"But the Kingpriest did not speak a word. He simply remained, staring up
expectantly into the heavens he could not see through the vast walls and ceilings
of his Temple...the heavens he could not see because of his own light."
(Time of the Twins, Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman)
The end of all thingsIn the previous post, we looked at the history of the Naaru and why a "Surprise! we've been on the Legion's side this whole time!" twist would actually make perfect sense. With that angle covered, let's pause and change gears for a moment, and start looking at those who would be most affected by such a betrayal: the draenei.
If the Naaru were actually revealed to be evil, it would mean huge ramifications for Azeroth's status quo - it would deeply affect the Alliance, and even the Horde, but most of all, the draenei. It would basically shatter draenei culture, and throw everything they have ever known into chaos.
Not only would this be the betrayal of powerful, trusted friends and allies - significant enough in its own right - but it would be the collapse of the entire draenei history (as in, those who fled from Argus). The draenei, as a people, were essentially "born" when they split off from their eredar kin. Imagine the shock and horror you would feel upon realizing that during these 25,000 years of exile, suffering and hardship, you hadn't actually been escaping from the Legion like you thought, but had actually been unknowingly doing their bidding and helping them...that everything you had ever known, for 25,000 years since severing ties to your corrupted former life and embracing this new, enlightened society, had been a complete and utter lie.
The draenei would be crushed, their spirits broken, their morale shattered. They would never be the same, and their relationships with every other Azerothian race would be drastically and irrevocably changed.
And this would be AMAZING.
For the first time since The Burning Crusade, we'd finally see some cultural growth and evolution in the draenei! I mean, their story was interesting and kinda fun...when it was originally introduced FIVE YEARS AGO. Since then, the draenei have done a whole fat lot of nada. Nothing worth mentioning in Wrath, or in Cataclysm. Hell, freaking GAMON has undergone more growth and change than the draenei.
But if the Naaru turned traitor? Oh, there'd be some draenei lore/storyline evolution then, that's for sure. The possibilities would be ENDLESS!
Blinded by their own Light
One of the things I'd be most excited about, if the Naaru were to switch sides, would be the draenei race finally getting some much-needed depth. The main problem with them right now is that the entire race is too damn good. They're pure, they're gentle, they're kind...and they're extremely bland and one-dimensional.
(Disclaimer: When I mention draenei in this post, I don't mean player's individual draenei characters, but the draenei NPCs and personalities that exist in-game and in WoW lore. I'm well aware that many people who play draenei DO give them well-rounded personalities with variety and flaws. Of course, there are also players who say their draenei are the Frostmourne-wielding half-dragon children of Sargeras and Alystrasza. Anyway, I digress. My point is, this post isn't about your draenei, but about Blizzard's draenei.)
Do you know how hard it would be for an average Westfall farm kid to relate to these immortal, infallible alien creatures? They're even described in the books as being these awe-inspiring beings of grace and beauty...basically perfection personified, strolling around Azeroth. Just look at Anduin's reaction to meeting one, and he's no inexperienced slack-jawed peasant yokel, mind you.
|"Wind," came a soft voice. An elegant, long-legged draenei woman stepped forward, looking at Anduin. He wondered how it was that a thirteen-year-old boy had suddenly been put in charge and thought frantically. Yes—properly directed and controlled, the wind could blow away the enveloping snow without causing harm to anyone trapped inside. They could then see how much earth was piled atop the rubble.|
"Uh—yeah," he said inelegantly. "But be careful!"
She closed her eyes and fluttered long, blue fingers, tossing her blue-black hair. Despite the direness of the situation, for a moment Anduin simply stared at her, enraptured by her beauty and grace, then blushed and concentrated his attention on the magic she was summoning.
-The Shattering, Christie Golden
I mean, you're what, a farmer kid from Westfall who just turned 16 and decided to take up the sword instead of milking cows for the rest of your life? Great, welcome to the Alliance, nice to meet you, here's your new draenei partner. She grew up on a utopian planet far across the galaxy (before it was conquered by a fallen Titan who corrupted and transformed the rest of her people into demons), flew here through space on her magical cosmic vessel, after living on many other planets along the way. Her culture wields magics we can't even comprehend, they're naturally infused with divinity, and they live with what is essentially a demigod/angel/avatar of the Light.
