The Sundering ripped the world of Azeroth apart, splitting the united continent of Kalimdor into pieces. It also tore apart the Well of Eternity, leaving only the Maelstrom in its stead. What effect this had on Azeroth’s world-soul hasn’t really been explored. But given that the Well of Eternity itself was a bleeding wound, one has to wonder if that wound had time to heal before the Sundering obliterated it.
But Azeroth lived on, its denizens continuing to survive, evolve, and thrive. Some were unexpected, like the Highborne exiled to the Eastern Kingdoms. And some were continued effects from the Curse of Flesh introduced by Yogg Saron.
Ancient prisons, compromised
Speaking of Yogg Saron, his devious efforts to free himself continued – and he wasn’t the only Old God striving to escape imprisonment. All of the Old Gods wanted to break free, the only question was how to best accomplish that task. But if you look at what happened during the War of the Ancients, it could simply be civil war spurred on by the Burning Legion. Or it could be part of a much larger plan…one that had yet to see fruition.
Deathwing’s madness was deliberately engineered by the Old Gods. They wanted him to possess the Dragon Soul, they wanted him to turn on his fellow Aspects – protectors of Azeroth created by Tyr. But while some might say that the Old Gods simply seek chaos, there’s more to it than that. The Old Gods were creatures sent from the Void with the intent of corrupting any nascent world-souls they happened to encounter.
It’s very hard to corrupt a world-soul when you’ve been locked away. It’s much easier to corrupt a world-soul when you’re free to accomplish the task. The Old Gods aren’t stupid. It’s entirely possible they were hoping that Deathwing would simply use the Dragon Soul on the Well itself, creating the Sundering on his own terms. When that didn’t happen, they waited and were presented with an alternative.
It didn’t matter if Deathwing didn’t perform his duty as expected. The kaldorei managed to blunder into the same result regardless. And the prisons of the Old Gods weakened just a little more as a result.
To the south, the Old God C’thun patiently waited, his qiraji servants dormant beneath the deserts of Silithus. Thousands of years after the Sundering, the Druids among the kaldorei wanted to cultivate new growth in the area. Archdruid Fandral Staghelm sent his son Valstann and a group of Druids to begin the project. Unfortunately, Valstann managed to stumble upon an ancient fortress, and upon entering, he woke the qiraji from their dormancy.
C’thun sensed the awakening, and spurred his servants into a frenzy. Valstann and the Druids fled, and could only wait as a massive swarm swelled up and burst forth from Ahn’Qiraj. The end result was the War of the Shifting Sands – a war only won due to the timely intervention of the dragonflights. But the war wasn’t a total loss for C’thun, for the enemy had been identified. Once again, the Aspects were involved, and once again, the kaldorei fought as well.
When the Second War of the Shifting Sands hit, C’thun’s focus was immediately on the dragons and the kaldorei. Unfortunately, that meant that he simply didn’t see the mortals of Azeroth coming, and it led to his defeat. But it almost didn’t matter at that point, because by then the influence of the Old Gods had leeched out to the Aspects themselves.
Corruption of the Aspects
It wasn’t a blatant corruption – it was just as subtle as any other move the Old Gods had made over the course of history. Fandral Staghelm, in his youth, managed to accidentally create a gateway for Yogg Saron and the others to infiltrate the Emerald Dream, spawning the Emerald Nightmare. In one branch of Azeroth’s infinite timeways, Nozdormu had somehow transformed into Murozond, creating the Infinite Dragonflight. In Northrend, Malygos suffered from ongoing madness – a condition that was doubtless eagerly encouraged by Yogg Saron.
Alexstrasza was the only one by and large unaffected – but she’d wasted plenty of time in a war against the Black Dragonflight, one that led to her eventual imprisonment. And the method by which she was imprisoned was none other than the Dragon Soul. The artifact was recovered and used by Nekros Skullcrusher, an orc of the Dragonmaw Clan. She was freed by the mage Rhonin, who also destroyed the Dragon Soul – which released the Aspect’s powers and allowed them to finally confront Deathwing.
Battered and beaten, Deathwing retreated to Deepholm, the Elemental Plane of earth. Perhaps he would have remained slumbering there for eternity, had the Twilight’s Hammer not come to Deepholm as well. The fanatical cult was built around the worship and service of the Old Gods, and with their help, Deathwing recovered. They built new plates of elementium and hammered them to the dragon’s body as the whispers of the Old Gods continued to plague him. Eventually, their growing influence caused the former Aspect to snap. Deathwing awoke, and erupted full-force into the world.