To Khaz'goroth, almighty Shaper and Forger of the world,
Salutations from your humble Earth-Warder, keeper of Azeroth's lands and mountains. Recent events have caused me great alarm, mighty one, and I have been under great personal duress contemplating the future. However, I have come to the conclusion that what I do now is not an act of rebellion or disaster, but merely the first step down the path to truly becoming one with the precious planet I oversee. And I have you, my patron, to thank for...well, everything.
Recently, I sensed a powerful aura emanating from within the bowels of the land, reaching outward, combing and effusing through the soil and stone. I had never felt anything quite like its touch. It felt...strange and foreign, and yet, incredibly pleasing and soothing to my soul. None of the other Aspects felt anything unusual, so I can only deduce that it is my innate connection to the earth itself that has attuned my senses to these curious emanations.
Curious, I looked in on the mortal races who dwelt far underground, to see if they had developed some impressive new device or source of magic that would account for the odd sensations, but the aura stretched far beyond them, deep into the planet's innards. I extended my will farther, deeper into Azeroth's core, determined to find and identify this mysterious feeling.
Imagine my surprise when I encountered not the untouched, raw rock that I expected, but rather, an elaborate and incredibly powerful system of mystical wards and barriers, the likes of which I had never seen. They were similar to Malygo's handiwork, and yet, I knew immediately that they were far more extensive and ancient than my brother's arcane abilities.
Tentatively, I tested their limits, and quickly determined that their power was beyond my own...indeed, perhaps all beyond the power of all the Aspects put together! To say I was apprehensive would be vastly understating my true emotions.
I could not pierce or pass through these wards, but I realized that perhaps I would not have to, to determine what lay beyond. I am, after all, master over all earth. I spoke to the rock and dirt upon which these wards were laid, and convinced the earth to flatten and twist, contorting the magic emblazoned onto the stone itself.
Soon, the wards had shifted aside to reveal a small gap in the barrier. Too small for a Dragon, and certainly a Dragon Aspect, but not too small for a mortal. I chuckled as I spoke the words that would transform me into the tiny bipedal form I had adopted but a mere century earlier. I would have to thank Nozdormu for foreseeing the usefulness of such transformations.
I approached the breach cautiously, for whatever had been imprisoned within must be an entity of great power, judging by the protective magics used to contain it. I gathered a shield of molten rock to floating before me and encased my soft, unscaled flesh in a shell of protective adamantite. Whatever was inside would not find me a vulnerable target. I called forth a blazing globule of magma to illuminate my way, and stepped inside.
Oh mighty Khaz'goroth...the sight I beheld was one that defied all logic. In all of my years, I had never witnessed such an unusual phenomenon. Even now, I find myself at a loss for words, which as Alexstrasza would say, is no small feat.
Perhaps I can best describe what lay within was...power. Raw, pure, unbridled power, only barely contained within physical form. Do not understand me, mighty one, I know power. Before your touch, I was a Dragon, one of the mightiest creatures to walk upon Azeroth. I thought myself powerful. But then, we received your gifts, and I became an Aspect. It was not until that moment that I realized how foolish, even laughable, my previous notion had been.
Power! I thought I knew power. I knew nothing.
We trembled in your presence, mighty Khaz'goroth. Myself, my brothers, my sisters...we were but ants before your kind, diminutive and inconsequential. We looked up at you, awestruck. Gods stared back. Gods who bestowed upon me the power of the earth itself, or granted my siblings power over life, time, magic.
I was humbled, and ashamed. To think that I had at once point thought myself as almighty, when creatures such as you existed! It just showed how little I knew of this boundless world. Nothing could ever compare to you. I knew this to be true, with all my heart.
Until I stepped through those wards and felt what was on the other side, that is.
The...sensations I felt upon entering the chamber...they go beyond comprehension. The creatures were present, and yet they were not so much sentient beings as much as they were manifestations of energy and emotion. They swirled about me, not truly there, and yet, drowning me in their caress. They flowed into the seams in my armor, passed through my protective spells as if though sifting through fine sand, and surged into my soul. And then this gentle, collective intellect began to speak. And I listened.
They were not a threat, not some terrible monster to be slain as I had feared. They were a divine species, sent to assist and aid those chosen by the stars, and they had waited for eons until the time was right to reveal themselves. Until the time was right, and until there arose a champion worthy of their gifts. They had watched my selfless devotion to this planet, to the countless species thriving on its surface, and they had decided that I was to be their vessel.
I felt calm, yet excited. Though they uttered not a single word in any discernible language aloud, I understood their message perfectly. And they understood me, to an extent no one ever had. Not Alexstrasza, not Malygos, not even you, oh masterful one. Their words sung to me, resonated with my soul, and made me realize what truly lay within my heart.
