Just who ARE the Naaru?A while back, I wrote about how Velen and the draenei's flight for survival had inadvertently led to the destruction of many innocent planets at the hands of their pursuers, the vengeful Burning Legion. (This series expands upon ideas presented in that post, so if you haven't read it, you might have to for this to make sense.)
Now, my point in that post was to sort of poke fun at Velen and remind everyone that yeah, he's a great guy and all, but don't forget how many species/planets died so that he, the other draenei, and their adoptive guardians, the Naaru, could survive. I mean, how many times did Velen's crew narrowly escape the fel clutches of their foes, abandoning their latest home just before the Legion arrived and butchered/destroyed/enslaved everything left behind?
Come to think of it, the draenei are pretty damn lucky. First of all, that the Naaru appeared to Velen back on Argus and warned him - just in time! - not to accept Sargeras' blessing like his brothers. And secondly, that on every planet the draenei settled on, they managed to detect the approaching Legion armies in time to pack up and blast off before they arrived.
SARGERAS INC AZEROTH
Good thing there were all those innocent, unsuspecting natives to distract the Legion and prevent them from immediate pursuit! Nothing like slaking one's uncontrollable bloodlust and fury by savaging an entire planet of hapless mortals and plundering it of its resources and energies. Of course, the draenei would get away in the meantime, but what kind of self-respecting demon could pass up a fresh, fertile planet just begging for conquest? To the Legion, whose very existence revolves around destruction and chaos, these new worlds must have seemed like a dream come true.
...and this pattern happened over and over again? Hold on a minute here. Was the Legion actually disappointed each time they missed the draenei? After all, each time it happened they were left with a ripe new world, thousands of new lives to extinguish, and untold resources with which to bolster/improve their forces.
And what about the draenei? Despite being outnumbered refugees fleeing from a vastly more powerful foe, they somehow not only survive, but escape without conflict every single time?
Seems kinda fishy, if you ask me.
Remember also that the draenei are refugees, and had to leave behind most (if not all) of their belongings when they fled Argus. And all of those discarded artifacts, those abandoned magics...they now belong to the eredar. (Who, remember, were already fully familiar and knowledgeable in their usage. They didn't just forget when they became demons.)
Talk about being outgunned. It's like Velen and co. grabbed a single rifle and ammo clip on the way out the door, while their opponents are armed with fifty rifles, thousands of bullets, some cannons, a few dozen grenades, and a tank.
And yet somehow, the draenei continue to elude their pursuers.
Now, they do have one advantage, and one advantage only over the Burning Legion - the Naaru. Bereft of supplies, manpower and superior firepower, it has to be the Naaru that kept the draenei safely one step ahead of their pursuers, all those years. With such guidance, and the whole saving-them-from-Sargeras bit, it's no wonder the draenei place such unshakable faith in their crystalline allies.
But how much do we actually know about the Naaru?
The helpful, the saviors...the unknownEveryone knows the Naaru appeared to Velen in a vision, warning him of the sinister truth behind Sargeras' supposed blessing. But...a vision? Really? That was all it took - a single vision! - for Velen to betray everything he had ever known, steal some of his peoples' most priceless artifacts, and abandon his less-enlightened brethren to a fate worse than death?
|The strange, glowing field about the ata'mal crystal grew, stretched upward, assumed a shape. Velen blinked, almost blinded by the radiance but not wanting to look away.|
You are not alone, Velen of the eredar, the voice whispered to him. It was soothing, sweet, like the sound of flowing water and the rush of a summer wind. The radiance faded slightly, and hovering before Velen was a being unlike any he had ever seen. It seemed to be comprised of living light. Its center was a soft golden hue, the outer radius a glowing, soothing violet. Strange metallic-looking glyphs swirled around the center, calming and hypnotic, in a spiral dance of color and light. It continued to speak inside his mind, a sound that seemed to Velen to be light itself given voice.
We, too, have sensed the impending horrors about to befall this and other worlds. We strive to keep the balance, and what Sargeras is planning will rip apart everything. Utter chaos and ruination will descend, and the things that are good and true and pure and holy will be lost beyond recovery.
Who... what ... Velen could not even form the question in his mind, so swept away was he by this being's glory.
We are the Naaru, the radiant entity said. You may call me ... K'ure.
Velen's lips curved around the words, and as he whispered them aloud, "Naaru...K'ure...," he tasted the sweetness of them, as if speaking the names granted him some of their very essence.
This is where it all begins, K'ure continued. We cannot stop it, for your friends have free will. But you have reached out with an anguished heart, to save what you can. And therefore, we will do what we can. We will save those of you whose hearts reject the horror of what Sargeras offers.
What do I do? Again tears filled Velen's eyes, tears of relief and joy this time.
