Light’s Blessing

Look at the sky above you, child. The stars are bright and eternal, but between them lies darkness. The stars burst, one by one, brilliant sclera of light and matter. Then they reverse, fall into each other, great hungering holes of darkness.

Each of these stars can, will, turn to darkness eventually.

This is the nature of the universe. The light fades into the dark.

“But can’t the dark fade back?” I intoned.

Well, that depends on your perspective. Which is the natural state? Light, or darkness? The arakkoa swept her wing up and drew it across the sky. There is no natural state in a cycle. There is only change. The balance lies in these. Will every star collapse and begin consuming all around it until only void remains? Yes. Will every void be overpowered by matter and eject it all in a bright burst? Yes.

Our magic – arakkoan magic, Rukhmari magic, Apexis magic, whatever you call it – it all comes from this cycle. The Adherents push forth the Light from the stars and sun; the Outcasts push the darkness forth from shadow and void.

“So – for every magical action, there is a reaction?”

Lakka smiled. Now you are beginning to understand. Arakkoan history is a cycle. Each arakkoa feeds off others – they become so bright they must collapse, or so dark that they must burst. Only together do we balance.

“But this magic goes beyond suns and moons. They are drawing on the deepest magic of darkness.” I leant over the tower, the moon shimmering over the surface of the Pure Intent, the steel barrier cold on my fingers.

That is true. The Elder Twilight is beyond any dark magic the Outcasts have yet used. So you can see how it will go. They will create the largest darkness, and in turn you must bring forth the largest light.

“But how? Rukhmar is dead – or at least, no longer on this plane. What other light is there?”

The Sun Goddess has left this world, yes, child. But her feathers and her children remain. The sun still rises and sets. It will not be easy. But this world thrums with Rukhmar’s warmth. It is protected in the right ways. You can find those ways – your friend already found her Lash, though my own mistakes tainted it. The blessings are there – you just have to unlock them.

Lakka swept me up and suddenly we were no longer on the ship, but soaring above the ocean, the arakkoa’s red and orange plumage fluttering, illuminated by the moonlight. I laughed with glee as she drew close to the ocean’s surface, fish bubbling away, before pulling up, racing beyond where the ship had been.

Soon, we were passing over the rich forests of Talador, red and orange as Lakka herself, deep green glades separated by acres of forest. The sun was rising now, and as we passed over Auchindoun, I could see what she meant.

The Light isn’t just an Arakkoan invention, child. Nor was it just draenic. But you will not find any blessings of Rukhmar in the Apexis now that the Legion have scoured this world for them. But there is one race that has defied the Darkness for as long as your people have existed.

As the sun rose, columns grew to full height surrounding Auchindoun. They drew the sunlight into themselves, the crystals activated, and soon a glorious hum burst out over the forest. From each crystal came the song-prayer of the Draenei; from each column a beam of Light to match the sun. All drew inwards, towards the largest crystal atop the great dome of the city, until the prayer was all I could hear, pushed out further and brighter by every singing crystal, the prayer powering the very shield keeping the city safe.

Now, child.

Now, you see.

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A Letter to Overseer Eirvainess

“Overseer Eirvainess,

I trust that this letter will make its way to you swiftly. I have despatched it to Cymre Brightblade, as she is the last known contact we knew you would be meeting. I hope that your journey to her has been danger-free and that you are all well – Ms Brightblade has kept us in Talador thus far informed of the fact that you survive.

Archon Kal’es has done rigorous testing since the opening of a permanent portal in the eastern island of Ashran, and the Research Dept is now confident in the communicators’ ability to work in Draenor. We have relocated to Talador and have brought adequate supplies, though it is recommended that the Convocation move to Ashran to resupply when there is time.

Archon Shari’fal, in conjunction with Lady Liadrin, also requests the Convocation’s presence at the earliest convenience following the conclusion of your affairs within Gorgrond, as reports indicate that two attacks on Talador are imminent. Continued access for both ourselves and our allies to Talador is imperative, as it is a resource-rich forest that provides trading routes to the rest of the continent, and it is the major centre of draenei civilisation.

In the north, on the coast by Shattrath City, Blackrock orcs have encroached on the forest, and you should be wary during travel. A reported fleet of Iron Horde battleships are under construction in Gorgrond, and the last rangari report indicates that this fleet will leave to attack Shattrath directly in weeks, if not days. Shattrath City is almost twice the size of the one we are accustomed to in Outland, and it has no adequate defences prepared for an attack of this scale. Lady Liadrin has also requested aid from the Frostwolves.

