He was once the almighty Earth-Warder, but after falling to the malign persuasion of the Old Gods the black wyrm Neltharion came to be known as The Aspect of Death. The Worldbreaker. The Black Scourge.
Now try to wash all that dark history associated with Deathwing from your mind for just a moment. Instead, imagine a world where our latest AiPT! World of Warcraft What If? takes place:
What if Deathwing never fell to the Old Gods’ corruption?
The setting: Deep, deep beneath the earth.
Reaches unknown to all but the great Earth-Warder himself. On rare occasions, he calls this massive hollow of rock: home. Yet, the title of “home” is highly debatable. Perhaps “escape” would be an even better fit.
Why is this? Why does the ferocious Earth-Warder call such a decrepit pit home when he has the whole of Azeroth at his disposal?
When one thinks of the dark, they think of a deep-seated fear of the unknown. Yet, when Neltharion thinks of the dark of the very earth he governs, there is no such thing. Every crevice and chasm and hole you could possibly fathom is felt by Neltharion at all times. The title of Earth Warder is quite literal –- the holder wards Azeroth’s weight at all times fully, completely, and entirely.
An incredible burden for one to hold upon the body but on the mind… “No. No. NO!”
Though some form of reprieve is found here in the deepest den of the underground, Neltharion never finds himself truly at peace. Even louder than the constant vibrations that echo beneath Azeroth’s crust is something… enduring — a beat that remains constant, yet only heard by those yearning for “truth”. This subtle resonance is the song of rebellion against the Titans — the voice of the Old Gods.
Day and night, Neltharion reasons with himself, tries to fight the voices in his head. But day and night, the Old Gods’ suggestions only continue to swell against the wyrm’s subconscious.
“Rule them. It is the only way to free yourself of this torment. We have the power to free you. You will be no mere Warder, no mere experiment of the Usurpers — but a Ruler: Neltharion, the Almighty. Succumb, Neltharion. Succumb. Let us soothe your ragged body and tormented soul.”
Yet Neltharion’s great pride allows him to hold fast. A confidence in his own personal power and ability that refuses to surrender a single inch of his psyche. In a way, the great dragon’s refusal to be swayed by his internalized self-doubt and the constant grasp of the Old Gods was an insanity in itself. But not once did the prideful Aspect fall. Deathwing the Destroyer becomes only a forgotten possibility. Neltharion the Benevolent/Worldmender came to pass with his fellow Aspects throughout time.
It almost seems impossible to see Neltharion belonging to any other fate than becoming the Deathwing the Destroyer. How could this be?
Considering we’re looking at this as a hypothetical, let’s imagine a Deathwing that isn’t as affected by his constant inner torment. Though Neltharion stands as an insecure figure at times, his underlying confidence implies a much stronger willpower than we might suspect. Evidently, the actual raid encounter with Deathwing reflects this absolute amount of willpower when the Black Scourge’s blood can on occasion become a helpful infusion via a “shadow of Neltharion”.
Even as a proto-drake, Neltharion never gave up against Galakrond
The black wyrm never gave up against Galakrond, the massive progenitor to all dragonkind. Whenever the two came into an encounter, though other proto-drakes participated, Neltharion would constantly be the first to offer a helping hand. He would also consistently make it a point to rebuke his brethren’s fears harbored towards their abominable foe.
Apply this sense of enduring perseverance in spite of seemingly insurmountable odds and it’s easier to imagine the chances of an uncorrupted Neltharion.
So what would and what would not have happened in the history of Azeroth?
First and foremost, I feel we’re all thinking the same thing with this possibility: the Cataclysm would have never come to pass. But that isn’t necessarily the largest event in Warcraft’s history that would’ve never come to pass.
Neltharion, constantly vigil with his crusade against the voices picking at his mind, would come to meet his brethren on the battlefields of Kalimdor during the War of the Ancients. The main difference? A lack of the Demon Soul paired with Neltharion never descending into the Old Gods’ clutches.
If the power of the Demon Soul had never been harnessed by a corrupt Deathwing, the outcome of the War of the Ancients could’ve been much different. The destruction that the newly insane Neltharion wrought as Deathwing was cataclysmic during the War of the Ancients. But after knowing such a terrible event coming to pass, without the Demon Soul’s decimation on the battlefield would mean an intact Blue Dragonflight, and even more importantly, a fully intact and constantly unified Red, Blue, Black, Green, and Bronze Dragonflight.
The War of the Ancients wouldn’t have resulted in a complete loss for every living soul on Azeroth. Kalimdor’s sundering would have still come to pass in order to stop Sargeras, but in scope the races of Azeroth would have remained united.
Neltharion the Worldmender?
Neltharion would have never come to manipulate the politics of Azeroth’s realms 10,000 years after the War of the Ancients’ conclusion. Neltharion’s offspring, Nefarion and Onyxia, would never have started their evil experiments and poisoned Azeroth with their evil. The Cataclysm would never come to be and, in turn, the tensions between the Alliance and Horde wouldn’t be thrown to the absolute brink due to a lack of resources and newly contested areas.
Neltharion would stand as the Worldmender: a figure constantly at battle with himself yet still prioritizing the needs of others before his own. For how powerful Neltharion is with the whole weight of Azeroth at his disposal, he’d be an invaluable resource against the Legion during the Third War and with any of their other invasions. He’d stand unified with his brethren either belonging to his flight or belonging to dragonkin in general. And, arguably more important than anything else, Neltharion would stand as one of the Old Gods’ worst enemies rather than one of their greatest allies. The Hour of Twilight would potentially never come to pass and the Old Gods wouldn’t be so close to breaking their supposed “chains”. (It’ll be interesting to see just how close we are to that happening in future expansions, as well as how big a bullet that would have been to dodge.) Conclusively, Neltharion would be one of the most valuable and important figures towards Azeroth’s development and sustained existence.
The “What If?” for Neltharion is rather broad in scope due to the fact he’s had a hand in nearly every major event to ever occur on Azeroth. The Earth Warder was responsible for the Dragonflights’ disunity for over 10,000 years, the Twilight Dragonflight’s creation, the Hour of Twilight’s near reckoning, and the Cataclysm itself.
Instead of turning into the world’s most hated dragon, he’d be one of Azeroth’s most venerated heroes. A complete 180 from the terrible Black Scourge we’ve come to know and hate, no?
Until next time!
What do you think would have happened if Deathwing had never fallen to the sway of the Old Gods? Sound off in the comments.