(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, Lordaeron...as 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 land...in 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?