Also, she's 25,000 years old.
Oh, and she's never done anything bad, ever, is heart-stoppingly beautiful and graceful, and her existence has consisted solely of being a victim, as other races do bad things to her and her kin.
How the HELL are you supposed to relate to THAT?
For that matter, how are you supposed to relate to a race that can do no wrong?
Remember too that these feeling of inferiority are not a one-way divide. Yes, humans (and other mortals) can't help but feel that their blue-skinned companions are wiser, smarter, and simply better than them in all walks of life.
And why wouldn't they feel this way? The dranei ARE all of these things. They have these qualities in spades.
And therein lies the problem.
Such insolence... such arrogance!
The draenei possess all these virtuous, noble traits, and that's fine - these things are what define them as a race, and they're meant to characterize them as a culture, especially when given their tragic past. But they're never given any negative qualities or character flaws to balance them out!
Seriously, what kind of flaws do Velen or other draenei actually have? Oh, you're too committed to the Light? Oh, you're too trusting towards strangers?
Sorry to break it to you, but an overabundance of a positive characteristic is NOT A FLAW.
There is, of course, the ever-popular "negative" trait of holding a grudge toward the orcs because of what happened on Draenor. You dislike the race that slaughtered most of your people and betrayed your trust, and nearly killed you? Go figure. That's...not really a flaw, either. That's just common sense, like the Forsaken hating the Lich King, or the night elves not trusting arcane magic.
Let me put it another way. When your biggest weakness is that you are "too nice," you're a one-dimensional character.
No, it's no wonder we mortals find ourselves so tongue-tied and awestruck in their presence. The draenei are just...better than us.
Smarter. Wiser. More talented. More righteous...more pure of heart.
And you know who else believes this?
Oh, sure, they try not to let it show. They don't want to be RUDE or anything. It's not like they openly sneer or look down their noses at the rest of us bumbling about, living our short, single-planet lives.
But these feelings? They're there. They're ABSOLUTELY there, deep inside. In their hearts, the draenei can't wait to leave this wretched mudball behind, and get on with more important matters.
What about their allies? The humans, the dwarves, those who took them in, who accepted & welcomed these strange aliens to Azeroth? The ones who listened to their words and joined in their struggle against their ancient demonic foes, and stood by their side as they once again met the orcs? What about the other mortal races on Azeroth, that while not directly allied with the draenei, still fight this same war against the Legion?
The draenei don't care. Not about any of this. If they were able to, they'd throw it all away and leave us behind in a heartbeat.
Why? Because they feel they're better than us.
|Maraad stood by and did his best to hide his disgust. Most of his dealings with humans to this point had been with the sometimes impetuous but always courageous Alliance heroes in Northrend. It was hard to believe these ragged creatures—many of them missing teeth, all missing courtesy and the intellect expected of a sentient—were of the same race as those humans he'd marched beside.|
"We wants to see the Prophet," one of them gurgled from a malformed face in barely recognizable Common. "He'll sets it all aright."
"This is your appointed spokesman?" Maraad couldn't help asking aloud. His thinly veiled insult went unheard, unremarked upon.
"The Prophet is seeing no one, friend. We also seek his wise counsel in these dark times. He will speak when he chooses to," an Exodar peacekeeper said.
"A lie. He sees the Stormwind prince!"
"Prince Anduin is studying the ways of the Light under the Prophet's tutelage. You should be honored—humbled, even—that the Ageless One teaches one of your kind. Who knows what great boon to your people may come of it?"
"Ar'gance! Who're ya to tell us we needs be humbled, eh? Who're ya?, Hoofed demon, says I!"
