The Eye of the StormWe've examined the questionable motives of the Naaru, and the eerie coincidences between their origins and the tricks of the Burning Legion. We've also explored the draenei people's arrogance and aloofness toward the other races of Azeroth, and how the Naaru's betrayal - while devastating - might actually bridge the gap between the "perfect" children of Argus and their mortal allies.
These are interesting concepts, and would make for some fun new storylines and lore developments. Such plot hooks could be a great way to segue into a new expansion where we once again pick up the fight against the Legion, perhaps on Argus. And really, it's about time the draenei established closer ties to the other nations, ties that are long overdue and sorely needed, as evident from the events of Velen's short story.
But the most important factor in all of this - and the primary reason behind these posts - is one simple question:
Naaru treachery wouldn't just introduce some new characters and stir up a fun little storyline. It would change EVERYTHING for the draenei. It would tear down their ancient culture and history, it would completely upset their societal structure, and it would throw their entire world into disarray.
And this would be so, freaking, cool. Because finally, the draenei would get some development and growth. They would actually be relevant again.
Without the void, the Light cannot exist
The Naaru...traitorous agents of the Burning Legion.
Can you imagine what this surprise would do to the draenei? They've never known anything but a lifestyle of being the good guys, where they do nothing wrong but are constantly victimized by the Legion or the orcs or the blood elves. The shock of knowing that they were working for evil - inadvertently or not - would seriously shake the social foundations of their culture. It would mean everything they have ever known has been a lie - their purpose, their history, their trust.
How do they possibly recover from that?
For the first time ever, we would see draenei struggling with moral guilt over what they had been a part of, or draenei whose confidence and/or faith were now plagued by doubt and regret. How exactly does one come to terms with the fact that you've been helping your hated racial enemies for thousands of years? That your continued existence has snuffed out countless innocent lives?
It's basically impossible to comprehend, let alone compartmentalize, given just how long the draenei have been on the run, and how many planets they have fled.
We would also see many draenei who would be furious at the Naaru, for the years of lies, for using them as pawns, and for the countless deaths caused by their duplicity. There would be a powerful anger here that might be amazing to witness, an edge that - let's be honest - the draenei have always lacked. They wouldn't just be fighting for what's right, or for the Light, or for noble tenets of justice or righteousness. They would also be fighting for themselves.
The Return of the Broken
One of the most culturally significant ramifications of Naaru betrayal would all of draenei society coming to the gut-wrenching realization that they have been wrong, all these years. About EVERYTHING. And one of their biggest mistakes, which they should have remedied long ago anyway, but now would truly have no choice but to make amends for? The shameful banishment and mistreatment of their unfortunate cousins, the Broken.
Why haven't the Broken openly rejoined the draenei before now, despite Velen's welcoming attitude towards them? Because the draenei aren't ready. Many still think the Broken are inferior and disgusting (as seen in Mickey Neilson's Unbroken), and even those who do want them to return are motivated by pity, not genuine empathy.
But after the Naaru tear down everything the draenei have believed? Well, who are the draenei to turn up their noses and sneer at their Broken brethren now? They're certainly in no position to act all high-and-mighty and superior anymore, now, are they?
I think we would see the Broken finally re-join the draenei at this point, as full, equal members. Not the exception, Nobundo, respected despite his Broken status. Not the miners working in the Exodar's basement, out of sight and out of mind. No, they would return, and be embraced, appreciated, and loved...and not just because the "normal" draenei would feel guilty and invite them back as means of apology (though this would definitely be true).
They would reunite because the draenei would need the Broken.
Who but the Broken could truly understand the draenei's plight? To have lost that which you held cherished and most dear, for thousands of years, in a sudden, terrible act of evil? Every Broken who is alive today knows this pain, and knows it far too well. They remember the countless brothers and sisters who suffered the foul mutations of the fel energy that accompanied the Horde attacks, who succumbed to despair and took their own lives, or wandered away, their minds shattered, never to be seen again.
The Broken know what the draenei would be going through, and are the only ones who could truly help them through these dark times. Velen, Nobundo...they would realize this. And they would send out the call, asking all of Argus' lost children to finally, at last, rejoin the flock.
The noble Kurenai would, of course, be the first to answer the call and join their grieving kin on Azeroth. But what about the other Broken? Zangarmarsh's savage Murkbloods, or Shadowmoon Valley's feared Ashtongues? Well, I say again - who are the draenei to disdain these tribes now? No matter what illicit deeds they might have engaged in since their fall from grace, they're all in the same boat now, be they "pure" draenei or former servants of Illidan himself. There is blood on all their hands.
While the return of the Broken is unquestionably something worth celebrating, I highly doubt it would be a smooth and friendly process. The Broken certainly have not forgotten the way the draenei pushed them out and scorned them. There are probably some Broken who might find it within them to forgive this heinous prejudice. However, I suspect that there are far more who will never forget, nor forgive.
