War Campaign Finale: Questions (Spoilers)


I may have stopped playing, but that doesn't mean I've stopped following the story. ESPECIALLY when it comes to Sylvanas, because I absolutely want to hear what happens with her.

I know many Sylvanas fans were upset (before Battle for Azeroth) that she might go "fully bad" and end up as a full-on villain/raid boss, but that's never been my thinking. Let's be real, here -- everyone knew she'd make this turn eventually. She's always been too ambitious, too independent, and too confident that she's the smartest person in the room to sit on her laurels just because they named her Warchief.

And you know what? I've always been fine with this! All I've ever wanted is for her turn & eventual downfall to be interesting and satisfying. That doesn't necessarily mean a happy ending, redemption, forgiveness, or anything like that. I just want her to receive better than Garrosh got.

(Also, an upside to not playing is now I can immediately view spoilers when they are revealed without the self-imposed guilt of wanting to wait to see them in-game!)

SPOILERS BELOW



In addition to the normal lore questions we're all left with after watching the events of the above cinematic, I rewatched it again later and had a few questions. Like most of the tinfoil hat lore theories posted on this blog, chances are extremely high that they're...absolutely nothing at all! But that's okay. They're fun to talk about.

What was that attack?


Sylvanas finished off Saurfang with a blast of some kind of purple energy. Obviously, no one knows what it was. Was it void energy? Shadow magic? Just something she can do, like her banshee wail? But that's not what I'm curious about. I'm curious what its effect was.

"To kill Saurfang!" you might say. But...was it?

Using magic in Warcraft's universe is not an easy thing. It requires effort, exertion. Log onto any of your characters and cast something. Almost always, your spells are accompanied by an energetic burst of motion -- a hand thrust in the air, a palm shot forward as if hurling the spell toward your target, your character's entire body arching as if they're beseeching the heavens for aid. Everyone does it. When Jaina casts spells in cinematics, you can feel the strain, the tension in her entire body.



But in the cinematic, Sylvanas' attack seems to require almost no effort at all.

In fact, what does she do? A flickering purple 'flame' coalesces between her hands, and then seemingly without any impetus or motion by Sylvanas herself, it rockets toward Saurfang.



The body language is...soft, almost gentle. It's strange, especially considering we just saw her violently cutting Saurfang to ribbons a few seconds earlier. And her pose here is almost like someone, I don't know, blowing a pile of feathers into the air, or releasing a bird they'd been holding in their hands.

Sure, it's probably just artistic license. Maybe Sylvanas is just SO POWERFUL that striking Saurfang down with magic doesn't require the same sort of physical effort it does for other people.

Or maybe it doesn't look like a magical attack because its real purpose was something else entirely. Oh sure, it killed Saurfang. That's one pest out of the way. But maybe her true target wasn't even Saurfang to begin with.

A Curious Look

Let's briefly and rewind way back to when the trailer cinematic for Battle for Azeroth first came out. Everyone remember this?



Right after Anduin pulls off his huge Mass Resurrection, Sylvanas gives him a meaningful, dangerous look. I remember a fair amount of speculation at the time as to what this look meant. I think most people chalked it up to Sylvanas recognizing a worthy foe, or even a wry moment of regret, that she had underestimated the boy king. It also might have been simply a "not bad, kid" response, since Anduin revitalized and inspired the Alliance just as she herself had revitalized and inspired the Horde moments earlier. A brief moment, but regardless of what it meant, it felt suitable for her.

Fast forward to the Reckoning cinematic. When Saurfang challenges her to mak'gora, we see this look again. It's a faint smirk, the barest hint of an inside joke that only she knows. It's a look of consideration, calculation, and assessment.



We can all imagine what Sylvanas must be thinking in this moment. "Can I win this duel?" "Is he right? Is my desire to make him suffer enough of a reason to agree to this, something I really don't need to do?" "How much will killing him in front of all these witnesses demoralize them?"

Perfectly logical. A crushing victory over the heart of the rebel army would be devastating to their morale. It might single-handedly win her this conflict. And she knows full well she's stronger than Saurfang.

And yet, her eyes, for the briefest of moments, flicker down before she agrees to the duel.



A question? Confirmation? What is she looking at? Saurfang isn't carrying a fearsome new weapon that might give her pause. He doesn't have new armor, or some mysterious artifact that might be a banshee-slaying device, or really anything. He's the same old orc.

So why does she break eye contact to look downwards? What does Saurfang have that Sylvanas notices, that makes her agree to this duel?



Could it be...Anduin?