There could be no worse insult than to remind the draenei of their kinship to the eredar of the Legion. The peacekeeper's eyes narrowed dangerously, and his hand moved to the glowing crystalline sword at his side. At the gesture, Maraad found himself reaching for the handle of his great hammer, and several other draenei drew themselves up and leaned toward the ragtag "delegation." Maraad saw the humans instinctively draw back. Even if what passed for their conscious minds was fool enough, the animal in them sensed better.
Clearly this is something that Maraad, and the draenei in general, cannot understand, since they're so busy being wonderful. After all, if the flawless draenei have one flaw, this would be it.
Now, Maraad does respect Azeroth's champions, such as the heroes he fought alongside in Icecrown. But he has no use for everyone else - the rabble of the mortal races. The common folk, those not blessed with exceptional courage, bravery or intelligence, the peasant refugees camped outside the Exodar. These people, he could care less about.
But at least he has those close bonds and ties with his fellow warriors, the ones he DOES hold in high regard! The ones who fought at his side against the Lich King, bleeding and shedding blood together, fighting together against a terrible, vile foe. That kinship, that brotherhood - that has to mean something, right?
|Surrounded by the Hand of Argus and its leadership, Maraad was outspoken with his opinion.|
"The Prophet will not share his wisdom with us. The decision is ours. Let us take the war to the Legion! Or, failing that, return to poor, tortured Outland and complete the work to set it aright. Our second home needs us, as do the Lost Ones still wandering the wastes."
Maraad was met with silence from the Triumvirate, but he could sense agreement in the minute movements of face and body, which betrayed the leaders' thoughts. There was a sense of uneasiness, though, and the vindicator knew its origin... because he shared it. The Prophet should speak, should bless our resolve.
"In one week's time we will test the phase pistons of the Exodar. And if the Prophet has not spoken by then, we will leave Azeroth behind!"
The draenei don't give a damn. Their ship is working? TIME TO LEAVE!
Oh, they'll put up with us and play nice while they have to - while they're stuck here - but we need to understand that they've got more important things to deal with. Ancient things. SPACE things. Things that our feeble intellects simply will not be able to grasp.
What's that? There's people who might oppose their leaving? Well that's simply unacceptable. It's not THEIR fault we're too stupid or primitive to understand. To the draenei, it's like the yapping of a wild animal, yowling at something it cannot comprehend. And what do you do with a mad beast who starts nipping at your heels?
You put them down, apparently.
|The mob had lost all intelligence because of its numbers, all reason in the crowd's passions. The draenei tried to parley, but to no avail, and when the alarm sounded and the paladins, vindicators, priests, and magi took the field against the rabble, the tragically predictable happened. The defenders were faced with an impossible choice: fight only to subdue and push back, risking death at the hands of a lesser foe; or slay allies they had no wish to kill. War was a thing to be engaged in completely or not at all, and the draenei were reminded of this when Vindicator Romnar fell beneath the surge as he made his way to the gates to investigate what disturbance his tests had caused. The vindicator was grievously wounded by the mob before the other draenei were able to pull him behind their lines to safety.|
Seeing Romnar go down brought back memories to Maraad of battling the undead, and his crystalline hammer no longer merely parried but began to come down with crushing force on the invaders. Once he had cut loose the bonds of mercy, the rest of the draenei followed, and the beginnings of a slaughter were writ in the blood of the refugees.
To be fair, their excitement IS understandable. The chance to finally go home? Of course they'd be chomping at the bit. And the jarring contrast between the dignified draenei and admittedly crude refugees certainly contributed to the incident.
But all that aside, even if the riot had never occurred, this all illustrates one thing perfectly clear about the draenei - they simply don't regard the rest of us as peers.
Your bravery is admirable, for such flawed creatures
This attitude isn't just limited to dealing with the dregs of humanity and/or would-be rioters, either. No, this air of superiority and elitism extends to...well, everyone who isn't them, really. The draenei simply act, speak and carry themselves in a manner that suggests to the rest of the world that they're superior to everyone else.
