Reader Beware: Spoilers for Tides of Vengeance, Battle for Dazar’alor and 8.1.5 ahead!
The Battle for Dazar’alor is the figurative lore fever-pitch for the latest expansion of World of Warcraft. Several weeks ago, we talked about what had lead up to this point in the Battle for Azeroth and who seemed to be the largest villain. With the Mythic kill of Jaina Proudmoore in the latest raid it’s time to genuinely consider where this leaves the world at in regard to the lore. Where do we go now after the Alliance has besieged the greatest Troll Empire that ever existed?
First off, we need to ask one question: Why did the Alliance decide to attack Dazar’alor in the first place? The Zandalari Empire has long since been at odds with the rest of the world, however, it was the Alliance who first made ground against the nation by capturing its Princess Talanji and the King’s prophet Zul. However, these prisoners were quickly liberated by the Horde, which gained them a foothold on the island nation of Zandalar and the ear of King Rastakhan. While the Zandalari have never officially joined the Horde, they have allowed the foreign forces to dock alongside Kalu’ak and Vrykul. Whereas Kul Tiras officially rejoined the Alliance at the end of the Daughter of the Sea questline, Zandalar remained neutral (most likely due to rapidly unfolding events at Uldir).
Nonetheless the Alliance still saw Zandalar as a steep threat. The ancient Troll empire, even offset by the death of several Loa and the shuffling of its senior advisers, still commands the most powerful naval force on Azeroth, able to reduce Alliance ships to mere debris in moments. Despite Rastakhan’s aloofness in siding with the Horde, the concept became more and more likely as the Speaker for the Horde assisted in putting down a rebellion against the King. If the Horde earned the allegiance of the Zandalari Empire it could only spell doom for the Alliance’s forces and the Kul Tiran fleet.
So instead of an eventual bloody naval battle, High Commander Halford Wyrmbane devised a daring plan. The Alliance would lay siege to Dazar’alor, the capitol of Zandalar, and assassinate King Rastakhan. Sending agents of SI:7 and the 7th Legion, Alliance forces planted deadly bombs across the Zandalari fleet while quickly recapturing a relic known as the Abyssal Scepter. This Scepter, wielded by the Tidesages, could command the power of the ocean and manipulate water with impossible amounts of power. Even in doing so, the Alliance still had to deal with Zandalar’s impressive land and air military forces, for which they had a plan.
Using a guerilla strike force of the 7th Legion, the Alliance utilized the Abyssal Scepter to shroud Nazmir in a deep fog, delaying the armies of Zandalar and shrouding their invading forces. Believing the full Alliance army and Kul Tiran fleet had arrived on their doorstep, the Zandalari forces raced to meet the onslaught and carved their way across the swamp to the Abyssal Scepter and a coastline shrouded in fog. Destroying the ancient relic, Princess Talanji and her army realized that they had been duped.
Simultaneously, the Alliance began their invasion by sea and destroyed the remaining Zandalari fleet, storming Dazar’alor to begin their invasion. In one fell swoop the Alliance destroyed the city’s remaining defenders and assassinated King Rastakhan. The Zandalari forces returned to their city in time to witness the murder of their King and retaliated in vicious form, decimating the Alliance forces including High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque, leader of the Gnomish race. Pursuing the Kul Tirans across the sea, they were waylaid by Jaina Proudmoore, whom they’d also grievously wounded.
Where does this leave the major players so far? Despite popular belief, High Tinker Mekkatorque is not dead, instead launching himself into an escape pod that has put him into stasis. However, reviving the leader of the Gnomes seems to be a task beyond the Alliance, according to Jaina Proudmoore, “The mechanism used to freeze his body is unlike any of the magic I know.” The Lord Admiral of Kul Tiras clearly survives the siege, her wounds grievous but not life-threatening.
With the death of Rastakhan three major events have occurred. In the wake of his assassination, Nathanos Blightcaller, the Banshee Queen’s Champion, rallied the Zandalari forces almost single-handedly, forming a bond with the island nation. Secondly, Princess Talanji survived the raid and thus will ascend to leader her people as Queen of the Zandalari. These two actions alone will, as we’ve already seen, galvanize the Horde’s presence in Zandalar and induct the ancient empire into the Horde.
The third, and most dangerous development, is Rastakhan’s bargain. For those unaware Rezan, the Loa of Kings and personal Loa of the Royal Line, was slain during the uprising of Zul and the dethroning of Rastakhan. In an effort to empower his forces and retake Dazar’alor, Rastakhan made a bargain with the Loa of Death, Bwonsamdi.
“Become my Loa. Grant me the power to recover my kingdom and I will elevate you above all Loa!… If you do this for me, I will bind my bloodline to you.”
“All who succeed you will keep this bargain? To serve me in life… And in death?”