Gather those who will listen to your wisdom. Go to the highest mountain in the land on the longest day of the year. Take the ata'mal crystal with you. Long, long ago, did we give it to you; it is how we will find you again. We will come and bear you away.
-Rise of the Horde
That's all well and good, and Velen's trust in this mysterious otherworldly creature paid off when the Naaru showed up and spirited them away to safety. But to take such a major gamble, to so completely blindly trust a spiritual, religious vision...well, it's a pretty risky move.
Just ask Ner'zhul.
Like Velen, he too received a prophetic vision warning of impending doom and danger. And like Velen, visions were not an unusual thing for orc shamans to experience, so Ner'zhul had no reason to ever doubt the truth or circumstances of such a warning. Why? Because as a shaman, he had faith...faith that one of his beloved, trusted ancestors would never deceive him.
|He prepared a potion, chanting over it softly, then drinking it slowly. It would not actually cause a vision; nothing would unless the ancestors willed it, and sometimes visions came upon him when he least expected them. But over many long years the shaman had learned that some herbs opened the mind while one slept, so that if one was indeed granted the gift of a vision, one would remember it more clearly the following morning.|
Ner’zhul closed his eyes, and then opened them again almost immediately, although he knew he was fast asleep. They were standing on a mountaintop, he and his beloved Rulkan. At first he thought they were observing the sunset together, then realized that the sun was rising, not descending into slumber for the night. The sky was glorious, but in a way that roused and moved him rather than calmed and comforted him. The colors were scarlet and purple and orange, almost violent, and Ner’zhul's heart lifted.
Rulkan turned to him, smiling, and for the first time since she had exhaled her final breath as a living being, she spoke to him. "Ner’zhul, my mate, this is a new beginning."
He gasped, trembling, overcome with love for her, flooded with a simmering excitement roused by the vibrant colors of the sunrise. A new beginning?
"You have led our people well," she said. "But the time has come to deepen the old ways, take them further, for the good of all. "Something rose inside his mind to nudge at his conscious thought. Rulkan had not been a shaman. She had not been a chieftain. She had only been her wonderful self, which had been more than enough for Ner’zhul, but she had held no position in life that would make it likely that she would speak so authoritatively. Annoyed at his lack of faith, Ner’zhul pushed the voice down. He was not a spirit. He was only flesh and blood and though he understood the spirit ways more than most, he also knew that there was much he would never understand until he stood with them. Why wouldn't Rulkan speak for the ancestors?
"I am listening," he said.
She smiled. "I knew you would," she said. "There are dark and dangerous times ahead for the orcs. Hitherto, we have only come together at the Kosh'harg festivals. Such isolation must end if we are to survive as a race.
Rulkan looked into the sunrise, her face thoughtful and shadowed. Ner’zhul ached to hold her, to take her burdens as his own as he always had in life. But now, he knew he could not touch her, nor force her to speak. So he sat silently, drinking in her beauty, ears straining for her voice.
"There is upon this world a blight," Rulkan said quietly. "It must be eliminated."
"Say it, and it will be done," Ner’zhul swore fervently. "I will always honor the advice of the ancestors.
She turned to him then, her eyes searching his as the light grew brighter. "When it is eliminated, our people will stand proud and tall...even more than they are now. Power and strength will be ours. This world will be ours. And you...you, Ner’zhul, will lead them."
Something in the way she said the words made Ner’zhul's heart leap. He was already powerful. He was honored, perhaps even revered, by his own clan, the Shadowmoon Clan. He was the leader of all the orcs,in fact if not in name. But now desire stirred in his heart for more. And fear stirred in him too, dark and unpleasant, but something that must be faced.
"What is this threat that must be eliminated before the orcs can claim what is rightfully theirs?"
She told him.
-Rise of the Horde
Ner'zhul paid a heavy price for his faith, leading his people into ruin, nearly driving the orcs to extinction, and eventually causing the utter destruction of their world. Oh, and his soul was captured and destroyed by Kil'jaeden, then transformed into an entity of pure malice.
Velen, on the other hand? His wisdom and heroic leadership have allowed the draenei to survive, against all odds, and their faith in the Naaru and the Light have resulted in a culture that is wonderfully at peace and in harmony with the world around them.
Then again, nothing else the draenei have come in contact with have been as fortunate, including the orcs. Wherever the draenei settle, no matter which indigenous cultures they befriend, all end up sharing the same, inevitable fate - destroyed and consumed by the Legion. When the Legion is done pillaging, they just set sail and track down the draenei on whatever new world they've found, and the cycle repeats again, as it has for 25,000 years.
And all because of K'ure's "benevolent" vision.
Maybe Ner'zhul and Velen's fates aren't so different, after all.