And you know what? They might be. But that doesn't make the attitude any less insulting.
|"What is your city made of?" Orgrim asked. It was the first thing he had said since the two began their odd journey in the company of the draenei.|
"Many things," Restalaan said amiably. They were passing through the gates now, and receiving curious, but not hostile, looks from the denizens of this place. "We are travelers, fairly new to your world."
"New?" Durotan said. "It was over two hundred summers ago that your people came here. We were not as we are now."
"No, you are not," Restalaan agreed smoothly. "We have watched the orcs grow in strength and skill and talent. You have impressed us."
Durotan knew it was meant as a compliment, but somehow the comment stung. As if...as if the draenei thought they were somehow better than the orcs.
-Rise of the Horde, Christie Golden
At best, this apparent arrogance is offputting and irritating. At worst...well, at worst it can be the final stone that tips the scales, influencing monumental decisions with far more at stake than some hurt feelings.
|"It is time for the clan chieftains to listen to their own shaman, as Durotan has done," said Ner'zhul. "We will reconvene at twilight, and the chieftains will tell me their thoughts. These are the people you know and trust. Ask them what they have seen," The gathered crowd began to disperse. Slowly, looking at one another cautiously, the Frostwolf clan wandered back to their own encampment. As one, they sat in a circle and turned their attention to Drek'Thar, who began to speak slowly and carefully. "The draenei are not our friends," he said. "My chieftain...I know you and the Doomhammer Blackrock stayed with them one night, I know that you spoke well of them, I know that it appears that they saved your life. But let me ask you...did nothing strike you amiss?"|
Durotan recalled the ogre bearing down on them, bellowing in fury, its club swinging. And with an uncomfortable sensation, he recalled how very, very quickly the draenei appeared to rescue him and Orgrim. How they could not return home as it was so conveniently close to twilight.
He frowned. It was an uncharitable thought, and yet...
"Your brow furrows, my chieftain. I take it, then, that your youthful faith in them is now starting to wane?"
Durotan did not answer, nor did he look at his clan's head shaman. He stared down at the earth, not wanting to feel this way, but unable to stop the doubt from creeping into his heart, like the cold fingers of a frosty morning.
In his memory, he again spoke to Restalaan, telling the tall blue draenei, "We were not as we are now."
"No, you are not," Restalaan had said. "We have watched the orcs grow in strength and skill and talent. You have impressed us," He felt again a sharp sting, as if the compliment were a carefully crafted insult. As if the draenei thought they were superior...even with their strange, unnatural blue skin, their legs shaped like those of common talbuks, with long, reptilian tails and shiny blue hooves instead of decent feet like the orcs had—
"Speak, my chieftain. What do you recall?"
Durotan told him in a rough and heavy voice of the fortuitous arrival of the draenei, of Restalaan's near arrogance, "And...and Velen, their prophet, asked many questions about us, and he was not making idle conversation. He truly seemed to want to know about the orcs." "Of course he did," Drek'Thar said. "What an opportunity! They have been plotting against us since they arrived. And to find two—forgive me. Durotan. but two young and naive children to tell them everything they wanted to know? It must have been quite an event."
The ancestors would not lie to them, especially about something so important. Durotan knew this. And now that he recalled the events of that day and night in this new light of knowledge, it was obvious how suspicious Velen's actions had been. And yet...was Velen such a master of deceit that the sensation of trust both Orgrim and Durotan had felt had been all a lie?
Durotan bowed his head.
"There is part of me that doubts yet, my friends," he said quietly. "And yet, I cannot stake the future of our people on such thin ice as my own personal doubts. Ner'zhul did not propose an assault tomorrow. He asked for us to train, and watch, and prepare, and draw closer as a people. This I will do, for the good of the Frostwolves and the good of the orcs."
He looked at each worried face in turn, some merely friends, some, like Drek'Thar and Draka, known and loved.
"The Frostwolf clan will prepare for war."
-Rise of the Horde, Christie Golden
But they sure didn't help.
