Cho’gall, the mad corrupted Ogre-lord of the nihilistic Twilight’s Hammer, has been silenced, and the dark secret, Sinestra reborn, hidden beneath his bastion of Twilight, slain.  The Lord of the Elemental Plane of Fire, Ragnaros, has been vanquished once and for all, and the stage is set for a world ending confrontation with Deathwing, the Unmaker of Worlds.

Okay, maybe not world ending, but the world is definitely at stake, and it has been made very clear over the course of the Cataclysm that there will no redemption for the mad Earthwarder.  Neltharion has to be destroyed like the agents of destruction he arrayed before us, and defeating him will require an ancient power and access to the one thing that not even Deathwing can put an end to.  Time.

So far this patch has been focused entirely on Deathwing and the fight to save Azeroth, but to this point all that the Aspect of Death has done has been patrol the skies of Azeroth lighting hapless young adventurers on fire in a truly forgettable fashion.  In fact, I remember seeing Deathwing three times since the Cataclysm, and all three of them were short, scripted events in Hyjal and the Twilight Highlands, but Deathwing has his hands in more stories than just his own, and with the release of this new patch there are a number of characters I suggest keeping your eyes on.  Some of them are obvious, and others you may have forgotten about.

Let’s start with the obvious.  Nozdormu:

Imagine that you have just been tasked with stewardship of time—not just a period of time, time itself.  Your eternal duty is to police the one true timeline and weave the threads of the past, present, and future in order to preserve its integrity, and in order to humble you in the face of such power, the first thing you learn about your phenomenal new power is the exact time and place of your demise.  Nozdormu’s fate is unique in that he is the only immortal creature of Azeroth to know the exact time and place of his own death, and as the master of time itself, the knowledge is stressful and terrifying.

What could possibly be more upsetting and maddening to an immortal and timeless creature than to contemplate its mortality?  To know exactly when, where, how, and why you will die, secure in the knowledge that for time to progress as it should, there is nothing that can be done to stop it.  Nozdormu’s quirks and personality are not a result of his empowerment as an Aspect like his siblings, at least not directly—they are the result of his knowledge and fear of death.

Everything Nozdormu has done to this point has been in an effort to prevent his eventual demise, but it occurs very differently than how you might expect.  The creation of the Infinite Dragonflight is the largest standing testament to Nozdormu’s efforts.  Their presence within the timeways implies a heavy, if not direct, connection to the Bronze Dragonflight, and their efforts to disrupt the course of history have been strategic and meticulous, planned carefully to prevent very specific events from transpiring that would lead our timeline to where it is now, and for those attacks to be so precise, it would require the forethought and planning of a creature with unlimited access to those timeways and the threads and outcomes of their results.  Only Nozdormu has that kind of power, but what reason would he have to disrupt the timeline he was charged with protecting?  It’s no concern of his who lives and dies so long as history progresses in the way that it should, so his own mortality is the only motivation he might have.

But the Nozdormu of the present seems to be keenly aware of what his fear will purchase, and he admits that he is both aware of his fate and that it is not the way time should transpire.  As a result he pledges his support to the fall of Deathwing, and the plan to recover the Dragon Soul is hatched.  Unfortunately, the Dragon Soul is useless in our own timeline, and so it must be retrieved from the past in order to be wielded against the Destroyer, but in searching through the threads of time Nozdormu discovers that something as powerful as he himself has shrouded the past and made the Dragon Soul impossible to find, and so begins our first adventure, the End Time.

In the End Time we discover the fate of the world should the Dragon Soul never be found, and there are two very important points to take note of in regard to Nozdormu.  First is that Deathwing is slain, and his remains are impaled upon the ruins of Wyrmrest Temple.  Second is that the Infinite Dragonflight is not only there, but it was created there by a dragon known as Murozond—the same dragon that has hidden the past from Nozdormu himself and revealed the result of the Timeless One’s selfish desire to escape his own death.  So we know two things within moments of arriving in the desolate future; that Deathwing will be defeated and that Murozond has triumphed over time itself.