In the south, demonic presence is building in the hills near Nagrand, and Auchindoun’s shielding crystals have disappeared. The rangari suspect that there are Legion agents hiding within the city, and draenei society is currently in turmoil following the death of Velen, and of his ruling council only three of five members remain. Archon Shari’fal has gained the trust of several high-ranking members of the Auchenai priesthood, and has informed us that the draenei response is not ready for an attack it fears at the hands of the Shadow Council: currently, the only defences Auchindoun possesses are the ata’mal cloaking crystals, and we have yet to confirm if they have been compromised. It is critical that the Shadow Council is not allowed to wrest control of Auchindoun in this timeline, as it contains millions of draenei souls which would give the Shadow Council warlocks enough power to trigger a full-scale Legion invasion.

In both cases, the Convocation’s usefulness as a reconnaissance and forward infantry division would prove invaluable to help build the defences of both cities, and provided we succeed, our aid would ensure continued positive relations between the Horde and the Draenei.

Hoping that all is well, Arcanist Dawndancer.”

Changing Perspectives

Change is death and death is change. Death of the old, and death of the new, and change is order and death is order and death is perpetuity.

I surface from the pool, gulping in the air.

So many dead, and I’m still here, and I almost forgot what to fight for, and so. Many. Dead.

Auchindoun is quiet in the cool morning air. The spirits are here, somewhere. I could go and apologise. Would they ever forgive me? Would I ever find them? So many dead.

The spirits would stand and watch; eternal, yet ephemeral. The Legion knows not their stories. The demons revel in their pain, rewatching their deaths over and over like in some shitty goblin play.

Above, the call of a bird breaks open. It swoops down, a Kaliri, long gold feathers and long brown tail, picks up a mouse, disappears.

Still it all goes on. Still I am alive. Still we fight.

Home has never felt more far away.

I failed. I failed the draenei and yet tens of thousands more live now than ever will on Azeroth and Outland. We won and we lost and I don’t know how to feel.

The trees stretch out overhead, the bright colours of eternal autumn. They are like those of Eversong, yet more. Every twisting olemba here is natural, a wonder; every tree in Eversong a magical creation, a throwback to a land lost ten-thousand years prior.

Do I miss home? Do I miss the safety? The people? Am I doing a good job here?

The legends say that Velen sees every world in the cosmos the Legion touches – that he considers it his mission to ensure every ruined planet is remembered.

And still we fight. Taleberaite kills a century of demons, Khairan another; there are more now than there were before.

I can see the faces of the draenei spirits in the water; briefly, they shimmer, and are gone, passing through to the inner ring. The spirits are constantly nearby, but never present.

And still we fight. Some fall, and some keep going. And the Pandaren said to remain balanced and taught me their lessons and still they died. Had the Horde been formed, they likely would have died anyway. Should we shed tears for lives that were lost long ago?

If Auchindoun falls, they say the Legion will win, though Auchindoun fell once and the Legion eventually lost, at the cost of a planet.

The forest shifts, quietly.

When we kill more than the orcs kill, who is to blame? Did we do the best we could? Will we be allowed a second chance?

Wasn’t this already our second chance?

I am on the shore, now; my legs cross and I look at the sky. The moons of Draenor show no change; the world may be destroyed but the sky is eternal.

The monks said to be a leaf in the wind; the leaf is blown far and wide, left and right; it is turned and thrown upside down; it may land in a place far different from where its home once was.

Into the Wilds: WoD Questing Review, Part 2

I feel like talking some more about the WoD questing model, so I’ve done a little on the middle zones, Gorgrond and Talador. I found enjoyable, and they both really seemed to recapture the old feeling of ‘you have multiple areas to go’ that was a real railroading problem through Cata and Mists. The fact that you’re no longer pointed towards a specific quest helps a lot, though I felt it meant the conclusion to Gorgrond lacked cohesion in tying everything together.

Gorgrond

Going into Gorgrond, I felt… a sense of trepidation. It was, from first glance, completely different to the Blade’s Edge of old, and I wondered how Blizzard could tie it together. They did brilliantly. Gorgrond, more than anything, embodies the ‘savage’ persona that Blizzard has been hammering us with for the last year, and it actually makes sense without being offensive in this zone. It comprises an elaborate and subtle story of a civil war, effectively, between the creatures of the wild forests – genesaur, ancients, botani and their creations; and the beasts of the earth – gronn, ogron, goren and all they command. In this ancient land, we are thrown into this war and left to do as best we can. The Iron Horde takes a significant backseat as the struggle for resources really comes into play.

