So I have been sitting on this theory for a while, and want to be upfront in saying this is of course purely speculation. I doubt this is in fact what Blizzard is planning and am not sure how this would be received by the player base as a whole, but this is something I think I at least would be very happy with IF this was Blizzard’s intention from the start. This may be lengthy, so I will put a TLDR at the very end as best as I can. Sorry for formatting or grammatical errors, I was very tired when I wrote this.
I, as many, rather foolishly or not, do not believe (or simply cannot believe) that N’zoth would perish this easily. Maybe it is giving Blizzard too much credit, but for how cunning and manipulative we have been told N’zoth was, he went down almost without a fight, or at the very least was rather sloppy. I find it hard to believe that an Old God who thrived off deception and manipulation would so easily allow the Champions of Azeroth as well as weapons of the titans to so easily best him. That is, unless, it was entirely intentional. I believe his true intentions were perhaps a target far more valuable than a rushed, half-assed plan to consume Azeroth: I believe he was setting his sights on the Shadowlands.
I believe that N’zoth has known for a while that the only way he can truly destroy and corrupt Azeroth would be with the help of his fellow Old Gods and corrupting the different dimensions connected to Azeroth. Now, I know it is likely that the Old Gods go somewhere else besides the Shadowlands when they are killed, but as we have learned more about the Shadowlands, we know that it is a place which is older than even the Titans, and that the Arbiter is also a timeless being. I believe it is not unlikely the Old Gods, with their physical connections to Azeroth, perhaps were able to connect to the Shadowlands as a form of afterlife, especially since it was retconned that at least three out of the four Old Gods have been killed. The connection that Yogg’Saron had with death and the Lich King I feel is evidence to support this.
I theorize that when we were successful in killing Yogg’Saron that THAT was the catalyst the Old God’s needed to enact their masterplan to take over the Shadowlands. I believe that Yogg’Saron has been spending his time in the Shadowlands slowly (or perhaps quickly) corrupting a number of it’s denizens, the most powerful of which being… the Jailer. After all, it would not be the first time an Old God corrupted the being which was tasked to guard it.
It is my belief that the Old Gods have managed to corrupt the Jailer, and have slowly been using him, Mueh’zala and Sylvanas as pawns in order to set about their release back into the material plane. With the amount of souls being drained into the Maw as a result of the Battle for Azeroth, it allowed for not only the Jailer, but for the Old Gods to grow in strength and power. The only thing they would need would be a vessel and a gateway back to the material plane. When Sylvanas shattered the Helm of Domination, it created the gateway. We, as players, provided the vessel.
When we freed Xal’atath in 8.1.5, we allowed for the dagger she was trapped in to be empty, allowing another entity to be secured inside. We know the Horde Champion was then persuaded by N’zoth to give the dagger to Sylvanas, who in turn gave it to Azshara to be used to betray N’zoth. We know N’zoth was aware of this betrayal. So why would he allow a potential weapon that could be used to imprison him to stay in the possession of his prisoner, unless it was meant to be used by us to actually imprison him. We know from the cinematic when Wrathion stabbed N’zoth with the dagger vanished. Energy similar to that which was used by Sylvanas during her duel with Saurfang engulfed the dagger. Whether the blade was destroyed afterwards we as players do not know, and proceed to attack the Old God’s mind. I believe that we may have in fact destroyed the Old God’s true physical form in Ny’alotha, but I believe a fraction of his essence was stored within the blade and brought into the Shadowlands. After all, we were in the Old God’s realm, and he easily could have had it whisked away to be later delivered to the Shadowlands.
With a mixture of the N’zoth’s loyal champions of Azeroth, the souls of the dead loyal to the Old God’s, and the ever growing power of the dead Old God’s within Shadowlands, I believe it would be entirely possible that N’zoth could be freed from the blade in the same manner that Xal’atath was. This would allow for a living Old God to exist within the Shadowlands, and begin in the process of releasing his brethren. This could either be by collecting enough power from denizens in the Shadowlands to completely tear the fabric of reality between realms, using the dagger to transport the other Old God’s back to Azeroth, or another unseen option. This would allow for them to either stealthily or in full force reassert themselves on Azeroth, and as the Sword is still in place, allow them easy, physical access to Azeroth herself.
What would this look like for an expansion? For Shadowlands as a whole? Well, I have an idea I prefer over others I have come up with. I think 9.0 will go as normal, they already have a raid in the works and a general storyline with the Covenants and the like so I do not think they need to allude to anything with the Old Gods. Give us all a moment to breathe from the purple and the tentacles. 9.1 could be the patch which focuses on us hunting down Sylvanas, either killing her or force her to see how she has fallen into corruption and deception. 9.2 I feel would best serve purpose as a build up patch to fight the Jailer. I am sure many would moan and hate it, but a Trial of the Grand Crusader style patch; the denizens of the Shadowlands coming together to prepare to fight the Jailer. Perhaps even have a storyline where in order to truly defeat him we need to seek out Arthas to learn more about the connection between the Jailer and the Lich King. 9.3 would be the patch where we would fight the Jailer as the final boss, and it would be then that we would be brought to light on the true plan of the Old God’s. That the only way to free them from the prison in death was to kill the Jailer. Maybe a sprinkle of Old God stuff here and there, perhaps by encountering Cho’gall and Deathwing somewhere within the Maw or in Shadowlands, but save the majority of it all for the VERY end of the expansion. Maybe a 9.3.5 where we would fully uncover what N’zoth’s plan was from the beginning, and maybe even a mini raid like they used to do to introduce us to the freeing of the Old Gods and them being brought back to the living world.
10.0 would ideally be the Ny’alotha expansion we have wanted. It could be called “Return of the Black Empire” or something in that nature. Patch 10.0 would have us return back to Azeroth to see the corruption four unleashed Old Gods are capable of. Leveling zones could either be a revamped old world (like they did with Cataclysm) and revamp it all to better reflect true Old God corruption and/or we could just get four-five new zones which each reflect one of the Old Gods. The first raid would involve us fighting C’thun and liberating a portion of Azeroth from Old God influence. There would be four major patches in total (potentially three if they did not want to do another rehashing of fighting N’zoth, though as we had Guldan for two boss fights in two expansions, I do not think they would be against it) with the final boss being Yogg’Saron.
I know this is very unlikely, and I am most likely setting myself up for massive disappointment, but this is at least my little headcanon until Blizzards shows me I am wrong. What do you guys think? Do you really believe the Old Gods are dead and gone?
TLDR: N’zoth used the Xal’atath dagger to be brought to the Shadowlands to free the other Old Gods. The Jailer is their pawn like Deathwing was, and when we kill him we will unleash them back into Azeroth. 10.0 would be the Black Empire Expac we have all wanted. Sylvanas was simply corrupted, and maybe does not get the electric chair like Garrosh.
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