Just how far does this cultural snobbery go? This "holier-than-thou" attitude? Well, it's so ingrained in draenei society that not even their own people are safe. We've seen what happens when a draenei commits the unforgivable sin of - gasp - being less than perfect. Of being flawed. As poor Nobundo found out, any imperfections or abnormalities are grounds for public scorn, disdain, and mockery. After all, why should they care what those beneath them, in status, and rank, and intellect, have to say? What could they POSSIBLY have to offer the all-knowing, peerless draenei?
|It was a mistake to come here. Nothing has changed. You are still Krokul—you are still Broken.|
No. They would listen. He would make them listen. There was, after all, the epiphany. Nobundo forced his eyes from the gathered assembly to the fountain in the center of the small plaza. From that water he asked for clarity.
He felt his thoughts resolve into focus. He thanked the water and, leaning heavily on his stick, forced himself to meet the sea of disapproving gazes below. There was a moment of awkward silence.
"This is nonsense," he heard someone whisper.
When at first he tried to speak, his voice sounded small and hoarse, distant to his own ears. He cleared his throat and began again, louder. "I have come to... to talk to you about--"
"We are wasting our time. What can a Krokul have to say to us?"
More voices of dissent joined in. Nobundo faltered. His mouth worked, but his voice was lost.
I was right. This was a mistake.
-Unbroken, Micky Neilson
And how do the draenei comfort their fallen, afflicted kin? Their brothers and sisters who have already suffered so much, through no fault of their own?
By turning their backs on them. Because they were no longer useful. Because "What can a Krokul have to say to us?"
Even when the draenei are trying to help, they can't help but come across as would-be saviors, come to save those weaker or less capable than themselves. In the Zangarmarsh quest Messenger to the Feralfen, we see a draenei named Anchorite Ahuurn try to reach out to his exiled kin, the Feralfen Broken, and re-invite them back into the fold. However, he does so by asking his messenger - the player - to magically disguise himself as one of the bird spirits the Feralfen hold dear, to trick the Feralfen into abandoning their old grudges.
Predictably, the Feralfen leader Elder Kuruti sees through the ruse, and he is not amused.
It's really no wonder he's so offended by Ahuurn's purehearted but ignorant attempt at conciliation. After all, Ahuurn attempted to make peace not via apology and acknowledgement of the Broken as equals, but through trickery, and by blatantly disrespecting their sacred traditions and revered spirits. Not to mention he completely underestimated their intelligence by assuming the crude appeal to their spiritual side would sway their long-established opinions.
Kuruti also mentions that he's well aware of the draenei wish to "redeem" the Broken. Ahuurn and the other draenei simply don't realize how insulting this is - the assumption that the Broken would want, let alone need, their help. There was no malice or ill intent in Ahuurn's actions, but he wasn't really reaching out to help a group of friends and peers in their time of need - in his eyes, it was more akin to saving an abandoned puppy left outside in the gutter, in dire need of someone strong and competent to look after it.
The idea that this puppy might reject his good deed utterly baffles the Anchorite, and he's clearly a little disgruntled when he hears Kuruti's answer, even slightly blaming the Broken leader for his lack of understanding.
"They refused? They are welcome to choose their own path, of course, but their choice surprises me. I would think that all the draenei, including the Broken and Lost Ones, would still remember that we're all a part of the same people.
I suppose he is right about the folly of deceiving them, but still, could he not see that our intentions were friendly?"
Ahuurn might have genuinely wanted to help them, and may have been completely sincere - though misguided - in his efforts to contact Kuruti. But one thing's for certain - he sure as heck didn't respect them as independent, capable people.
Actually, you know who this self-important attitude and casual dismissal of lesser races reminds me of?
Now, in Algalon's case, he truly IS a step above. He's a servant of the Titans, a cosmic entity with the power to entirely destroy our world, who is literally made of stars. He initially dismisses we mortals as inconsequential and not worthy of his attention. But quickly Algalon - ALGALON THE OBSERVER - finds himself emotionally moved and impressed by the sheer tenacity and courage displayed by the mortals who stand against him.
Freaking Algalon finds Azeroth's mortals worthy of respect.
