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The Old Gods (also known as the Old-Gods, old lords of the earth, Gods Below, Old Ones, Elder Gods, elder beings, dark elders, or dread elders) are a group of eldritch horrors who ruled the planet of Azeroth in the days before the titans arrived to shape and order it. The Pantheon shattered the Old Gods' citadels and chained the five evil gods far beneath the surface of the world. If the Pantheon would have killed the Old Gods, then Azeroth would have been destroyed, possibly in an event that manifested as the Cataclysm. C'Thun feigned death and was sealed in a titan research station near Uldum. Yogg-Saron was imprisoned in Ulduar. At least Y'Shaarj was killed by the Pantheon, although its heart was preserved and later resurrected, but destroyed during the Siege of Orgrimmar. The titans could not defeat N'Zoth, whose exact location is unknown. Though chained or dead, their influence still corrupts mortals, and even immortals, to this day.
Along with the Burning Legion, they are one of the most powerful and recurring threats, after the Cataclysm. While adventurers are constantly fighting off the dealings and machinations of Azeroth's Old Gods, there are in fact more elsewhere in the cosmos, such as one that almost manifested on Outland.
The goal of the Old Gods, as evidenced by both their actions and the mantras of their many followers, seems to be to warp the entire universe into an inescapable womb of eternal maddening torment. However, their current primary goal is to escape their prisons. Notable breakout attempts were an alliance of "the three" attempting to manipulate events during the War of the Ancients and Hour of Twilight.
Just as they are utterly alien and bizarre creatures, their motivations and origins largely remain a mystery. They have waged war against themselves. For example, countless ages ago, Warlord Zon'ozz and his soldiers waged endless war against the forces of C'Thun and Yogg-Saron. The Pantheon, united, only barely triumphed over the Old Gods, divided. However, the Old Gods together lorded over a civilization tentatively called the "Black Empire," and most of their minions worship them as a pantheon. It is unknown if they were any sort of comrades. It is also unknown if the war was a mindless, perpetual war that they facilitated as a part of their chaotic nature, or for their own amusement, or if N'Zoth had a more specific goal.
C'Thun was the Old God who created the Qiraji, a race of insect-men, who along with the ancient mantid and nerubians served the Old Gods as mortal kingdoms of old. After its imprisonment by the titans, it sent its children to conquer the world in the War of the Shifting Sands, though the Qiraji were defeated by the combined forces of the night elves and Dragon Aspects. Thousands of years later, in World of Warcraft, C'Thun reawakened, prepared to imprison any dragons who dared enter its lair, but while its gaze was fixed upon them, a group of mortals managed to breach its chamber and kill him against all odds.
Yogg-Saron, was the Old God of Death who was imprisoned under the titan city of Ulduar in Northrend. During the events of Wrath of the Lich King, it was summoned to the planet's surface and managed to corrupt various Watchers in Ulduar. In the course of the Ulduar raid, adventurers freed each of these Watchers, who combined their powers with those of the adventurers in order to destroy the body of Yogg-Saron.
N'Zoth is an Old God who is likely imprisoned beneath Azeroth's oceans, and is responsible for the spark of the Emerald Nightmare corrupting the Emerald Dream. Due to its oceanic nature, it is possible that it is the Old God which turned night elves into naga, and it likely makes several indirect appearances in the quests of the Vashj'ir region. In ages past, N'Zoth engaged in a long war with C'Thun and Yogg-Saron, with Warlord Zon'ozz leading N'Zoth's army. During the events of the Cataclysm, N'Zoth was a driving force behind the actions of Deathwing.
Unlike the other Old Gods whose details have thus far been revealed, Y'Shaarj was slain by the titans (or perhaps by their mogu creations). Despite this it personally states it was only sleeping. However, with its dying breath, it cursed the land to be afflicted by the sha, one of the main enemies from Mists of Pandaria. Although slain, Y'Shaarj's heart survived and was placed under guard beneath the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. Ages later, Garrosh Hellscream unearthed Y'Shaarj's heart and managed to restore it using the magical pools of Pandaria. While the heart is able to corrupt beings and communicate, Y'Shaarj himself was not fully resurrected, though all Old Gods have demonstrated they need very little to be a large threat. Following the heart's excavation, the mantid, who had previously worshipped Y'Shaarj, have flown to Garrosh's side, with the Klaxxi paragons now standing guard over the Old God's heart.
There is a fifth Old God trapped beneath Azeroth still.
Numerous other Old Gods are active in the worlds beyond Azeroth. In Outland, a group of arakkoa known as the Dark Conclave attempted to summon an ancient and powerful evil entity labeled as a "Summoned Old God" into Outland; this seemingly implies that it is one of many extraterrestrial Old Gods.