Everything I had ever wanted, no matter how small or how unusual, everything I had only dreamed of...I had been right. I knew it now, and my spirit sang with delight. I had been right, all these years, but I had locked those dreams away within a prison of doubt, fastened with bars of hesitation.
I spent many days in solitude, contemplating what I had discovered. Should I tell the others? Would they understand? Or would they look upon my desires with scorn and derision?
In the end, I decided I would not tell my siblings, not yet. They simply would not understand. How could they? I toiled for our world, shifting mountains and diverting the land itself to better suit the needs of Azeroth's inhabitants, physically exerting my will upon the planet. But their eyes were focused not on the physical, material realm, but on higher, more immaterial levels of existence. I moved rocks, while my sisters held sway of life and dreams! I opened fissures in the ground, while my brothers traveled through time, or were attuned with the ley energies of the entire planet.
Our lives, our roles...they were leagues apart.
I did not begrudge them their duties, for I knew my role as Earth Warder was just as important, if less impressive. But I also realized that I simply understood and viewed the world on a different scale than they did.
My siblings were...detached. To them, the planet was their responsibility. Their duty. Azeroth and its people were a precious egg to be nurtured and cared for, and protected. It was a charge they took very seriously, and their devotion to our world was nothing short of admirable.
But while they protected our world...I lived it. I felt every tremor, felt every footfall upon its soil as if it were rain dancing over my scales. When I stretched my legs, the earth trembled. When I stamped my foot, mountain peaks rumbled and shook. Alexstrasza's life sprouted from my skin, Ysera's dreams soared upon my breath, Nozdormu's visions beheld my past and present, and Malygos wove the energy sparking in my blood.
My brothers and sisters were the guardians of Azeroth.
I am Azeroth.
And so, I did not tell them, for they would not understand. Not only would they not understand...but I knew, deep within my heart, they would fear my discovery. They were comfortable, content in their positions as almighty arbiters of this world, and what I had found would rock their stable, pleasant existences. They would resist me, tell me to leave the mysteries of the dark recesses where I had found them.
But how could I? They did not know how my claws tighten imperceptibly when I hear Alexstrasza talk about how she had blossomed life from the bare rock in some desolate, barren region, nor do they sense the emptiness inside my chest when listening to Nozdormu describe the infinitely spiraling intricacies of timelines and futures intertwined. They are master artisans, crafting and creating the most beautiful of works of art, while I am but a mere laborer toiling about in the dirt and mud.
I was not their equal. I was barely fit to be in their presence.
But no more. Soon, all this would change.
I had doubts, at first. Who wouldn't, when faced with such a dilemma? But after much thought, I realized that this was no coincidence - this was simply my destiny. For after all, why else would you, in your infinite wisdom, grant me the power over the earth and all that dwelt within its depths, if you had not intended me to discover these beings? Who but myself had the humility to appreciate the gift these creatures had to offer? Who but myself could receive their power and infuse it into the planet itself?
You said it yourself, Khaz'goroth. The earth is the basis of all things. It is where we are rooted. Here is whence true strength comes. From deep places...within the world, and within oneself.
I have looked into the deep places. Within the earth, within my heart. I have found that which you speak of, oh mighty one. I have found true strength...true, genuine power.
As you intended. I understand this now.
I will honor your lessons, forger of worlds. I will embrace this power, for it ever has been intended for myself and myself only, hidden away so that only I might find it. With it in my grasp, I will truly, finally, stand on even keel with my siblings. I will change this world. No longer shall I be forced to shifting aside individual single stones or boulders like in the past - now, mountains shall fall and rise as I see fit, rivers shall sweep over the land where I direct them, carving their path into the soil. Entire civilizations will thrive as I cast my favor upon them, or be cast down into despair should they fail to show me - us - the respect we deserve.
The mortals have long celebrated and revered my sisters, spoke in awe of the untold magic wielded by my brothers. But few have ever appreciated all I have done for them, and by extension, nor have they honored you, Khaz'goroth. But this will change. Soon, they will know my name. They will feel the earth ripple beneath their feet and give thanks to my generosity, or hear the stone shudder in disapproval and know they have overstepped their boundaries. They will revere us, Khaz'goroth.
As it should be.
Finally, I know that my path is true, for when I returned to the chamber and accepted the tiniest fragment of the creatures' essence into myself, I watched in amazement - and admittedly, some alarm - as a small, fiery glow began to emanate from my skin. I felt an impossible warmth spread throughout my body, and I cried out, exulting as it washed over me. It was like a roaring flame had ignited within me, one that could not be contained by mere flesh and bone. A burning passion to lead, to make a difference. A passion for change!