This fateful deal has finally come to light, with its burden now passed to Queen Talanji along with the horrible truth of its inception. However, with ol’ Bwonsamdi there is always a deal to be made and this is no exception; he will break this pact with Talanji for one thing alone:
“Since ye be so eager to get rid of me, I’ve got a new deal for ya… Bring me the head of the Horde’s Warchief and I’ be forgetting all about ya fatha’s bargain.”
While Bwondsamdi later goes on to talk about how he has, “Been wanting a Warchief’s soul for a long time,” it’s clear he’s directly talking about Sylvanas Windrunner and not Vol’jin. Despite the blessings Vol’jin has received and his spirit living beyond his death in Legion, the chieftain of the Darkspear Tribe still roams onward, unsure of both who directed him to place Sylvanas as the Warchief and who has stopped his soul from passing on to the afterlife.
The Banshee Queen herself has not yet been idle either, promising Talanji that a cruel retribution would fall upon the House of Proudmoore. With that idea in mind she raises the recently recovered corpse of Derek Proudmoore, heir to the House Proudmoore, for one purpose in mind; she will break his will and send him to assassinate his family. This, understandably, ruffles a significant amount of feathers among the Horde, more particularly with both Baine Bloodhoof and the Zandalari whose Patron Loa and Culture vehemently decry the Undead.
Most importantly of all, this opens up schisms between Sylvanas’ own people within the Forsaken. Some, like assassin Lillian Voss, are understandably doubtful of the movement; while Forsaken have notably always had a difficult modicum of free choice with their undeath (ie. “You’re either Forsaken or you’re Scourge and will be destroyed), free will is a principle pillar in their society. So much so that even in the starting zone for the Undead you can see multiple examples of choice; some Forsaken choose to join the Undercity simply because they see no other option. Some choose to remain independent and take on the challenges that comes with it. Others, like Marshal Redpath, rally against the idea.
To say that Sylvanas’ manipulation of Proudmoore is against the very principles of the Horde is not an understatement of the facts. In fact, we’ll see this situation come to a head later on in Patch 8.1.5, as character’s new and old work to undo this act and preserve not just the honor of the Horde, but the sanctity of its actions in war.
Ultimately, where does this leave the world with the fall of Rastakhan? Despite the Alliance’s best efforts, the Horde have gained a weakened yet powerful ally. The strength of the Zandalari is not one to be overlooked; its military is mighty, its air force is vast and it is still empowered by a legion of Wild Gods who willingly give their power when appeased. Now it is headed by a Queen who seeks a blood vengeance upon not just Kul Tiras but the Alliance in whole. The Warchief, ready to utilize one of the Horde’s greatest potential weapons, may drive a wedge in her own forces as she seeks to win the war by any means necessary. Even now those means are quickly shrinking, and the Horde is left with very few options for a winnable and ethical war. Enemies to the Warchief’s plans come now both from within and without, while her greatest champions begin to question whether or not they serve through loyalty or honor.
The Alliance is certainly in no better shape either. The Kul Tiran fleet, while not destroyed, suffered great losses from the Zandalari defenses and counterattack. The 7th Legion has been woefully depleted, losing its Lightforged Commander and its entire Nazmir assault force while drawing out the Zandalari armies. There are no survivors. Meanwhile the Gnomish People are left leaderless in the worst possible manner; the office of High Tinker is an elected position in the World of Warcraft but it seems a new Tinker is only elected after the passing of the old. With Mekkatorque’s fate still in question, and Gnomeregan still unclaimed, the Alliance’s most overlooked and ingenious race now has an uncertain future. Meanwhile the Night Elves have gone almost entirely rogue, following Tyrande Whisperwind in the reclamation of Darkshore and her bloodied ritual to become the Night Warrior. The Alliance continues to lose its minimal land forces in a war it cannot sustain while its newest navy remains crippled by a deadly and ultimately unsuccessful campaign.
Both the Alliance and the Horde are ready to come apart at the seams; the former by the inaction of its High King in the defense of its allied peoples, and the latter by the actions of its Warchief in her pursuit of a swift and brutal end to the war. Meanwhile darker forces seek to manipulate the tides of vengeance, even as a dying Azeroth takes a fatal turn. The Speaker of Azeroth is quickly running out of options to heal the Wound in the World, and an eldritch terror all too familiar to the Defenders of Netherlight seeks her long awaited freedom. She is willing to bargain with any entity no matter the cost, and some heroes may find their offer too tempting to pass by. Especially when others have made greater deals for even less before…
“I bring you a gift! In exchange, break the final seal, release me!… I knew you were the right choice. Such a splendid… hero. We will accomplish remarkable things together, you and I.
“The sword loosened our seals, but your blind trust gave me the power I needed… The universe opens before me. You may want to pray that our paths don’t cross again. And yet, for you, I have something you never would have known to ask… A gift that you so richly deserve, my champion. Know that you did help to stop those paltry invasions – and by that, we have now opened the door for something bigger…
“Your name shall be known in the Black Empire.”