Sylvanas, the Val'kyr, and the REAL master plan

(This is a follow-up to my previous post Garrosh, demon blood & Sylvanas' master plan, so it may not make sense if you haven't read the previous entry. It also contains significant Silverpine Forest and Western Plaguelands spoilers.)

Know what's scary?

If I was the Lich King, gazing down at the Ashen Verdict forces gathering at my doorstep, I'd start making contingency plans. No matter how confident I was in my power, I would want some backup strategies in place on the tiny, tiny chance that Fordring & Co. were successful and managed to kill me. After all, why take foolish chances?

Well, my contingency plan would be proceeding exactly on schedule so far.

There was a very interesting comment on the previous post by Kayeri, who pointed out that one potential problem with Sylvanas "saving the day" by raising hundreds of new Forsaken was that freshly-raised Forsaken are free-willed and wouldn't necessarily fight against their former Alliance friends. Kayeri pointed out Lord Godfrey as a perfect example of someone who was raised by the Val'kyr, but most definitely did NOT toe the Forsaken line.

It's a great point. However, is this still true? Are newly-raised Forsaken still completely free-willed individuals? After all, Sylvanas tried that method...and it got her killed. I wouldn't be surprised at all if she's since tinkered with the Val'kyr resurrection process to ensure that any newly risen subjects are loyal to her, so they can't follow in Godfrey's backstabbing footsteps.

However, the idea that certain ideas or beliefs could be ingrained into someone resurrected by the Val'kyr is an interesting concept. It's a chilling thought, imagining what could occur if the Val'kyr were able to implant specific behaviors or traits into someone they raise from the dead. But it's even more terrifying when you realize they may have been doing this all along.

Now, I found Sylvanas' later behavior in Western Plaguelands towards Koltira shockingly cold, tyrannical and...evil. I hardly expect her to be all roses & sunshine, but I was very surprised by her actions. I mean, she's always been a little bad, but her ruthlessness towards her own ally seemed very out of character. Spying on her own troops in disguise? Imprisonment and brainwashing? Deeming Koltira's actions as unacceptable for not killing Thassarian, despite the Horde winning the field? Her actions and speech sent shivers down my spine, and not the thrilled, anticipatory kind she normally evokes.

Perhaps being raised by the Val'kyr has had some unknown side effects? How much do we really know about the Val'kyr, anyway? We know they were formerly the Lich King's most loyal, trusted servants (um, alarming), and we are told they agreed to serve Sylvanas after their master's demise. But did she really convince them to change sides, or did they actually have reasons of their own - such as lingering orders from the Lich King - to join her ranks?

Honestly, it's not so far-fetched to imagine that the Lich King anticipated these events. He knows Sylvanas very well, and is well aware of her only two real weaknesses: her feelings of kinship towards those who endured similar torment at his hands, and her seething hatred towards him.

Inducting the Val'kyr into her forces plays perfectly off both flaws. After all, with Arthas dead, are the Val'kyr not exactly like the Forsaken? Formerly slaves to the Lich King, now free of their shackles but with no allies or people to call their own. The only beings Sylvanas would ever empathize with are those whose history mirrors her own, and I think the Val'kyr would serve as bitter reminders of her past.

Secondly, she would want to recruit the Val'kyr to spit in the face of her dead nemesis. What a moral victory that would be, taking her hated foe's most trusted servants and converting them to her cause! Sylvanas is coldly logical and practical, except when it comes to getting vengeance on Arthas, which always makes her get a little distracted and impulsive. Would she be able to resist the delicious, twisted irony of working alongside the Val'kyr, undoing the work of their mutual former master?

I doubt it.

I don't think it's a great stretch to imagine that the Lich King may have foreseen Sylvanas' actions. But what does this actually mean? If we look at the actions of the Val'kyr thus far in Cataclysm, there are some ominous trends.

If the Val'kyr really DID alter Sylvanas, it would have been when they when they resuscitated her following Godfrey's betrayal. This would be perfect timing, as no one would ever suspect any foul play, being preoccupied with relief that she survived, and anger towards the traitors. (And by "no one" I guess I mean just Cromush, since he was the only witness...)

But hold on a second. Who betrays her? Godfrey, because he had free will, like all new Forsaken. But...what if he didn't actually have free will, after all?

What if everyone the Val'kyr resurrect are but puppets?

After all, isn't it a little strange that the reason Sylvanas needed to be resurrected (giving the Val'kyr their opportunity to manipulate her personality) is directly because of the actions of someone they also brought back to life?

