Jaws of the Apocalypse

As everyone who plays WarCraft surely knows by now, the 'gameplay' story and the 'lore' story are two very different things. For the purposes of fun gameplay and allowing players to experience these epic battles, certain story elements are ignored in the game, while being treated as 'canon' in the overall lore. For example, in the game, we - the players - kill Illidan Stormrage, with some small assistance from Maeiv Shadowsong and Akama. However, as far as the official lore is concerned, it WAS Maiev and Akama who defeated Illidan. Certain parts of the story are changed, just for the game, to allow for better gameplay.

Cataclysm is no different. Deathwing's end was very player-centric, because otherwise the game wouldn't be any fun. But what about the official lore version of what happened? What about the real story, telling what really happened, as opposed to an altered version to allow the players to participate? That is what I hope to tell. The lore ending... of Cataclysm.


2. Aspects of the World


Atop the shattered peak of Wyrmrest Temple, the Aspects gathered, assuming their mortal forms for several reasons – to make Thrall more comfortable in their presence, to escape the enemy's notice as much as possible, and because the pinnacle of the tower was simply too small to house four full-sized dragon Aspects. Alexstrasza the Life-Binder's mostly elven form boasted majestic draconic horns curling above her head and eyes that glowed with a warm, crimson radiance. Ysera the Awakened also had horns, albeit much smaller ones, and her eyes and hair shone emerald on her elven head. Kalecgos – successor to Malygos the Spellweaver – was alone in choosing a human as his mortal form, though his eyes shone with an otherwordly azure, and his gleamed in the same hue. Nozdormu, the Timeless One, had foregone his usual, somewhat unusual choice – a humanoid body with the face of an owl – in favor of an elven form, boasting bronze-hued eyes and hair. Thrall was unsure what that signified, if anything.


In fact, it was Nozdormu to whom Thrall turned first. The Aspect of Time had orchestrated this whole endeavor. It had been the Timeless One's idea to snatch up the Dragon Soul from the myriad, ever-changing timeways and turn Deathwing's own power back against him. It had been Nozdormu who had carried Thrall and his companions first to a bleak wasteland he had dubbed 'the End Times', to defeat an insane, warped version of the Aspect himself from far in the future, then back to the War of the Ancients to steal the single most important artifact in Azeroth's history, then finally back here. More than anything, this was Nozdormu's fight, Nozdormu's game. In fact, over the course of the past few hours, Thrall had come to understand that Nozdormu wielded the greatest power of the Aspects – and that Nozdormu, not Alexstrasza, was truly Deathwing's most staunch opponent, perhaps because he, more than any other, was able to fully grasp the far-reaching implications of Deathwing's actions.


Feeling more than a little intimidated by all of their eyes upon him, Thrall stepped forward, into the clear area where they all stood in a circle, surrounded by wrecked pillars and crumbled stone as the battle of dragon against dragon raged all around Wyrmrest. A Twilight dragon was buffeted by the attack of a nearby Red, and nearly crashed into them – but at the last moment, was deflected by some kind of invisible shield the Aspects had raised between them and the battle outside.


'I have the Soul', said Thrall, withdrawing it from his robes. 'But I fear I cannot safely wield it. Even outside of its time, the Soul is still connected to the Old Gods. I can feel them, even now. I do not think I can use it without succumbing to insanity and dooming our cause.'


Alexstrasza turned to Nozdormu. 'I thought you had taken steps to protect us from the corrupting nature of the Soul.'


Nozdormu nodded and spoke analytically. 'Indeed, I have sealed the Old Gods' influence as much as I can within a temporal differential. However, I am unable to seal them off completely – to do so would involve completely removing the Soul from this moment, which would defeat our ultimate purpose of using it.'


Kalecgos spoke worriedly. 'What can we do, then? Has this all been for nothing?'


Ysera laid a calming hand on his shoulder. 'Have no fear, brother. Nozdormu and I have come to a solution.'


Kalecgos laughed nervously. 'I'm still not sure about you calling me that.'






'You may not have been born such, but then, neither were we,' reassured Ysera. 'Our sister and brothers did not all hatch from the same clutch as I. We are much closer than any normal siblings – we are brothers and sisters in our duty and powers as Aspects. And you are one of us.'


Nozdormu cleared his throat. 'No matter what you may believe of my powers, we do not have forever...'


