Battle for Azeroth has seen its fair share of movers and shakers in its lore in just one patch. From Sylvanas Windrunner to Tyrande Whisperwind, every major lore figure is quickly making world-changing decisions with just a snap of their fingers. Other shadowy organizations lurk behind the scenes, however. Last week we talked about the Infinite Dragonflight and their potential return to wreak havoc on the timeways. This week, with the release of the Crucible of Storms, we’ve seen the rise of a newer face to the World of Warcraft. Giving N’zoth the tools to free himself from his prison, this character threatens to reshape the very tenants of what we know about the Void as a whole. Today we’ll be taking a look at what may be the only free Old God that has ever existed: Xal’atath.
Xal’atath certainly isn’t new to Azeroth, having made her debut in Legion as a Shadow Priest Artifact Weapon. Her history, however, dates back much, much further. Nearly as old, if not older, than the original Black Empire of the Old Gods, Xal’atath’s true nature is shrouded in mystery. Whether she was the weakest of the Old Gods, or initially a claw of Y’shaarj himself, Xal’atath was a blade of renowned power. Infused with the most powerful spells of the Black Empire, Xal’atath was a weapon worthy of its title.
Much like Tolkien’s One Ring from The Lord of the Rings, Xal’atath always had a will of its own, and her mysteries have eluded even the most diligent students over time. Changing from hand to hand, Xal’atath has made several pointed appearances throughout Azeroth’s history sowing death wherever it emerged. Its most savage eruption was when it found itself in the hands of Zan’do, a Gurubashi Witch Doctor who had been ousted from a position of prestige within his tribe. Stumbling across the blade, his thoughts were easily warped into doing its bidding, Xal’atath’s whispers too seductively. Following its promises of power, Zan’do was led to a mountain deemed forbidden by his people. Urged to make blood offerings to the slumbering Loa beneath, Zan’do awoke the mountain and unwittingly gave new life to Kith’ix. The being, an ancient General of the Old Gods, awakened their insectoid servants in the region and started the world-wide conflict known as the Aqir and Troll War.
Xal’atath returned to reshape current history, both influencing the War of the Three Hammers, and the birth of the Cult of the Forgotten Shadow. This religion, founded by Natalie Seline, is one that current day Forsaken most popularly practice, though the faith is spread throughout the Horde and the Alliance. Seeking to understand the dark magics Orc Necroplytes used in the First war, Priestess Seline eventually came across the Black Blade in her travels. By the Second War she had not only learned to wield it to dramatic effect but taught it to her growing sect of followers. At every step Xal’atath twisted their belief into mindless fanaticism, eventually resulting in Seline’s disciples murdering her in her sleep and claiming the blade for themselves.
With the Third Invasion of the Burning Legion, the Priests of Netherlight Temple sought artifacts of all powers to resist the encroaching demonic forces. It didn’t take long for its senior members to discover that the Twilight’s Hammer, a doomsday cult associated with the Old Gods, had begun a dark ritual in Tirisfal Glades. Sending their High Priest to investigate, they discovered that the sect had begun using Xal’atath to resurrect Zakajz the Corruptor, a C’thraxxi general who had served alongside Kith’ix. Thwarting their plans, the Priest found themselves in position of Xal’atath, who promised that they would do great things together.
Together Xal’atath and the High Priest travelled to both the Broken Shore and Argus, empowering the Black Blade through artifacts of all sorts to combat the Legion. Players grew intimately connected with the ancient weapon as it fed upon their works to save Azeroth. Indeed she talks often to players wielding her, and warns of far darker things to come for the world.
“It appears the prison of N’zoth is not as strong as it once was… Another seed of corruption planted in death… The last prison weakens. We must prepare.”
After defeating the tortured soul of Argus, Azeroth bore witness to Sargeras, the Dark Titan of the Burning Legion, driving his weapon into the crust of their world. Its dark energy threatening to disrupt it, heroes from all walks of life were called to aid. Using the combined powers of their artifacts (and much to the displeasure of the Blade) the heroes of Azeroth sealed away the Dark Titans power, leaving their weapons dormant.
Xal’atath was thought to be destroyed.
Yet still it persisted. Kept by the High Priest of Netherlight, Xal’atath would lay in slumber until the Blood War in Battle for Azeroth. After the disastrous invasion of Dazar’alor, Naga forces swept upon the shores of Zandalar and Kul Tiras, intent on making their footholds for a future invasion. Reawakening Xal’atath, she revealed that the Naga sought to conjure a storm like no other. When unleashed it would be greater than even the Wrath of Azshara with its potential to scour all of Azeroth. Using three artifacts, the Void Stone, the Trident of Deep Ocean, and the Tempest Caller, the Naga would control dominion over all of Azeroth.
Guiding the adventurer to Drustvar, Xal’atath confronted the High Elf Inanis, attempting to wield the Void Stone’s power. After killing her, Xal’atath drew upon the relic’s power to revitalize herself, and possessed Inanis’ corpse as her vessel. Guiding her champion to the other two relics, she took them to the Crucible of Storms in Stormsong Valley.
Instead of halting the Naga invasion, Xal’atath revealed her true nature. Proclaiming her chosen champion was, “the Opener, the Bringer of Truths, and the Torch That Lights the Way,” she offered the relics and her victim as a bargain to N’zoth. In exchange he severed Xal’atath from her blade, giving her both freedom and a corporeal form. In return she was to leave the blade behind, and left her champion with a promise that their paths would cross again.
This was not the final fate of the Black Blade. Adventurers seeking to retrieve the three artifacts and stop the coming of the storm also came across the empty relic. Champions of the Horde, compelled by the dark power that still resonated in the weapon, knew it to be a powerful weapon. Now with dramatic losses in their military, they took it to their Warchief. Delivering it unto Sylvanas Windrunner, players were left with a second ominous promise about the future of Azeroth and the fate of both Xal’atath and the Blade of the Black Empire;
“The Fall of Night Reveals Her True Face. She will bring only ruin.”