1 Darkness

Last Night, I dreamed I was in Azeroth again.

I guess that's a dream for you.

The World was falling. Azeroth was cratered with Fel and Corruption. The Hour of Twilight, the End of the World, laid us up like a pall. The Alliance and Horde, all the creatures that heeded the call, stood at the helm against the Fleet of Darkness. The Void Lords approached from out of the Void on grotesque creatures and, where their shadows fell, their darkness swallowed it whole. It was absolute and terrible. Azeroth's Chamber was broken and as I fell, conjuring at the last of my sigils, I saw the world itself come apart at last. Like the cracking of an egg but in a fractal of brightness, spilling its millions of shells into the sky, shattering the air. For a moment, everything was a rainbow.

Okay, stop. Stop. Let's take a few steps back. That's the simple version, the SparkNotes guide, I believe you call it, to explain The Hour of Twilight. Bit much to take in all at once, I know, and yet you will need to understand some of what happened in order to grasp the magnitude of our rise and fall. Fortunately for you, or perhaps not, there's an official record. Delivered first as a prophecy, it's now all that passes among the lore of what is left of our story. The whispers of the old gods: outlining the past, present, and future. Retold through the centuries by every bard who wielded a lute, hack with a penchant for drama, or fanatic dumb enough to spread their poisonous words.

"Death... is... close..."

-C'thun, The god of Madness and Chaos

"All that you know will fade."

-Yogg-Saron, The god of Death

"From the earth, he draws strength. Our earth. Our strength."

-Il'gynoth, The Heart of Corruption

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From the birth of Azeroth in fire and ice to the end of the frozen darkness, the old gods predicted it all. The rise of the gods, or Titans, of the Pantheon, their Golden Age, and their eventual fall was laid out in those whispers. The struggle out of Chaos, the quest for Arcane, the many adventures and exploits of the Champions, noteworthy individuals of their respective factions. Of Anduin and his noble heart, though somewhat intellectually challenged. Of the treacherous Banshee Queen, Sylvanas, and her desire for immortality. And, of course, me. Zevrad Stargazer.

Recruited from Chaos by Sargeras, though not given credit in the text for any of my virtues. A role in the narrative reduced to the series of tragic events that marred the latter part of my story, much as the Illidari, or Demon Hunters, has unfairly become a byword for disaster, rather than a celebration of its many sterling qualities. Still, water under the bridge now. But the fact remains. There was more to me than secrets and betrayal. Not much more, to be honest. Nevertheless, my point stands. Never trust anyone. Especially an old god. Their whispers can be interpreted in so many ways that they cease to hold any knowledge, but rather confusion.

"At the hour of her third death, she ushers in our coming."

"Her heart is a crater, and we have filled it."

-Il'gynoth, The Heart of Corruption

The old gods predicted that too: the Sky City of Dalaran, its gleaming halls, its beauty, and its splendor. Then came the creeping unrest; the breaking of our order; the final betrayal of the gods by, without surprise, Sylvanas herself. Our end was inescapable: our fate was woven into a tapestry. The tale like a double skein of mortality. That knowledge tainted everything. Even at the pinnacle of our achievements, the prophecy of the old gods cast its shadow over us. And worst of all, it spread fear. Designed to bring about the very doom we sought to escape. The World fell. Everyone fell. Game over. Boo-hoo.

So, to recap, the story so far: the fallen god, Sargeras, meets demons, that's me. The fallen god recruits demons from Chaos, or the Twisting Nether, with a view to exploiting our talents. The fallen god's friends and fellow deities take a somewhat dim view of this while 'Yours Truly' goes through a combination of hubris, predestination, an increasingly bad life choices as demon goes a bit off the rails, falls into bad company, wreaks havoc, causes mass destruction, reborn, finds himself chained and crystallized within the Vault of the Warden, and is finally released just to play a part in the engineering of The Hour of Twilight. Including the fall of erstwhile friends, before realizing that house "always" wins, despite color card you play.

"Receive my gift and see all truths before you."

"That which was sunken shall rise."

"He gave himself to the deep places. He gave himself to me."

-N'zoth, The god of Corruption

I could have swung the outcome, you know. Even then, if they had acknowledged their mistake, I like to think they could have been saved. But, with fear, Anduin believed in the whispers. That thrice-damned parasite had his ear, and somehow it managed to steer us towards the rocks we'd been trying to avoid. And Anduin was a stiff, necked fool, and the rest of them always hated me. So, we lost Azeroth, and they fell.