And really, how could they? Not only did the draenei cast them out, but the suicides and dismal habitations the Broken have been forced to endure in the years since were forced upon them by said banishment. Consider for a moment how this would feel for the Broken - their "betters" toss them aside like refuse, and now, in a delicious twist of fate, the draenei come crawling desperately back, pleading for aid?
The Broken would help, yes, but how much of their assistance would be motivated out of sincere sympathy, and how much would be to rub it in the faces of those who abandoned them? And even the Broken who still hold intense grudges toward the draenei - maybe even hate them - would still likely lend their assistance. Not because they care a whit about their arrogant siblings, but because they would want to shame them. It would be a blazing statement of anger and (justified) bitterness, one the draenei would never forget:
"You turned your backs on us in our hour of need, and were perfectly content to leave us to the mercy of the wild. And yet, when the tables were turned and you needed our help, we came. Despite what you did to us, we are not so heartless as to allow our kin to die in misery and grief. We will not abandon our people. So who are the monsters now?"
Perhaps in time, this rift might be repaired, with the draenei's newfound humility eventually allowing the two sides to reconcile. But it wouldn't happen quickly, or easily. There's far too much bad blood and unresolved conflicts to work out first.
A world without Light
As mentioned earlier, I firmly believe the Light is neither good nor evil, but simply a neutral form of energy, neither good nor evil. There is no shortage of evidence supporting this theory - Scarlet Crusaders using the Light, the corrupted Archbishop Benedictus threatening us that the Light "will consume us", etc. I'm quite confident that technically, logically, the draenei would still be fully able to harness the Light even if the Naaru abandoned them - that the Naaru wouldn't be able to "take" the Light with them or anything.
Not literally, at least.
The Naaru wouldn't be able to directly stop the draenei from using the Light...however, would the draenei still WANT to? After all, the Naaru did introduce the draenei to the Light, and mentor them on how to use its power. They have existed in draenei culture for millennia as virtual harbingers of the Light's energy, speaking for it, exuding it in every aspect of their being. Would Velen's people still find the same comfort in the Light's embrace? Or would wielding its energy be a tainted experience forevermore - an unforgettable, undeniable reminder of the Naaru and their treachery? Grief and anger are powerful, lingering emotions, especially when it's tinged with intense feelings of guilt and shame.
Sound familiar? It is. We saw a similar situation with the night elves and their attitude towards arcane magic following the Sundering, when mages and arcane study were essentially outlawed from night elf society. While I don't think the draenei would respond as strongly - arcane magic was nowhere near as fundamental to kaldorei culture as the Light is to the draenei - I would absolutely expect a large number of draenei to distance themselves from the Light, and want nothing more to do with it. (We'll look at possible specific reasons a bit later on.)
Actually, there might be many draenei who would find themselves unable to use the Light anymore, come to think of it. There are an awful lot of draenei who view the Light and the Naaru as one and the same, who believe that the Naaru essentially are the Light in physical form. Many actually pray to or fight for the Naaru, not the Light!
"Let their souls be cleansed in the searing light of the Naaru." (Ozzati, draenei mage)
It's understandable why these draenei might think this way, given the thousands of years spent revering both synonymously. But if the Naaru were to betray them, would these draenei be able to mentally make the distinction between the Naaru and the Light? Or would they find themselves unable to differentiate the two, and feel that they had been betrayed by the Light, as well?
It wouldn't even be a conscious reaction - even if they knew that technically, the Light and the Naaru were separate forces, you're talking about dismantling thousands of years of viewing them as identical halves of the same coin. Logically, they might understand and accept this, but deep inside, in their hearts, the doubt and pain of betrayal would linger. Disassociating the Light from the Naaru would be a monumental undertaking, and is definitely not something that would overnight, if it ever happened at all.
And what do we know about the Light? It demands faith. Look at what happened to Tirion Fordring in Of Blood and Honor, when he was cast out of the Order of the Silver Hand. There was no ritual, no spiritual ceremony to strip the Light from him. No, as soon as Tirion heard that he was to be excommunicated, he immediately believed that he had lonst the ability to wield the Light. And accordingly, because he had lost his faith, his belief became reality.
How many draenei would emulate Tirion's actions, and find their faith faltering and uncertain? How many would view the agonizing treachery of the Naaru as also meaning that the Light had turned its back on them?
Tirion eventually overcame his despair and found his faith again, but he was alone, desperate, and to honest, really had no alternative. Will the draenei persevere and push through the sudden, choking darkness, to once again find the Light's warm embrace? Or will they sadly come to terms with their loss, and set off to find a new purpose in life?
The road ahead
I think it is time you took the welfare of others into account...
and I think it is time you stopped trying to be something you are not."
(Unbroken, Mickey Neilson)
When a society is based around worship of the Light, what happens when its people find their faith in the Light irrevocably shaken?
They grieve. They despair. They anger.
Honestly? I think less connection to the Light would be great for the draenei, from a storytelling perspective. Their innate association and history with the Light (and the Naaru) is a nice trait, just like the night elves' reverence for nature. But unlike the night elves, who have many other societal quirks, the draenei really don't have much else! The Light has become one of their ONLY features. Go look up any draenei on Wowpedia, or the WoW Trading Card Game, and chances are their flavor text will be some generic line about the Light or the Naaru.
