Know Your Lore: The wrath of Azshara
We’ve run into Queen Azshara exactly once since World of Warcraft originally launched. She made a token appearance in Cataclysm, long enough to taunt Malfurion Stormrage in Darkshore. For a figure as important as Azshara, it seemed odd that she made no further appearances in the expansion, especially given everything that was going on in Vashj’ir. Since that appearance, we’ve seen nothing… until Legion.
Azsuna’s storyline brought us a brief, but tantalizing glimpse of the former Kaldorei Queen. It revealed a little more about the days of the War of the Ancients, and the consequences of challenging the Light of Lights. But it also managed to leave us with more unanswered questions.
We’ve spoken before about the history of Queen Azshara and her reign before and during the War of the Ancients. All that history boils down to one fateful moment, as Azshara and her most faithful servants gathered in her palace as it sank into the sea. In that moment, Azshara heard a voice – and it wasn’t Sargeras.
You will be more than you have ever been … promised the voices. And when the time comes, for what we grant you … you will serve us well …
She took that bargain immediately, and just as immediately, she and her servants found their bodies twisted and transformed into Naga. The Old Gods delivered on their promise, leaving Azshara and her people both safe and definitely far more than they’d ever been before. As for Azshara, it was the last time anyone would see her, until that meeting in Cataclysm.
In Cataclysm, it appeared that her loyalties were with the Old Gods. She deliberately set out to distract Malfurion long enough for the siege on Hyjal to begin. She taunted him about it, and then…vanished. We went on to defeat everything that stood in our way, up to and including Deathwing himself.
…but Azshara didn’t stand in our way. She simply vacated the premises.
The nature of power
That’s the thing about Azshara. Her loyalties are a convoluted thing that we have yet to understand. She didn’t decide to let the Burning Legion into Zin-Azshari because they seemed like good allies. It was because they promised a world remade in her glorious visage. As whether or not they’d deliver on that promise? That was questionable.
But it didn’t really matter, because the outcome benefited the one thing she held in highest, dearest regard: herself. Any move she makes is a deliberate act of either self-preservation or a power grab of some kind. She doesn’t make a move if it doesn’t benefit her in some way. The more it benefits her, the more likely she is to make it.
Similarly, Azshara didn’t ally with the Old Gods out of any kind of loyalty. It wasn’t even a matter of power at that point; it was a matter of necessity. Had she not accepted that deal, she and her few remaining followers would have died. The power she was offered? That was just a bonus.
And woe betide anyone who attempts to get between the Queen and the thing she wants. Prince Farondis learned this lesson the hard way.
Although Farondis was in fairly regular contact with the Highborne in Zin-Azshari, he wasn’t very close to the capital. Because of this, he didn’t fall under the sway of demonic temptation like so many other Highborne did. This left him perfectly capable of seeing just what Sargeras and the Legion were doing to the Kaldorei – and he was determined to stop it.
Luckily, he had a magic academy full of powerful artifacts at his disposal to help him in his task. So he took the Tidestone of Golganneth – one of the Pillars of Creation – and planned to use it to simply destroy the Well. At least it would have been simple were it not for Vandros, a noble in Farondis’ court whose loyalties were firmly with Azshara.
The moment he heard of Farondis’ plans, Vandros let the Queen know what was going on. And Azshara was furious. She shattered the Tidestone of Golganneth, not only wiping out the kingdom, but ensuring that Farondis and all who served him would never truly die. Their spirits were cursed to linger and wander the land, never to experience the release of death.
Let’s pause for a moment here and think about this. Azshara was the leader of the Kaldorei, and we know she was powerful. She was so powerful that Mannoroth noticed it, noting the Queen’s power was only eclipsed by Sargeras or Archimonde. She was so powerful that she was able to shatter a Pillar of Creation in the blink of an eye, with little to no effort.
We’ve gotten the distinct impression that Azshara wasn’t just a leader – it was almost as if she held the entirety of the Kaldorei in her thrall. Mesmerized by either her beauty or her power, the Night Elves of Zin-Azshari would have done anything for their beloved queen, up to and including sacrificing their own lives.
Azshara wasn’t just a leader, she was an extraordinary force to be reckoned with…and that was before the Old Gods offered her more power. Obviously the Old Gods saw something they liked in Azshara and wanted her working for them. But her involvement with the Old Gods has been a side note at best – she did as directed in Darkshore, keeping Malfurion’s attention away from Hyjal, and nothing more than that.
