Story of the First Ones and the Cosmic Cycle with Nobbel87
Nobbel87 recaps the story of the First Ones, mysterious figures introduced in Shadowlands who alongside the cosmic cycle have been the subject of discussion in Chains of Domination and Grimoire of the Shadowlands.
In the Beginning...
World of Warcraft: Chronicle
describes the formation of the cosmos, a clash of Light and Void which resulted in the Warcraft universes. In this book, we're introduced to the six major cosmic forces: Light, Disorder, Death, Shadow, Order, and Life, as well as the popular cosmology chart which arranged the six forces in opposition to each other.
Cosmology with Nobbel87
We've seen these forces continue to play out in the Shadowlands story, notably in the in-game book
, which describes a cosmic-wide war secretly waged by the Dreadlords acting under Sire Denathrius' orders. As the Shadowlands story progresses, we've also found an increased emphasis on Life vs Death.
A Different Perspective
Shadowlands introduces the idea that the cosmic forces did not just automatically fall in line. Instead, they were forged, scribed, shaped to do so...by the First Ones. An intriguing set of notes in Tazavesh, written by past Broker researchers, strengthens this theory.
Tazavesh Lore Book
These six forces existed in strife. Well, not strife in the way one such as you or I would see it. Opposition surely, but whether malignant or benign is unclear. There was imbalance, until there was a need for something more.
They came together (or were brought together, depending on how one interprets the fractal) and gave form to their design. Forged? Scribed? Shaped? The exact word is elusive. Each architect gave a portion of themselves, and thus the pattern was drawn.
It is from here that the language becomes clearer.
With a framework in place, all that we now comprehend came to be. As if reality were nothing more than a fungus growing upon the frame. Six forces now in balance, and from their intersections arose others. A simple structure growing infinitely more complex.
Grimoire of the Shadowlands
also introduces a modified cosmology chart from the perspective of the Brokers. While it looks different at first glance, the three major conflicts are still present--Life and Death is simply emphasized much more in Shadowlands.
New Cosmology Chart
In the course of my research on the works of the First Ones, a living soul from Azeroth (who purported to be a scholar of some renown) showed me a tome containing an elaborately painted illustration she claimed to be an accurate representation of how the cosmic powers related to one another. I must say, despite the extensive training I completed in order to interact favorably with the moral races, it was all I could do to muffle my derisive laughter! Instead, I patiently asked questions about the origins of this so-called "cosmology" as if I were hanging on every rambling word from the scholar's lips. When I learned that this woeful miscalculation of a chart had been passed down through the hands of her world's titan-forged races, it told me all I needed to know about the absurdity of the tome to which she clung so zealously. Why, every word wtihin was chosen so as to look favorably upon the titans, as if the Pantheon of Order were the architects of a flawless cosmos! How typical of their kind to claim credit for that which they did not build but inherited. As has been well documented, the language of the titans uses the same word for "created" as it does for "Ordered." Such blatant hubris!
I briefly considered sharing with this self-styled scholar our own cosmology, painstakingly researched by the finest minds of our combined cartels, designed to impartially relate the foundational truths of the cosmos. In the end, I realized the mortal would fail to grasp its subtelties, so rather than waste further effort, I thanked her for sharing her "wisdom" and sent her on her way. In the interest of completeness, I am including our CORRECT cosmology map here for reference.
The Arbiter and Purpose of Shadowlands Zones
Oribos was crafted to serve as the arrival point for mortal souls where they were to be judged and placed into their fitting afterlife by the Arbiter. While there are infinite domains in the Shadowlands, we only encounter four through our questing and we can see how they all serve different interlocking purposes to keep the Shadowlands running. All beings in this endless cycle serve this purpose, to keep the realms of death in balance.
So how do all the zones fit into this cycle? As Nobbel explains:
Bastion acts as the supplier, Oribos as the sorter, Revendreth cleanses the bad souls, Maldraxxus protects the realm, and Ardenweald uses souls to facilitate their cycle of rebirth. An endless cycle of life and death, fitting how the symbol of the first ones is an infinite cycle, a sneak devouring itself.
