UPDATE 12 OCTOBER
Here is the full transcript from when Chris Metzen answered my question about Turalyon and Alleria, at the launch ceremony of Mists of Pandaria.
'Turalyon and Alleria forever to be MIA? What news from the Twisting Nether? For Lothar!'
'Uh, so eh- this question comes up all the time...
Do we have plans for these two characters?
Uh, I'm very happy to say... we absolutely do.
To my knowledge, I'm pretty sure they are not showing up in Mists of Pandaria.
(Crowd goes 'Aaw'.)
However... what can I say out loud?
Eh... in terms of what's coming next...
You're gonna need their help.
So, you look forward to them showing up!'
Audio-only YouTube Video Source, 9:30 in.
What this answer strongly implies is:
1) Chris is under a strict NDA, and is really trying hard not to spoil anything.
2) They will show up 'next'. He almost hesitated to whether they would even show up already in Mists of Pandaria, but remembered that was not the case. This further implies that they really are 'next', and strongly connected to the events of both Pandaria and the next expansion. This further supports my argument you will read below.
Now, on to the actual thread!
What ho all,
Welcome to my final thread arguing for the authenticity of Heroes of the Storm as the next WoW expansion. This one, I believe, has my strongest argument yet. I've previously mostly focused on trademark descriptions; and pointed out things like how 'mobile and tablets' is more likely to do with a mobile feature for WoW than anything to do with Blizzard All-Stars.
This time, I'll be urging you all to take a thorough look at Emperor Shaohao. I'll leave the realm of fact-based evidence and instead explore why the name 'Heroes of the Storm' makes perfect sense for the next WoW expansion. This is important as a lot of people seem to feel it is out of place, and therefore gives credence to Blizzard All-Stars being the game for the trademark.
More specifically, I'll look at the video series we all know and love as 'The Burdens of Shaohao'. There is a reason Blizzard chose to post this video series at the end of the expansion. It serves as a reminder, bound to catch our attention, of the overarching theme that has been Mists of Pandaria. So sit down with a cup of coffee or tea, because it can be a bit of a lengthy read. If you don't wish to read the full transcripts of the video clips, then at least read the bits highlighted in red, as well as my arguments between and after the transcripts.
Emperor Shaohao begins his journey across Pandaria, to rid himself and the land of negative emotions. Like we would do, ten thousand years later.Prelude: The Vision
Ten thousand years ago, all the continents of Azeroth were as one. It is said that all the rivers in the world flowed to one magical place: This was the ancient empire of Pandaria, nestled in the most fertile of river valleys at the far end of the world.
Behold, the last Emperor on the day of his coronation. His name was Shaohao.
Young Shaohao was born to be Emperor, and wanted for nothing. The wealth of the great Pandaren empire was his to command. All Pandaren Emperors begin their reign by consulting with the great Jinyu elders. It was said that the Jinyu could talk to the rivers, that they could hear whispers of the future in the rippling waves. The great Waterspeaker closed his eyes and listened to the rivers. He listened for the Emperor's long life and prosperous realm, but he heard something else entirely. The wise old Jinyu saw a faraway land, a kingdom of Elves grown bold in their arrogance. He saw a pit of fire, a great maw opening upon countless horrors. Numberless demons were about to pour forth onto Azeroth, rending the land, corrupting all they touched. Even if the demons were defeated, the world would be forever broken, the continents forever shattered.
Emperor Shaohao watched in disbelief as the Jinyu Waterspeaker reeled from the terror of his vision. "What did you see?", Shaohao asked. "Long life... prosperous realm?"
But the future held neither for the last Emperor of the Pandaren. No, young Shaohao could not rest on the riches of his Empire. If he was to save his land, and his people, he would be called to do something great. He would embark on an epic journey, he would sacrifice all that he was.
This is his story.
Like Emperor Shaohao, we began our great journey across Pandaria by consulting the wisdom of the Jade Serpent, in the Jade Forest.Part I: Doubt
The horrible vision of the Sundering weighed heavily on Emperor Shaohao. Cold and alone, he ascended Mount Neverest, seeking wisdom from the Jade Serpent.
"What troubles you, young Emperor?" The spirit of wisdom asked.
Shaohao replied "Countless demons will soon pour over Azeroth! What must I do to save my kingdom?"
The Jade Serpent answered: "Seek out the heart of Pandaria, for the answer lies within."
"But how can I find it?" the Emperor protested.
"Your emotions cloud you," said the Serpent. "Free yourself of these burdens, let the land be your teacher."
But the Emperor did not understand.