According to legend, three Old Gods ruled over a bloody chaos that even the Lords of the Burning Legion could not imagine. They had ruled over the "primal plane" until the coming of the world's creators. After a war of cosmic proportions, the Old Gods had fallen and were cast down into eternal imprisonment. The place of their confinement was hidden from all and their powers were bound until the end of time.
Long ago, the world of Azeroth became threatened by malignant beings of unfathomable evil. Known as the Old Gods, these entities of chaos and destruction wreaked havoc on the world. When they arrived, they enslaved the elementals that had once raged freely on primordial Azeroth.
Ragnaros, Neptulon, Al'Akir, and Therazane, all servants of the Old Gods at the time, led their respective armies in an eternal conflict that ravaged the world to no end. Meanwhile, the faceless ones (a mysterious race which has served the Old Gods throughout history) of the Old God N'Zoth raged war with the combined forces of C'Thun and Yogg-Saron.
During their journey across the cosmos, the titans made their way to Azeroth and encountered the elementals, who vowed to drive the Pantheon back in the name of their dark masters. Upon discovering the deep and insatiable hunger for destruction in the Old Gods and seeing them as immensely evil, the titans initiated a war with them. The four mighty Elemental Lords fell to the titans, who wielded godlike power. The titans then created the mogu and used them as a weapon to assault the Old God Y'Shaarj, who was slain, but managed to use its power to curse the land around him. C'Thun was fought by a titan in the land that would eventually be called Silithus, but while it was presumed to be slain, it simply slumbered beneath the desert sands, feigning death, buying time.
When the titans encountered Yogg-Saron and N'Zoth, they realized that killing them at the time would have destroyed Azeroth. After destroying their fortresses and defeating them, they bound them each in their own prisons: Yogg-Saron was bound beneath the titan city of Ulduar under the watch of six Titanic Watchers, and N'Zoth may have been imprisoned deep below Azeroth's oceans. In order to contain the never-ending wars between the Elemental Lords, the titans created the Elemental Plane to seal them off from Azeroth proper, and it may be presumed that the faceless ones and forgotten ones were contained underground, because it would later be those regions of the world from which they would emerge.
While details about the other Old God(s) have not yet been revealed, it is clear that all were either killed by the titans or imprisoned. However, once the Makers turned to their creations following their victory, they observed first-hand that the Old Gods began to exert their influence again.
Due to the influence of Yogg-Saron and the other Old Gods, the earthen, one of the many races created by the titans, began to succumb to the Curse of Flesh. The same thing happened to the mechagnomes, tol'vir, mogu and vrykul, eventually resulting in their fleshy bodies, as opposed to their original stone composition or metal design. The vrykul, likely already fleshly beings, began producing a smaller and weaker mutation of themselves. The Old Gods had presumably intended to subvert the titans' work from within, and to a great extent they succeeded; the titans were loath to unmake the world except as a last resort. Thus, many of the mortal races of Azeroth had their nature suspended between order and chaos, between their titanic birth and their Old God-originating corruption.
Knowing that they would soon depart a world full of deep corruption, the titans took several measures to contain it as much as possible, including creating new armies of earthen to inhabit specific areas they had sealed off, and the Watcher Loken was made Prime Designate of Azeroth. Using the power of the gigantic, winged proto-drake known as Galakrond, they imbued the the five Dragon Aspects designed to watch over and protect the world in their absence.
Nozdormu, the Bronze Aspect, was given power over time, charged with guarding the proper flow of history and policing the webs of fate and destiny. Alexstrasza the Life-Binder became the guardian of all life, an essential role left by the titans in the wake of Azeroth's corruption. Neltharion the Earth-Warder became the caretaker of the planet itself, guarding the deep places of the world and creating mountains and rivers to aid the mortal races. Ysera the Awakened was tasked with the protection of the Emerald Dream. Finally, Malygos the Spell-Weaver became the guardian of arcane magic, an extremely dangerous force if placed in the wrong hands.
Though the Aspects were usually vital allies of the mortal races, the titans made one fatal mistake: they gave one Aspect, Neltharion, power over the depths of the world, the very same depths in which they had imprisoned the Old Gods.
War of the AncientsEdit
10,000 years ago Queen Azshara and her highborne wanted to open a portal for Sargeras powerful enough for him to manifest in his full glory. In turn, Alexstraza contacted each of her fellow aspects. It was one of the most respected of these dragons, the Black Dragonflight's leader Neltharion the Earth-Warder who proposed a plan should the worst truly be coming to pass. Alongside his old friend Malygos, Neltharion proposed that a simple golden disc, imbued with the power of each of the aspects in turn, could be created that would be so powerful that no force on Azeroth or indeed even from outside could possibly stand against it. Should all these strange portents really be true, dragonkind would be ready. Convinced by Neltharion's arguments, the other aspects agreed and the Dragon Soul was created.