That's the thing about AOEs


On my first viewing of the cinematic, I was caught up in the magnificence of the animation and the drama of Sylvanas' words. Upon rewatching, though, I noticed that when she blasts Saurfang and causes the explosion of billowing purple smoke, Anduin is there, clearly visible.

Why?

Canonically, I know he's nearby because he's acting as Saurfang's second in this very odd mak'gora. We do see him walk up with Saurfang and leave Zappy Boi and Thrall a few paces behind. But why did the animation team consciously decide to include him in Saurfang's death scene? He's not involved and he doesn't do anything. Perhaps even more strangely, Anduin is actually completely absent from the previous wide, panning shots during the duel, where the rebel army, Zappy Boi and Thrall can all be seen beyond. He does appear again once when Saurfang gathers himself for his final attack, but otherwise, Anduin vanishes completely. Almost as if we're suppose to forget about him.


But for some reason, they plunked Anduin back in when Sylvanas' attack lands. And not only is he present -- he actually gets fully engulfed by the ominous black-and-purple smoke. Sure, it's only for a few seconds...but a lot can happen in that time.



Could this be why Sylvanas agreed to the duel? Is this why she had the same look on her face before accepting the mak'gora as she did when looking across the battlefield at Anduin back at Lordaeron? Did that moment, after witnessing Anduin's power, give birth to a secret plan that is only now coming to fruition?



Probably not. Like I said, most of the speculation on this blog is done for fun and not because I think it's ACTUALLY what will happen. It's just my nature to naturally try to look for extra meaning, plot twists, and complications in everything! I can't help myself. Sadly, over the years I've gradually had to admit that maybe, just maybe, I give Sylvanas a bit too much credit when it comes to sneaky tricks and devious schemes.

Nonetheless, I can't help but feel there's more behind this expression. That maybe, in addition to the considerations described above, there's one more thought running through her head.

Just as planned.

Kirin Tor removes old mage portals after firing the mages that maintained them


Image from wowhead.com

Not even a month after laying off hundreds of their number, the Kirin Tor announced this week that in the near future, they would no longer be offering mage portal services in older major cities.

"Due to completely unforeseen, unavoidable circumstances, we have decided to discontinue our portals located in older locations," said Kirin Tor Archmagus Kaivax. "Don't think of this as the removal of something everyone loved and appreciated in their day-to-day life, but rather, an opportunity to consolidate a lot of travel into a consistent venue with a consistent look and feel, and room for future growth when needed."

"Really, this is for your own good," said Kirin Tor representative Bornakk, after teleporting to Stormwind to be interviewed. "I understand that changes can throw people off a bit at first, but I also think they help keep the world of Azeroth feeling alive. When there are fewer portals, does the world feel a bit bigger to you? Do you like that? How difficult is it to get to the locations you mentioned without a direct portal?"

When asked if these changes had anything to do with the hundreds of mages recently released by the Kirin Tor, many of whom were tasked with maintaining the portals on a daily basis, Bornakk gulped, checked a watch he wasn't wearing, and teleported away.

"Does the world feel bigger? No, it feels more annoying," said Tazla, a troll hunter, upon hearing of the proposed changes. "What's next? Are our new Dalaran hearthstones going to disappear as an extra fuck you?"

"Remove the Dalaran hearthstones?" said Kaivax, after being informed of the comments. "Hot damn, what a great idea!"

Horde announces massive faction cuts, despite record results


After weeks of speculation, the Horde announced today that it will be eliminating roughly 8% of its people, despite record-breaking recent achievements.

During the announcement, Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner told the assembled crowd that the Horde had "once again accomplished record achievements lately, such as pushing back the Burning Legion, defeating Gul'dan the Great Betrayer, and imprisoning Sargeras himself," but that the Horde would be consolidating and restructuring because of "missed expectations". Windrunner went on to say that they would be eliminating mainly popular but non-essential elements, such as Tier Set vendors, Master Looters, and Baine Bloodhoof.

"Over the last few years, our ranks have swelled with new, loyal members of the Horde," said Windrunner. "With the recent additions of the Nightborne, Highmountain Tauren, and Zandalari Trolls, we have never been stronger, more capable. Therefore, it is with heavy heart that I have decided we need to scale down some areas of our faction. I'm sorry to share that we will be 'parting ways' with some of our elf, orc, pandaren, tauren, and troll colleagues today."

"There is no way to make this transition easy for our impacted members, but we are doing what we can to support our colleagues," said Horde manager of Human Resources Calder Gray. "Lieutenant Murp, Signe, and myself will be personally visiting those affected by these unfortunate personnel changes, to discuss the 'comprehensive sever...ance package' they will be receiving, as well as their 'continued health benefits,' 'career coaching', and 'job placement assistance.'"

