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Next WoW Expansion Speculation: Shadowlands, Sylvanas, Lich King, Death Knights
31.10.2019 в 01:59
We're continuing our series of BlizzCon 2019 speculation articles with a closer look at what a Shadowlands expansion could entail, including Death Knights for all races, the return of the Lich King, and Sylvanas' plan.
Several days ago, the
Blizzard Gear Shop
accidentally uploaded a picture of Bolvar Fordragon as the Lich King. While this is a strong indicator that the expansion will feature the Lich King in some way, there's still
unknown details as to the supporting cast of characters, if the Lich King is friend or foe, the actual name of the expansion, and anything related to gameplay.
The concept of the Shadowlands was hinted at before leak season even begun; it's been referenced many times by Old Gods, and the current Lich King, Vol'jin, and Bwonsamdi are all inhabitants of that land of the dead. Could that be a part of our eventual confrontation with Sylvanas? Could she try to pull a Lich King, intending to kill the heroes of Azeroth in order to raise us as unwilling champions bound to her service?
We also know from
that the Frozen Throne is apparently a gateway between Azeroth and the Shadowlands, which could indicate some new story for Bolvar Fordragon (and his daughter, Taelia!). Neither of them like Sylvanas very much, opposed to her ambition and disruption of the balance between life and death, so this could be a part of eventual confrontation as one or the other try to oppose whatever plan she puts in motion.
In addition to all the famous characters linked to the Shadowlands, there's the matter of the "countless souls" Sylvanas has fed to the darkness through the carnage of Battle for Azeroth. Where exactly have they been going, and why? The Shadowlands is a logical choice, as it's the land of the dead. Sylvanas, in her plans to wrest control, could be building an army there, either to face the Old Gods after getting what she wants from Azshara's deal, or bringing the souls to Azeroth to battle and defeat the living--should she pursue the Lich Queen route.
Most of Azeroth believes that Bolvar Fordragon heroically died during the attack on Icecrown Citadel, remaining unaware that he "lives on" as the new Lich King. Bolvar was left for dead after the events of Wrathgate, only saved by the purifying flames of the Red Dragonflight and twisted into a creature beyond recognition. He was then taken to Icecrown Citadel and tortured by the Lich King, yet resisted corruption. Yet, when the Lich King fell, the spirit of King Terenas warned Tirion Fordring that "there must always be a Lich King" to keep the Scourge in check for the safety of Azeroth. As a final sacrifice, Bolvar demanded that Tirion give him the Helm of Domination, so he could become the "Jailor of the Damned" and take on the role of the Lich King.
In Legion, the Lich King and Ebon Blade work together to battle against the Burning Legion, in a plot line spanning the artifact weapons such as
Blades of the Fallen Prince
forged from the shards of Frostmourne, the creation of a new series of Four Horsemen, and the
resurrection of a red dragon
into an undead mount, eerily reminiscent of Sindragosa.
The Lich King also appears briefly in Vol'jin's questline in Battle for Azeroth, when he coldly expresses his distaste for Sylvanas and lack of involvement in Vol'jin's fate.
Looking towards the future, datamined broadcast text
between Anduin and Jaina about Bolvar
shows that Anduin is conflicted about revealing this information to Bolvar's daughter, Taelia:
Jaina: The Old God has been vanquished. The Alliance and Horde have ended hostilities.
Jaina: This should be a day of celebration, Anduin. Yet you wear your troubles like a crown.
Anduin: I'm so glad that after all you endured, you have found peace within your heart, Jaina. I can't say the same about myself, though. Not yet.
Anduin: Sylvanas is out there somewhere. Until she's brought to justice, I don't think Tyrande or Genn will truly consider the war to be over.
Jaina: The Kul Tiran fleet is scouring the seas, and Shaw has spies searching every dark corner of Azeroth. She can't hide for long.
Anduin: I don't believe she will. Which is exactly what concerns me.
Anduin: I saw you speaking with a messenger from Kul Tiras, Jaina. Is everything alright?
Jaina: Nothing to worry about. It was a letter from a certain eager cadet asking to see Stormwind... and to learn more about her father.
Anduin: Taelia. Please tell her that this isn't a good time for visitors.
Jaina: She deserves to hear the truth, Anduin. From you.
Anduin: Tirion Fordring himself made us swear that we would keep the secret of Bolvar's fate. You made that vow just as I did.
Jaina: I remember your father once telling me that the hardest thing about a promise isn't keeping it, but knowing when it's right to break it.
Anduin: Bolvar was a noble man. To know that he sits frozen upon that accursed throne, devoting his very life to keeping the monsters at bay...
Anduin: It breaks my heart. I can't bear to see it break Taelia's, too.
Jaina: The decision is yours, Anduin. But if she learns that the truth was kept from her, it will hurt her all the more.
