Know Your Lore: Xavius, The Nightmare Lord
He wanted to set the world on fire, but not to destroy it.
Xavius, today known by such epithets as The First Satyr and The Nightmare Lord, was once among the highest of the Highborne, the acknowledged masters of Kaldorei society, second only to Queen Azshara herself. A prodigiously talented and skilled wielder of the arcane, Xavius spearheaded the ancient night elves exploration of the Well of Eternity and the unfathomable power it contained. A power that he was convinced only the Kaldorei, and of them really only the Highborne, should have. In time he grew arrogant, contemptuous of other races he deemed inferior to his own people.
And yet, although he deemed himself cold, aloof from matters of emotion and utterly immune to his Queen’s legendary allure, he still desired to win her approval by an act of ultimate devotion. Xavius would burn the world, scouring it clean of the lesser races, and use the power of the Well to remake a new paradise in the image of Azshara herself. But how much of this plan was his originally? It’s impossible to say. Because while exploring the power of the Well of Eternity, Xavius drew attention from beyond Azeroth. The very singular attention of a specific being, powerful beyond comprehension, who would in an instant alter everything in Xavius’ life.
Before the Burning Shadow
Before he was a monster, Xavius was a different kind of monster.
We know little of his life before the War of the Ancients. By the time we first see him, he is already Xavius, trusted councilor to Queen Azshara, the perceived greatest worker of magic in the world. (We now know that Azshara was always his superior in power, and perhaps he ranked behind the Stormrage brothers — depending on how we view the power of the Priesthood of Elune, he likely ranks below Tyrande Whisperwind as well.) When Azshara had her palace built on the shores of the Well of Eternity, Xavius was the natural choice to begin the project of studying it. As time passed, the Highborne drew so much magic from the Well that its waters turned black and storms erupted over its surface. Yet even that wasn’t enough for Xavius.
It’s clear that despite his protestations to the contrary, Xavius was deeply enamored with his Queen. His proposal to remake the world in her image was calculated to win her approval, but it was also sincere. Xavius, despite cultivating an air as calculatingly rational, was perhaps even more ensnared by his Queen’s allure than any other of the Highborne. But even that wasn’t his greatest flaw. His colossal arrogance led him to probe too quickly and deeply into the Well, and created a magical disturbance that echoed out into the very Twisting Nether, declaring to everything that lived there here we are.
And to Xavius’ ultimate damnation, something noticed.
It’s hard to say how much of Xavius’ mind was left after encountering the will of Sargeras. The Dark Titan might well have simply crushed everything in Xavius he didn’t find useful, but to be fair, Xavius was already someone who would commit global genocide simply to impress a woman he knew would never love him. Soon Xavius introduced his Queen to Sargeras’ presence, and explained how they could make the plan a reality — by using the power of the Well, a portal sufficient to allow Sargeras to enter Azeroth bodily could be constructed. Considering Sargeras to be a worthy consort, Azshara willingly allowed Xavius to begin draining the power of the Well into the creation of a portal, allowing the demons of the Burning Legion to step bodily forth into our world for the first time.
The First Satyr
Because of how Azshara used her people’s love to govern them, the non-Highborne night elves couldn’t conceive of the notion that the demons attacking them had been summoned on her orders. They fought back, chanting for Azshara as they attempted to fight their way into the palace and save their beloved Queen. This led to difficulties — while the Highborne were considered the elite and masters of magic among their people, it turned out that the army under Kurtalos Ravencrest had quite a few of its own spellcasters, and there were renegades such as Illidan Stormrage who displayed a very high degree of skill with magic. Xavius couldn’t get the portal to widen further as long as other mages were drawing on the Well’s power to fight the demons.
This is a fundamental flaw in Xavius’ thinking. For all his reputed brilliance, he thinks conservatively. It took Azshara to fix his problem for him — if others are drawing on the Well and leeching off its power, then seal off the Well so that all of its power may go to the portal. And Xavius did this, admittedly with his usual proficiency. The night elves began to falter as their spells fizzled, while ever more demons poured out of the portal over the Well.
But Xavius’ ward only affected the arcane magic that came from the Well. It did nothing to prevent druid magic, and Malfurion Stormrage used the Emerald Dream as a means to approach and defeat Xavius’ barrier, allowing the night elf mages to regain their magic. Xavius responded, and the two did battle.