"The boy-king serves at the master's table. Three lies will he offer you."

-Il'gynoth - The Heart of Corruption

"Gaze into the heart of N'Zoth."

"The will of N'Zoth corrupts you."

"Your deaths shall sing of N'Zoth's unending glory."

"Your skulls shall adorn N'Zoth's writhing throne."

"Your souls shall sate N'Zoth's endless hunger."

"Once more shall the twisted flesh-banners of N'Zoth chitter and howl above the fly-blown corpse of this world. After millennia, we have returned."

-Warlord Zon'ozz

As for Yours Truly, I plunged to my fate into the vortex of Azeroth's chaotic energies. Mixed with the Void, Arcane, and who knows what. And, in those last moments of free fall, with the giant shadow of Darkness looming above me, Oblivion seemed the most promising of my few remaining options.

"Its surface blazes light, masking shadow below."

-Il'gynoth, The Heart of Corruption

Actually, in my case, Death wasn't really the problem. The Ruler of Death owed me a favor, and as I fell into the dark, I was already working out a scheme to talk to her into redeeming it. No, the problem was Chaos; the element into which I had been born, and into which I would be reclaimed as soon as I left my corporeal form, and knowing the Lord of Chaos, I guess my welcome wouldn't involve tea and fairy cakes.

"There is no escape. Not in this life, not in the next."

-Yogg-Saron, The god of Death

There's a special place reserved for renegades of Chaos. It has no bars, it has no doors, had yet it constrains more efficiently than any dungeon in the Great Beyond. The Black Fortress of the Twisting Nether: a prison more secure than Death; because Death at least is escapable; well, in theory, yet no one I knew of had ever escaped a cell in the Black Fortress. I'd seen some bad things in my time and done a few, truth be told. I'd kiss the face of Death more times than Illidan's years of incarceration, but right now, things were not looking good for Your Humble Narrator.

Now don't think I didn't have a plan. I always have a plan. But as a traitor to both the gods and to their enemies, in Chaos and Void, I was currently persona non grata as you would call it. If I survived my fall from the sky, which currently didn't seem likely, and if I escaped the Void Lord's shadows, which seemed even less so, there would be nowhere for me to hide. Wherever I went, whatever I did, Death was once more the only escape for me. And so I fell and was consumed by the vortex, which turned out to be every bit as agonizing as I thought it'd be.

Ouch.

Stop there for a moment. Take a second to contemplate the tragedy of my demise, the tragedy and the irony. Because as I slipped into the vortex, believing that Azeroth had ended, still hoping to enter Death's embrace, or perhaps simply to disperse into a glorious trail of nothingness, I was cruelly snatched away at the moment of my dissolution, and thrown into the most terrible place imagined by god or demon. Yep, the Black Fortress of the Twisting Nether, where the fun was just beginning.

You see, that wasn't the end of Azeroth. Turns out, it was only the end of our world, the end of our supremacy. So many rulers fall into the trap of assuming that the World's end refers to the planet and not their little kingdom. In fact, each event is like a tide, expanding and contracting, while gods, and mortals, and demons roll like sand under the waves. We were no exception. The Pantheon of the Titans, overthrown and humbled into the dust.

Bleh!

What? So shame me, I don't grieve for them, who never would have grieved for me.

And so I was damned, but dry your tears. There isn't a dungeon I cannot escape, given time and incentive. My time in the Black Fortress gave me both, in more-than-ample quantities. This is the story of how I escaped the most secure dungeon in all of existence and beyond, and some of what happened afterward, and some of the lessons I learned on the way. Despite the environment, I can say that the experience has made me a wiser, humbler, and chattier person. All of this was due to a few things, things about stories, and friendships, and dreams, and what it's like to be a mortal.

Yes, a mortal. Didn't I tell you once that god and dog are only a revolution apart? No? Well okay then. In spite of all splendor and pomp and exhortations to be more godlike, of holy wars and heresies, of miracles and martyrdoms, everything turns, and turns, and turns. Order and Chaos, Void and Light, and yes, Life and Death. Rinse and repeat. Reboot and replay.

So, once more with feeling: Let. The. Games. Begin.

"The Light has struck a bargain with the enemy of all."

"The veil wanes. His crown will open the way."

-N'zoth, The god of Corruption

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