Ysera looked around. 'Of course, brother. Forgive me.' She turned back to Thrall. 'We – the four of us, and you, Thrall – will unite our powers to cleanse the Soul of the Old Gods' influence.'


Alexstrasza made a startled noise. 'We discussed that possibility after we first reclaimed it after the War of the Ancients. As I recall, it was impossible.'


Nozdormu nodded. 'It was indeed, sister. The Soul could not be manipulated by any of us, because the five of us – Magic, Time, Dreams, Life, and Earth – forged it together. Only together could we change its nature, and our dear, mad brother would have been less than receptive to the idea, I believe. But now...'


Nozdormu's eyes shifted to Thrall, and he understood. 'Now you have me.' Nozdormu nodded, and Thrall felt a little faint. 'But... I am only a Shaman. I cannot hope to match your powers. How can I possibly do what you cannot?'


It was Nozdormu who replied. 'No offense intended, young Orc, but you are right. Your power could never hope to overcome ours. No, it is not might or power that we need, but specifically, you. Think of the Soul as a chest, to be unlocked. Once the door is open, we may take out or deposit what we please. But we must first unlock the door, and only the combined natures of the five Aspects can act as an appropriate key. Your power is not necessary, but your affinity with Earth – Deathwing's former charge – is very necessary. Each of us is what binds the others together. Until now, we could not be bound, could not be truly one. Now, we can.' Nozdormu's voice, startlingly, had briefly abandoned its normally cold, analytical tone and spoke fervently, passionately. 'We are one once more, Orc, because we have you to bind us to one another. At last, the five aspects of this world are brought together, and there is nothing that we cannot accomplish.'


Kalecgos peered around at the others. 'I see no reason to delay. Deathwing could descend on us at any moment. Frankly, I am surprised he is not here already.'


Alexstrasza nodded. The four Aspects moved into a circle, with a space for Thrall. Thrall, still more than a little humbled by his inclusion, stepped forward.


The Dragon-Queen turned to regard him, noting his apprehension. 'You need not worry, child,' she reassured him. 'The four of us will be able to perform the magics necessary to cleanse the Soul. You need only spread the idea of Earth – the very essence of Earth – to each of us. We will do the same with our charges, and then we will truly be one. It may not even be four or five of us at that point, but a single mind, a single essence.'


Thrall was fairly certain he understood what she meant. At the very least, he knew precisely what he had to do. Through some unbidden instinct, he stepped forward as the four dragon Aspects did the same. Together, they raised their hands skyward, and Thrall focused on the nature of the Earth; itself unliving and cold, yet also warm, giving life to the very world. Not slow or ponderous, but rather patient, ageless, and impossibly wise. The spirit of Earth filled him and for the first time, did not just commune with him, but actually merged with him, became one with his very being. Thrall saw the world as the Earth did – not a series of broken landmasses surrounded by water, not fragments or pieces, but a single, solid mass, one enormous world. Just as he staggered from the size of it, his understanding shrunk, down to the smallest speck of dirt, and understood within that tiny fragment of earth the potential for life, for growth and nourishment. The Earth was not alive, but without it, nothing could ever live. As much as, or perhaps more than the very air they breathed, Earth was the very life of every being on its surface.


And then he pushed this understanding outward. His mind was linked to the Aspects', and as they understood the Earth as he did, he was flooded with sudden understanding of their own charges, their own natures.


From Alexstrasza came an innate understanding of the nature of life. It was not an accident or a coincidence, it was a precious gift that defined them all. Alexstrasza did not stand for immortality; the nature of life was that it must someday end, and that this was at it should be. He remembered how torn she had been when her mate, Korialstrasz, had fallen in this conflict; she did not mourn him now because she remembered what she stood for. Life's very nature meant it must end eventually, but that did not mean that those who died were gone, or forgotten. Yet, just because the essence of life meant that it was inconstant, that did not imply that it was meaningless. It made it all the more precious, something to be enjoyed and valued above all else. He saw, briefly, how Alexstrasza envied mortals; they lived short, but because they did, they lived passionately, with courage, strength, and love. He saw how immensely strong Life was: how a small seed could, over time, become a towering, mighty tree; how a small whelp could grow into an enormous dragon; how a young Orc could grow into a Shaman who stood at the precipice of the hour of twilight.


