Lore Post – Anub’arak >8<

I have been tempted by Rades into writing a lore post that isn’t about healing. It’s a response to his post about Anub’arak. If you haven’t read it yet, go do so.

Done? Here we go…

During NaNoWriMo 2010, Rades wrote a story about Anub’arak that tickled me right in that little place deep inside myself that is just filled with >8< SPIDER PRIDE!  I recommend reading the Scourge Chat Logs if you’ve never seen them before, and I HIGHLY recommend reading all of Rades’s Letters from Northrend… over and over. But read them later. They’re long and you already went to read Rades’s post about Anub’arak.

Spiders terrify me. At the same time, I see them as some of nature’s greatest architects… building webs that are amazing in their functional construction and beautiful in aesthetics. I don’t want a spider in my house, but I won’t kill one. I’ve gone to great lengths to get a spider back outside. Having read “Charlotte’s Web” as a child, I think every Wilbur needs a Charlotte. Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to us, but Anansi gave us stories to tell around the fire.

And then there are the spiders of WoW. The giant spider mobs (I am not impressed by the new spider stealthing! Not when my lowbies get ganked by spiders.), and the spiders that aren’t really all “spiders”… the Nerubians. They’re arthropods. But hey… “arthropod pride” just doesn’t have much of a ring to it. When Rades started looking at Anub’arak’s epithet of “The Traitor King” and questioning just how unwilling Anub’arak may or may not have been to serve the Lich King, I thought, “I can’t respond to that with any less than a full post. There’s too much lore to consider!” So if you’ve come this far, it’s your last chance to turn back. From here on there will be Old Gods, undead monsters, and there will most definitely be spiders.

Nubbi the Spider. Not my best work, but >8< is the new <3.

What’s a Nerubian?

If you’re going to look at why someone’s people consider them a traitor, it’s a good idea to look at the culture. Where the hell did all these bugs come from? Luckily, I’ve gotten good at playing “Six Degrees of Nerubians”. (It’s like “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”, except you connect things to Nerubians. Kevin Bacon was in the movie “Tremors” > the Graboids from “Tremors” are like Crust Bursters in Hellfire Peninsula > Ner’zhul was from Draenor > It was the Ner’zhul Lich King who resurrected Anub’arak as an undead > Anub’arak was a Nerubian king. See how this works?) So let’s trace the roots of the Nerubian family tree.

Before The Sundering, when all of Azeroth was a giant land mass floating in a big body of water and the Burning Legion hadn’t tried to get the Night Elves to port them to Dalaran let them in through the Well of Eternity yet, sillithids started crawling out of the Well. I don’t know why. I’ve tried to find out why, but there seems to be a real lack of information on that. I’m not sure if C’thun actually managed to bring them into Azeroth through the Well of Eternity, or if he just recognized and opportunity and took advantage of it once they started crawling out.

Either way,  C’thun liked to play with bugs. Being imprisoned doesn’t really take an Old God out of the game (as we’ve seen), but it does leave one with a lot of time to devote to a hobby since they aren’t wreaking non-stop havoc on everyone and everything. Unfortunately, Old God hobbies tend toward results that wreak non-stop havoc on everyone and everything. C’thun started enchanting and gemming the sillithids, and that upgraded them to aqir. The blue and purple quality aqir commanded the green quality sillithids and most, if not all, hell broke loose.

The trolls were not amused.

Because the trolls were phylumists (really… read the Scourge Chat Logs) and kept fighting the aqir, the bugs eventually split up and went in different directions to do the same thing.

Phase 1: Attack the tol’vir!

Phase 2: ???

Phase 3: Profit!

The group that went South did this in and around Uldum, renamed themselves the qiraji, and blessed Azeroth with a long-ass questline to get some gates to open up. The group that went North did this in Northrend and became known as the Nerubians.

Nerubians are NOT your friends!

The few Nerubians we meet in Northrend who are not undead – the ones who send us into the dungeons, for example – don’t seem too bad. Desperate times call for desperate measures, though, and letting you live comes under the “desperate measures” heading for Nerubians. They don’t really like you. You aren’t good enough. You aren’t an arthropod life form. Brann Bronzebeard was able to travel safely through one of their cities because he had some artifacts and a document granting him safe passage. As long as he has artifacts to trade, they won’t harm him. And it was he who proposed joining forces against the Scourge.

Did you really think I could tell this story without mentioning Brann Bronzebeard?

The book War of the Spider calls the Nerubians “sinister”, and the truth is they were more than happy to kill you even before they were undead. Or kidnap you and do “experiments” on you in the name of pursuing knowledge about other species.

The trolls couldn’t wipe them out. If anything, their empires grew as a result of warring with the trolls. You are nothing to them because you are not one of them.