Unknown by the other Aspects Neltharion had found himself intrigued by the whispers of the Old Gods pinned within the very earth he was assigned to watch over for an untold time. These entities knew full well who Sargeras was and what his appearance signified for Azeroth. Having worked over the course of thousands of years to suborn Neltharion, they now sought to make use of their newest and most powerful weapon. The Old Ones wanted to divert the power of Sargaras' portal to themselves and crack Azeroth open and after eons of imprisonment, they would be free. However, Illidan Stormrage gained the Dragon Soul and used it to close the portal, unwittingly preventing the release of the Old Gods and thereby averting a cosmic catastrophe that would have even paled the Legion's arrival or the Sundering.
10,000 years later the Old Gods invaded Nozdormu's realm and managed to open a rift in time, that, as they had planned, tossed some beings back through time, beings that would change the way the War of the Ancients took place, and give Sargeras a new chance to enter the world, and therefore give them a new chance to set themselves free. Their plans were although crushed again by Krasus, Rhonin and Broxigar, who were sent back by Nozdormu in time. This was a back-up plan from the Old Gods' initial attempt to rip time apart and change history so they were never imprisoned in the first place, which was blocked by Nozdormu with great effort.
War of the Shifting SandsEdit
Over vast stretches of time, C'Thun sought to subvert and corrupt. Its qiraji would come to C'Thun and conquer for it the titan complex that lies today in the sands of Silithus, the fortress temple of Ahn'Qiraj. C'Thun waited, until at last its forces had grown strong enough to contest the hated kaldorei for dominion over Kalimdor itself. Thus began the War of the Shifting Sands, which would see corrupted titan creations like the tol'vir battle side by side with silithid hordes and qiraji leaders to push the night elves out of Kalimdor. C'Thun's plan nearly succeeded.
At first, the night elves held fast and defeated the qiraji in several battles, thanks to the brilliant leadership of the archdruid Fandral Staghelm. Following his son's death, the kaldorei were driven out of Silithus by the qiraji, and victory for C'Thun seemed nigh. But the combined forces of night elves and the bronze, green, red and blue dragonflight drove the frenzied qiraji back. But neither could those forces hope to win out against the Old God itself in its den. Rather than risk such an apocalyptic conflict, a solution was enacted that sealed the qiraji and C'Thun up inside their very fortress, the city complex of Ahn'Qiraj itself. Fandral Staghelm, entrusted with the Scepter of the Shifting Sands used to seal Ahn'Qiraj, shattered it out of bitterness over the death of his son.
C'Thun has been wakening for some time. It recently woke completely and physically returned to Azeroth. It now lairs in the ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, until it was slain by adventurers. At some point during his stewardship of Ulduar, Loken came under the sway of Yogg-Saron imprisoned within and eventually betrayed both the Pantheon and his own brother, Thorim. It resides in Ulduar's Halls of Lightning, seeking to free Yogg-Saron completely. According to Malfurion Stormrage, the Old Gods are behind the Nightmare corrupting the Emerald Dream. Although the Nightmare Lord in the dream turned out to be the Satyr Lord Xavius, it is suspected that he acted on behalf of a power even greater and darker than Sargeras. It has been confirmed that N'Zoth is responsible for the spark of the Emerald Nightmare.
Krasus speculated that should the Old Gods open the gates of their prison, even Sargeras would find himself pleading for the peace of death. Krasus further thought that the Aspects were the most powerful creatures on all the mortal plane. So if anyone had a chance against the Old Gods, it was them. Combined all five of the Aspects represented a force capable of defeating the elder beings. Nozdormu later revealed that all of the suffering the Aspects have had to deal with like the madness of Malygos and Deathwing, the Emerald Dream turned to a nightmare, the altering of the timeways, the attack of the twilight dragonflight, the construction of a monster out of Blackmoore, the Twilight Cult is intertwined into a dreadful conspiracy of the Old Gods to destroy the Aspects and the flights forever and with it all chance of order and stability. The aspects were shocked by this.