This reliance on the Light for character is a huge flaw, in my opinion. It turns the draenei into one-dimensional caricatures, characters who can't stand on their own for their own qualities, but instead have to rely upon the Light like a crutch. I'm not saying the culture, in general, shouldn't be religious, or shouldn't revere the Light. Not at all. But the Light shouldn't be ALL they're known for.
I'd love to see more draenei who don't care about the Light, who choose to live their lives without its direct influence. Or maybe, even some who don't trust it! Why? Because it would be different. Such a character is virtually unheard of in the current game world (not counting player personalities, because those can break all sorts of rules). It's just the way their society works - the draenei go hand-in-hand with the Light.
But if the Naaru betrayed them? If their faith (in general, and in the Light, due to the Naaru's association with it) were shaken? We might actually see draenei who didn't use the Light. Maybe because of personal choice, or maybe because they simply cannot any longer, but in any case, what story potential this would be! Coping with their new lives bereft of the Light, struggling to resist the urge to call upon it like they had so many times in the past. Draenei struggling to tread new paths in life and deal with the gaping hole inside where the Light used to be, and find new faiths or beliefs to fill this rift.
This widespread character development would be amazing. And it would certainly be more interesting than the development the draenei have had since The Burning Crusade. (That is to say, none.)
Let's take a look at things on a game mechanics level.
(Note: I have intentionally excluded death knights from the following list, because I feel they already have a new culture of their own that they are acclimating to, the brotherhood of the Ebon Blade. We've seen that death knight loyalty tends to be primarily to their ex-Scourge brothers and sisters, not their native race, and so I don't feel they would really be directly affected by this turn of events.)
"The Light is the only truth." (Elaar, draenei priest)
It goes without saying that all draenei would be shocked and hurt, if the Naaru were to turn their backs on them. But the most affected would be those who had spent years directly harnessing the Light alongside the Naaru, the paladins and priests that make up the religious foundation of draenei society. For these poor souls, the deception would not just be a case of broken friendship, but a betrayal of ideologies and deeply personal beliefs. It would rock them to their cores, and force them to look deep within themselves to learn the true strength of their faith in the Light.
As explored earlier, I think many draenei would find their faith tainted by the Naaru's awful betrayal, and be forced to turn their backs on the Light. We'll examine what they might do instead, a bit later on.
However, while betrayal might shatter the resolve of some, it would likely have the opposite effect on those of particularly strong willpower, who would refuse to knuckle under and surrender. These draenei would grit their teeth and endure the awful trial by fire, and emerge with their faith tempered, stronger than ever, equipped with the knowledge that nothing, not the Legion's pursuit, not even the treachery of their closest companions, can ever rattle them.
The draenei have always been highly religious, their paladins and priests doubly so, so how dedicated would these renewed champions of the Light be, in comparison? Might their faith become so strong, so prevalent in the very core of their being, that it begins to overshadow all else?
I could imagine a subset of glowing, blessed draenei who embark upon a holy mission to spread the word of the Light throughout the world...whether the world wants it or not. A crusade, if you will. Eradicating those who would spurn and reject the Light, or forcibly introducing them to it "for their own good". They might even hook up with the similarly-motivated Brotherhood of the Light, whose well-intentioned but merciless ways already have people regarding them with no small degree of apprehension.
Light-based zealotry or not, the draenei whose faith in the Light survived this dread ordeal would likely still find their outlook on life greatly changed. No longer would they be viewed - by others, or by themselves - as flawless pinnacles of goodness, in a world of clearly delineated blacks and whites. No, they would have to face reality - that even the purest of the pure are capable of making mistakes, and that ill intent is not always a necessary ingredient of causing great distress and harm.
In the light of such realizations, some might hurl themselves into their work in helping others and making the world a better place, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because they feel that they personally owe it to the world because of what they had been party to. Others might internalize these feelings of failure and reality, and use this new knowledge to fuel their passion and dedication to the Light's cause. Their faith would be as strong as ever, but no longer would they operate on faith alone - now their strength would also come from compassion, humanity and humility.
Some draenei, like Velen, already have a wide enough world view that they have attained this level of wisdom. Others, like Maraad, are clearly not there yet. What road lies before them? That of the zealot, blindly cocooning themselves in the Light's warmth, oblivious to the complexities of the world around them? Or that of the enlightened, their eyes opened to the varying shades of good and evil, and the infinite spectrum between the two extremes?
Many draenei who turned their backs on the Light would likely embrace the shamanistic lifestyle, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the large network of draenei shaman would provide a much-needed support group. The emotionally distraught ex-paladins and ex-priests would find no shortage of consolation, sympathy and strength in the company of their element-wielding brethren. Especially the Broken, since these poor souls would know this pain and sense of loss all too well. Who other than Nobundo and the other Broken would be better prepared to help the draenei culture through this horrible period of grief?