There's also some
encrypted voice over files
between the Lich King and Darion Mograine, the leader of the new Four Horsemen created in Legion and the Death Knight who helped broker a deal between the Lich King and the Ebon Blade. Perhaps they are both discussing a further deal, as it would be beneficial to both sides to strengthen their numbers against Sylvanas, especially should she aim to seize control of the Lich King's throne.
One detail from the leaked Bolvar art that's spawned lively discussion is the color of his eyes. Bolvar, burned by the Red Dragonflight, glows orange as the Lich King. However, the new Bolvar art shows his eyes glowing blue. Does this symbolize that Bolvar's humanity is finally gone, with the Helm of Domination completely controlling him? Or is this to symbolize his growing familiarity with his powers as the Lich King, or possibly even him tapping into powers of the helm, ready for battle?
We've long known of Sylvanas' plan to master death, avoiding at all costs a return to the dark endless void of anguish from which the Val'kyr first saved her from. Although it likely didn't turn out the way she had intended, the conclusion of the Patch 8.2.5 War Campaign both forced an advancement of her plans and let slip her true feelings: she cares nothing for the Alliance, the Horde, or even her own Forsaken, her only care is mastery of her own fate, with Azshara and even N'Zoth serving as her pawns.. While we've suspected that to be the case for quite some time, her utter disregard of both factions, as well as the greater threats facing Azeroth, was finally made clear in-game.
She first alludes to this at Windrunner Spire, her ancestral home and the location of the "Three Sisters" comic leading up to Battle for Azeroth which ends in her proclamation that all will eventually serve, inexorably linking herself with the power of death. Soon after in the Battle for Azeroth pre-patch, she alludes to a similarly nefarious plan, beyond the mere invasion of Darkshore:
Elune had intervened. Perhaps she had even stayed Saurfang’s killing blow. And she wouldn’t be the only force beyond the Alliance to oppose Sylvanas’ true objective.
Sylvanas’s anger grew cold.
She had known this would happen. It had simply come sooner than expected. That was all.
It also doesn't appear that Sylvanas is retreading the same route taken by Illidan, who made several questionable decisions to ultimately serve a greater good. Sylvanas may have made a deal with Azshara to aid N'Zoth, but she doesn't seem to truly care who comes out on top, rather looking forward to all sides falling and feeding Death. The partnership unquestioningly caused significant loss of life on all sides between the Alliance fleet she lured, the Horde rebels she used as bait, and the denizens of Nazjatar itself, and while it served Azshara's plan to free N'Zoth, Sylvanas seems to be betting on the Old God also being subjugated by Death in the end.
The armies of Azeroth will fight her master, and he will line their streets with corpses. In the end, he too will serve Death.
Sylvanas no longer has any support from the Horde, or the unwitting manipulation of the Alliance... but does she still need it? Although she planned on their war continuing longer, weakening them further, and continuing to feeding Death, she doesn't seem at all upset at the turn of events.
Throughout Battle for Azeroth, the Warcraft team has drawn parallels between Sylvanas and Arthas' stories, even juxtaposing them in the Warbringers cinematic. We've also seen her wrest control of the Val'kyr from Bolvar, the current Lich King, raise Undead on the battlefield, and use blight indiscriminately. Over and over she's told us that she cares nothing for the living and only wishes to master Death, which is certainly believable at this point, so it seems plausible that seizing the Lich King's mantle and gaining control of a new large and unquestioning Undead army is a part of her goal.
Sylvanas pursuing a Lich Queen story would also conveniently reintroduce characters from past Battle for Azeroth expansions - notably Vol'jin's Shadowlands arc which included both the Lich King and Bwonsamdi - none of whom like Sylvanas. Though should the Banshee Queen attempt to wrest control of Undeath from the Lich King, she may need some powerful allies, such as Helya and Mueh'zala discussed later in this article.
It's unlikely Sylvanas wants a world ruled by Old Gods, as their connection to the Void is clearly something she wishes to avoid, and she isn't one to serve beneath another, and Azshara would likely take her role anyway. Instead, she would seemingly prefer to kill everything, ending all hope and life, to rule over a cold dead Azeroth devoid of fate. For although the world may be dead, it won't be crueler than life.
When players learned that Allied Races could not be Death Knights, there was collective disappointment. However, clues point towards a revamp of the Death Knight starting zone and Death Knight availability opened up to all races.
Recent datamining discoveries including a string pertaining to a
new Death Knight Intro cutscene
, textures for
Pandaren and Allied Race Death Knights
, and new
starting zone swords
including one with a Bolvar-themed burning tint.
With a return to the Lich King's story, this would necessitate a revamp of the Death Knight starting zone to account for Pandaren and Allied Race DKs, as well as furthering the story of Bwonsamdi and Vol'jin, not to mention Sylvanas' goals to master death.