Come to think of it, everything about K'ure's sudden appearance to Velen is suspect. First of all, the Naaru only make themselves known to Velen when? When Sargeras' offer is already deeply rooted into the minds of Kil'jaeden and Archimonde, and it's too late for Velen to warn or caution them. I mean, what, K'ure couldn't warn them beforehand, and maybe prevent this entire mess from happening?
And let's also not forget that when K'ure does finally decide to warn Velen, Argus' fate is sealed. It's too late for Velen to do anything but what his mysterious savior suggests: flee. What a dramatic last-second save by the Naaru! Too bad they didn't speak up, oh, ANY TIME EARLIER, so everyone else could have been saved.
I mean, don't get me wrong. If I'm drowning in a pit and you pull me out just before my head goes under, I'm going to love you and be thankful to you for the rest of my life. But if it turns out you were lurking nearby, unseen, waiting for me to be on the brink of death so you could swoop in and dramatically "save" me at the last minute...well, I'd still be thankful, I guess, but I'd also think you were a bit of a dick. I mean, seriously - what the hell?
Of course, maybe these aren't mere coincidences, but intentional decisions. Why didn't the Naaru warn Velen, Kil'jaeden and Archimonde earlier? Because they didn't WANT the Eredar race to resist Sargeras' temptations. Why didn't they make themselves known to Velen earlier, so that Velen could have done something besides run away? Because they WANTED him to run, and instill within him an unshakable trust and gratitude towards them, for the miraculous, timely rescue.
After all, is there a better way to foster trust in a stranger than saving their life the very first time you meet, and then bonded over your mutual foe? (Hi, Neptulon.)
It certainly worked on Velen - despite not knowing ANYTHING about the Naaru before that fateful vision, has he ever questioned their motives, loyalty or intentions? Even once?
Of course not. Why would he?
They are his people's saviors.
Now, don't be fooled by the fact that the Naaru are wielders and advocates of the Light, and taught the draenei how to harness its power. Even though the Light is diametrically opposed to the fel magic of the Legion, simply using the Light doesn't necessarily mean the user is good and holy. As I wrote before, there is substantial evidence to support the idea that the Light is not a sentient, "good" energy, but simply a type of power, like the elements. Need a recent example? How about Archbishop Benedictus? This dude is completely corrupt and in Deathwing's (and by extension, the Old Gods') sway, and yet he's cheerfully murdering us with Light-based spells and abilities.
If anything, teaching the draenei how to channel the Light is yet another method of winning their trust, and what an effective one it is! After all, only true enemies of the Legion would use - and teach the draenei how to use - the holy power of the Light, right? This stalwart trust and reliance on the Light has shaped Velen's ragtag band of refugees into the highly religious culture that exists today. In their eyes, the Light (and the Naaru, as the Light's champions) could never be anything but the personification of goodness. The idea of anything else would be blasphemous and sacrilegious to even consider.
As for the vision itself? It was perfectly designed to play to Velen's inner doubts and worries, to clash with his sanctified beliefs of purity and peace. Every aspect of what he saw horrified him, and made him desperate to escape this awful fate.
Of course, later on in the same book we see the Legion do exactly the same thing to the orcs! Dream vision in a trusted, comfortable environment? Check. Seeming to come from a reliable source? Yep. And warning that to ignore the vision would be tantamount to suicide for their entire species? You bet.
Why would the Naaru go to such lengths, to fool and trick Velen? Um, I believe I mentioned the countless worlds and lives that the Draenei have led them to? But seriously - by "helping" Velen escape, the Naaru essentially supplied the Legion with an endless, self-renewing supply of fresh new worlds to conquer. All the Naaru have to do is tell their demonic buddies where to head next, while at the same time "warning" Velen that, omg DEMON ALERT, DEMON ALERT, TIME TO FLEE! Phew! Just in time...again. How lucky!
It's a classic hunter's trick, often seen in stories or movies. How do you find the rebels' hidden base, or the traitor's secret stash of illicit supplies? Simple. You let them show you. Capture one, and then "accidentally" let them escape. Then, it's just a matter of following their panicked flight, which will inevitably lead you right to the goods. Saves you a lot of searching around, legwork and effort, AND you get the delightful satisfaction of fooling your enemy into helping you.
Let's summarize. The Naaru appearing to Velen "just in time", but not soon enough to save the rest of his people. The draenei, through the Naaru, just barely eluding the more powerful Burning Legion, over and over again. The helpless planets left in their wake, devoured and decimated by the Legion. And finally, that which convinced Velen to trust the Naaru - a spiritual vision, warning of impending destruction - used by the Legion in exactly the same fashion to trick the orcs into initiating their terrible downfall.
It's all far, far too convenient. Once they get tired of making their draenei puppets dance, the Naaru are going to betray us all. Just you watch.
It's only a matter of time.