Sargeras vs. the Old Gods
This is where things get a little convoluted, because Azshara has finally made her presence known again in Legion. But why she’s around… that’s a mystery we have yet to solve. She wants the Tidestone again, just like we do – but she’s obviously not on our side. At the same time, we’ve got Xavius in Val’Sharah, trying to capture the Tears of Elune, another Pillar of Creation and he’s working with the Old Gods as well.
There’s no indication that either of these forces have been in contact with the Burning Legion. And it doesn’t make sense that they would be – the entire reason Sargeras formed the Burning Legion was to purge the universe of the void lords. The void lords created the Old Gods, and Sargeras knows that. He wouldn’t suddenly be working with them – if anything, part of the reason he wants to destroy Azeroth is because of that inherent taint that dwells within it.
On the main page for Legion, Xavius’ entry says that he “will stop at nothing to vanquish all who oppose the Burning Legion.” Yet in the Emerald Nightmare, Malfurion points out that Xavius and his “ancient master” must be thrilled that both the Horde and Alliance are distracted with fighting the Burning Legion. So…what exactly is going on here?
A three-pronged war
I don’t think we’re fighting a war with two sides. We’re fighting a war with three – we just haven’t fully realized what the plans of that third group are, not yet. There’s the Alliance and Horde, both firmly pitted against the Burning Legion. That war is the one we’ve been confronted with since the first assault on the Broken Shore, and it’s the one that Khadgar is consumed with fighting.
That war had us venturing into Karazhan to find out more about the Pillars of Creation – and it had the Burning Legion at our heels while we tried to do it. The Legion is trying to keep us from getting those Pillars, because they know it’s our best bet for stopping them. And we’re doing our best to track them down and find them regardless.
And yet…we aren’t the only ones fighting over those artifacts. For some reason, Xavius and Azshara are also in the mix. The Old Gods aren’t content to sit back and let us duke it out with the Legion. Their intervention indicates they’d like the Legion to win and wipe us out. But that leaves Azeroth unprotected – which means the Legion could absolutely destroy the world. And that seems counterproductive, doesn’t it?
Darkened world soul
What we do know is this: the void lords sent the Old Gods out into the universe in order to corrupt titan world-souls. Aggramar noted that Azeroth was one of the most powerful world-souls he’d ever seen when he discovered the planet. The Pantheon was able to successfully contain the Old Gods without killing the world-soul… and Aggramar told this to Sargeras.
Which leads me to wonder – is Sargeras trying to conquer Azeroth because he wants that power or because he’s desperately afraid of what that world could potentially become? Azeroth isn’t just any world-soul. It’s unique in the universe, either because of its power or because it’s the final resting place for the souls of the Pantheon.
That uniqueness comes from the fact that Azeroth is an oddity, a hybrid. Azeroth is the “fixed” product of a world-soul that was destined to be corrupted by the Old Gods, a destiny that was interrupted. Even though the Old Gods were locked away, their influence still helped shape the world. Through the Curse of Flesh, new races emerged on the planet – races that were the product of Titan and Old God. Human, Dwarf, Gnome – all with established Titan roots, changed forever by the influence of the Old Gods.
Imperfections and free will
But we are outside that weird cosmic cycle of Light and Void — or at least the common thread between the two. Because of our origins, we possess the ability to be corrupted but also possess the ability to be redeemed. And we’re just as powerful as the world-soul that imbued our hearts from the moment we were born.
Maybe that’s why Algalon found us so extraordinary when he encountered us in Ulduar. By all rights, we should have been just as corrupted as the world-soul was supposed to be. Yet we weren’t slaves to Yogg-Saron – we conquered the Old God. We prevailed where the Titan’s own perfect creations failed, because we aren’t the Titan’s perfect creations. We’ve evolved beyond that.
And maybe Sargeras wants us destroyed because he thinks that Azeroth is going to be that unspeakably dark creature the void lords are trying to create. If he wipes us out, he can finish destroying the world. We’re desperately trying to stop him, and meanwhile the Old Gods are watching, waiting, interfering where they can. Because they know that we’re the world’s strongest defense system. And when Sargeras knocks us offline…Azeroth can finally awaken and become the dark, beautiful, horrifying harbinger of the Void they envisioned.
Legion isn’t a war with two sides – it’s a game of chess. And although we’re doing fine as pawns, knights, bishops, and rooks…we’ve yet to deal with the Queen. I suspect we’ll see more of Azshara, if not in this expansion, then soon enough.
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