So a thought struck me, triggered by a tweet.
Has anyone considered exactly how the world would have been destroyed if the Infinite Dragonflight had succeeded in their efforts to disrupt certain events? The Bronze Dragonflight tells us that that’s ultimately what would have happened, but they don’t really take the time to explain how.
Let’s look at the three events in question:
Opening the Dark Portal: The Infinites strike at Medivh at his most vulnerable moment, when all of his power is tied up in opening the Dark Portal to Draenor, which would allow the Horde to enter Azeroth and set off the First War. The main implication we’re given here is that without the Horde, the inhabitants of Azeroth wouldn’t have been able to defeat the Scourge when they eventually invaded. The world drowns in the undead, the Legion wins, everything goes pear-shaped.
The Escape from Durnholde: By containing Taretha Foxton, the Infinites attempt to stop the chain of events that allows Thrall to be set free from his thralldom. Similar to above, if Thrall never reforms the Horde and leads everyone to Kalimdor, the Legion destroys the World tree, everything goes pear-shaped.
The Culling of Stratholme: By eliminating Arthas before he begins his journey to Northrend, the Infinites prevent him from becoming the Lich King’s servant, and thus from becoming the Lich King himself. Without Arthas to help liberate the Lich King and the Scourge from the Legion’s control, the Legion wins, destroys everything, pear-shapes.
And you’ll note I’m not including the Battle of Mount Hyjal because the Infinites never actually appear to be doing anything there. Or the Hour of Twilight instances because a) in End Time, we’re in the future, b) in Well of Eternity, WE’RE the ones interfering in the timeline, and c) in Hour of Twilight there’s actually no time travel.
So let’s experiment. First, a couple ground rules:
- Rule #1: Each scenario assumes that aside from their one moment of interference, neither the Infinites nor the Bronzes interfere in the timeline. That means each scenario is mutually exclusive.
- Rule #2: Given that the Infinites are targeting a single individual, each scenario is written assuming that the target just disappears. No body discovered, no evidence, big mystery. This is overt with Medivh and Arthas, but for some odd reason the Infinites only trapped Taretha, as though merely delaying the execution of the escape plan hatched with Thrall would have been enough of a change. For simplicity, I’m just writing it as “Taretha is GONE.”
- Rule #3: While each scenario will ultimately end as the Bronzes/Infinites predict (aka pear-shaped Legion domination apocalypse), it may simply create a scenario where whatever heroes are in play simply have a much slimmer chance of success. In addition to preserving the true timeline, it may be that what makes the true timeline so important to salvage is that it may simply have the best chances of ending with the heroes winning.
- Rule #4: …and as such, the described scenarios will end on a cliffhanger where on one hand, the good guys MIGHT win, but on the other hand, the bad guys might win… which is not really all that different from the circumstances we’re facing in the true timeline.
Let’s start at the beginning, then.
Despite carrying a kernel of the Dark Titan’s power within him, Medivh is unable to defend himself against the sustained assault of the Infinite dragons and their drakonid shocktroops. He dies without ever opening the Portal, his corpse left to rot somewhere in the Black Morass, forgotten by nearly everyone… save his apprentice, Khadgar. When Khadgar finally discovers the last whereabouts of his master, he finds himself before a giant inactive portal, and assumes the worst. With no other leads, he returns to Karazhan immediately to try and determine what Medivh had been doing, alone in the Black Morass, that would have gotten him killed. He sends word both to the court of King Llane of Stormwind and to his former mentors, the Kirin Tor. As the archmage had left no orders behind regarding what to do in the event of his death, control of Karazhan was granted to Khadgar, who then opened the tower as a school of magic, a satellite to the centers of learning in Dalaran and Stormwind. Despite all of his other efforts, Khadgar was haunted by the abrupt death of his master and with the aid of the Kirin Tor attempted to determine not only who had killed Medivh, and but what the archmage had meant to accomplish with the portal in the Black Morass.
Meanwhile, on Draenor, Gul’dan and his warlocks realize that Medivh’s activity stopped abruptly, and are unable to complete the opening of the Portal without Medivh’s aid. The Horde, formed as a weapon to destroy and tempered in the blood of the innocents of Draenor, promised a world to conquer and plunder by Gul’dan, now has nothing to fight. Warchief Blackhand is unable to control his forces as they squabble, agitating for a fight and resenting the warlocks who had failed to deliver. Orgrim Doomhammer eventually brings this to a head when he challenges Blackhand to a mak’gora, wins, and with the retired warchief’s blood still on his hands proceeds to start hunting down Gul’dan’s warlocks. Blackhand’s sons, Rend and Maim, are prevented from seeking revenge by Grom Hellscream, who has taken the ensuing chaos as an opportunity to reignite a past bloodfeud with the Black Tooth Grin brothers. And all the while, Durotan and Draka of the Frostwolf tribe seek out the elder shaman Ner’zhul, disgraced and exiled after Gul’dan’s rise to power, hoping that he can help return the orcs to their old ways.
