Analysis of Dragonflight Legacies: Chapter Three - A Question of Free Will
11/11/2022 à 04:13
is a series of animated shorts preceding the release of Dragonflight. These shorts follow Nozdormu, the Bronze Dragon Aspect, as he "delves into an ancient past that holds the key to saving" the future of the dragonflights.
, we saw Nozdormu showing Scalecommander Emberthal, an important dracthyr leader, the story of the fight against Galakrond. In
, Nozdormu tells Emberthal the tales of Deathwing's betrayal and death. Now, in Chapter Three, we delve into the dracthyr's history... and the moment Neltharion first fell.
Dragonflight Legacies: Chapter Three
Storm of Time
When we left Nozdormu and Emberthal at the end of
, Nozdormu had just explained that there was one "crucial moment" in time that has "remained hidden" to him, and he needs Emberthal to help lead him there. The final shot showed him summoning the sands of time - as he does before visiting a memory, but while previous spells have been more gentle, this time we could see the sand raging.
begins with a sandstorm. Almost immediately, we see the contrast between Nozdormu and Emberthal. As Nozdormu leads, we can see he is quite calm. His arms rest behind his back - he glides through the storm easily. Emberthal, in contrast, has her arms up. She is struggling against the storm, and desperately calls out to Nozdormu to wait.
Emberthal: Nozdormu, wait. You have led me through all these moments in time, yet now you ask me to guide you?
Emberthal is incredulous, and it's easy to see why. Of the two, Nozdormu is clearly more comfortable in the storm. How can he expect Emberthal, who is struggling, to lead?
Again, Nozdormu explains that he's seeking a specific moment that has been hidden from him - one that he believes he'll be able to find in Emberthal's memories. Once again, he summons time magic, sending the sands of time to circle Emberthal as the magic prepares to focus on her memories.
Nozdormu: There is a blind spot in my vision. Of a time before Neltharion's corruption, and I believe it centers upon you. I must know why. Seek him out in your memory.
Emberthal closes her eyes, and we hear the echo of her words from Chapter One.
Emberthal: My general. A fierce battle. And then I was...
Before, all we saw of Emberthal's memories were shadows - vague recollections that she was unable to quite recall. One of those visions was of dracthyr soldiers, standing to attention in formation. Now, we see the scene clearly. The leader of these dracthyr was Emberthal herself.
Emberthal: It was my honor to command a battalion.
The camera moves and we see the now familiar figure of Neltharion, in his visage form, surveying his dracthyr army.
Emberthal: We executed Neltharion's will precisely. Our devotion and discipline were unmatched.
Neltharion is wearing a golden gauntlet, something Nozdormu focuses on right away - a Titan artifact.
Nozdormu: A Titan artifact! That must be the source of your unity. This was an ancient magic that bound you to his will.
Nozdormu seems genuinely surprised here. While he apparently knew about the dracthyr's existence, he clearly did not know about this artifact - leaving us wondering how much the other Aspects knew about Neltharion's project, and how much was hidden from them. However, he did understand the object's purpose - he recognizes it as something Neltharion would have used to control the dracthyr's will.
Nozdormu seems concerned by this sight. And there's a subtle change in their interactions here. While before, Emberthal has been the one asking questions, constantly trying to understand the things that Nozdormu knows. Now, it is Nozdormu who is trying to understand Emberthal's perspective.
Nozdormu: Would you not sacrifice yourselves at his whim?
Emberthal: We were soldiers! There were many threats to the world.
Nozdormu's question is something many of us would ask: you could have been forced to sacrifice your own life against your will,
doesn't that bother you
? And Emberthal looks at him with that same, fierce look we've seen from her many times before. Her answer is simple. They were soldiers. They understood what that meant - that they could die - a necessary sacrifice to protect the world.
We love this little jump-scare here, as Emberthal is clearly startled by a lightning bolt, despite this being her own memory. It really helps drive home what she says later on - about the Primalist attack coming without warning.
Once again, Nozdormu seems almost genuinely surprised. Though he recognizes Raszageth as one of the leaders of the Primalists, he sounds shocked (sorry) to see her here.
At this point in the video, the scenes speed up, lighting flashing as we watch image after image showing us the chaos and devastation of this war.
Emberthal: And here was the greatest: the Primalists.
Nozdormu: That is Raszageth, the Storm-Eater... one of the leaders of the Primalist rebellion.
Emberthal: They struck without warning. Without honor. And I lost many friends this day. We fell back, regrouped.
And then, finally, we see Neltharion again, holding out his hand - controlling the dracthyr - when suddenly a lightning bolt strikes him, shattering the gauntlet, and with it, the control over the dracthyr's will.
So, interestingly, this means that the dracthyr's free will was returned to them by the Primalists. While it can be said that they did this for selfish reasons - the Primalists had a much better chance of victory without the dracthyr controlled and empowered by the Titan artifact - it's also impossible to ignore the theme of liberation here. Usually, the act of controlling someone's free will is seen as villainous, while the liberation of that free will is viewed as the act of good guys.
Emberthal describes a state of confusion - which is what would happen if previously your thoughts, emotions, and actions were being carefully directed, but now had been given freedom and all the conflicting thoughts and emotions that comes with that.
Emberthal: But then... everything became jumbled, confused.
Nozdormu: The artifact... destroyed. And the order-magic which had united the dracthyr was dispelled.
Without this weapon, Nozdormu immediately wonders how Neltharion could have hoped to defeat Raszageth. Yet neltharion's expression, as he takes in the destruction around him, is never frantic or distraught. His face settles in determination. He already knows what to do.
Nozdormu: How then was Raszageth defeated?