Here's a theory: the Val'kyr did Sylvanas' bidding, dutifully creating new Forsaken as requested, but they kept their eye out for anyone special that would be capable of serving as their pawn. When Godfrey showed up, with his coiled anger and tumultuous emotions about the whole Worgen/Forsaken conflict, they had their tool. And when the time was right, they made him strike, killing the Banshee Queen and leaving her finally vulnerable and susceptible to their magics.

So what did they do to her? Well, no one knows at this point. But she seems to have changed drastically when you run into her again in Western Plaguelands, as mentioned earlier. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that the Val'kyr have planted some kind of insidious seed within her, twisting her convictions and turning her into a monster; a final dagger in the heart in the name of their TRUE master. What greater, ultimate act of revenge could there be than once again turning and corrupting one of his most bitter enemies to darkness?

Unless, of course, it's NOT an act of revenge, but of...rebirth.

When Sylvanas is raised, the following conversation takes place:

Agatha says: We are bound to her, sisters...
Arthura says: It will destroy us, sister...
Dascha says: It is our sacred duty. The pact was sealed, the bargain made...
Arthura says: Then let it be done.

(They resurrect her, dying in the process)

Lady Sylvanas Windrunner says: I saw... only darkness.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner says: And as I drifted towards nothingness, a brilliant light appeared, then another, and another... My dear val'kyr.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner says: I know now - beyond a shadow of doubt - that the val'kyr are our future.
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner says: We will never stop fighting for Lordaeron. Never...

A few things of note. First of all, the first thing Sylvanas says upon coming back to life is "I saw... only darkness." Sounds familiar, doesn't it? I'm sure everyone remembers that Arthas' final words, moments before death, were "I see... only darkness... before me."

The potential significance is staggering.

Some have theorized that the parallelism implies that Sylvanas is getting dangerously close to repeating Arthas' mistakes. Others think that it simply indicates that neither of these less-than-holy individuals will be comforted by the Light in death. Others think that it's simply a phrase.

However, what if it's more than just symbolism?

Imagine time is like a road, and you're cruising along and see a dark tunnel ahead of you. Initially, you're looking in, "seeing only darkness before you". Later on, when you emerge, how would you describe what you just experienced? Well, you might say you "saw only darkness."

Could Arthas' line be the "before" and Sylvanas's line, the "after"?

It sounds crazy, but is it possible that Sylvanas isn't quite Sylvanas anymore? The whole "two souls in one body" is one of the Lich King's favorite tricks, after all. And after being resurrected, she does seem to have a strange new obsession with Lordaeron, something she's never really mentioned before or seemed that concerned about. You know, in, Arthas Menethil's former home.

And I find it very odd that the Val'kyr would sacrifice themselves for Sylvanas, who really hasn't done anything for them to warrant such devotion. Now the Lich King, on the other hand? The one who gave them their powers, whom they worship and revere like a god? They would give their lives for him in an instant, especially if it led to his eventual reincarnation.

Furthermore, if the Val'kyr really CAN implant suggestions or dormant "triggers" into new Forsaken, and Sylvanas is merrily using them to add more and more new soldiers to her army, does this mean that there's a huge quantity of "sleepers" lurking in the Forsaken ranks, waiting for their as-of-yet unrevealed master to call upon them to act? I mean, hell, *I* converted a good few dozen farmers and Ambermill mages into brand-new Forsaken citizens alone...I shudder to think how many there really are.

I speculated that Sylvanas' big plan was to save the day by creating legions of fresh Forsaken soldiers to scatter the Alliance and win the day. But now, with these new and frightening suspicions, I'm wondering if her sudden appearance wouldn't be to repel the Alliance and be a hero, but rather to eliminate both armies in a swift, decisive blow.

Think of it - both sides would be weak, tired and vulnerable. How well would they fare if, before their very eyes, their slain allies rose to their feet and turned on them? Not to mention the huge number of reserves Sylvanas likely now has waiting in the Undercity.

Orgrimmar would fall, both the Alliance and Horde would be devastated emotionally and from a military perspective, and she would have near-unopposed control of both Kalimdor and the Eastern Continents' northern regions. There would be no one to stop her from unleashing a wave of undeath upon the the name of the Forsaken...or the Scourge.

Like I said, if I were Arthas, that'd be my contingency plan. And so far, it's turning out rather nicely, wouldn't you say?