The difference between “Mindless” and “Unwilling”

In the story Road to Damnation , Kel’Thuzad (not a lich yet) gets a tour of Naxxramas (not floating yet) from Anub’arak, and they talk a little about how Anub’arak came to be undead.

From its architecture, the building was another product of the half-spider creatures. Indeed, the first chambers Anub’arak showed him were populated by the undead things, which swiftly lost their novelty. Actual spiders also skittered here and there among the undead, busily spinning cobwebs and laying eggs. Kel’Thuzad hid his distaste. He wouldn’t give the enormous majordomo the satisfaction. Indicating one of the undead spider-things, he said, “You bear them some resemblance. Are you all derived from the same race?”

“The nerubian race, yes. Then the master came. As his influence spread, we made war upon him, foolishly believing we stood a chance. Many of us were slain and raised into undeath. In life I was a king. Today I am a crypt lord.”

“In return for immortality, you agreed to serve him,” Kel’Thuzad mused aloud. Remarkable.

“‘Agreed’ implies choice.”

Which meant that the necromancer could compel obedience from the undead. Kel’Thuzad might be the first living being to come here of his own free will. Faintly disquieted, he changed the subject. “This place is full of your people. I take it you rule here?”

“After my death, I led my brethren in conquering this ziggurat for our new master. I also oversaw the process of altering it to serve his design. However, Naxxramas does not fall under my authority. Nor are my people its only occupants. This is but one wing out of four.”

As Rades pointed out, there are other times that Anub’arak seems quite loyal, though. I’m not sure Scourge loyalty is as simple as loyalty is for the living.

I played through the Death Knight starting experience again a few nights ago. This was the sixth or seventh time for me, and it always makes me think about the members of the Scourge who don’t seem to be as mindless as the disposable hordes of rotting minions.

There’s the argument between Thassarian and Orbaz Bloodbane when Thassarian sends you to rescue Koltira. Sure, that could be taken as non-canon. The lore is wrong there on Koltira being a blood elf and the idea that they were “enemies in life” because of it. Koltira was a high elf, and they got along just fine with the Alliance. But there’s something else… something I thought was just a random occurence until I’d gone through the area enough times to notice the pattern.

When you’re supposed to kill Scarlet Crusaders and the citizens – around the same time you’re supposed to be gathering arrows and stealing a horse – the Lich King sometimes whispers to you to remind you to kill EVERYONE. What I finally realized is that this happens when the citizens plead for mercy. It almost never happens with a Scarlet Crusader, and rarely happens with a citizen who really fights back. It’s the ones who beg for their lives and tell me they have children… I get a whisper from the Lich King reminding me to show no mercy and demanding that I leave no survivers almost every time with them.

Darion Mograine’s resolve was compromised before you ever got to Light’s Hope Chapel. When you turn in one of the quests in Acherus, he comments on how powerful you are and starts to compare that to the power of his father wielding the Ashbringer. But he stops himself and pushes it out of his mind.

Why did Arthas give Falric and Marwyn such high positions in the Scourge? Mindless servants wouldn’t care if they were rewarded for the loyalty they showed in life or not. But maybe having been so loyal to Arthas in life made them more likely to remain loyal to the Lich King in undeath… making them less of a risk when choosing high-ranking servants.

In the book “Arthas; Rise of the Lich King”, Christie Golden wrote a line for Sylvanas after she’d been warped into a banshee that said, “He directs my actions, but Arthas cannot break my will.”

In the first video in Rades’s post – the one with all the clips from Warcraft III – there’s a point where Anub’arak explains to Arthas that most of his people had been resurrected as undead by the Lich King after they were killed in the War of the Spider, and he calls the ones who still fight the Scourge “foolish”.

So is he a traitor or not?

I think Anub’arak resigned himself to his fate. Unlike Sylvanas, his will was broken. Instead of being one of the mindless minions, he still had some choice and could have resisted, could have fought back. Instead, I think he accepted that it was this or nothing. Serve the Lich King when orders are given, or be punished and painfully forced to do his bidding… possibly without ever feeling the release of true death.

I can see how other Nerubians could consider him a traitor for that.  Rather than fall to the trolls they couldn’t defeat, the aqir had changed tactics and simply split up… going on with their plans and growing their empires. The Nerubians considered no race or species to be as great as themselves. Again, they will kill you just for not being one of them! But when so many of their people became minions of the Lich King, one of their kings seemed to go about it willingly. The Lich King wasn’t forcing every move Anub’arak made, punishing him for his defiance along the way. Anub’arak simply… obeyed.