I would expect the shamans to fully step to the forefront during this time, since the rest of the draenei would likely be in a dazed state of shock, like a victim staggering out of a nasty car crash. The shamans would be there, ready to help, and I think many draenei would latch on, desperate for something to believe in. After all, the life of a shaman might seem a natural step for an ex-Light user to take, since the Elements would fill the void left by the Naaru very tidily. Spiritual companionship and comfort, a mystical sense of purpose in the grand scheme of the world, as well as the raw, fundamental need the draenei might feel, to believe in something.
Why would they need this? Well, after 25,000 years of living a life of worship, a life without revering SOMETHING would most likely feel empty and hollow. They might eventually come to terms with living a life without religion or faith, but this would definitely take time. Being able to shift their dedication and trust to the Elements instead of the Naaru or the Light might feel like an immense relief to the shell-shocked draenei. They would need it.
Wait a minute, what? Druids?
It's perhaps not quite as farfetched as one might think. Shamanism and the Elements would be a natural replacement for the Light and the Naaru, sure. But what if the draenei needed a more structured, tangible faith system? It's clear that they worship and revere the Light as if it were a flawless, almighty force. And while the Elements are unquestionably powerful, they're not on that level - they're not gods. They're also capricious, stubborn, and emotional, which might make the draenei wary.
But Cenarius? Elune? They are a completely different story.
(While Cenarius is much more closely associated with druids than Elune, I feel there would definitely be some overlap as the draenei explored the druidic history and culture via their night elf tutors.)
Cenarius and Elune are actual deities, worthy and deserving of one's utter trust. Unlike the now-treacherous Naaru and the Elements, who have "mortal" emotions, these deities truly are above such things. And their values - healing, tranquility and balance - might be exactly what the spiritually-wounded draenei need, in their fragile state.
We've seen that the draenei can have a great appreciation and love for the natural world, once their eyes have been opened to its beauty. And who are their closest allies? The night elves, renowned for their remarkable connection to nature. Following the Naaru's betrayal, the elves would undoubtedly come to lend the draenei their aid, and help soothe their shattered spirits. And while the two races have obviously interacted often in the past, the draenei might suddenly be paying a lot more attention to their neighbors' culture and beliefs. For the first time, they might look upon their druidic friends not simply as "elves doing their weird nature mumbo-jumbo" but rather, with an honest and genuine curiosity and interest in what their culture might actually have to offer.
While the druidic lifestyle might be a bit of a culture shock at first, I think the gentle, serene qualities so prevalent among the draenei would allow them to acclimate very well to such a vocation. The druids' desire to protect the sanctity of nature would mesh very well with the draenei's historical inclination towards being guardians and protectors themselves. In fact, the draenei are actually quite similar to the druids - both strive for peace and serenity, but are not afraid to fight for these beliefs if necessary.
And of course, there is Cenarius' ancient enmity towards the Burning Legion, which the draenei would obviously highly approve of.
One obstacle that might arise is that currently, draenei might (privately) disdain the idea of living in the wild like savages, or running around the woods in animal form like some lowly beast. Remember that despite their status as exiles, the draenei have always enjoyed a certain degree of decadence and status. Crystal halls lined with priceless gems and ornate jewels, magical space-faring vessels, and a bit of an elitist attitude towards those less "civilized" than them.
However, also remember that the betrayal of the Naaru would tear down many of these barriers, and bring them "down to earth", so to speak. The draenei of today might scoff at the idea of running wild through the brush, but the draenei of tomorrow? Who have lost everything, and are desperately trying to find their new place in the world? They might not be so judgmental.
With the intense focus draenei culture places on faith and the Light, and recently, on shamanism and the Elements, it's easy to forget that their original culture on Argus was one of incredible arcane aptitude. The draenei have always enjoyed a natural affinity for magic in any form, and though many have chosen to embrace lives of divinity rather than arcane study, their natural talents remain - perhaps a little rusty, but no less potent.
Now, I mentioned that many draenei might easily and eagerly adopt the shamanistic or druidic traditions because of their intense need to believe in something. Well, I think just as many might go back to their historical roots and pick up their old arcane studies because of the exact opposite reason - because they no longer WANT to believe, or place their trust in a deity, god, or etc. After all, they trusted in the Naaru faithfully for all this time, and they got burned by it.
Would all draenei be able to put this betrayal behind them, and so readily trust again? Probably not. I bet some would be extremely bitter, and regard further worship or faith with cynicism or suspicion. Or perhaps these draenei now simply want to place their faith in themselves, rather than some higher power, and wish to be beholden to no one, to rely on nothing but their own abilities.
Unlike shamans, paladins and priests, who all operate in somewhat similar (but obviously separate) communal fashion in draenei society (draenei druids, if they existed, would likely establish friendly ties with other druids, as druids are wont to do), mages seem to be rather independent, focusing on their magic and/or research, rather than forging close bonds with their peers. And honestly, after their most trusted allies stabbed them in the back, maybe a little solitude is exactly the type of lifestyle these draenei would want.