Nevertheless the Old Gods are neither omniscient nor omnipotent. The benevolent titans, though not gods themselves, cast a magical slumber upon the Old Gods and imprisoned them far below the surface of the world. It is possible for an Old God to exert influence over several locations simultaneously. Yet the power of a god is limited. Otherwise, of course, the Old Gods could not have been imprisoned. Nonetheless, an imprisoned, sleeping, or otherwise enfeebled god may still have an effect—conscious or not—on the god's surroundings. The development of the qiraji is said to be the result of just such an incidental influence. Can one ever truly destroy a god, putting a lasting end to its existence? Unfortunately that question has departed the realm of philosophy and become a matter of vital concern.
Since the dawn of life on Azeroth, the imprisoned and sleeping Old Gods have been whispering to the subconsciousness of mortal and eternal beings alike, subverting their thoughts and feelings, and sometimes driving them to great malice, complete insanity, or both. The Old Whisperings urge one to do dark, terrible things. They are subtle whispers that eventually become indistinguishable from one's own thoughts.
The most notorious and tragic victim of the Old Whisperings is Neltharion the Earth-Warder; the once mighty Dragon Aspect who had been empowered by the titan Khaz'goroth with dominion over the deep places of the world. Yet, not even Neltharion's great wisdom and power proved capable of breaking the grip the Old Whisperings had on his mind, causing the Earth-Warder to eventually lose all his sanity. Neltharion renamed himself Deathwing, seeking the genocide of all non-draconic life as well as the enslavement of the other dragonflights.
The night elves Malfurion Stormrage and Varo'then momentarily heard the Whisperings when they held the Demon Soul in their grasp. Malfurion has since stated that "Ysera's noble brood has fallen victim to the Old Whisperings", as well. The Highborne Queen Azshara is said to have heard the Whisperings moments before what would have been her death, causing her and her Highborne people to transform into the monstrous Naga—an offer they either accepted willingly to avoid their fate or which has been coerced on them.
The most striking historic account of the Old Whisperings however is found in the ancient scrolls of lore of the Tauren tribes, kept at Elder Rise within their capital city of Thunder Bluff. The legend of creation of the formerly nomadic Tauren makes a direct reference to the Whisperings, stating that the first incidents of Tauren having committed acts of deceit, murder or warfare were because some of their early brethren "hearkened to the dark whispers from deep beneath the world." Ysera acknowledged that these Whisperings originated from the Old Gods, and that they penetrate even into the Emerald Dream.
All the Old Gods encountered by adventurers to date have whispered to them throughout the fights; imploring the heroes of Azeroth to turn on their allies and give in to loneliness and despair.
The Hour of TwilightEdit
A very ancient prophecy speaks of the Hour of Twilight, the final days of the world and if the Old Gods that were chained long ago had their way set in motion, this chain of events would enact their final vision to remake the world in their image.
Little is known about the Old God's crazed worshippers, save for the fact that they seem to spring from all of the world's cultures and peoples. The Old Gods are asleep and imprisoned deep beneath the earth, yet their power is so vast that their maddening, destructive taint seeps out from their prisons and appears to tear away at the sanity of some of Azeroth's inhabitants. To what extent sentient beings can fall under the influence of the Old Gods in this manner is not well understood, but those who hear the Old Whisperings most clearly have joined together in a coalition that is known as the Twilight's Hammer.
Most of these followers and cultists have lost every ounce of their sanity and have become completely unpredictable and malevolent, and, sometimes, certain things that are much worse. Through the leadership of the ogre-mage Cho'gall, a powerful avatar of the Old God C'Thun, the Twilight's Hammer became the focal point for mortal worship of the Old Gods. Large groups of the Twilight's Hammer have been observed to settle at or near sites where they believe the Old Gods or their minions are sealed away; many await C'Thun's awakening in Silithus, while others appear to serve Ragnaros in the Blackrock Depths alongside the Dark Iron dwarves. The largest concentrations of the Twilight's Hammer however are located at Grim Batol and the Bastion of Twilight, within a region of the Eastern Kingdoms that is now referred to as the Twilight Highlands. The mantid, a race related to the Qiraji and Nerubians worships Y'Shaarj, an Old God killed by the Pantheon in ancient times.
- The Tribunal of Ages, a semi-sentient device of titan origin located within the halls of Ulduar, describes the Old Gods as "parasitic, necrophotic symbiotes".
- It is speculated that the Old Gods cannot die (their minions claim such and they are certainly resilient). The Tribunal of Ages suggests otherwise, but says that whatever the only true way to kill them is, it would mean that Azeroth would be consumed along with them. It is definitely true that 'death' for an Old God is not at all the same as it is for anything on the mortal plane, for even the deceased Y'Shaarj managed to continue some kind of conscious existence through its heart, which ultimately allowed for it to be partially revived.
- The Old Gods do not have gender. When referring to an Old God, use the gender-neutral pronoun "it", never "he" or "she".