Bastion was given the purpose of ferrying souls and to make this happen. The progenitors must have known that oversight of this pivotal process would require an indomitable spirit with an unwavering adherence to duty and service to these mortal souls. The Archon of Bastion, a statuesque being known as Kyrestia the Firstborne, would embody that spirit. She established the path that all Kyrian were to follow, never allowing her people to stray from her singular focus on the purpose of Bastion.
In Ardenweald they use that anima for a cycle of rebirth. The wild god Cenarius is a great example. When he died on Azeroth, off he went to Ardenweald where he spend a bit of time recovering. Considering he’s a child of Elune, the Winter Queen treats him like he’s family, and after enough time rechagring, off he went back to the Emerald Dream to eventually be brought back to Azeroth itself. This function supports their theories that the First Ones crafted the underlying framework for the cosmic forces of the universe: one that would facilitate an endless cycle of death and life, which they made central in their creation. The role that they designed for the Winter Queen within this cycle was a vital one, requiring a bond between the conflicting forces so intimate that it is logical to assume that the existence of a reciprocal being who serves as her counterpart can be found as well. Yet just as the Winter Queen assumed her place in the Pantheon of Death, this apparent counterpart took up a similar position in what we must hypothesize to be a Pantheon of Life.
Elune and the Winter Queen, one of the domain of Life and one of the domain of Death. Seeing how the origin of the Eternal Ones is unclear, it’s hard to figure out how this relationship, this bond works. Did the First Ones create the Eternal Ones or did they wake them up similar to how the Titans woke up? Or did they empower and bless them similar to how the Dragon Aspects came to be? Is calling each other brother and sister truly a family thing or more like a bond as strong as kind of deal? Questions still to be answered.
Then there’s Maldraxxus to keep them all safe. As the Shadowlands is not this hidden-away domain where none can enter. We’ve seen incursions from the Void, we’ve seen the effects of the Light, even our forces have ventured in. The First Ones wanted a way to protect their forged Shadowlands to not only match but to overpower all potential battlefronts ahead and so they imbued the very landscape of Maldraxxus with qualities that are unique among the infinite afterlives.
The power to shape and alter the very landscape of Maldraxxus was granted to the Eternal One who stood at the head of the Necrolords, the master strategist known as the Primus. By his hand, the malleable flesh, fields, and bone spires of his realm were shaped to serve as the ideal training ground for the ultimate army. His stratagems and weaponry would prove to be infallible against his every foe. One acount cites that the only losses the Primus suffered were intentional, as he felt there was more to be learned in defeat than in an endless series of decisive victories.
The Jailer's True Identity Revealed in 9.1
With the ending of 9.1 we learned a great deal more about Zovaal the Jailer. The final chapter of Chains of Domination confirmed that Zovaal was the original Arbiter, before defying the will of the First Ones and being banished to the Maw. At the end of the Sanctum of Domination raid, we see Zovaal taking the Arbiter's sigil, fitting it perfectly into his chest cavity, and powering up with new armor. This was a strong hint that the Arbiter was holding something stolen from Zovaal, and the final chapter makes that clear.
Chains of Domination Final Chapter
Highlord Bolvar Fordragon says: Primus, what we witnessed in the Arbiter's chamber, it was... beyond mortal understanding.
The Primus says: Once, Zovaal stood among us as the Arbiter. Yet he defied the will of the First Ones and sought to unmake the balance of the cosmos.
The Primus says: For his crimes, we stripped our brother of his power and bound him to the Maw. It was I who scribed the runes of Domination upon his flesh.
The Primus says: We used Zovaal's anima to construct a new Arbiter, one that would be dispassionate and just.
The Primus says: I should have realiized that he would never stop fighting to reclaim his power... and see his schemes through to their bitter end.
Highlord Bolvar Fordragon says: What will his next move be?