There are plenty of arguments for both sides of the question, “Is someone who gives in still to be considered ‘willing’ because they were willing to give up?” But I think there’s at least a difference between someone who is willing because they’re totally on board with this idea, and someone who does things willingly because they feel the alternative is unbearable.

“Look to your defenses, death knight!”

A note about the second video in Rades’s post… I don’t think it’s really Arthas Anub’arak was so concerned about. Remember where the Nerubians came from… bugs upgraded by C’thun. Anub’arak recognizes the Forgotten One, but also says he had thought they were just legends. Nerubian history is probably filled with stories about servants of the Old Gods and how powerful they are. Let’s see how well you take it if you find a shoggoth in your kitchen tomorrow. Your worst enemy in the whole world could be standing right next to you, and I’m betting you’d yell things like, “FIGHT, DAMMITT! Don’t you DARE die on me!” until you knew you were safe. It’s like not wanting the dps to stand in the fire. It’s not that you care about the dps’s repair bill… it’s that you want them to stay in the fight and help kill this thing!

And I do agree that it seems things would have worked out better for Anub’arak if they just died down there, but that’s not good storytelling. Besides… maybe Anub’arak knew things about Forgotten Ones (now that he knew they were real!) that we don’t know. Maybe whatever he was facing if they didn’t get past that thing was something worse than death, and even something worse than undeath.


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4 Responses to Lore Post – Anub’arak >8<

  1. Rades says:

    Regarding the “blood elf” and “enemies in life” controversy that EVERYONE seems to really hate, I have never seen the problem with this. Yes, Thassarian and Koltira were not “enemies in life”, but I think it’s just Thassarian saying “when Koltira was alive” instead of going “we are brothers in death, but in life we were enemies, well when Koltira was in life, I mean, because we weren’t enemies when we were both alive, but we weren’t brothers either, that is to say…” It’s really just a phrase saying they were enemies and now are friends.

    As for the Blood Elf part…well, Koltira was a High Elf, true. But now? I think he’d consider himself a Blood Elf. After all, the Blood Elves took the name for themselves because of the destruction of Quel’Thalas, in honor of their fallen kin who died to the Scourge. And Koltira would definitely support this tribute – not only is he ONE of them, but he lost friends and loved ones in the attack. No, he’s definitely a Blood Elf in spirit.

    As for the “defenses” line, good points! But I still think Anub was being protective. His line is essentially saying “BE CAREFUL, ARTHAS!” I think it also stood out in my mind because it’s one of the only times he breaks from his calm, steady tone. The only other time that I can think of is when he and Arthas are divided by the rockfall (in that same video) and he yells in (concern? shock? fear?) “ARTHAS!” He *doesn’t* call him “Death Knight” here, once again, but his real name, without a title. Again, it made me think of a parental concern. 😀

    • The “ARTHAS!” part did make me jump! And for the same reason… it takes things to a more personal level.

      I think Koltira could be a blood elf in spirit now, but not then. At that point, the Knights of Acherus are still Scourge death knights… Light’s Hope Chapel hasn’t happened yet. And Thassarian killed and raised Koltira before the survivors of Quel’Thalas had regrouped and developed their new cultural identity, so it’s hard to say if the death knights even knew about “blood elves” yet, and not likely that they cared. Even after Light’s Hope Chapel, I’ve always gotten the feeling a lot of how Death Knights work in the game is a mechanics thing. That it was (in Wrath) really your race as much as your class. I think that’s changing in Cataclysm, and that Death Knights may truly have a chance to assimilate back into the races they were in life, rather than just being ambassadors from Acherus.

      In fact, I have a bad feeling about how the Thassarian and Koltira story might turn out, but what I suspect would be very in-line with how Blizzard likes to tell a story and would have great implications for player Death Knights.

      • Rades says:

        I went and read the quest where Thassarian calls him a Blood Elf, hmm. There are some very interesting comments on Koltira’s WoWPedia discussion page that talk about how though he technically wasn’t a High Elf OR a Blood Elf (since he died before they split, so he never got to decide which he would “become”), he made the conscious choice of choosing to be a Blood Elf. It’s possible that he and Thassarian were aware of the High Elves becoming Blood Elves, and even discussed them (as enemies), with Koltira referring to them as “his former people” or the like.

        Another comment was that since the surviving High Elves became the Blood Elves, calling him a High Elf would be silly since the remainder of his race (to their knowledge, pretty much) didn’t use that name anymore.

        Finally, ANOTHER comment says that the quest dialogue may have been written before the manga, which determined exactly when Koltira died, which is a good point! At the time the quest was written, perhaps this story – that a human and a blood elf were enemies in life – actually made perfect sense, since we didn’t have full details.

      • Occam’s razor compels me to go with the third choice. But this is also a sign that death knights really do need more lore love.

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