The tragic fate of Nozdormu is revealed to us the moment we learn of Murozond’s existence.  In order to live, Nozdormu must become what he was never meant to be, and that is fate truly worse than death.  Though he wields time itself and the champions that have fallen to his machinations as weapons against us, Murozond is made to fall, and Nozdormu’s fate is sealed by his own hand, for even the Lord of Time can do nothing to stop it from flowing.
Nozdormu is a character worth watching because of the role he has played in both Deathwing’s ascent and demise, and because in order to ensure that time flows correctly, he must face and accept the only thing it can be possible for him to fear, and the revelation is likely to lead the Bronze Dragonflight along an interesting new path.

Some of you may remember Children’s Week back during the Burning Crusade era, and if you do, you may remember the Blood Elf orphan Salandria and her desire to visit the Caverns of Time because she wants to see a real live dragon.  After taking the girl to the Caverns of Time and buying her a toy dragon from the Keepers of Time, you can bring her to the dais in the middle of the cavern where Zaladormu will stop a pair of Wardens of Time from executing her.  He states that she cannot be held accountable now for what she may or may not do in the future, and as you leave the Caverns of Time she mentions that she loves her toy dragon and plans to own a real one some day.

The scene itself implies that the Bronze dragons are all capable of seeing into the past and the future and all of its different threads and possibilities, though it stands to reason that as the Lord of Time, Nozdormu is capable of shrouding his whereabouts and machinations–Chromi mentions more than once that she has no idea where or when Nozdormu is, though we have as much reason to believe her as we do to believe she is simply lying.  The real question is how much of the Bronze Dragonflight is aware of Nozdormu’s eventual transformation, and if they were unaware, how will they respond now that they know?  Will they?

Even more interesting than that is that Deathwing still desires a perfect dragonflight with which to exercise rule over Azeroth–Sinestra herself nursed the Twilight eggs in the depths of Grim Batol, and if Deathwing is not defeated in the present, I have to assume that he is at least partially successful in creating his Twilight Dragonflight.  However, we know that in the bleak future Deathwing has been slain and Murozond has created the Infinite Dragonflight, but of what?  Could it be that Nozdormu’s fearful transformation allowed him to subjugate and transform the Twilight dragons Deathwing created as his own?  Are the Twilight dragons of the future to eventually become the Infinite dragons corrupting the timeways of the present?  Is their treachery, whether forced or inevitable the reason Deathwing is impaled upon Wyrmrest Temple?

It’s also important to note that upon returning to Shattrath with Salandria, you receive a letter from her stating that Lady Liadrin has ordered her released into the custody of Silvermoon’s Blood Knights.  Though Liadrin is redeemed by M’uru’s ignition, Salandria’s fate is undecided.  She may also be an interesting character to look out for in the future.

Okay.  With Nozdormu out of the way, let’s move on to an equally obvious character that should be watched in this patch and the game that follows.  Thrall.

Now Thrall is really obvious, and to be honest it’s impossible to experience the game without experiencing his story.  In fact, the Rage of the Firelands patch is prefaced with his abduction during a summit beneath the World Tree to discuss, but there are some things that are worth looking back at before we look forward.

Thrall has lain his mantle of Warchief aside–a temporary decision that has been made permanent by the events since then, and he has taken it upon himself to try and stabilize the rift between Azeroth and the Elemental Planes by attempting to heal the world of the wounds created when Deathwing escaped into Azeroth, bringing with him the Cataclysm.

Since then, we know two things about Thrall.  One is that he has been given the title of World Shaman indicating his importance both to Azeroth and the future, and the second is that the Twilight’s Hammer wants him dead.  A lot of resources are spent in an effort to remove Thrall from timeline, but the Twilight’s Hammer’s most successful attempt comes at the hands of the Twilight Father, Archbishop Benedictus, when he orchestrates Thrall’s capture and flaying by commanding Ragnaros’ Majordomo Staghelm to interrupt Thrall’s summit on Hyjal so that he might divide Thrall’s soul into the elemental spirits that he represents, leading the Aspects Alexstrasza and Ysera to believe that he will be lost to the elemental furies for eternity.