Xavius lost. This would have been his end, but Sargeras was loath to abandon a useful tool. He remade Xavius, granting him a twisted, monstrous form. In this form, Xavius was the first of what we call satyrs to walk on Azeroth. (The presence of satyrs on the planet Xoroth makes this an open question — was Xavius the first satyr ever, or merely the first on our world?) Xavius’ new mission was to transform as many of the Highborne as he could into satyrs, and to bring his killer, Malfurion Stormrage, to Sargeras for the Dark Titan’s vengeance. Xavius was very good at the former, transforming his old friend Peroth’arn and many others of the Highborne. In the process, however, Xavius also gave some Highborne such as Dath’remar Sunstrider, doubts about everything Sargeras and Xavius had promised them — this would in time lead to the creation of the High Elves of Quel’Thalas.
While Xavius was skilled at convincing others to accept the satyr transformation, he failed utterly at bringing Malfurion to Sargeras. Indeed, he met a second death at the druid’s hands. While attacking, he ended up wounded by Shandris Feathermoon, and then Malfurion use the arrow she’d injured the satyr with to cause a magical tree to grow inside his body, actually consuming it from within. Xavius’ now-demonic essence was bound inside this wooden prison even as his body was devoured from the inside out. In this horrible living death, Xavius ultimately met his fate as the Sundering destroyed the Well of Eternity and sent Xavius to the bottom of the ocean.
But that wasn’t the end for Xavius.
The Nightmare Lord
Having failed the Legion, Xavius was abandoned on Azeroth. He became a kind of deity or tutelary spirit to the satyr, and his name was often evoked during the War of the Satyr, an attempt by the satyrs to destroy the new night elf society that had replaced the one they’d been part of before the Sundering. But the satyrs lost, and their leadership was destroyed, leaving Xavius as no more than a name to be evoked. Or so everyone thought.
While the Legion itself seemingly had no use for him, Xavius found beings that would give him the chance for revenge against Malfurion for having twice defeated and destroyed him. Some ten thousand years after the Sundering, a menace called the Nightmare Lord attempted to destroy the barriers that separate the Emerald Dream from Azeroth, much as Deathwing would later do with the Elemental Planes, nearly causing Azeroth to collapse into Deepholm. Using a magical malaise, Xavius sought to channel the dreams of all Azeroth into the Emerald Nightmare, while simultaneously torturing Malfurion both physically by transforming him slowly into a tree, and showing Malfurion images of Tyrande transformed into a demon after having chosen Illidan over him. In this, Xavius once again shows off his lack of innovation — when given the opportunity for revenge against someone he’s hated for ten thousand years, Xavius’ idea of revenge is to do the magical equivalent of copying Malfurion.
Still, his lack of originality didn’t prevent him from nearly succeeding. Fandral Staghelm, desperate for the return of his deceased son Valstann, had been easy prey for Xavius and had unwittingly poisoned his own attempt to create a new World Tree by grafting a piece of the tree that Xavius was part of to Teldrassil at its creation. Tyrande, Ysera and others helped rescue Malfurion and prevent Xavius’ victory, sealing the Nightmare Lore in the Rift of Aln within the Nightmare.
In the end, Xavius has utterly failed at any of the goals ever set for him — his attempt to investigate the Well only brought Sargeras to Azeroth, he never succeeded in transforming the world to match Azshara’s perfection (and indeed, both he and Azshara were instead transformed into parodies of their original forms) and even his efforts for the Old God N’Zoth seems to have failed.
Yet it seems Xavius, despite working for the forces behind the Emerald Nightmare has not forgotten his loyalty to Sargeras and the Legion. In Legion, the Nightmare Lord, father of satyrs appears in the zone Val’sharah, where it seems as though he attempts to serve two paymasters by using the Emerald Nightmare to invade this sacred druid refuge. Part of it is likely to spite Malfurion, who originally learned the druid arts in this lost refuge. We have yet to learn exactly what Xavius’ plan is, or how he managed to escape the Rift of Aln, much less what his true allegiances are. One suspects they are ultimately to himself. With both Azshara’s naga and Malfurion’s druids in the Broken Isles, who knows what Xavius will do for vengeance? It’s essentially all he has left.
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