The Primus says: Zovaal pursuels the secrets locked within the Sepulcher. Should he find the knowledge he seeks, all that you know will be undone.
The Primus says: Four sigils represent the renewed hope of the covenants. I will use them to forge a key... though I must find something to replace the Arbiter's sigil.
The knowledge that Zovaal was the original Arbiter adds more context to his decision to create the anima drought. Due to his past role as the Arbiter, he would understand the importance of anima, the lifeblood of Shadowlands--and how destroying the balance would weaken the Shadowlands so he could enact his plans.
The Jailer's Past Plans, Splitting Souls, and What's Next
The motives of the Jailer, while still somewhat shrouded in mystery, have become clearer with Patch 9.1. After he was imprisoned in the Maw and stripped of his role as the Arbiter, he learned how to master his chains through Domination magic and captured the Primus to create powerful weapons. He set his sights on Azeroth and forced the Primus, now the Runecarver, to forge the Helm of Domination and Frostmourne, which were then sent to Azeroth via the dreadlords.
Azeroth is the target for many cosmic wars which the Jailer took advantage of in his master plan to infiltrate all the cosmic forces. Sargeras focused on Azeroth because he feared the planet's titan would wake up corrupted by the Old Gods. The Jailer then latched onto Sargeras' plan, sending the Helm of Domination to Azeroth under the guise of the dreadlords serving the Burning Legion. Looking back, we now see how the Jailer was disappointed in all past Lich Kings--describing Ner'zhul, Arthas, and the Jailer as failed heralds. With one plan not working out, the Jailer turned to another--Sylvanas Windrunner and her splintered soul.
The revelation that Sylvanas' soul was split in two was teased earlier in Shadowlands, but not confirmed until the end of the Sanctum of Domination raid. Players were puzzled why Sylvanas was apparently sent directly to the Maw in the short story "Edge of Night" as Shadowlands revealed that many villains, such as Garrosh and Kael, were given a chance of redemption in Revendreth. Knowing that the Jailer originally served as the Arbiter and held onto a piece of her soul since her death by Frostmourne, we can see how he potentially manipulated the Shadowlands to pull her to his zone.
Uther's soul was also splintered by Frostmourne, and perhaps the Jailer sent him to Bastion instead of the Maw to serve a different purpose: to set the events into motion that would lead to Arthas thrown into the Maw and Devos joining the Forsworn. In completing the eighth chapter of Chains of Domination, we rescue Uther's splintered fragment from the Torghast and encounter many other important souls from the Warcraft III era.
Uther also explains, at the end of the campaign, how the splintered souls work: instead of splitting a soul into good and evil, part of the soul is frozen in time. One could surmise that these souls were blinded by vengeance, if they were frozen at the moment of their death.
Uther's Questline in Chains of DominationHow A Soul is Shattered
<Uther reaches toward the wound beneath his chestplate.>
When Arthas struck me down, Frostmourne shattered my soul. But it was not divided into one part that was noble and another that was cruel.
Rather, it was as if a portion of my consciousness remained frozen in time while the rest of my soul carried on.
To feel that missing fragment restored... well, it has caused me to reflect upon many of the choices I have made.
While Sylvanas and Uther have much to reflect on with their souls fully restored, the Jailer meanwhile has been successful at collecting all of his Sigils and opening a mysterious portal. He wants to reshape the universe into one where everyone serves him and he's off to find answers.
After completing Chapter 9 - What Happens Next, players have an opportunity to hang back in Korthia and speak to various important characters. Approaching Tal-Galan will initiate a conversation between him and Ve'nari. During this conversation, Tal-Galan mentions "Zereth Mortis" as the "realm of the First Ones". As we can assume the Sepulcher of the First Ones is within their realm, and that that's where we're headed in 9.2, it's logical to conclude that Zereth Mortis will be the name of the zone we spend most of our time in during 9.2. And with the Jailer's interest in Azeroth earlier in his plans, it's notable how similar "Azeroth" and "Zereth" sound.
Where the Jailer Could be Heading To
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