And yet, the draenei...do not.
Think about that for a moment.
But now, we must see it...with mortal eyes
As an experiment, I asked Twitter what flaws Velen had, since he's the most recognizable draenei personality. Here are a few of the results (not counting amusing ones like "his beard" or "he's a bad driver".)
- @vitaemachina - He's too good - there's no nuance or depth to him, he's just LOLOL I AM GOOD AND EREDAR ARE BAD.
@Vrykerion - Political policies defined by vague prophetic visions.
@glyneth - He seems rather ... passive? idk, at least the other leaders seem more active, at least in the fiction.
@CassDots - I think of him being too reserved, dispassionate and cautious.
But perhaps Amber put it best:
- @ilikebubbles - Velen's flaw is being BORING
And therein lies another problem with being good all the time. It's boring!
I'm not saying you have to be evil, or violent, or possess the classic maverick antihero personality. But a race NEEDS outsiders. They need some variety, some people who break the mold, who stand out from the rest, who add some spice and flavor.
For every Thrall, there needs to be a Garrosh. For every Jaina, a Varian. There needs to be contrast and disagreement, Yin and Yang, Light and Dark, etc. It's simply not realistic - nor very exciting - if every single member of a given race is on exactly the same page. What are they, robots?
Ever wonder why Batman is so much more popular than Superman? Because Superman is TOO GOOD. Personality-wise, he is the draenei of the comic world. He's a boy scout, he doesn't lie, he's forgiving and kind. Meanwhile, Batman is the antihero. He's brooding, he's mean, he's a badass and he's a bit of a jerk.
Of course, he's also interesting.
Compared to Superman? Well, if you're read one Superman story, you've kinda read them all. And if you've met one draenei, well, you've basically met them all.
But if the Naaru were revealed to be bad, suddenly the draenei culture as we know it would be thrown into upheaval. Everyone would suddenly regard them much, much differently. Instead of treating the draenei with awe and amazement, would we now look at them warily, knowing how many innocent lives they unwittingly spent to survive? Would we question why they never suspected the Naaru before? Or perhaps, uneasily wonder how much they actually knew about the Naaru's true natures?
On the other hand, maybe we mere mortals would finally be able to approach them as peers, now that the feelings of awkwardness and inferiority had been cast aside. I imagine it'd be pretty hard (if not impossible) to relate to a draenei right now, considering their ethereal and supernatural air of perfection. But if the Naaru turned bad, this mystique would be erased, leaving the draenei staggered, dazed, maybe even in extreme shock at being duped for all those years.
And what would bring people closer together than mutual sympathy? What race on Azeroth can't relate to being manipulated or tricked, or making mistakes that had severe repercussions? The night elves and humans certainly know a good deal about that, as do the orcs and Forsaken. These cultures would all be able to sigh and offer the proverbial pat on the shoulder, in a sad but sympathetic "we've all been there and we feel your pain, dude" sort of way.
(The orcs might have a few more choice things to discuss with them, too, given what happened on Draenor...something tells me the two races' feelings of anger and guilt might undergo a sudden reversal. And the Broken probably haven't forgotten the shoddy treatment they received, either.)
Finally, after years (both in and out of game) of looking down upon the rest of us from their flawless marble pedestal, the draenei would find themselves down on our level. Flawed, capable of errors in judgement, capable of feeling doubt and uncertainty like the rest of us. For the first time, the draenei would have humility, would look at others as peers, not inferior creatures. The arrogance would be gone, flown from them with their departed Naaru, leaving in its wake the revelation that, oh hey, they ARE human (so to speak), they CAN make mistakes. They're might have hooves and horns and tails, but beneath all that, they're just like us after all.
We would finally be able to identify with them.
And the racial arrogance that has kept their society aloof and detached would be no more, allowing, at last, for them to start truly integrating into the vast melting pot that is Azeroth, and specifically, the Alliance.
Not as aliens, not as oddities, and not as saviors.
As friends. As peers. As partners.
Welcome to Azeroth, draenei. Welcome to humanity.