Who is Ve’nari, and can we really trust her?
Of all the mysteries still lingering at the end of the 9.0 Shadowlands quests, probably the most intriguing is the situation regarding Ve’nari, a Broker who has survived alone in the Maw for a long time and now considers us her willing partner — until such time as one of us betrays the other. Why is she even in the Maw, though? And why is both her Cartel and the Mawsworn actively looking for her?
We first meet Ve’nari while rescuing Darion Mograine from the Maw at the behest of Bolvar during the Maldraxxus part of the leveling campaign. Shortly after freeing Mograine a Mawsworn attacks, stunning us. We are saved from capture and torment by the arrival of Ve’nari, who is somehow able to make our foe disintegrate. When pressed as to why she’s helping us, her attitude indicates cold pragmatism and the desire to get rid of us. When we later meet up with her again, she has decided we would be a worthwhile ally and starts to enlist our aid.
Over the course of our assisting her, we learn her version of her backstory in the Maw: how she and a team of Cartel Ve members had journeyed into the Maw for a purpose she does not disclose, where their initially large number was whittled down by attacks until only she remained. Realizing that working by herself was the easiest way to stay hidden and hopefully beneath notice, Ve’nari chose to avoid all other contact until we arrived and she put us in her employ.
Of course, I don’t believe a word of it.
There’s the truth, and then there’s the truth
Our first real hint that she’s not telling us the whole truth is when we encounter another member of the Ve Cartel, Ve’rayn, while in Oribos. While his questions about the Maw start off innocuous enough, he is soon asking about Ve’nari. Our characters aren’t snitches so we tell him nothing, but if Ve’nari is the only surviving member of a Cartel Ve expedition, how does the rest of the Cartel know? It’s possible that death for a Broker results in their flame regenerating in their home plane, in which case they are aware that she is still alive, and therefore most likely somewhere in the Maw. That doesn’t explain why they think she did something wrong, as we find out in the next quest, Rule 4.
Rule 4 is itself probably the most important indicator of Ve’nari’s actions up to this point. The Cartel has returned to the Maw with a device designed to track her. The Mawsworn Inquisitor, also looking for Ve’nari, has slain them but hasn’t yet recovered the tracking device. After you kill the Inquisitor, you recover the device — one that states quite clearly, “we know what you did, Ve’nari. You will pay the price.” When asked about this, Ve’nari completely deflects the question with a vague answer regarding secrets and trust.
Further encounters with Brokers in the Maw seem to confirm a need for caution dealing with Ve’nari. When we get sent to the Beast Warrens to stop the Mawsworn from attempting to track her, we encounter another Broker who tells us point blank that Ve’nari betrayed her former associates, and warns us not to trust her. In the end, she assures us that her fellow Cartel members are merely envious of her, and that there’s no there there, followed by basically telling us she’s going to betray us too.
The three factions at play within the Maw
So what are we to make of this entire situation? There seems to be three mutually antagonistic parties we’ve gotten tangled with: Ve’nari, Cartel Ve, and the Mawsworn. Let’s look at each of their motivations and see if we can piece together the source of their conflict.
Ve’nari is positioning herself as a trader in the Maw, although working pretty much exclusively with us. She knows a lot about the Maw and Torghast, though, which seems to indicate she has been wandering a substantial amount of time before encountering us. Nothing she does is for free; even our initial encounter wherein she saved us netted her an Amulet of the Horsemen. We know we’re at the bottom of her list of potential targets, although that seems borne out of pure pragmatism instead of malice. She hides stuff from us because she’s always hidden details from her allies, it’s just part of her nature at this point.
Cartel Ve feels betrayed by Ve’nari, although the specific reason isn’t spelled out. Their motivations may be questionable, though, as the Brokers haven’t given us the most trustworthy vibes during our encounters with them. What they see as a betrayal may not coincide with what a denizen of Azeroth would consider a betrayal. Envy of Ve’nari’s success could be their actual motivation for continuing to try hunting her down.
Then there’s the Mawsworn, who are capturing and torturing Brokers while also deliberately hunting for Ve’nari. Clearly, the Jailer’s servants aren’t going to be keen on random entities wandering the land, and Ve’nari may have evaded them long enough that she’s a focus simply because she’s an irritant.
So the simplest, most likely explanation is that the Cartel doesn’t trust Ve’nari, Ve’nari doesn’t trust anybody, and the Mawsworn simply want to kill anyone who shows up in the Maw. That’s also the most boring explanation, so what if there’s another more complex explanation that holds extreme importance for the future of the expansion?
What might Ve’nari be hiding that’s so powerful?
One possibility is that the Ve’nari and her associates recovered something unexpected during their initial visit that tore the group apart — the Brokers’ nature seems to indicate that such an item would be seen as an asset to sell to the highest bidder, but perhaps Ve’nari, in a rare moment of conscience, realized that its importance transcended its value for trade. This item would be perceived as valuable enough by the Brokers that they feel betrayed by Ve’nari’s actions while also still wanting it for themselves so badly they’re going to great lengths to track her down. Meanwhile, the Jailer really wants this item back, so his Mawsworn are searching everywhere for Ve’nari and their failure to find her has led to increasingly advanced measures.
Such an item may have already be referenced by the Jailer in a memory of an encounter with the Runecarver. In that cinematic, the Jailer references Mourneblades, with Frostmourne going to be the finest ever crafted. What if the item that Ve’nari has recovered is a Mourneblade of some sort — one that isn’t necessarily as powerful as Frostmourne but one to which Maw denizens are particularly vulnerable against?
What evidence is there that she has a Mourneblade? Well, remember our first encounter with Ve’nari, when she disintegrates a Myrmidon that threatened us? Whatever weapon or device allowed her to do that must be on the powerful side, and it would explain how she has survived the dangers of the Maw for so long. Also consider the Stygia we’re collecting for her, or the previously-mentioned Amulet of the Horsemen — these are items tied to the Maw or the powers of Death, and if she’s able to infuse them into the Mourneblade, it may be she’s slowly imbuing a weapon potentially strong enough to take down the Jailer himself.
While this is a nothing more than tinfoil hat theory, it does raise the possibility that while she’s probably not telling us the truth, she is on our side — she just doesn’t trust us enough to let us in on the secret. Perhaps the final transaction we end up making with Ve’nari will be a one-sided one: she gives us an empowered Mourneblade, and in return, we give her nothing more than our thanks. And for once, let’s hope that’s enough.
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