17 Responses Subscribe to comments

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    Ohh I really have to play through the new undead starting area, it seems so cool. And also I will be able to read your posts through from beginning to end without skipping parts I fear will be spoilers ^^

    February 24, 2011 at 3:36 PM

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    Not to mention, from a meta-gaming point of view, that Blizzard seems to absolutely LOVE recycling content right now.

    February 24, 2011 at 3:50 PM

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    Zinn - YES YOU SHOULD. Haha. ;)

    Latus - Very true. I should point out, I don't want, or actually think this would happen. I'm just making a few observations!

    Though, if *I* were running WoW like I would a D&D campaign, I'd be eagerly rubbing my hands together in glee.

    February 24, 2011 at 3:59 PM

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    Man, you are good! More wonderful ideas to think through. Okay, I'm going to try to throw a fly in the ointment again...

    While Arthas created the Val'kyr to go out and raise new Scourge, the actual control always rested directly with him and no other. At least to all indications. He did impart some occasional minor control of Scourge to his Death Knights, but has there ever been a scene showing the Val'kyr have similar controls? I can't recall one.

    When the Val'kyr became free of Arthas, they were apparently free to 'bond' for lack of a better term, to Sylvanas and serve her in a similar capacity that they had Arthas. But still, I cant recall anything in the stated or seen abilities of Val'kyr that would indicate influence or control over a person they were raising. In fact, this raises the question... if they were able to raise Sylvanas, why were they unable to do the same for Arthas?

    There is also an NPC in the Plaguelands who said something about Sylvanas changing, becoming darker. Whether this coincides with the timing of Sylvanas' shooting, I am honestly not certain, but I think it's an alchemist at one of the Towers in Eastern Plaguelands. I may have to track him down and look up his lines for details on tying that down.

    Great food for thought!

    February 24, 2011 at 5:33 PM

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    Ooh, interesting point Kayeri! /rolls up sleeves

    One Val'kyr I can think of who raises new Scourge and definitely controls them, at least in the sense that the Lich King never shows up to do so, is Sister Svalna, the miniboss before Valithria Dreamwalker. She kills the Argent Crusader NPCs and then raises them to fight you, against their will.

    Granted, it's possible that the Lich King is actually controlling these new minions, but considering how quickly it all happens, I think it more likely that she's actually the one holding the strings, and ordering them to come to her aid.

    As for why the didn't raise Arthas, one could argue that it'd be pointless with Tirion right there to kill him again. Personally, I think there were too many coincidences to think we actually killed him. Like Uther's ghost. Why do we believe him?! (I wrote a post about this previously in my Letters to Northrend project: if you are interested)

    They also may have been able to raise Sylvanas because despite her presence and personality, physically she is the same as any random Scourge member, while the Lich King was something more powerful and on a completely different scale.

    February 24, 2011 at 5:54 PM

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    Mmm... Sister Svalna... good one... but isn't her line like, "Rise, Argent Champions, and serve the Lich King in death"?? That's what my memory tells me, anyway, correct me if I'm wrong. Admittedly, it's been awhile since I've been in there. :)

    It just doesn't imply control on her part, it's 'serve the Lich King', rather than, 'kill these intruders' or anything similar and Blizz isn't too subtle about kill commands, generally. The one way I think it could possibly go that way is that if the 'serve the Lich King in death' is kind of handing the reins to Arthas, so to speak. But overall, it just doesn't ring that way the way she states it. That is right there, in ICC with Arthas just upstairs, he'd take control rather easily in that case, I think.

    The major point that actually does favor your theory is that while Forsaken do not procreate, they don't die of 'natural' causes, ie, old age, disease either. New Forsaken are about her only option to keep the population up during a time of heavy attrition, which the Gilnean and Andorhal offensives are providing in baskets, I'm sure. Sylvanas also does not trust the living, I think, and wouldn't want Horde soldiers.

    Anyway, back to your theory, given the free-will argument, it's not certain she can count on newly raised Forsaken, especially freshly-dead ones who have a possible issue with her, so why put the time and energy into doing it if you aren't sure of your return? Maybe it is an issue of will. Godfrey certainly is strong willed and having the destruction of his nation flaunted in front of him could have triggered his breaking the control. Sylvanas, for all her powerful will, couldn't fight Arthas' control until his power weakened. But once she broke free, she stayed that way, a parallel with Godfrey.

    It would be nice if we saw some clarification of this in-game or perhaps in WoW fiction. The control supposedly rests with the Helm that Bolvar now wears, so what's up with Sylvanas and the new Forsaken, Blizz?? :)

    February 24, 2011 at 10:43 PM

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    Just a couple of points:

    The Argent Apothecary in WPL doesn't actually make any moral judgments on the direction that Sylvanas has changed, just that she has and he doesn't like it. And well, it's true she's changed; she's gone from being obsessed with killing the Lich King to being obsessed with protecting the Forsaken.