As the Horde destroys itself in an orgy of blood and destruction, the true master behind its creation, Kil’jaeden the Deceiver, broods upon the setback. As the Dark Titan’s lieutenant, his task had been to create a force that would wipe out the opposition of the races of Azeroth, most especially the Night Elves and the Kirin Tor, who unbeknownst to one another had thwarted every serious effort by the Burning Legion to infiltrate Azeroth through subterfuge. The gambit of employing the Horde had been Kil’jaeden’s idea, but the unforeseen interference that had caused Sargeras’ vessel on Azeroth to die caused the entire plan to crumble. Looking now upon the Horde as it consumes itself, Kil’jaeden is convinced the orcs would have failed, because their destructive tendencies were far too easy to turn upon one another. A unified fighting force, one that acted with a single mind and singular purpose, would be the weapon he needed, and all he needed was a willing sacrifice.
Stepping into the halls of Hellfire Citadel, site of the deaths of Blackhand and Gul’dan’s warlocks, Kil’jaeden finds exactly the willing servant he needs: the spirit of Teron Gorefiend. When the Deceiver finishes his dark work, Gorefiend’s spirit is bound within a set of fearsome eldritch armor, and sits upon the empty throne of the Warchief as the Lich King. As his first act, he raises Blackhand into undeath, making him the first Death Knight, and from the corpses of all the orcs and ogres slain in the Horde’s self-destruction, a new army, crafted of the undead, bound to a single overwhelming will, is brought into being… the Scourge.
Back on Azeroth, Khadgar is aided greatly in his investigations by Kel’Thuzad of the Kirin Tor… who, while feigning interest in learning Medivh’s fate, is more interested in unlocking the secrets of necromancy and demonology that he is certain are hidden within the Guardian’s Library. With the help of Terestian Illhoof, a satyr killed long ago by Medivh and imprisoned within the tower, Kel’Thuzad is able to make contact with Kil’jaeden… and the Deceiver’s plan, once thought ruined, now has a chance of success once again.
On Draenor, the Scourge finally offers a challenge to what remains of the Horde. And yet even under Doomhammer’s leadership, the orcs cannot withstand the assault of the undead. Desperation makes for strange bedfellows, as Doomhammer finds himself aided by the ogre tribes and the arakkoa, crafting an alliance of all those who wish to survive the onslaught of the Scourge… including the draenei Prophet Velen and the broken remains of his people, who recognize that the Scourge is the greatest possible evil, and anything that still lives must align against the forces of death.
Meanwhile, Durotan and Draka have located Ner’zhul, only to discover that the elder shaman is struggling with the elemental forces of Draenor itself. The elemental spirits, infuriated by the past manipulations of Gul’dan and Ner’zhul’s own prior sins, are aligned to tear the world apart, but Ner’zhul’s resolve has kept them in check. And yet he warns the Frostwolf chieftain that if Gul’dan attempts to open the Dark Portal while the elements are in such a precarious position, nothing Ner’zhul does will prevent the world from destroying itself.
Gul’dan and his surviving Shadow Council members were able to evade the pursuit of Doomhammer’s Horde, but they are unable to escape the Scourge. Blackhand brings Gul’dan in chains before the Lich King, and as an added layer of humiliation, the Lich King raises the spirits of the other dead warlocks to aid Gul’dan in his efforts to open the Dark Portal. Kil’jaeden himself observes from his Throne above Hellfire Peninsula to personally ensure that his gambit does not fail.
On Azeroth, Kel’Thuzad works in secret to gather all of the materials necessary to complete Medivh’s dark work, including an experiment stolen from the Kirin Tor called the Eye of Dalaran. At last the portal is opened, and the first sight Kel’thuzad sees on the other side is Blackhand tearing Gul’dan’s head from his shoulders for his past insolence.
The Dark Portal is opened. The resistance of Doomhammer’s Horde is forgotten now that the Scourge has their entry point into Azeroth. Kil’jaeden’s gambit has succeeded at last. The dead pour through the portal, with Kel’Thuzad to guide them… and as Draenor tears itself apart, Ner’zhul, whose failures started the orcs down this wretched path, implores the Frostwolves and Doomhammer to pass through the Dark Portal into the world they were once meant to conquer… and save it from the horror that has been unleashed.
Will Khadgar be able to aid the races of Azeroth in protecting against the sudden inexorable assault of the Scourge? Will Durotan and Doomhammer with their few remaining allies be able to save Azeroth? Will Teron Gorefiend remain loyal to his dark masters?
Only time can tell.