"While our accomplishments in recent years were the best in our history, we didn't realize our full potential," said Windrunner. "Yes, fine, we saved the world and beat back the biggest evils our universe has ever been confronted with, but now that those are out of the way, it is time we got back to what is truly important: whatever benefits me."

Reactions to the announcement were heated, with many Horde members expressing outrage and disappointment at the news. "We give the Horde everything we have, and this is what we get?" shouted Greyhart, a tauren druid. "Why do we get the axe while Blightcaller up there gets a spiffy new bod and membership into Sylvanas' Secret Resurrection Club?"

"Warchief, this course of action is sure to dishearten and demoralize our people, especially after our recent victories!" protested Varok Saurfang. "You stand now, lit torch in hand, on a bridge made of honor, respect, and loyalty...a bridge built by those who will be affected by today's decision. Are you certain you wish to do this?"

Windrunner shrugged.

"Burn it."

Paladin accidentally unleashes unstoppable plague of maggots upon Azeroth


The Battle for Azeroth has ended much sooner than anyone anticipated, and everyone lost. Everyone, that is, except the maggots.

The beginning of the end started when Rextroy, a human paladin, realized he could cultivate Waycrest Manor's infectious maggots and bring them to Uldir, using the legion of loathsome larvae in conjunction with his Last Defender ability to overpower and single-handedly defeat MOTHER (Matron of Tenacity, Herald of Endless Research).

Everything would have been fine had Rextroy stopped there, but the ambitious paladin wasn't finished yet, dragging his gallery of grotesque grubs onward through the ancient titan quarantine facility until at last he stood before G'huun. And as the Old God's corrupting pestilence fell upon the ravenous maggots, causing them to instantly bloat, swell, then begin multiplying to impossible numbers, it occurred to Rextroy that perhaps he'd made a mistake.

Zandalar fell within the hour, with Kul Tiras succumbing shortly after. While the Alliance was initially perturbed by what Rextroy had unwittingly unleashed, it was the Horde that first realized the devastating ramifications, as the maggots began hungrily chewing a swath of destruction through the Forsaken ranks.

"How did they discover our only weakness?!" shouted Warchief Sylvanas Windrunner, before disappearing beneath by the pale, twitching swarm.

Any satisfaction the Alliance may have derived from their enemies' woes were short-lived, however, as it wasn't long before the outbreak had spread to the streets of Stormwind and Orgrimmar, and from there, the entirety of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor. Even now, the all-consuming, unstoppable throng sweeps across the world, devouring anything and anyone in its path.

"In retrospect, maybe it was a bad idea to introduce eternally-spawning parasitic maggots to an ancient, perfect avatar of rot and decay, who is also worshiped by a fanatical race of trolls with a historical fondness for contagious, apocalyptic plagues," said Rextroy from a hillock above Stormwind, watching as the wave of squirming, wriggling grubs engulfed the city below.

My demonic son's tattoos hurt me deeply


Put out the Mooncloth, crack open the Refreshing Spring Water, stand there in Darnassus smiling from ear to ear, because he's home – our demon hunter son is home and the family is together again. And after supper, after the washing up is done, the others – his younger siblings – drift off to watch the worgen howling outside, and he says: "Would you like to see my tattoos?"

I say, "You're joking."

He says, "No, I’m not."

But still I wait. Any minute he's going to laugh and say, "You should see your faces" because this has been a running joke for years, this idea of getting tattoos – the hard elf act, khorium muscles, shaved head, Broxigar, Varian Wrynn. He's a clever boy. Maybe during his Illidari training he thought a tattoo would balance out the cultural sacrilege of enlisting with the Betrayer, Illidan Stormrage.

His father says, "Where?"

"On my chest," he says, ripping off his shirt and touching his pecs.

His lovely chest.

In the silence, he says, "I didn't think you'd be this upset."

After a while, he says, "It wasn't just a drunken whim. I thought about it. I went to a professional. I need these arcane tattoos to hold back the fel energy coursing through my body, lest my inner demon awaken and overwhelm me, turning me into a demon myself. They cost 16 gold."

16 gold? I think, briefly, of all the things I could buy with 16 gold.

"They're just some tattoos," he says, when the silence goes on so long that we have nearly fallen over the edge of it into a pit of black nothingness. "It's not as if I came home and said I'd turned against our people and become the servant of an ancient, evil Elemental Lord."

It seems to me, unhinged by shock, that this might have been the better option.

His father asks, "Does it hurt?"

"Yes," I say, cutting across this male bonding. "It does. Very much."