From Kalecgos flowed a deep understanding of magic and its myriad, ever-changing ways. Many wrongly believed magic to be unnatural; Thrall now saw, there was nothing more natural in all Azeroth. Magic flowed through the very world itself, and the Ley-Lines of Azeroth were not simply rivers of magic, they were veins, carrying the lifeblood of creation from one place to another. Magic was wondrous, magnificent, dangerous, and addictive; much like many things in this world, Thrall realized. It was not the material or force itself that was inherently good or bad; it was those who wielded it that defined its use. And just as some had wielded it unwisely, with disastrous consequences, it was the duty of Kalecgos and his flight to use it with discretion, wisdom, and grace.


Ysera emanated the meaning of dreams. Thrall had been most interested to understand Ysera's nature; Magic, Time, Life, and Earth all seemed fairly obvious to him as primal forces of creation. But where did dreams fit in? Thrall saw now that the power of dreams were enormously powerful, and realized that he had known that all along. For Ysera was not simply mistress of dreams that came while asleep; She of Dreaming commanded the power of every daydream, every far-flung hope, every impossible goal. Men and women were defined by their dreams, by what they hoped to accomplish. Did they want wealth? Security? Peace? Love? Ysera held dominion not over these concepts, but over how far a person would go to achieve them – or avoid them. For everyone, there existed a hope, an ideal of what they felt their life should be; and Thrall now realized that for most, their entire lives were defined by what they dreamed of. There was nothing of greater import in the lives of the mortal races than dreams, and the hopes they offered.


And lastly, from Nozdormu came time. Thrall had some experience with Time, having freed Nozdormu from 'the illusion of Time,' realizing that the only moment that ever truly existed was the moment of now. But still, he was amazed by the depth he saw. He knew now why Nozdormu seemed analytical or abstract at times; Nozdormu's enormous mind was bent upon the thousands upon thousands of ever-shifting timeways. A single word, a single action could skew theirs in one direction or the other. Nozdormu watched, and remembered. It was entirely possible that Nozdormu was aware of every possible eventuality, and Thrall was staggered by the sheer sum of knowledge Nozdormu kept locked away. He saw that Time itself was an illusion; mortals had a tendency to break down Time into manageable chunks; minutes, hours, months, years. They understood Time as the turning of the seasons, the turning of the centuries, repetitions and cycles of the same events over and over. He understood now that Time was not made up of minutes, or years, or moments. Time was a single piece, one singular, vast entity with one beginning and one end, not many repetitions within it.


And then- what was that? As Thrall peered into Nozdormu's understanding, he found himself blocked. He could not access this part of Nozdormu. There was knowledge that Nozdormu kept hidden from him.


Apologies, young Orc, echoed Nozdormu's voice in his mind. Those events are, regrettably, not for you to see. There are some things – some eventualities - of which mortals should not be made aware.


Thrall accepted this. Given his limited understanding of the complex nature of Time, it was possible that seeing things he was not meant to would confuse him, or perhaps even drive him mad.


And then the moment was over. It felt as though it had been days, or weeks, but Thrall glanced around and realized it could only have been a few moments. Around him, the Aspects drooped as though deeply exhausted. He couldn't know how much effort it had taken to cleanse the Soul, but clearly it had been a great effort. He reached out and plucked the Dragon Soul from where it hovered before him. He listened carefully, but could not hear the whispering voices of the Old Gods, as he could before. He carefully judged it with his skills as a Shaman, asking the spirits to show him what secrets lay within, and found no trace of the Old Gods. There was corruption aplently within it – Deathwing's influence in the disc was evident – but as for the Old Gods, there was no trace.


They had done it.


But a new question nagged him now. 'Nozdormu,' Thrall asked slowly. 'Deathwing forged the Soul, yes?'


Nozdormu, who had been listlessly catching his breath, suddenly looked up, his eyes alert and wary. 'Indeed, Shaman. Why?'


'Then how can we hope to turn its power against him? The Soul... is of him. They share the same essence. They share a bond. Do you truly believe it can kill him?'


Nozdormu seemed about to answer, but Kalecgos spoke first, his voice low and ominous.


'Let's hope so. Because if it can't-'


His eyes were fixed on the horizon behind Thrall.


'-then our lives are about to become much more difficult.'


Thrall, following Kalecgos' gaze, turned, and felt his heart skip a beat. The Hour of Twilight was upon them. The last and best hope for Azeroth's survival now rested with them.


Deathwing had come.

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