The Fires of Hatred
So I’ve had a little fun diving into the histories and analogs of Azeroth, and I’m going to joke that it’s in preparation for the new Archeology secondary tradeskill, but that’s not really it at all. I’m probably one of Christ Metzen’s biggest fans, and I take every opportunity available to me to explore his lore and his work (even if I don’t always agree with the directions he takes it and the changes he makes), and since I’m in a unique position to share my love of lore and writing with you, I will!
Last week we talked briefly about Azzinoth and the Warglaives that are his namesake, and though there’s an equally small amount of lore behind it, I want to discuss Atiesh this week. Now almost everyone’s heard of Atiesh, the legendary greatstaff that was constructible in the original 40-man Naxxramas, but few people know what it is, and even fewer know the lore behind it and the changes that were made.
Now, there are two things that strike me about Atiesh right off the bat. The first is that atiesh is apparently Persian for fire or flame and that the staff itself was forged from the Seed of Hate, a relic that is ignominiously without lore itself. Now, why do those things interest me? I get that question a lot, but the simple answer is that when it comes to lore, Blizzard has done very little by accident, and beyond the simple explanations are usually profound, carefully woven ulterior stories, and Atiesh is no exception.
The Seed of Hate, like I said, is a relic that is completely unsupported in lore. I believe it’s mentioned one time by the Archmage Angela Dosantos of the Kirin Tor, and we’ll talk about her later, but the name itself implies an object of seething and, well, hatred. It’s name being translatable into fire or flame in at least one language lends to that theory, and when you put the two together you get something along the lines of a fire being forged of hatred. In context with the lore behind Atiesh, you get the Burning Legion.
Atiesh itself is known as the Greatstaff of the Guardian, a symbol passed from one Guardian of Tirisfal to the next in much the same sense royal keepsakes and jewels are handed to their successors. It is said to grant its wielder untold power, and following the history of the Guardians it’s easy to recognize that as a truth, though it’s never explicitly stated whether or not it’s the Guardians that empower Atiesh or Atiesh that empowers the Guardians.
The Guardians themselves are empowered by a secret council of mages known as the Guardians of Tirisfal, and their purpose is to secretly combat the Burning Legion wherever it rears its head on Azeroth; a bold step taken by the mortal humans of Azeroth and their elvan allies in an effort to take their fate into their own hands. The Council elects a champion who is then empowered with all of their strength in order to fight the demon horde. When that Guardian grew too old or too weary to fight, the Council elected a successor and would carefully channel the Guardian’s strength into the next wielder.
So here we have a weapon that’s been created to aid in the destruction and thwarting of the Burning Legion and its agents on Azeroth, a weapon whose name literally means flame and was forged of an object of hatred to be held by the most powerful mage on Azeroth. Later the Guardians are corrupted when Sargeras, Lord of the Burning Legion, allows himself to be vanquished by *Magna Aegwynn, Medivh’s mother, so that he could infest her spirit and through it, her later unborn child.
Let’s run through this again and pepper in a little lore from another history of Azeroth. The Burning Legion originally takes note of Azeroth when its denizens discover the power of magic and arcana and recklessly transform the Well of Eternity into a beacon that can be seen from Twisting Nether. Their invasions fail, thwarted in one way or another by the first champions of Azeroth. Thousands of years later, in the courts of Dalaran, magi seduced by the demons they seek to enslave begin to summon their corrupt masters into Azeroth so that they can in turn seek the corruption of Azeroth. In response, the Council of Tirisfal is founded to vanquish the demons that have been and will be summoned into the world, and in so doing they happen across or come into possession of a relic of hatred that is a fount of terrible power—one that they forge into a weapon to fight the Burning Legion. A staff of fiery hatred is wielded against the Burning Legion whose master later seeks to infest the most power mage on Azeroth.
I’m being redundant because I’m going to make a bold claim. Atiesh was Sargeras’ trump card all along. His invasions failed, and after throwing scores of demonic armies away in pursuit of the Well of Eternity, he sets into motion a plan that will grant him power over the most powerful mage on Azeroth, through which he bleed Azeroth of its magic at last. The implication here is that one or all of the original Council of Tirisfal were possessed by one of the Legion’s demons. They offer the Council the Seed of Hate, and Atiesh is born. Later it becomes a vessel in which the Guadians power is channeled, and the Guardians themselves are infested by Sargeras who is born into human form as Medivh, Aegwynn’s successor and son.
But Sargeras is defeated again by the stalwart defenders of Azeroth, and Medivh is slain, vanquishing Sargeras’ spirit and banishing it to the Twisting Nether where even his lieutenants, Archimonde and Kil’jaeden are unable or unwilling to find him, and the Guardians of Tirisfal are at an end. The Greatstaff passes into the hands of the Kirin Tor where it is held in possession of a series of mages who all meet untimely deaths while wielding it.
The Kirin Tor decide to seal Atiesh away, and they create a magical vault to store it within, and Angela Dosantos is appointed its watcher—and Atiesh, the Greatstaff of the Guardian remains undisturbed until the Third War when Archimonde razes the city of Dalaran. The magical barriers in the vault are triggered, and the staff is shattered, instantly launched in forty-two pieces to the corners of the world so that it may never be reforged.
The splinters of Atiesh are eventually collected by the Scourge, Kel’thuzad meaning to recreate the staff and wield its endless power against the living, perhaps even against the Lich King, and the Argent Dawn intervenes. Before the Scourge come into possession of the lost base, the Argent Dawn wrest the splinters of Atiesh from the perverted lieutenants of the citadel, and its pieces pass once again into the possession of the Kirin Tor.
But the players can create Atiesh! I know, I know, I’ve had that argument too, but this is one of those unfortunate times where the lore is rewritten to suit the next generation, and Atiesh is never completed by the mortal armies of Azeroth, and the Argent Dawn relinquishes the debris to the Kirin Tor for safe keeping. Later, Garona, at the behest of Meryl Winterstorm, retrieves the final piece of Atiesh from the rotting husk of C’Thun’s avatar, and the splinters held by the Kirin Tor find their way into the hands of Med’an, the son of Medivh and Garona, who holds the shattered staff in his hands as he’s empowered formally as the new Guardian of Tirisfal, reforging Atiesh and restoring its endless power.
*Magna is Dwarven for protector, a title given to the Guardians of Tirisfal that Medivh never received.