For three days, I can't speak to my demonic son. I can hardly bear to look at him. I decide this is rational. In my mind's eye I stand there, a bitter old night elf with pursed lips wringing my black-gloved hands. He's done the one thing that I've said for years, please don't do this. It would really upset me if you did this. And now it's happened. So there's nothing left to say.

I know you can't control what your children do. I know all you can do as a parent is to pack their runecloth bags and wave as you watch them go. So I cry instead. I have a lump in my throat that stops me from eating. I feel as if someone has died. I keep thinking of his skin, his precious skin, inked like a Thistle Boar carcass.

My neighbour says, "There's a lot of it about. So many people are doing it." I stare at paintings of Falstad Wildhammer with his elaborate markings, those Lightforged draenei, all veins and glowing scrawls. Tattoos are everywhere. They seem no more alternative than death knights these days. But I still don't understand.

It's the permanence that makes me weep. As if Xavius had made face paints from acid. I read a report that surveyed just under 600 patients with visible tattoos. Nearly half of them had been inked between the levels of 18 and 98, and nearly a third of them regretted it.

I look up barber shop costs. Which is a possibility, I think miserably, that only works if you want the tattoos removed. And I'm not in charge here. My son is.

My husband asks, "Have you seen them yet?"

I shake my head. Like a child, I am hoping that if I keep my eyes tightly shut the whole thing will disappear.

"It's his body," he says gently. "His choice."

"But what if he wants to become a mage?"

"A mage?"

"Or a druid."

"He'll be wearing robes. Or he'll literally be a bear. No one will ever know. Besides, class changes still haven't been implemented, anyway."

I know. I know.

I get angry with myself. This is nothing but snobbery, I think – latent anxiety about the trappings of class. As if my son had deliberately turned his back on a nice Goldenbark Apple and stuffed his face with Hobo Surprise. I am aware, too, that I associate tattoos on men with aggression, the kind of arrogant swagger that goes with blindfolds and bell bottoms.

Is this what other women feel? Or perhaps, I think, with an uncomfortable lurch of realization, just what older women feel. I stand, a lone devilsaur, bellowing at a world I don't understand.

On day three, still in a fog of misery, I say to him, "Shall we talk?"

We sit down with cups of Moonberry Juice. I open my mouth to speak and end up crying instead. I say, "You couldn't have done anything to hurt me more."

He is cool and detached. He says, "I've sacrificed everything. What have you given?"

I think, everything! I've done nothing else for three days but think about what I've lost! But I don't say that because we aren't really talking to each other.

I say, "Why couldn't you have waited until you were older? You'll have those the rest of your life, now."

"I'm eight thousand years old, mother. I think I'm old enough to make my own decisions."

Which makes it worse.

He says, "I'm still the same person, under these tattoos. The tattoos I need to live. Other than the demon inside me. And my lack of eyes. And my eternal crusade to eradicate the Burning Legion and pursue them relentlessly until they're all wiped out."

I look at him, sitting there, my 8000-year-old son. I feel I'm filling out an app for a guild I don't even want to join. I say, "But you're not. You're different. I will never look at you in the same way again. Maybe because I'm your mother. All those years of looking after your body – taking you to the priestesses and making you drink Ice Cold Milk and worrying about Webwood Spiders or that you'll fall off Teldrassil to your death. And then you let some stranger inject ley pigments under your skin. Your precious skin."

"To me, it seems like self-mutilation. If you'd lost your arm in a battle, I would have understood. I would have done everything to make you feel better. Maybe the gnomes could build you a prosthetic. But this – this is desecration. And I hate it."

"I'm part demon, mother!" he retorts, the hollowed recesses where his eyes used to be blazing green. "I had to kill one and eat its heart! My life is constant torment! I have horns, and scales, and claws! And you're upset about some tattoos?"

I shake my head. It's different. He just doesn't understand. How could he? He's not a mother.

We look at each other. There seems nothing left to say.

Over the next few days, my son – always wearing a tabard – talks to me as if the row had never happened. I talk to him, too, but warily. Because I'm no longer sure I know him.

And this is when I realize that all my endless self-examination was completely pointless. What I think, or don't think, about tattoos is irrelevant. Because this is the point. Tattoos are fashionable. They may even be the only thing keeping a terrible demon from taking over his body and turning him into an evil, vile monster. But by deciding to get those tattoos, my son took a warglaive to my apron strings. He may not have wanted to hurt me. I hope he didn't. But my feelings, as he made his decision, were completely unimportant.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one; pack up Elune and dismantle the sun.

I am redundant. And that's a legitimate cause for grief, I think.