Welcome to the World of Warcraft Readthrough where I am diving into the lore of Warcraft chronologically. For a running list of characters, look here. You do not have to have played the game or have any previous knowledge of the world, but please note, since this is an in-depth read, there will be spoilers.
We continue our readthrough with another section of the Chronicle. Unaware of the chaos engulfing the rest of the Great Dark Beyond, the Keepers were dealing with their own issues. Odyn responds to the happenings of our first novel, Dawn of the Aspects, and the death of the Pantheon rocks the Keepers to their core.
When the other Keepers made the proto-dragons into the Dragon Aspects, Odyn got really angry. He saw these beings as primitive and didn’t see how they could protect the world. Not to mention, he was the Prime Designate, and he didn’t like being overruled. He knew it was up to him to protect Azeroth. He decided to use the Vrykul, a strong warrior titan-forged race, to create his army. Odyn asked the other Keepers to join him in his mission, but all refused. He doubled-down then, asking the sorceress Helya to separate a wing of Ulduar where he could house his army. She placed it in the sky, and it was named the Halls of Valor. It was here that the Vrykul who died “glorious deaths in battle would live again.” They would be given new storm-forged bodies and become the Valarjar.
Odyn needed someone to bring these dead warriors to his Hall, so he studied the Shadowland, the realm of death. He learned to create spectral beings called Val’kyr who could do the work. However, these beings would be cursed to remain spectral forever. Obviously, no one volunteered, so Odyn chose to use force. Helya, who was like a daughter to him, scolded Odyn and threatened to return the Halls of Valor back to Ulduar. Obsessed with the idea of protecting Azeroth, Odyn lashed out and made Helya the first of the Val’kyr. She hated him for this, but she had to obey.
Meanwhile, the Pantheon had flung themselves across the Great Dark Beyond, heading toward Azeroth. They needed bodies before their spirits disappeared forever, so they entered the Keepers. The act infused the Keepers with memories and power for a brief time, but they didn’t understand what had happened. They reached out to the Pantheon but clearly got no response. The Keepers then entered a “long period of confusion and unease.” Locked away in his prison under Ulduar, Yogg-Saron could feel this and made a plan to escape. He would corrupt the Forge of Wills, the machine that created new titan-forged. Any new creations would be corrupted with the curse of flesh and slowly become mortal.
The most distraught Keeper made the easiest target: Loken. He had already sought solace from his brother’s lover, Sif. Yogg-Saron whispered to Loken and turned his love into obsession, pushing Sif away. This only made Loken upset, and in a jealous rage, he killed her. Yogg-Saron came to him as an apparition of Sif, convincing him to cover up her murder. He framed Arngrim, king of the frost giants. Thorim flew into a rage upon discovering Sif, and he killed Arngrim and others, causing a war between the storm and frost giants.
“Sif” came to Loken again, and convinced him to use the Forge of Wills to create an army that could protect Ulduar. He was also convinced to blame Thorim for the ongoing war, admonishing him with what Sif would have thought of his actions. With despair, Thorim fled. Loken won the war with his new army, but he began to notice a strange affliction. When he reached out to Sif and got no response, he knew he had been tricked. Rather than seek penance, he sought only to cover up his mistakes and betrayal. He embraced the power of Yogg-Saron and set out to get rid of the remaining Keepers.
Loken reached out to Helya, who still had a deep hatred for Odyn. He offered her free will if she would seal away the Halls of Valor. She gladly did so, trapping Odyn and his Valarjar. She created her own realm, Helheim, but it soon became a dark and twisted place as it fed on her anger. Back in Ulduar, Mimiron was investigating the Forge of Wills, sensing something had gone awry. Loken caused an “accident,” attempting to kill the other Keeper, but Mimiron’s mechagnomes saved him by encasing him in a mechanical body. But his mind was shattered. With Yogg-Saron on his side, it didn’t take long for Loken to defeat Freya and Hodir. The old god then enslaved their minds and trapped them within the halls. Tyr and Archaedas managed to escape with their friend Ironaya.
Taking over Ulduar and naming himself Prime Designate, Loken shut down the Forge of Wills. He worried that the constellar, Algalon, would come back to Azeroth and punish him for his crimes, but presently he became concerned that Highkeeper Ra would return. He sent out minions to search for him, but even Ra’s followers (the mogu, tol’vir, and anubisaths) said he had disappeared. In reality, only Ra realized that the Pantheon had died. He pulled out the remnants of Aman’Thul’s power and placed it in a mountain vault that would be called the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, hoping to save that last bit of his creator. He then went to meditate, deep in the catacombs, and left his followers to their charges.
I felt a bit blasé about this section. On one hand, we are getting to the point where we will have mortals in our stories. The curse of the flesh will bring about the races that we know and love. I enjoyed that this was an overly detailed story to bring about the creation, but in some respects, it felt like a throwaway. I have touched before on my feelings regarding the borrowing of other mythology. I love when old mythologies are retold in a way that makes them feel new and fresh. I love when new people are brought in to appreciate those old myths. Something about this section just didn’t feel new enough for me. I am feeling like a bit of a Norse mythology prude here, and maybe that is the issue. I know quite a lot of stories and history, so I could just be an outlier in feeling like this is just a cut and paste version. The more I think about it, I see the creativity, but I guess I am just having a hard time really getting into it. I wanted to feel like Warcraft was its own mythology.