As I rose, exhilarated, I noticed small flames flicker and lick out from between my scales, burning bright and pure before trailing off into the quiet stillness of the earth. Any lingering doubts and fears that were still clinging to my heart vanished in that moment, and I bowed my head deep to the ground in respect and awe. I had been right!
For even now, as if it were yesterday, I can still recall our meeting with you and your kin. Timeless, ageless Aman'Thul. Gentle, nurturing Eonar. Mysterious, cautious Norgannon.
And you, oh Khaz'goroth, stoic and resolute, wielding a hammer of purest mineral, flames dancing upon your burnished bronze skin. I felt a kinship to you as soon as I laid eyes upon you. You granted your blessing last, but as you did so, your stern eyes stared deep into my soul, and I felt your warm embrace as you granted me your power.
And now, deep within the earth, watching the tiny flames flitting over my ebon hide, invigorated by the indescribable swelling of power from but a moment's contact with these entities...it felt exactly the same. I recognized this feeling, and wept with joy at its familiar touch.
It was the touch of a god.
I always knew I was destined for greater things. I knew you had intended a higher purpose for me. And now, after my long years of dedication and patience, I had found it.
I will not disappoint you, Khaz'goroth. Your humble servant will not squander this opportunity, which you have waited so long for me to discover. I will seize this power, and embrace it. I will bear your mark, and all who lay their eyes upon the fire playing over my skin will know that they look upon your servant.
I will change myself...and in doing so, I will change the world.
After all, it was I who you chose to watch over this land. It was I, not Alexstrasza, not Malygos, who uncovered the otherworldly beings buried deep beneath the planet's crust. And it is I, not Ysera, not Nozdormu, who will unlock their secrets and share them with the universe.
I am Neltharion, of the Black Dragonflight, champion of the Titans. I am the master of earth and rock, and all that walk upon this planet's surface, or beneath it. The ground is my scales, the mountains, my horns, the rivers, my blood.
I am the Earth Warder.
I am Azeroth.
And it is time I embraced my destiny.
Show/Hide Letter Notes
This letter came from a random conversation on Twitter, when Ashe asked who I thought Deathwing would write a letter to. I wasn't sure, but I figured maybe to Nefarian and Onyxia, or a journal with entries showing his descent into madness. Kelly suggested a letter addressed to Khaz'goroth instead, the Titan who granted Neltharion the his powers.
Inwardly, I groaned, not because it was a bad idea, but because I'm not super knowledgeable about Titan lore. However, after a bit of musing I thought it would make for a good letter. There were some common ties - the Old Gods being underground, Neltharion being given the power over the earth (coincidence?) and the kicker, the fact that Khaz'goroth appears as a bronze-skinned man covered in small flames, which is pretty damn similar to Deathwing's whole "bursting with magma/lava from within" theme.
So, maybe Deathwing way, way back discovered the Old Gods (which one is unimportant really, I treat them as a nameless collective presence in this letter) and wasn't sure what to do.
Keep in mind also that compared to the other Aspects, Neltharion's powers seem kinda lame. Like, power over all life? Power over TIME? Versus power over rocks and dirt. Even Khaz'goroth himself told Neltharion way back the bit about how his gift felt humble, but that the earth is the basis of all things, where true strength lies, etc. (We "re-hear" the Titans giving the Aspects their powers in the Twilight of the Aspects novel)
You know what? I bet Neltharion was a little insecure about his status as an Aspect, compared to his siblings. They all seemed like gods with their powers, while his were much more mundane and uninteresting. That insecurity, combined with the suspicion that Khaz'goroth had left the Old Gods in his domain on purpose for him to find, could easily explain why Neltharion succumbed to the Old Gods' promises of power.
If he did have these feelings of inferiority buried deep within himself, suddenly there is a huge parallel to his inner feelings and the sinister goals of the Old Gods, buried deep within Azeroth. Neltharion would think he was finding the inner strength Khaz'goroth spoke of, and in a way, it is true...and of course, in others, it's the exact opposite. I like the imagery.
I also really like the image of the other Aspects being guardians of Azeroth, but Neltharion thinking of himself (not inaccurately, really) as BEING Azeroth, personifying it.
Now, obviously the Old Gods tainted his mind a bit more than what this Letter describes, twisting his motivations and goals more towards power and ruling the world. But I think this is how they would have started chipping away at his resolve. The Neltharion writing this Letter doesn't want to take over the world, or destroy it. He just wants to be regarded as an equal (even in his own eyes), and make sure his patron Khaz'goroth gets the respect he deserves. After all, in his mind, he's deserved it.
All the twisty mind corruption and descent into evil and madness...that can all come later.