Finally, it's possible that some draenei might simply have no further interest in a passive lifestyle of being a healer or guardian. Remember, beneath the sorrow and shock, these people would be furious. How many would leap at the chance to avenge themselves upon their traitorous allies, and throw a giant blazing fireball right down their crystalline gullets? (or the equivalent, since the Naaru have no discernible anatomy)
Mages might tend to be loners, and they might not have the close connections to their peers that shamans or druids have, but they're unmatched when it comes to raw, unbridled destructive power. And I suspect there would be quite a few draenei who would be all too eager to welcome this power, hone it and refine it, and use it for vengeance upon the Naaru. The fact that such aggressive tactics would be counter to the lessons of peace and patience the Naaru preached for all those years? Icing on the (mana) cake.
What about the draenei crusaders who can no longer wield the Light (or who no longer wish to), but still want to fight against their foes and utilize their martial training? Or the draenei who are fed up with the worship of false idols and deities, and have instead chosen to focus on the allies they know they can count on - their own people?
The treachery of the Naaru and the Light would surely be painful, but would not change the fact that the Legion, the Scourge, and the Horde are still out there, looming and dangerous. I think we would see many disgruntled, jaded ex-paladins cast aside their librams and prayer books, discarding religion and its fickle ways for cold, hard steel and their own physical strength, things they know they can trust and rely upon.
And they would not be alone. They would be welcomed by other draenei warriors, who have likely always felt this way, but could never truly publicly express these unpopular opinions. To do so would surely have resulted in public scorn and rebuke, and much clucking of tongues.
After all, as it stands right now, is a warrior in draenei culture not simply a paladin who cannot use the Light? In other words, a flawed paladin, or one who has not yet found enlightenment? Hell, how many of these veteran warriors are probably sick and tired of their paladin kin trying to convert them to religion? Can't you see it now? "You're very skilled with a weapon, and fearsome on the battlefield. If only you would accept the Light's blessing, you could really do some good!"
The life of the warrior is a bit more savage, a bit more ferocious, but don't you think the draenei might need such an outlet, to express their pent-up anger and frustration? Maybe they no longer want to speak of justice and lofty ideals...maybe they just want to wade into the fray, smash some heads, and howl their outrage at the heavens, for how cruelly fate has treated them. Blood, sweat and steel...no worrying about glorified codes of virtue or one-sided burdens of honor...just them, their weapons and the battlefield.
We might even see the formation of closely-knit "brothers-in-arms" (or sisters) groups, similar to the Sentinels, the 7th Legion, or the Kor'kron. The members of these organizations are intensely loyal and draw strength from each other, not a religion or otherworldly beings. This sense of solidarity and companionship might feel extremely liberating to draenei who are trying to cope with the new, frightening world in which they find themselves, and would provide a new emotional sense of belonging and purpose.
It'd be difficult for many draenei to once again blindly place their faith in an otherworldly, indiscernible presence, a servant obeying the whims of the master. It's quite a different matter to trust your fellow flesh-and-blood warrior fighting at your side, spilling blood together and guarding each other's backs, as equals.
Following the Naaru's betrayal, I believe many draenei would seek a new purpose in life, to put the pain and loss behind them. A new religion, new loyalties, etc. However, what about the draenei who can't simply brush aside the anger and spite? The ones who aren't content with meekly accepting this turn of events, who want to lash out and strike back at those who misled them?
The ones who want revenge?
Once they got past the shock and grief, there would be countless draenei who would be absolutely pissed. And you know what? Maybe they're tired of playing by the rules. Maybe it's time to think outside the box, and get their hands a little dirty.
Underhanded tactics, murder, poison...these dishonorable methods would have never been tolerated in the "Light Makes Right" society of yesterday. But today? When the facade of holy perfection lies crumbled on the ground, alongside the draenei's noble aspirations and illusions of grandeur? It's a whole new game now.
How would these jaded draenei learn the art of shadow and subterfuge? Simple - the Broken, newly returned and welcomed in draenei society, including the Ashtongue Deathsworn, renowned (and feared) spies and assassins. While the rise of this subculture would never be as openly accepted and respected as the shamans or mages, what could the other draenei even do about it? What, is Velen supposed to step in and tell Akama and his people that their ways are dishonorable and therefore, not acceptable? How laughable, considering the terrible deeds the draenei themselves have been party to, as pawns of the Naaru.
Not to mention how utterly disrespectful it would be, to tell someone that their culture is simply wrong, and that they need to change their ways, because WE said so! That might have worked in the past, but not now. The draenei simply don't have that moral high ground anymore. And let's not forget why the Broken are there at all - to HELP. Who would have the audacity to, in one breath, accept the helping hand Akama was extending, and in the next, slap him in the face and tell him that he and his people were despicable?
No, Velen and the other draenei might not be thrilled about the Ashtongue spreading their knowledge and expertise, but their hands would be tied. It would be very similar to Moira Bronzebeard and her Dark Iron dwarves introducing warlocks and fel magic to dwarven society. Whether the other dwarves like it or not, the Dark Irons are now a part of their culture, and their ways have to be accepted. It's the same deal with the Broken.
