Know Your Lore TFH Edition: Helya’s betrayal and the Death God
Last week we talked about Keeper Odyn and the dread being he had summoned from the Shadowlands. Odyn forced his stepdaughter Helya to call up this creature for him. The entity made a pact with Odyn, teaching him how to see into both the Shadowlands and the world of the living, by swallowing his eye whole. With this knowledge, Odyn learned how to create the Val’kyr. These creatures, neither living nor dead, he then used to return the souls of deceased Vrykul from death, housing them in new immortal bodies. In the Halls of Valor, his Valarjar army waited to fulfill the purpose for which it had been created.
Helya objected to this plan so strongly that Odyn forced the transformation on her. Although he claims otherwise in Skyhold, he made her the first of the Val’kyr. After Loken intervened and freed Helya from Odyn’s control, she took her vengeance. She sealed the Halls of Valor away so that Odyn’s Valarjar couldn’t reach Azeroth any longer, trapping them both. But we still have many questions left to answer about what happened.
Today’s Know Your Lore is a Tinfoil Hat edition. The following contains speculation based on known material. These speculations are merely theories and shouldn’t be taken as fact or official lore.
The rule of the dead
It’s no wonder Helya’s mind broke once Odyn made her an undead monstrosity. No wonder she embraced the Shadowlands once she was freed from his control. Unlike Eyir, Helya knew the Shadowlands, and the beings that dwell within them. Helya knew what she’d become, what her very existence made possible. Yes, Val’kyr can bridge life and death. They can go to the realm of the dead and retrieve the souls of the slain. Spirit Healers do much the same thing. You’ll note that Spirit Healers do it without any guidance, for they haven’t had any since Odyn was sealed away.
It’s also no wonder that Helya and Sylvanas could come to some form of accord. One thing Helya could understand all too well what it was like to be forced into an existence you abhorred. Forced to serve the one who trapped you between life and death.
But the very existence of Val’kyr weakens the boundaries between life and death. Necromantic energies can more easily flow into the mortal world. Things that should be dead are now free to defy the order of the cosmos. Odyn in his hubris has wounded the world of Azeroth in a way that can’t be easily measured. In A Thousand Years of War, we discover that Titans and their World-Souls exist before the worlds they form around themselves. They’re potentially spit into our reality as sparks of colossal might — similar to the Old Gods sent by the Void Lords.
Now we must ask ourselves, what kind of creature would give Odyn a key to the land of the dead? Someone who possibly couldn’t open the door itself, but who very much wanted to come through? And this leads to further questions. Why did the Val’kyr follow the Lich King so readily in Northrend?
Death rides a pale Trojan horse
Why did everyone just assume the Lich King was a ‘god of death’ and follow him? Was it merely his power over necromancy? What if that power comes not just from the Burning Legion?
The Legion sent the Frozen Throne to Azeroth as part of a plan to weaken and infiltrate the world. But the Lich King’s power grew to the point where they couldn’t control him. Why? Was it because Odyn had broken the natural order? Was there a Lich King before Ner’zhul? A terrible entity from the Shadowlands caged in the runed armor crafted by Legion soulsmiths? Demons created the Helm of Domination to grant the flayed and corrupted spirit of Ner’zhul the powers of the Lich King. But we don’t know where they got that power from — it’s not Fel.
Remember, the Fel is created by the utter destruction of Light and Shadow. It’s fueled by consuming souls, not pulling them back across the boundaries of life and death. Nothing the Scourge does is beyond the Legion — we’ve seen Balnazzar raise an army of undead in Stratholme. His unholy Risen are certainly terrifying, but they aren’t the Scourge. They’re clearly not Fel. And Nathrezim like Balnazzar love to tap other sources of power.
The Legion can create artifacts and trap spirits within them. The Death Knight Artifact Maw of the Damned has the spirit of the demon that created it trapped inside. The Lich King knew of this weapon and sent a Death Knight to find it. So it’s feasible that Legion Warlocks used a similar ritual to the one Helya used to summon a death entity from the Shadowlands. They then imprisoned it in the helmet to serve as a power source, only for that entity to run amok when it arrived on Azeroth.
Death takes a home
There’s still much to consider — did Helya’s deal with Sylvanas include an escape clause? It makes sense — being trapped in the Shadowlands is no fun for anyone. For all we know, right now Helya might be waiting somewhere on Azeroth, perhaps in Sylvanas’ own retinue. After all, Sylvanas wants Val’kyr to serve her. Helya is by leaps and bounds the most powerful Val’kyr ever.
Does Helya work alongside the Lich King, or at cross purposes to it? Is it the entity she summoned so long ago, and are they rivals or allies? Why did Yogg-Saron call itself the God of Death? How did it teach Loken how to free Helya from Odyn’s control? Is there a death entity living in the Helm of Domination, slowly influencing Bolvar — and perhaps even Sylvanas?
The entity Helya called from the Shadowlands for Odyn took the Titan-Forged’s eye. Did this allow it to see through to Odyn’s world, even as he saw through to the Shadowlands? Did it hunger for the bountiful life energies of the most potent Titan Soul ever? And was it so powerful and malevolent that it managed to trick even Kil’jaeden, arranging to be placed in a singular vessel? A set of rune forged armor and helmet that would be used first to empower Ner’zhul, and later both Arthas and now Bolvar. Is that why Yogg-Saron could not act directly against the Scourge even as they used the Old God’s blood as a crafting element? Because this death lord comes from a realm beyond even the Void — beyond the Shadowlands, where Death itself waits.
The future of death
And perhaps even now this entity plots within the Helm, for Azeroth still stands as a world where the bounds of life and death are thin. Spirit Healers raise young heroes every day. And every time they do, they weaken the veil that Helya once pierced on Odyn. Every Forsaken raised by the Val’kyr, every plague of Undeath, every Stormforged raised in Odyn’s service. All of these acts help scrape away more and more of the wall separating life and death. And who knows? Perhaps one day the Shadowlands will swallow Azeroth. Life will be death and death will be life, and the first Death Titan will stalk the cosmos.
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