As for the content itself, Odyn did not take well to being overruled. It’s crazy what power can do to someone. It seemed as though Odyn had good intentions, but when overruled again when no one wanted to join him, I think he lost it. He felt it was his right and duty to do as he must, and sadly all that went to his head. He betrayed someone he loved and locked himself away with his warriors, which doesn’t seem like such a great job of protecting. In fact, it’s interesting that he suddenly cares about the fate of Azeroth, considering in our last reading, Dawn of the Aspects, we learn from Tyr that the Keepers have basically left the world to its own devices, growing complacent. That was why he felt the Aspects were needed. We will see in much later readings how true this is, particularly considering that the Keepers are now either locked away, in hiding, or on the wrong side.
It was said that Odyn looked into the Shadowland to create the creatures of the Val’kyr, but it lacks in other details. At the beginning of the book, there is a brief blurb on each of the realms. It is a place of death and decay where the souls of the departed remain. It is written in the style of a scholar and gives speculation regarding the workings of the realm and its creation. This is the section I wish they had explored in greater detail. Its fun, in a way, to have some mystery, but this was the book to tie everything together and fill in the gaps that players and readers craved.
I just can’t help but say it, but come on already with the women. We got Helya, a strong and powerful sorceress. She removed a whole wing of a building! She sat in a seat of power, having the ear of Odyn. Well, until she spoke her mind and received punishment. When she finally gets her freedom, she created her own realm and had really good intentions, but apparently, even after Odyn was taken care of, her heart was still so darkened by the thought of him, the world tainted, just like her heart. Geeze, those women are so emotional! And Sif… where do I even begin? A tryst with her husband’s brother, murdered by a jealous lover, used as a reason to start a war, and the reason for the use of the curse of flesh. How many cliches can we have in one section? Sif doesn’t even get a description of her own, just that she’s Thorim and Loken’s lover.
Oh, Loken. How easily he was tricked. And how easily he swayed to the dark. He discovered so easily in the end that it wasn’t actually Sif, and he gets so wrapped up in the idea of covering up his actions that he dives head first into working with Yogg-Saron. It makes sense in the context of loved and lost, especially considering he probably still doesn’t want his brother Thorim to find out the truth. But then that whole fear is kind of tossed off to the side as he searches for Ra. It is the constellar, Algalon, who could literally come back at any moment, decide Loken made the world into utter crap, and hit the reset button. I suppose we can believe it is because no one knows when Algalon will return, and it isn’t really talked about in any section so far. I feel like I am pulling on my in-game information for this one.
They do a great job of weaving Yogg-Saron into the creation, and I like the idea that some of our more noble races are somewhat spawned from a great evil. It’s entertaining to think how he created mortals in order to weaken the Keepers, but as we will come to see (and can probably tell from the premise of the game), these mortals will be quite the nuisance to him. I do have one issue though: How did the curse of flesh spread? It just says that Loken’s afflicted army spread the curse to these other titan-forged races, but it doesn’t say how. Touch? Airborne? I bring it up because the answer would really affect whether there could be any immortals at all in the world after this. Wouldn’t everyone eventually be tainted? Are some immune? Does the effect wear off after a couple generations? Maybe we’ll find out in a later reading.
I placed the map above again to give a sense of the scale of where the events are unfolding. Way to the north is where all of the Keeper drama is isolated. Ra was wandering to the south, and it is here that he retires underground, the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. As you can see (and may recall), Y’Shaarj, the most corrupted and evil old god, is buried there. The anubisaths remain watching over C’Thun over in the east at Ahn’Qiraj. The tol’vir started hanging out around Uldum. And we are just told that the mogu stayed in the east, guarding the vaults and machines made by the titan-forged.
Ra’s followers were diligently carrying out their tasks despite his presence, which is admirable. The end of this section mentions that each of them starts to develop civilizations. They also mention how each gains a culture of their own, but of course, details are not given. Having played the game, I know that each of these races has an effect on the course of history so we will see them again. I just hope at that time we learn a bit more about the race itself. I realize this book is not something meant for the casual reader, but I also feel like it shouldn’t be tailored to someone who has played through World of Warcraft in its entirety, including all expansions and end-game content. There are many variations in the types of players, and not everyone will have encountered all of these races. So, while some of us can understand what they mean about the culture of the tol’vir, others will not. It should have been put in the book (or hopefully it is in later sections).
. . . . .
While reading about Sargeras had me hooked, I feel like I am trudging through the rest of it. I think that problem is for two reasons. One, as a player, I know that Sargeras plays a big role in the future. That can probably also be seen if you are just reading along. It’s a man who wants to destroy all of creation! I also know that the Keepers kind of don’t. Two, I am worried this content is boring to those reading along, and I want to get to the really exciting stuff. But you know what… we are almost there! We have just one more foray into the primordial world, and that section will also include the rise of humanity. And it’s true that while all of this information seems like overload, it sets a great foundation for what we’ll read in the future. It’s our backstory!