Some draenei rogues might also branch out and leave the Exodar, joining small pockets of thieves and spies operating elsewhere in the world. Some might join SI:7, or they might even join disreputable organizations such as the Syndicate or the Defias Brotherhood, all in an effort to remove themselves from the culture they no longer wish to be a part of.
Why the need for separation and distance? They might feel that Velen's ways have failed them, that they tried playing nice with the world, and well, it just didn't work. Not everyone is possessed of limitless hope and optimism...sometimes, people get battered down and give up. Being betrayed by the Naaru might not have broken them physically like Nobundo and his people, but inside? In spirit, in soul? These invisible wounds might never truly heal.
Their wars do nothing but scar the land, and drive the wild things to extinction.
No, they cannot be trusted. Only beasts are above deceit." (Rexxar)
Does everyone remember the tale of Rexxar? This mighty half-ogre, half-orc Horde war hero fought fearlessly alongside Thrall, Vol'jin and others as the Horde struggled to establish a home for themselves on Kalimdor. However, he grew weary of the constant political maneuvering, violence and betrayals that accompanied life among the "civilized" creatures of the world. As a result, he chose to withdraw from civilization, choosing to live his life in the wild, with only beasts as his companions, the only creatures he believed he could truly trust.
How many draenei would just throw their hands up in the air and follow in Rexxar's footsteps, tired of fighting, tired of betrayal, and tired of war? How many would find themselves utterly overwhelmed and just need to escape, and leave it all behind?
And much like Rexxar with his animal companions, the thrice(!)-betrayed draenei might find themselves tired of having their trust betrayed by those they believed in, and want nothing more to do with alliances or treaties. Greed, lies, treachery...wouldn't it be nice to never have to worry about these things again? To never look at your friend warily, wondering if they are secretly plotting your demise? To not have to worry about expressing unpopular opinions, because of the negative attention your honesty might attract?
A life in solitude, with your loyal animal friend at your side, just the two of you and the wild, pure harmony of nature. No allegiances, no obligations. Simply living life for life itself. A life of something the draenei haven't truly experienced since those happier days, thousands of years ago on Argus.
A life of peace.
I suspect many draenei would find this mental picture quite charming, especially when you consider what a departure it would be from their self-imposed, rigid lives of guardianship and universal responsibility. How many are tired of this endless vigil? How many would see this latest, awful betrayal as the straw that broke the elekk's back?
Embracing the nomadic hunter's lifestyle might be exactly what these embittered, exhausted soldiers need. A chance to ease their weary minds, to forget about the Legion, the Horde, the Scourge, and revitalize their faltering spirits. To step away from the war, and enjoy the quiet retirement that they've more than earned.
Having been betrayed by advocates of the Light, is it possible that we would see the draenei go against everything they have always believed in, and embrace the powers of they have so vehemently opposed for all these years?
The draenei would be wounded, betrayed, and angry. At the same time, they'd be staggered, trying to get used to not having the comforting presence of the Light at their disposal. What better way to satisfy both of these needs than to do the unthinkable, and adopt the fel practices of the warlock? After all, could there be a more symbolic show of defiance and determination than rejecting everything their traitorous Naaru friends ever taught them?
Furthermore, not only would the draenei be throwing up the proverbial middle finger by rejecting the Light, but remember too that fel magic is the natural antithesis to the Light, and to the Naaru. It is the one thing that can truly oppose and harm them. If the draenei willingly welcomed that darkness into their souls, it would send a powerful, unmistakable message to their former allies - the draenei are furious, and they're coming for vengeance, no matter the cost.
If I were the Naaru, I'd be pretty nervous at that level of fearlessness and commitment. And from a story perspective? It sends shivers down my spine. It's tragic self-sacrifice, but it's also incredibly badass.
What about the whole consorting-with-demons part? Well, the draenei might actually see this as a form of retribution, as well. The Legion tricked them and made fools out of them for thousands of years? How many would be eager for a little payback, by enslaving demons against their will, and subjecting them to a life of subservience and abuse? Let's see how THEY like it! Sure, it's not noble nor kind, but these are a whole new draenei, who are tired of being kicked around by the world.
As for all the long-ingrained cultural horror at using fel magic? I'm sure there would be those who would strongly protest these ideas and speak out against them. But how much weight would their words truly have, in the sad wake of finding out that they had been helping the Legion slaughter and destroy countless worlds in their years in exile? Put it another way - no matter how reprehensible using fel magic might be, could it really be any worse than what they've already been a part of?
On a similar note, there's no better way to truly know the enemy than to know their capabilities firsthand. Some draenei might be willing to take one for the team, and willingly surrender the purity of their soul in order to better learn the intricacies of their enemies, so that they might more effectively combat them. This type of self-sacrifice is right up their alley, and they might also view it as a form of penance or punishment, to make up for what they helped the Legion accomplish.