Alliance-side, I loved the storylines of the Rangari and the Thorium Brotherhood in this zone. The dwarves and the draenei play off each other well, and their struggle to find their missing troops and complete the objectives they are there to do is well-structured. The fantastic landscape goes well with the questing, although Yrel and Maraad perhaps sit back too much. Thaelin and Rangari Kaalya were stand-out characters in the Alliance questline and I hope we’ll be seeing them again. On the side of the Horde, the Laughing Skull provided interesting, if a bit one-dimensional characters who just really loved bones. While there were probably better clans to ally with (given how the Laughing Skull consisted of around four orcs at this point) they were a good laugh. And the Crimson Fen, on both factions, was exceptionally creepy.

I was originally going to criticise the inordinate amount of giant elite monsters compared to the prior zones – but I realise that it makes complete sense. Gorgrond is ancient and unknown, and it’s also heavily suggested to be Titan-related  – it needs guardians, and the mysterious ancient giants and genesaur that patrol the land provide an interesting perspective. I loved the fact that, unlike some past zones where the Horde and Alliance have achieved the exact same thing, here the Horde gained an artefact for controlling the magnaron, and the Alliance one for the genesaur. It adds an interesting twist, and as with the capture of the power of the Mogu in 5.2, I hope it’ll be referenced again.

My main criticism would be the finale of Gorgrond’s main questlines. While we spend a lot of time on the wilds of Gorgrond, the Iron Horde are rather irrelevant until the final quests – and they end very anti-climactically. The artefact is damaged beyond use, we kill another Son of Gronn – but why? What’s the point of the Iron Approach? We destroy the Iron Docks in the dungeon and the rest of the fleet goes to attack Talador. Was it a failure? I feel much like we did at the end of Vashj’ir – you’re not sure if you’ve won or you’ve lost – and ultimately, you have to work it out from what you do next.

Talador

Upon entry to Talador, the music was vivid and beautiful. It’s easily the best music of the expansion that I’ve heard so far. The music matches the landscape perfectly. The autumnal and earthy colours are different from Terokkar, yet the landscape is similar, and I like the way – much like with Shadowmoon and Gorgrond – that there is a hint of what will one day be Outland, but it’s something much deeper.

I’d like to know who had creative jurisdiction over naming my outpost ‘Fort Wrynn’. It’s not my own preferred choice, I have to say. I was not expecting Zangarra at all – and Khadgar being angry at Jaina is quite funny (though where she gets off on calling me an outsider after I helped purge her city and steal Lei Shen’s power for her, I do not know). Maraad is also kinda starting to grate on me, Alliance-side. Why did we take the most violent of the Vindicators with us? Seriously, first he starts beating up the homeless in Azuremyst, and now he’s advocating for genocide against the orcs. You’ve seen where that goes, buddy. It’s not somewhere to go. Horde-side, the questing was again very well-done, and I loved seeing Liadrin make an appearance. I was a bit confused to see Durotan referring to Orgrim with more affection than, you know, his actual brothers – considering Orgrim is with Blackhand, and we’ve seen nothing of him in this timeline, it came out of the blue. The absence of Thrall was also a relief.

I found the various draenei areas I went to very interesting – but each time, I felt as though it was a little short. Admittedly, everything was very dramatic – the Iron Horde was attacking and we needed to move fast – but I thought Talador was a lot shorter than Gorgrond. Tuurem, Telmor and Shattrath were all done with in a handful of quests. Still, that doesn’t detract from the fact that I loved seeing all the areas of Outland in this form.

Again, Blizzard have outdone themselves with Auchindoun and Shattrath – and again, I feel like they really go underused. It’s a pity, but there’s not much to be done about it now. However, I suppose there’s only so much story you can fit into one area. Talador definitely was a good zone, but I feel like it was missing something – there’s conflict in a great many areas and little to tie them together. You just appear to be playing whack-a-mole. Another criticism: Both my Alliance and Horde mains did not get the ‘Establishing your Outpost’ checkpoints – and I have no idea why. It needs fixing, but it was the only bug I came across here.

The final quest, if over a little fast, led into an absolutely fantastic cutscene. I loved how Yrel and Durotan teamed up against Blackhand (especially notable is how they co-opt each other’s weaponry), and I like seeing that the faction differences are lessening due to the necessity of co-operation in Draenor. Maraad’s death was.. poignant. I’m still not sure whether it was our Maraad, but it was a noble sacrifice. The triumph of Blizzard’s cutscenes is really stellar here – you can lip-read Khadgar at this point, which shows how far cutscenes have come since Wrath. The final battle was climactic and well-done. Talador was, all in all, a triumph.