    Secondly, it may have just been me, but I totally didn't feel Sylvanas was out of line in dealing with Koltira - this is because Koltira was a pretty worthless commander and it's suggested that the Battle of Andorhal was only won so decisively because of Sylvanas and her val'kyr. I'm pretty sure Koltira saw Andorhal primarily as a stage to duel Thassarian, which is why, for example, he backed off after the Scourge was driven out so that Thassarian's forces would recuperate. It's also likely why he never thought of using the val'kyr, because that would give his forces an incredible advantage (as I recall, Thassarian basically throws in the towel as soon as the val'kyr appear), and he wants a fair battle and fair duel to the death. Of course, Sylvanas doesn't have any reason to want a fair battle with the Alliance, and consequently she sees perfectly clear how Koltira's been messing up as a commander and, also, how Koltira is getting her Forsaken killed by trying to fight fairly.

    In other words a lot of people are shocked at what Sylvanas does to Koltira but frankly I think she's right, he's not doing any sort of decent job commanding her army.

    February 25, 2011 at 11:11 AM

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    Well, even if Koltira was doing a shoddy job of commanding her forces, I think forceful imprisonment and brainwashing in some sort of secret underground dungeon is a little extreme. Even if her actions are logical, from a practical standpoint, justified, it's still ghastly and really crossing some lines. She's shown that she doesn't really care about her non-Forsaken allies (the babbling fool in Pit of Saron), but I think this is the first time she's actively done something to hurt them.

    It's a good point about Koltira's leadership, though. Sylvanas is a general, after all. /muses

    February 25, 2011 at 11:22 AM

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    Main problem I see with the idea of the sleeper agents is that new Forsaken players are risen by the Val'kyr. If they've been creating "sleeper" agents, as it were, than why wouldn't the players be affected as well?

    Also of note though is that the val'kyr weren't slaves to the Lich King. They joined him willingly. Which makes their new service doubly interesting. I've always found it odd that they can apparently only reanimate humans in Cataclysm though, when they could clearly reanimate any race previously.

    February 25, 2011 at 10:20 PM

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    I love it! It just keeps getting better and better...

    The fact that those 3 Valkyr had to be destroyed to bring her back really piques my interest. I don't have any horde toons leveling currently so I'm missing out on a lot of the action.

    February 26, 2011 at 4:37 PM

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    "The control supposedly rests with the Helm that Bolvar now wears..."

    Kayeri beat me to that point. I am not a RPer, but I do like the many pieces of lore in the game (not unlike you Rades). However, as far as I understand it, Ner'zhul's spirit is contained in the helm, therefore indicating that his spirit now cohabitates Bolvars body.

    That being said, I think that your idea of him laying down plans for his reentry into the world would fit. After all, when a character in game is ressurected, aren't you in theory giving some of your power to their body to rekindle their life? What's to stop the LK from essentially making one (or more) of his val'kyr somewhat similar to a living soulstone? Giving part of his power to one of his most trusted servants would be somewhat fitting, but what comes of Bolvar now? Since the plan would seem to be depending on Sylvanas, is Bolvar sitting idly by? If you have both Sylvanas and Bolvar both containing part of the LKs spirit, does that mean that theoretically Bolvar is in on this plot as well? And if Bolvar is in on the plot with Sylvanas, doesn't that mean that someone should go check on Bolvar? After all, his final words were: "Now go, leave this place and never return!" If he's planning on plotting behind his allies backs now that someone they can "trust" is in control, wouldn't he want to be left completely undisturbed?

    Additionally, wouldn't Bolvar's body be exactly what Ner'zhul would want? After all, "The breath of red dragons burns but also rejuvenates..." (wowwiki). The result in Bolvars case would be a hero, already strong, made nigh invincible by the dragons flame. As we all saw, Saurfang wasn't able to resist the LK after his body was taken from the wrathgate. The Dragons flame is what would seem to be Bolvar's key to resisting. Perhaps Ner'zhul recognizes the value in that strength, desires that for himself. He could have been hedging his bets that if he was defeated, Bolvar would sacrifice himself for the greater good. Quoting a blogger whom you might have heard of, "...they're [paladins] trying to sacrifice or off themselves every two seconds..." (Rades) Maybe Ner'zhul was depending on exactly that he could then use it to his own advantage.