By this point, Neltharion would have already been listening to the whispers of the Old Gods for a long time - possibly from even before he was an Aspect - but it seems like he had yet to fully give in. This changes in this moment, as we finally see him giving himself over to the power of the Old Gods for the first time. His eyes turn the purple of Old God corruption, and tentacles rise around him, reminiscent of the tentacles around the fully corrupted Deathwing in
Nozdormu, of course, knew that Neltharion had become corrupted by the Old Gods, but he never knew the exact moment where he gave himself over to that power. This seems to be that moment. Nozdormu, and we, watch as Neltharion uses this newfound power to open a Void portal behind Raszageth.
Nozdormu: So, brother, this is what you hid from us: the moment you fell from grace. In his desperation, he turned to the deepest evil: the power of the Old Gods.
Bear in mind, even with the power of the Titan artifact, the battle against Raszageth has been brutal so far. But now, Raszageth barely has a chance to try cling onto the stone in front of her before she's dragged away, sucked into the portal, entirely powerfless to resist.
Just a note here - while Neltharion uses this portal to capture Raszageth, we know from the Evoker starting questline that she was then imprisoned beneath Frostone Vault in the Forbidden Reach.
As this memory fades, again we see Nozdormu in the middle of a sandstorm of time. He is saddened by what he has seen, regretful that he and the other Aspects didn't know about this corruption sooner - before it was too late. Emberthal, meanwhile, still seems to be battling the storm - her role of guide over as she asks Nozdormu, once again, for clarity.
Nozdormu: If only we had known...
Emberthal: But then... why were we imprisoned? Why did we sleep for so long?
Nozdormu's answer is blunt - Neltharion didn't want the dracthyr to be free if he couldn't control them. Distressed, Emberthal begins to object, She believes in Neltharion, was loyal to him, the dracthyr would never have turned on him, and he wouldn't have turned on them - but the storm is raging stronger and she eventually calls out for it to be stopped in frustration.
Nozdormu: If he could no longer control the dracthyr, he would have deemed you a risk.
Emberthal: No. We laid down our lives for him. He was proud of us! Why would he-- stop this sand! I cannot see!
The storm is raging stronger and stronger, nearly hiding Nozdormu from sight as he replies that the reason why Emberthal can't see is because she doesn't want to. And then we understand what is causing this sandstorm. This is a traumatic memory for Emberthal, buried deep by the sands of time. The closer she gets to facing it, the more the storm rages, because she's trying to avoid it - trying to avoid the pain looking at it clearly will bring.
Nozdormu: Because you do not want to! Yet you can only become more than you are if you confront your past.
Finally realizing this, Emberthal raises her head, her expression turning from frightened, to realization, to determination, and suddenly, she is striding forward, past Nozdormu, towards the memory that she's been burying. And finally, the sands clear.
Emberthal's Most Painful Memory
The music softens, and Emberthal turns to look at Neltharion, in visage form, still half-hidden in shadow, showing how this memory is still difficult to focus on. A wave of light flows out from behind Neltharion's feet, and we catch a glimpse of dracthyr freezing as the arcane magic begins to hold them in stasis. We are witnessing how Neltharion, with Malygos's help, put the dracthyr to sleep.
Emberthal's expression, in this memory, is pure shock and surprise - almost comically so - and she's not the only one. The dracthyr behind her are also surprised, their mouths hanging open in similar, stunned expressions. A fellow dracthyr reaches out to her as they're taken by the magic.
Emberthal herself barely has a chance to react as she's frozen as well, her mouth hanging open in shock, reaching out in front of her,
And then we see it again, the scene from her memories in Chapter One - only before it was just a shadow of a figure turning away, but now Emberthal remembers clearly. This is how she went into stasis, frozen in time, her arm stretching out for the general she trusted with her life.
The scene fades, and Emberthal, devastated by what she now remembers clearly, falls to her knees.
Emberthal: So he locked us away. Forgot we even existed. It would have been kinder to simply destroy us.
A Freed Will
Nozdormu's response to Emberthal is gentle. Even though they have only just met, he calls her his friend. The contrast is subtle, but important. Neltharion treated the dracthyr like tools - soldiers who must be forced to obey - but Nozdormu treats Emberthal as an equal, a peer, a friend. He is gently introducing her to a different type of relationship, one that is not so controlling.
And, once again, we see realization move across Emberthal's face, as she slowly lifts her head away from her depression and looks to the sky - to hope.
Nozdormu: I am sorry, my young friend. We had to know the truth. But do not despair. I now believe that Neltharion locked you away because of what you might become.
Emberthal: What we might achieve free of his control.
The scene changes once again, and it seems like Nozdormu and Emberthal are back outside - once again, the area is famlilarily the Forbidden Reach -
Nozdormu: And now you are free. This world has much to offer, and you will have a part to play in the events to come.
A Subtle Mystery
As she turns to Nozdormu, Emberthal names who she believes the ancient enemy that Nozdormu is referring to is: Raszageth. The camera focuses on Nozdormu, who, once again, carefully side-steps any decisive answer or statement.
He does not tell her she is right, nor does he correct her. He just tells her the path ahead is her choice now.
Once again, Nozdormu's careful refusal to name the "ancient threat" leaves us wondering why. He's clearly happy to let Emberthal assume that's who he means - after all, Raszageth is undeniably a threat that has to be faced. But we are more convinced than ever that he is referring to something else - something only he knows we will need to face soon.
Emberthal: You spoke of an ancient enemy's return. It is Raszageth and the Primalists. That is why we were awakened.
Nozdormu: It seems that Neltharion yet had a purpose for you. But he is gone. You must decide which path you will take, which story you will tell.
A Future of Her Own
The animated short ends on the highest possible note, with Emberthal surveying the view in front of her - the tower that stands above the vault in which Raszageth has been imprisoned - as she grasps her newfound agency.
Emberthal: My story... will be my own.
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