There's some curiosity surrounding what would happen to the old Death Knight starting zone. It's showing its age, but it also covers an iconic moment with the Battle for Light's Hope Chapel (
) leading to the founding of the Argent Crusade and Ebon Blade. It would be a shame to lose that storyline with a revamp, but it's also a bit dated and doesn't fit the current narrative for newer Death Knights.
It's difficult to speculate on what situation would lead to the creation of more Death Knights, but the build which added the Allied Race DK skins also added
dialogue discussing Bolvar
. This could hint that Bolvar ends up raising more Death Knights, as opposed to Sylvanas. Perhaps Sylvanas, no longer needing the support of the Horde to enact her schemes, tries to blight and raise players attacking her in a pre-expansion event, and Bolvar steps in to raise Death Knights and wrest them from Sylvanas' control.
Bolvar believes that Sylvanas threatens the balance between life and death ("The Banshee Queen’s schemes threaten the balance. I had no hand in them.”), so stepping in to right the balance would make sense thematically.
, we learn another enemy previously thought dead in Legion has returned - Helya, who was defeated in the Trial of Valor. Yet Helya is back, as Valdemar states "You cannot kill death!" and it forces us to wonder if Sylvanas will continue pursuing their pact, or if Helya will claim her side of the bargain owed by Sylvanas. We're also curious
Odyn asked us to defeat Helya, if she apparently cannot die and Valdemar laughs at our surprise over the fact... Was Odyn hiding something from us all along?
The newest set of Il'gynoth whispers also references a mysterious mistress, which could refer to Helya controlling the nine Val'kyr sent to Sylvanas:
When their mistress beckons, nine ravens take flight. Each seeks a prize to earn her favor.
The nine ravens could refer to Sylvanas' nine val'kyr that abandoned the Lich King, with whom she formed a pact in the story
Edge of Night
. Throughout several expansions, these val'kyr have protected her from permanent death, sacrificing themselves to resurrect Sylvanas several times. They also raise corpses into Undead, under Sylvanas' orders, and previously were responsible for raising Death Knights for the Lich King.
Should the nine ravens refer to the val'kyr, the mistress could refer to Sylvanas, the ruler they serve. However, their true mistress could instead be Helya, the very first val'kyr, with whom Sylvanas formed a mysterious bargain in
. With the return of the Lich King, their former master, we could witness the Lich King and Helya clashing for control over the val'kyr and realms of Death.
Helya has been regaining power throughout Battle for Azeroth, perhaps as a direct result of Sylvanas' increasing destruction, referenced in "Countless souls have been fed to the hungering darkness" in the Sylvanas Loyalist cinematic following the Fourth War.
A trip to the Shadowlands could conveniently pick up the threads of Vol'jin's story, who disappeared earlier in the expansion to search for answers--who appointed Sylvanas Warchief, and brought him back? As former Warchief of the Horde, Vol'jin likely has opinions as well on the Fourth War and how leadership should progress in the future. Vol'jin also served as an adviser to Talanji in Battle for Azeroth, who was conspicuously absent from the War Campaign finale as she likely does not share the popular sentiment of cross-faction peace due to the Alliance killing her father at Dazar'alor.
“There was a presence. Something moving in the shadows. Something powerful.”
“I remember it taking me somewhere, but the memory of where is hidden from me. To keep me from sharing the truth.”
“The truth that it might not be the loa who wanted Sylvanas to be Warchief, but something far more powerful.”
Catch up on Vol'jin's story in our collaboration with Nobbel87
Story of the Afterlife and Shadowlands - Who Touched Vol'jin's Spirit?
One of the new Il'gynoth whispers in Patch 8.3 references the "Father of Sleep" which seems like a clear link to Mueh'zala, the Father of Sleep.
Before the last shadow falls, the Father of Sleep shall savor his feast.
In the children's book
Traveler: The Spiral Path
, the loa Mueh'zala utters the following ominous dialogue:
Not yet, Son of Thorne. Not yet. This is not the day. The day comes. It comes. But Mueh'zala will not engage you here or now. Our battle is yet to come, yet to come... But it will come, child. It will come. And if you lose that battle, Mueh'zala feasts on all of Azeroth. All of Azeroth. All of Azeroth. All of Azeroth...
also refer to Mueh'zala as:
God of Death, Father of Sleep, Son of Time, the Night's Friend
Introducing Mueh'zala to the narrative could bring back the unfinished stories surrounding
Vol'jin's death and Bwonsamdi's boss
. While the Lich King and Bwonsamdi claimed to be opposed to Sylvanas and did not know who interfered with Vol'jin, perhaps Mueh'zala struck a deal with the Dark Lady.
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