The Fate of the Prophet
In times of great crisis, people naturally turn to their leaders for answers and support. But what happens when your leader doesn't have any answers to give? What happens when the people no longer believe in him?
I don't think there would be any draenei who would take the Naaru's treachery harder than Velen himself. Not only does he feel responsible for the welfare of the entire draenei race, but it was he who the Naaru first spoke to, long, long ago on Argus, and it was he who made the decision to entrust them with the survival of his people.
Every draenei would be hurt by the betrayal, but Velen? Velen would be absolutely destroyed. To say he would be overcome by guilt would be an understatement. He would be unbelievably angry and upset at himself for failing to see through the ruse, for unwittingly helping the hated Legion, but most importantly, for failing his people in the most horrendous way possible. He would blame himself entirely, and the burden upon his ancient shoulders might be far more than any one person could possibly endure.
Remember what happened to Ner'zhul when he found out he had been deceived by Kil'jaeden, and had led his people into ruin? The proud, strong shaman prophet was devastated, and essentially withdrew into himself, a hollow shell of his once charismatic, energetic self. The guilt and awareness of what he had (accidentally) done was too much for him to bear, and it broke him.
Is history destined to repeat itself? Is this the grim fate that would also await poor Velen?
In any case, who exactly would the draenei look to for leadership, in the aftermath? Some would still steadfastly believe in Velen, and not blame him for circumstances beyond his control. But would Velen (assuming he's still emotionally capable of serving as leader) be able to forgive himself? Or would he feel he was unfit to lead anymore, since he had been tragically, severely wrong all these years?
And even if the draenei didn't blame Velen for the Legion's trickery, could they really still ask him to be their leader? I don't mean that they would suspect him of any wrongdoing, or even that they would hold him at all responsible...but he WAS wrong. This would be a sad, undeniable truth. Could the other draenei truly ever trust his judgement again, knowing how wrong he was in the past?
Then again, not all draenei would be so even-tempered. Betrayed, angry and desperately in need of someone to blame, I wager that many draenei would place the onus solely on Velen's shoulders. They would blame him for failing them, for failing to spot the Naaru's deceptions, and for asking for their trust...and being wrong.
I'm not saying this would be fair, of course - far from it. But when your whole world has been thrown into anarchy, you might need someone to vent your frustrations and sorrow upon, simply to make it through the day.
Remember also that since the draenei were "created" by fleeing Argus and their corrupted eredar kin, they have never known any leader other than Velen. This is almost unheard of. Think of how long the Horde has been around - not very long, in the grand scale of things - and they've had four Warchiefs (Blackhand, Doomhammer, Thrall, and Garrosh), all of which have held fairly different philosophies and attitudes. And the draenei have only had Velen? In 25,000 years? It's no wonder they seem so stale.
Now granted, having Velen be in charge until now does make sense - things have been pretty good ever since Argus, so why mess with a good thing? But to never explore other options? To never have someone at the helm who might do things differently, or approach things in a new light?
(Actually, one might argue that the events on Draenor were...well, pretty disastrous, really. I'm actually a little surprised there was no discussion about Velen's leadership style at the time, at least that we know of. While Velen certainly wasn't to blame, his actions were pretty passive, and a more aggressive leader might have been able to prevent some of the atrocities that took place, or saved more lives. Food for thought, at least.)
For the first time, we might see a push for new draenei leadership, amidst a sea of wildly differing opinions and outlooks. Would the draenei turn to High Priestess Ishanah to renew their faith in the Light, and keep them on a path of divinity? Or would they look to the patient, serene Nobundo, signifying a radical shift in trusting in the Elements, rather than the Light?
Perhaps the enigmatic Akama would seem an appealing option to some, due to his willingness to go to extreme lengths to protect his people. Or maybe the militant Maraad would be best suited to the role, who might encourage a more aggressive, retributive stance toward the Naaru and the rest of their foes. (Then again, he might just try to get everyone to leave again. And who knows? Maybe he wouldn't be alone in this desire.)
I think it would be extremely interesting to witness this period of civil dispute, a true crossroads in draenei history, with no road leading to a "right" answer. I would love to hear the differing opinions of these mutually-respected, but VASTLY different draenei heroes, who all would likely believe, in total sincerity, that their plan for the future is the best course of action for their people.
Not all who wander are lost
The Naaru leaving would leave a huge hole in draenei culture, and it would be exceptionally difficult for them to adjust and move on, since the Naaru have been a fixture in their lives since, oh, forever?
But what makes us think the Naaru will go alone?
To the draenei, the Naaru are family. They're trusted, beloved, and worshiped. If the Naaru decided to leave, I strongly suspect there would be quite a few draenei who would join them.
First of all, imagine how shocked and traumatized the draenei would be, to find out everything they've believed in for thousands of years was a lie. How is someone even supposed to react to that?
I think we'd see a gamut of varying emotions. First and foremost? Denial. The draenei are a culture of trust and faith, and I think many would completely dismiss or scoff at the very notion of "evil" Naaru. And who can blame them? It would seem a preposterous accusation, hardly worthy of even discussing.
