Know Your Lore: The horror of the Old Gods
They come from nothing. They are madness. They destroy, corrupt, and their roots sink deep into any unfortunate world they come across. Cosmic parasites. Entropy made flesh. These gods are not your gods.
These gods are the Old Gods.
This post contains spoilers for World of Warcraft: Chronicle Vol. 1. If you wish to remain unspoiled until the release of the book, read no further.
The lords of the void
In the cosmos there are certain forces at play. Two of the most primordial are those of Light and Shadow. Light emanates, it illuminates throughout all existence, and by its radiance we see all existence. It is the revelation, an evanescent force that brings other forces into existence. And such light inherently casts a Shadow.
Dwelling within that Shadow are beings of pure Void, the remnants of before existence itself. These beings do not exist as we understand it: they are a rejection of existence. They cannot exist, in the way we think of it. They are the Void Lords, dwellers in the bastion of Shadow, the last redoubt of the darkness that preceded Light. And they hate existence, the mockery of it, how it creates distinctions and boundaries and things. They hate all things, all life, all Light. They would see it all end.
These entities cannot enter our reality on their own, it is as inimical to them as they are to it. Entities such as Entropius are but the merest fragments of their colossal vastness, their cosmic nothing. But the Void Lords long ago discovered existence, and saw that it served as a cradle for vast beings of immense power. Through these beings, these world-souls, Titans were ushered into existence. And once they existed the Titans were beings of power, and that power could be turned to any purpose.
So the Void Lords strove to hurl pieces of themselves through the boundaries of creation and into existence, throughout the Great Dark Beyond. That lesser void, the black sea in which stars swim and worlds turn, was the hatchery of Titans, the nursery of world-souls. And anywhere that the fragments of the Void Lords took root, the world-souls would be battened upon by raw, primordial corruption given form. Writhing mountains of pustulent tendrils would slither through the air, would drive into the soil until they found that which they sought and slowly infested it.
The Void Lords could not corrupt an adult Titan. So they would strike them when they were not yet born. They could not know which worlds contained world-souls. So they simply hurled their manifested malevolence into the cosmos to batten upon any world it found.
The Black Empire rises
One such world was Azeroth. Possessed of a truly great world-soul, this world was unique in the cosmos, and had the potential to one day awaken into the mightiest of Titans, greater even than Aman’Thul, first of their number. The potency of the slumbering world-soul of Azeroth was so great that it drew into itself all of the elemental spirit energies that would normally sweep the surface of the world, leading the elementals into chaos and competition. Fire, Earth, Air, and Water, led by their Elemental Lords, made war on one another. They had no idea what was coming, or they might not have wasted their time battling one another.
From the sky rained horror. Four mountains of corruption dropped from the space beyond the stars and slammed into Azeroth’s surface. The greatest and most potent of these beings was Y’Shaarj, the Beast of Seven Heads, who dominated the center of Kalimdor itself. Along with C’Thun, Yogg-Saron, and N’Zoth to aid it, Y’Shaarj began the work of corrupting the dreams of the world-soul of Azeroth. If all went according to the Void Lords’ plans, then Azeroth would in time be completely covered by the corrupt offspring of the Old Gods, its dreams twisted into nightmares, and when it woke it would be a Titan unlike any other. A force of destruction and death, a Void Titan that would in time unravel all creation. This was the fate they planned for Azeroth.
The Elemental Lords had no wish to allow the Old Gods to corrupt Azeroth. Brawling and warlike as they were among each other, they banded together to fight the Old Gods and their N’raqi and Aqir minions, who were born out of their hideous flesh. Yet the Elementals could not ultimately defeat the great corruptors. Not only were the Aqir and N’raqi almost limitless — their numbers constantly refreshed by spawning more out of the oozing, weeping mountains of tainted flesh that were their masters’ own bodies — but the Old Gods knew secrets of magical power gleaned from their dark progenitors, magics that could easily bind even Elemental Lords to their will. In time, the Elementals were defeated, bowing their heads to the Old Gods. And Azeroth was doomed.
