Patch 8.3 and how we gave N’Zoth everything he ever wanted
I’ve been thinking a lot about what N’Zoth fate in patch 8.3 means for World of Warcraft going forward. Since I wrote posts about said lore of said game, I figured we could sit down and chat a bit about what we might see from the story in the next few patches and beyond. I should point out that some or all of this might not be for several expansions. I mean, Shadowlands isn’t going to be the end, and so we’ll need to see where the story goes from here.
The aftermath of N’Zoth
With the end of N’Zoth — at least for now (I promise I’ll pick this up) — we’re in a new place for World of Warcraft. Just like the events at the Seat of the Pantheon ended the immediate threat of the Burning Legion, the Ny’alotha raid has ended the immediate threat of N’Zoth. In one fashion or another, N’Zoth has been the threat looming in the shadows since Cataclysm, after the fall of Yogg-Saron in Ulduar made him the last Old God standing. So what happens now? We know that the Old Gods aren’t the ultimate manifestations of the Void, and for that matter, we know there are other Old Gods out in the cosmos. The Arcatraz in BC spelled it out for us when Harbinger Skyriss says it: We span the universe, as countless as the stars!
So what exactly will be happening now that N’Zoth is ‘gone’? Yes, the scare quotes are deliberate. I promise we’ll get back to that.
Well, for starters, Xal’atath is out there somewhere. The knife was used by Wrathion to help us stop N’Zoth, but the entity that lived inside it is free and clear, and we have no idea what she is doing. Furthermore, the existence of G’huun shows us that being an Old God is something achievable. As long as an entity exists with a connection to the Void and the Void Lords and sufficient reality-warping power, it’s effectively an Old God. G’huun went from a Titan experiment to study the nature of Old God Corruption to an actual manifestation of that corruption, and if something that had been confined to a lab for eons could do that… well, Xal’atath has a lot more real world experience of warping and subverting mortals to do its bidding, now doesn’t it? Just ask Modgud Thaurissan or Natalie Seline about it.
And Xal’atath isn’t the only being of immense power who is now free from N’Zoth’s control or interference. Because in order to stop N’Zoth, we let Azshara go. Azshara, who played the Horde and Alliance against each other. Azshara, who knew up front exactly what Sylvanas’ plans are, and has absolutely no intention of trying to stop her. Azshara, who it must be pointed out successfully got us to bring the Heart of Azeroth to the one place on Azeroth where it could be used to free N’Zoth from his prison. When last we saw her, she flat out told us that she was going to go sit her tentacled posterior in the catbird seat on Azeroth, and then we let her go.
After Death, what remains?
I have no idea how things will shake out in Shadowlands but I do know that it’s likely that we will somehow redress the balance of life and death and push Azeroth at least somewhat towards equilibrium. But that does leave us with a lot of unanswered questions. What will be the balance between the Horde and Alliance? How will each faction deal with the serious divisions and issues left exposed by Battle for Azeroth while we’re off trying to fix the realm of death?
One thing I keep thinking, based in part on what I’m seeing for the Shadows Rising novel, is that we’re going to see a lot more about the inner workings of the Horde than the Alliance and that’s a bit of a shame. We need to see how the Alliance functions post-Battle, because in a lot of ways I think it doesn’t function. We have the Gnomes, united under a returned Mekkatorque with the Mechagnomes, and that’s great. We have the Kul Tirans, led by Jaina, in a fairly strong position with their naval power more or less secure and their governance once again united. The Dwarves are heading towards a future where Dagran Thaurissan II becomes ruler of both Bronzebeard and Dark Iron Clans. But the Night Elves and the Humans are further apart than ever, and entirely because of the divide between Anduin and Tyrande. We need to see where this goes, how the Alliance will look after all this.
It feels likely that the Alliance might well fall apart, not even because of an active desire to pull it apart, but because everyone has their own concerns to deal with. While the Horde appears more united than ever despite lacking a central authority for the first time in its existence, the Alliance has a central authority — but it’s not likely to maintain one, if those that make it up don’t choose to support it.
The Return of the Old Gods
I keep coming back to the idea that maybe the Old Gods aren’t dead. We saw what happened when Aman’Thul killed Y’Shaarj. We experienced the corruption of the Sha and discovered the continued existence of the Heart of Y’Shaarj for millennia. But ultimately, the Heart of Y’Shaarj was destroyed and the Vale restored, right?
Then why did N’Zoth attack it?
I keep coming around to the idea that N’Zoth’s two main attack vectors were the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, where the Heart of Y’Shaarj was imprisoned for millennia, and Uldum, where the Forge of Origination is. The Forge that we now know was corrupted by N’Zoth. The same Forge that N’Zoth wanted restored. The Forge that N’Zoth wanted to use to bring Ny’alotha into existence. The Forge we used to destroy him.
We destroyed him in Ny’alotha, a place that didn’t exist. A place that we mapped using Titan technology, essentially bringing it into a kind of existence. An unfathomable nightmare realm that we explored, set down triangulation data, and then used the Forge on. I’m also reminded that when MOTHER attempted to access Ulduar, Mimiron cut the connection immediately. Why? What’s going on in Ulduar?
We have no reason to believe either C’thun or Yogg-Saron are truly dead, and now it’s possible N’Zoth hasn’t been killed at all, but instead has achieved his goal for the Forge of Origination and now exists within the Titan technology of it — much as he once existed inside the Emerald Dream as the Emerald Nightmare. Ny’alotha was never a real place, so how could we possibly destroy it? If N’Zoth is in the Forge, then he has access to the whole network of Titan facilities across Azeroth that were created to monitor and protect the World Soul.
As the Emerald Nightmare, N’Zoth was able to infect the dreams of the sleeping World Soul. What will he do if he now has access to her conscious mind?
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