Not to mention that the Naaru have (in their minds) had their backs for 25,000 years, and suddenly some upstart short-lived dwarf (because let's face it, it would be Brann Bronzebeard behind this discovery) is going to tell them that their entire society is based on falsehoods? There's no way they'd believe a dwarf over the word of the Naaru. Come to think of it, would they believe anyone when pitted against the Naaru? Maybe Velen? And that's a big maybe.
Furthermore, consider the outrage that would accompany these claims. Just think how angry people in real life get when discussing differing views on religion. The draenei would find Brann's accusations offensive, rude and sacriligious. And if any of the other draenei dared entertain these blasphemous thoughts? What a colossal display of disrespect! The Naaru have done nothing but help and mentor the draenei for thousands of years, and this skepticism and lack of faith is how we repay them?
And you know, even if Brann were to present undeniable, overwhelming evidence? That probably still wouldn't even do it. No person of faith would so readily abandon their faith, especially not the heavily religious draenei, who have believed without fail in their Naaru allies for thousands of years. They would refuse to believe it, or ignore Brann's claims altogether, even if it meant consciously lying to themselves.
Why? Because the alternative is unthinkable. To even consider that Brann might be right would be to consider that your entire existence has been a lie, a thought too horrifying to really even comprehend.
And this is why, once the Naaru did actually betray the draenei and depart, I would not be surprised to see many hurt, confused and desperate draenei follow suit. Loyalty is an admirable trait, though it's not always the correct one.
How can the draenei so easily abandon the countless years spent together with the Naaru, without at least giving them the benefit of the doubt? Or maybe their faith in their allies is so strong that they would trust them no matter what, even if it meant walking into darkness alongside them.
Some might suspect, or even know the truth, of course. But would they be able to admit it to themselves, and confront the grim reality of their past? How many would desert the Exodar alongside the Naaru because they can't bear to acknowledge these deep, dark fears? Far easier to lie to yourself, convince yourself that you are doing the right thing...that the Naaru are telling the truth, that you're still on the side of good.
Another reason draenei might follow the Naaru into darkness? They might be terrified of the idea of a life without them. The Naaru have protected and watched over them for since the draenei people were "born", whisking them away from danger on Argus, and every time the Legion came calling after that. To suddenly lose these stalwart guardians would be quite unsettling and disturbing, perhaps to the point of complete panic or desperation.
Panicked draenei might also succumb to doubt and fear when faced with this awful choice, and side with the Naaru because they it might be their only chance for survival. The Naaru have kept them safe and secure all this time, and the idea of naming them as enemies and fighting them might seem akin to trying to battle the gods themselves. It might be a terrible choice, but when forced to choose between one's morals and basic survival, not everyone has the inner strength to make the heroic choice.
In their hearts, the draenei might realize the foolishness of blindly throwing their lots in with the Naaru because of this sense of security...but fear and uncertainty can make a person pretty desperate.
Finally, we might also see draenei abandon their home, their kin and the Alliance for self-imposed exile out of sheer, overwhelming guilt. Upon learning that you were party to such horrendous atrocities, would you be able to go out and face your friends and peers, or would you be too deeply ashamed? Could you bring yourself to ask for forgiveness? Hell, for that matter, would you dare even think you DESERVE forgiveness?
Surrendering and submitting to evil might simply be a sad declaration of hopelessness - that you can't face the rest of humanity, and that you deserve whatever awful demise awaits you as an miserable pawn of darkness. Battered down and exhausted, too despondent to fight anymore...resignation and surrender might seem the only option left to them.
Finally, there is another possibility, perhaps the most straightforward one of all. We might see some draenei join the Naaru in exile because they were working together all along. Don't you think it's weird that there's never ANY turncoat draenei? Oh sure, we see some nameless Twilight Cultists here or there, but I'm talking about legitimate, actual characters who consciously choose to betray their kin. Where are their Thermapluggs, their Magatha Grimtotems, their Archbishop Benedictus'?
Frankly, it's long overdue from a story perspective that we got some draenei who had their own ambitions, goals that went counter to what the other draenei believe in. And don't argue that Kil'jaeden, Archimonde and rest of the eredar fill that quota. I'm talking about the people who have existed as a race for 25,000 years, the actual draenei. Where are their traitors, their black sheep, their dissenters?
There's none, really. And this sorely needs to change.
The Naaru being revealed as traitors would take the stale, stagnant draenei storyline and give it a massive, much-needed jump-start. This huge twist would revamp every aspect of draenei culture, and make the race interesting and exciting again.
The return of the Broken. New class options. New storylines. New political structures. New leaders. Long-overdue philosophical and cultural disagreements. New relationships with the other races of the Alliance. New attitudes, sentiments and belief systems. New allegiances, enmities, and subfactions. And of course, a deeply-personal and dangerous new enemy, and traitorous draenei motivated by all sorts of varying emotions and ambitions.
That's why the Naaru should be evil.