disconcerting, because it suggests that the lore or story surrounding Archimonde’s reappearance isn’t really clear. Mind you, we haven’t seen patch 6.2 come out yet, so we can’t be certain how it all plays out. There may very well be a piece of lore in the upcoming patch that explains what happened, and how exactly the denizens of Azeroth got it wrong. Because that’s what’s going on here, really — this is just a piece of history that everyone got dead wrong, and I imagine Archimonde couldn’t be happier about that.
Realities and the Twisting Nether
But then come the myriad questions regarding what we’re doing on Draenor. This is not our Draenor, we’ve been told that plenty of times — in the universe there are infinite versions of Draenor out there, and each version has a slightly different story. But each presumably came to the same conclusion: The Legion was triumphant. How, exactly, it triumphed likely varies from reality to reality, but it has always succeeded in one form or another. That’s why what Garrosh did was so controversial, it’s why it caught the attention of the Legion like never before, because nowhere in any version of Draenor was it ever destined to be anything other than conquered territory. We’ve been told more than once that there is one true timeline out there, and although there may be variations that exist, that timeline pretty much anchors everything in place.
So why isn’t there an infinite number of Burning Legions? Because the Twisting Nether is an anchor across realities. There is only one Archimonde, now. There were many eredar across reality that bore the name Archimonde, but all became one — the demon that exists in the Twisting Nether. Once you become a demon, you are essentially binding your soul to that infinite expanse. And we knew this, too — Prince Malchezaar back in Karazhan boldly stated as much when he said that all realities, all dimensions were open to him. Worlds are worlds, existing in the Great Dark Beyond, and there can be different realities, different versions of those worlds — but the Twisting Nether overlaps them all, making it a demonic superhighway in which the Burning Legion can strike again, and again, and again, until whatever world they are conquering is snuffed out. There is only one Sargeras — but Sargeras has access to every version of reality that exists. Which has the side effect of making our valiant and heroic efforts on this one version of Azeroth suddenly seem much, much smaller, a tiny spark of battle in an infinite canvas of chaos.
And in a way, it may also explain why the Legion is so fixated on our world. Because out of all the myriad realities in existence, out of all of the infinite worlds conquered and drawn into the Legion’s control, we are the one, tiny, insignificant speck that has somehow managed to elude the Legion’s grasp. On more than one occasion. That tells Sargeras that we are far, far more powerful than anything else in the cosmos. And that’s likely both a fascinating and a frightening thought. For if he could have us working for the Legion, we’d probably be stronger armies than any other he’s recruited in his vast lifetime, and that includes the eredar. And if he can’t have us working for the Legion, then he has to come up with some way to get rid of us, before we start doing exactly what we’re doing on Draenor.
We are the inverse of the Burning Legion. We had not, to this day, struck out and tried to fix and mend worlds that had been thoroughly corrupted by the Legion — we instead struggled on our own. Draenor represents our first unwitting attempt at actively trying to undo the Legion’s work.
There’s another tidbit hidden away in all of this that we hadn’t really considered before, too. If there are any number of realities in the cosmos, why didn’t Sargeras simply strike at a different version of Azeroth and corrupt it from another angle? Dave Kosak stated at a BlizzCon a few years ago, in regards to Azeroth, “There’s something about Azeroth that is unique within the cosmology, and there’s a reason that it’s kind of the focus of this.” Now I’ve had many different theories about this over the years, from Azeroth actually being the essence of chaos itself, to being some kind of weird Titan egg, to being the corpse of Titan, the Well of Eternity its blood — but they were all just crazy theories, and this is another one of those crazy theories that may or may not be correct. Fact: The Titans gave Nozdormu dominion over time itself. They told him to preserve the “one true timeline” at all costs — and there is no evidence of this particular aspect of the Titan’s shaping actually happening on any other world we’ve encountered, despite the fact that the Titans supposedly touched them all.
What if Azeroth is a fixed point in existence? What if the reason Sargeras hasn’t tried to conquer an alternate version of Azeroth is because there isn’t one? Our world and the history on it has been carefully sculpted and guided by the Bronze Dragonflight to essentially guarantee that there is only one reality for Azeroth, rather than the infinite number that exist on other worlds?
And if this is the case, is this why Nozdormu went mad? Is this why he spawned the Infinite Dragonflight — because when he was gifted with his tremendous powers, he realized he was being unwittingly shackled to one version of existence, for eternity? This would, in fact, explain Kairoz’s madness a little. If he witnessed what Nozdormu witnessed, perhaps he went a little mad at the idea himself. And perhaps his attempts to “become infinite” were a desperate attempt to shrug off the shackles the Titans locked in place, and instead embrace what reality should have been all along.
Did Nozdormu suffer the same conflict of Titan purpose vs. reality that Sargeras suffered? Is the true nature of the universe in fact chaos — and is what the Titans are trying to do, bringing order and purpose to the world, is it in fact so far against the very nature of what should be, that it shouldn’t be allowed to pass? Was Sargeras, in fact, right all along?
It’s a lot to think about. Whether or not we’ll see any of this strange, cosmic conflict has yet to be determined — but a couple of things are relatively clear, right now. We are but the tiniest pieces in a game we can barely begin to comprehend. And, for whatever reason, Azeroth was chosen as a world to be preserved at all costs. If we knew why, we might begin to better understand why it is we’re drawn to what we do as heroes, and whether or not we’re fighting a battle that can actually be won.
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