All was going according to plan. Y’Shaarj dominated the heart of Kalimdor, down to its southernmost coastline. N’Zoth controlled much of the east of that vast land, while C’thun commanded much of the west and south that did not interest Y’Shaarj. And in the north the most cunning of the Old Gods, Yogg-Saron, worked his maleficent will upon the land. Soon, as such vast entities reckoned time, Azeroth would be corrupted and then the Void Titan would be born. And it all might have happened that way.
The coming of the usurpers
Aggramar, the current Champion of the Pantheon, discovered Azeroth’s powerful dreams and investigated, becoming horrified at what he found. The Titans had already heard from Sargeras of the planning of the Void Lords, and although the former Champion of the Pantheon had declared it impossible to cleanse the corruption from a world-soul once it had taken root, the rest of the Pantheon were not so quick to accept defeat. They would move against the Black Empire and the inconceivably vast monsters at the heart of its reign.
Their arrival on Azeroth came in the form of a vast army of constructs, known as the Titan-Forged, beings who could act as proxies. The Titans feared what their presence might cause, for they were mature world-souls, vast as that implies, and while Azeroth had the potential to exceed any and all of them it was still nascent and vulnerable. Until it awoke, they would have to exercise care even in its defense.
To the N’raqi and Aqir who served the Old Gods, these were the Usurpers, who opposed what these monstrosities saw as the natural order of things. To them, Azeroth existed to be corrupted by their gods, and the Titans had no right to interfere.
Yet interfere they did.
A god dies, a soul is wounded
The armies of the Titan-Forged first battled the Aqir, N’raqi, and the enslaved Elementals, and in time proved victorious over them. However, the Titan-Forged knew they couldn’t simply destroy the Elementals, as they were bound to Azeroth, part of its birth cycle. So instead they created Elemental Planes to serve as prisons and prevent the Elementals from either serving the Old Gods again or seeking to return to a state of chaos and war between each other. This accomplished, they moved to uproot the Old Gods.
Y’Shaarj, as the mightiest and most central of these aberrant beings, faced their ire first. He proved an incredibly difficult foe, and the armies of the Titan-Forged suffered astonishing losses against the Old God and his forces. Ultimately, Aman’Thul himself took action. His colossal hand ripped the mountain that was Y’Shaarj out of the very world, crushing and blasting it as it was uprooted.
Yet this was no triumph. For while Y’Shaarj was dead, his blighted flesh and corrupted blood scattered across the southern reaches of Kalimdor, the Titans saw that they had acted hastily. Y’Sharrj’s roots had sunk deep, and the act of ripping the Old God free had wounded the world-soul deep within the planet’s core. A vast lake of raw blood soon filled, and the primordial energies of the being threatened to wash over the land, twisting it beyond recognition and heralding the death of the world-soul.
The Titans realized they could not act directly again. Nor could they afford to uproot the Old Gods. One such injury was survivable, perhaps, but four? Thus in their turn, C’Thun, N’Zoth, and finally Yogg-Saron were confined within the world itself, their enormous bodies imprisoned by Titan-Forged chains. If they could not be uprooted, they would be neutralized, their influence contained until after the birth of Azeroth — the Final Titan would would undo their work of their Void Lord progenitors.
Yet even as the Titan-Forged worked to create an order to Azeroth, to help guide the world-soul within it to awakening, the Old Gods strained against the bonds. In time they would manage to achieve some form of freedom — Yogg-Saron corrupting the keepers above his prison in Ulduar, C’Thun seizing Ahn’Qiraj with his army of Qiraji (descendants of the ancient Aqir). N’Zoth would in time strike at the Emerald Dream itself, forcing Nightmares upon the dreams of the sleeping world-soul. And make no mistake — none of these beings are dead. What was slain in Ahn’Qiraj or Ulduar were no more than the merest fractions of the Old Gods. They exist. They endure. They strain against their confinement. And they yet seek to corrupt an unborn Titan, for the dream of the nonexistent makers is to give birth to the universe’s unmaking.
And it remains to be seen if anything can stop them.
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