In rescuing Thrall’s soul from the elements we learn several about his fears, his emotions, and his desires–the things that make him complete when they should be destroying him outright, but what’s more important than that is that over the course of his journey something changes Thrall.

Up to this point, our interactions with Thrall tell us that even he is unsure of Azeroth’s future, and he is less than confident of his ability to heal the world and our ability to put an end to Deathwing’s sundering.  But immediately upon being tethered to his mortal body again, Thrall’s personality and attitude undergo a drastic and overlooked sudden change.  Thrall is suddenly focused on the future, not the present, and what looks like a silly excuse to have Thrall propose to Aggra for no reason tells a story that seems to be completely lost on almost everyone that experiences it.

Thrall still may not be confident in our victory over Deathwing, but for the first time he believes in it, and he demonstrates that by making plans for it on a stage that reveals to the world his intent to succeed in the face of extinction and destruction.  Where he was previously concerned with annihilation and the tragic state of the elements, a brief journey through their planes to experience what it is that makes him who he is has brought not only a newfound strength to his mission, but a readiness to commit to the future.  In a few brief words Thrall demonstrates that all is not lost and that life must continue or the battle for Azeroth is a pointless one to fight.

Thrall is going to be an interesting character to watch because of the transformations he undertakes in a very brief period of time.  Thrall becomes a complete and powerful character in a few strokes of the pendulum and his story is far from over, for even before the journey that should have destroyed him Deathwing considered him enough of a threat to reveal the Twilight Father’s power to his brothers and sisters in Hyjal.  What new power could he possibly possess?  And more interesting than that, did Deathwing’s final and most bold attempt upon the World Shaman’s Life seal his fate in the present?  And what does Thrall mean to Nozdormu if the Infinite Dragonflight also sought his demise?

Thrall has selfishly taken it upon himself to heal the wounds of Azeroth, and in so doing he has attracted the attention of not only Deathwing but all of the Aspects, and he has fashioned of himself not just a beacon of hope–he has become a vision of the future and a promise for life in the face of flame and destruction.  Thrall stands poised to become a protector the likes of which haven’t existed since Neltharion wore the mantle of Earthwarder, and even the great dragon was unable to survive the maddening whispers of the Old Gods.  Most great heroes suffer a tragic fall.

And that leads us to the last on today’s list of characters to watch–a character that was forgotten when we left the Blade’s Edge Mountains on the shattered world of Outland.  Sabellian, the Black dragon.  Sabellian is my wildcard because Sabellian is an immensely powerful figure relative to what’s taking place on Azeroth now, and yet he has been remarkably absent from its developments.

For those of you that do not know, Sabellian is a Black dragon found in the Blade’s Edge Mountains where he preaches vengeance against Gruul the Dragonkiller and his seven sons.  In the guise of Baron Sablemane, Sabellian purchases our aid in defeating several of Gruul’s sons and eventually reveals himself as a dragon enraged by the loss of his children to Gruul and his murderous offspring.

What makes Sabellian an interesting character is that he is the brother of Nefarian and Onyxia, and the only dragon to have such a distinction, implying that he is either hatched from the same clutch as the two terrors, or that he served in a close relationship with them in one way or another.  We know that he stayed on Draenor when Deathwing escaped into Azeroth, but what we don’t know is why.

Look for Sabellian to play an important, if not catastrophic, role in the time following Deathwing’s fall.  If he sought vengeance against Gruul for the death of his children, what might he seek when he learns of the deaths of his siblings?  Of his father?

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look at the characters I think should be watched carefully in patch 4.3, and next week we’ll talk about some more of the less obvious and less wild characters to watch, and I can promise that you’ve forgotten about most of those as well.

Oh, and It’s also worth noting that Nalice, the Black Dragonflight’s ambassador to the Wyrmrest Accord, has gone missing.  Those dragons were fools to trust her indeed.

Supervas out!