    For as we see in the cinematic after killing the LK, Bolvar still burns with the flames of the red dragonflight before he receives the Helm of Domination. With Ner'zhul's spirit now in a very near invincible body that everyone believes is on their side ruling the Scourge, we shouldn't have anything to worry about. I mean come on, Arthas wasn't troubled by Ner'zhuls spirit even before he became the LK was he? Oh...right =P

    I may have been way off in this, but as I wrote this all of the above sort of fell into place for me.

    I apologize for the long comment, I actually meant to make it short but I had an epiphany while I was writing and got on a roll.

    February 28, 2011 at 4:17 PM

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    @Ikeltu - Thanks for the comment, and never apologize for having an epiphany in mid-comment, those are the most satisfying kinds of speculation! ;D

    As for Bolvar, I've always been very, very suspicious about the whole "there must always be a Lich King" idea. Uther's ghost. Terenas using powers he didn't have in life. There's way too many weird, unexplained elements in the Lich King's fall.

    The conspiracy theorist in me thinks that Bolvar has been turned, like Saurfang; that Sylvanas now harbors at least a piece of the Lich King's spirit; that this is all part of a master plan. As for Bolvar's body being empowered by the Red Dragonflights' flame, you are absolutely correct. I wrote about that, actually, in the fictional letter from the Lich King to the world, back in November. If you haven't read it you may enjoy the speculation it contains! Letter from the Lich King: "King's Gambit".

    February 28, 2011 at 4:27 PM

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    Thanks for the link, I hadn't read it...

    ...And I'm back! Quite an interesting read, we seem to have touched upon alot of the same ideas. One key point seemed to be the idea of basically having Northrend to himself. Since, in the going theory we have Sylvanas busy both ignoring the warchief's demand to stop using the plague and her provocation of the Alliance with her ressurecting of their soldiers, I would almost wonder if she is merely meant to be a diversion. Dalaran, although somewhat isolated from the rest of the world, in theory should be watching/guarding Northrend. But with the chaos instigated by both Deathwing and his various chronies, the Horde-Alliance relationship degrading at a fast pace, and Sylvanas both doing nothing to help both the relationship with her own "allies" as well as the Alliance. I say "allies" because as I understand it, the Forsaken joined the Horde with the idea that it would be mutually beneficial; the Horde gains more military strength and the Forsaken get a powerful ally to help the get their vengeance on the LK. But now her desire has been fulfilled, why would (if she were really in control of her actions) Sylvanas want to inflict the curse upon more mortals? Wouldn't it be better for the Forsaken to do what they could to alleviate the stress their existence has caused to the Alliance by promising not to propagate and to let the Forsaken remain and diminish naturally? I think that most Alliance leaders (Especially Velen) would accept those terms and maybe even cooperate with the Forsaken. After all, the Forsaken are basically immortal (barring violence or accdients). Her people would not die off quickly, or possibly, ever.

    Unrelatedly, I always thought it was interesting that Bolvar was chained directly above the LKs throne. Almost as if he wanted him to be in the right position directly after Arthas was defeated.

    I actually get most of my info on Horde lore through you and another friend I have on the "other" side, so correct me if I'm wrong on anything.

    February 28, 2011 at 5:37 PM

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    You might be right about this theory but I think you've forgot Bolvar who sacrificed himself so the scourge won't be mindless legion storming Azeroth.
    Even though Arthas died there is still a secret lich king that can control the dead, there is yet another army beside the horde and alliance.

    June 22, 2011 at 10:41 PM

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    Here's another being that said that at death, they see only darkness: Lord Marrowgar.
    I'm more inclined to think that "seeing only darkness" is tied to them being Undead. Otherwise, a very good read.

    February 24, 2012 at 2:11 AM

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    @Anon - Indeed, Marrowgar also says it! I've actually written a small writeup about that odd parallel before. :) Lord Marrowgar: What did you see again?

    February 24, 2012 at 7:04 AM

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    I'm a bit late to the speculation party but I came to this thought that, becaause of Ikeltu, made me really worry about the future. I think Ner'zhul pulled a Voldemort on us, and put soul fragments into the Val'kyr, and because his soul is entwined with Arthas's it took him there too. When the Val'kyr gave their lives for Sylvanas, they did it just like the thread, not for Sylvanas, but for their previous master. Having Ner'zhul's spirit in her could be spurring these unusal actions, and with some Arthas in there too, she wants Lordaeron.

    August 13, 2014 at 1:32 PM