He sulked back to his home in the Jade Forest. As he travelled, he commiserated with his old friend, the Monkey King. "I was to have a long life! A prosperous realm!" the Emperor cried. "I cannot do this!"
"Relax," said the Monkey King. "We are in this together!" As he spoke, the four winds began to howl. A great gust blew the Monkey King away!
The Monkey King laughed, and called out above the roaring storm. "Sorry! You can't fight fate!"
The Emperor cried out for his friend. "No, wait! I cannot do this alone!"
And in that moment, all of Shaohao's uncertainty was manifest in a terrible dark energy: The Sha of Doubt. The more the Emperor struggled, the more he weakened - the Sha would surely overtake him!
Then, Shaohao remembered the wisdom of the Jade Serpent, and he looked to the land for answers. Nearby, the bamboo of the Jade Forest was also threatened: the reeds that stood rigid against the gale broke under its force. But the reeds that bent with the wind endured the storm, and prospered in the rain. Shaohao realised the lesson of the reed, and when he turned his back to the Sha, suddenly all his doubts vanished. He knew he could be more than just Emperor.
The Four Winds carried the laughing Monkey King over the valley, and through the Wilds. The Emperor's faith led him onward, to save his friend - and to stop the terrible Sundering the Waterspeaker had foreseen.
Notice how the text in red says 'stop the terrible Sundering', not 'avoid'. By saving Pandaria, his people avoided the Burning Legion - they never stopped them. Is the story, perhaps, far from over?
Part II: Despair
Emperor Shaohao, free of doubt, pursued his friend the Monkey King. With the wind at his back, Shaohao ran, but in his haste, the Emperor stumbled into the dense and untamed swamps of the Krasarang Wilds.
"No!" The Emperor cried out. He fought to free himself, but only sank further. The more the Emperor worried, the deeper he sank. His worries had taken form: The Sha of Despair.
Shaohao cried out, "Help!"
Far above, the majestic Red Crane of Hope soared. "Why do you struggle so?" the Crane asked.
"I have lost my friend, my kingdom!" Shaohao cried. "It is hopeless!"
"Your friend is not lost," the Crane replied. "You are."
Again, Shaohao looked to Pandaria for the answer. He saw the great tree growing in the middle of the swamp. The branches reached for the heavens, but its roots stretched deep into the Earth. Shaohao's feet found purchase - with hope in his heart, the Emperor reached upward, and the grip of despair loosened.
"I must never forget who I am," he said. "I am the Emperor, and I will save this land."
Gee, Empoeror Shaohao! Spoiler alert, much?Part III: Fear
Shaohao could hear the Monkey King's laughter on the wind, but it came from the West, beyond the Serpent's Spine wall. This was the land of the Mantid: Mortal enemy of all Pandaren.
"I cannot do this!" Shaohao decided. Trembling, the Emperor turned to leave.
"Where are you going?" asked a voice.
"I'm afraid to go on," said the Emperor. Looking into the Wastes, he saw a great, black Ox.
"Just follow your feet," the black Ox said. "They will know the way."
Shaohao descended the wall, and crept through the strange realm. To the Emperor, it was a waking nightmare, but his feet led the way. Soon, he heard, a dreadful sound. Three vile Mantid warriors argued how they would split up and devour their prize, the Monkey King!
Shaohao was paralysed with terror. The insidious Sha of Fear held him in place. The voice of the Ox came to Shaohao, saying "You must not let your fear control you, my Emperor, you must control your fear!"
Shaohao looked once again to the land for answers. The great Kypari trees of the Townlong Steppes were legendary for their sap. In one bead of amber, Shaohao found his answer.
"I will not be paralysed by fear!" the Emperor proclaimed. Shaohao hurled his weight against the nearest tree, and giant globs of sap reigned down from above! And now it was the Mantid who were held fast, as they struggled against the sap. The Emperor had saved his friend.
As they fled, the Monkey King was overwhelmed by doubt. "Emperor, we cannot do this alone!" he cried. "You should create an army to crush the Mantid once and for all!"
Free of his doubts, and master of his fears, the Emperor was more confident than ever. "No," said Shaohao. "The storm that burns the sky comes for the Mantid as well. We need an army to crush a Legion."
On a serious note, you will have noticed the obvious point here: first of all the use of the word 'storm' to refer to the impending Sundering, but also that he needs an army to crush the legion. Like the Army of Light we are forging. Sounds far-fetched, you say? Read on, and it'll become clear.
Again, a reference to bad weather when speaking of the Burning Legion.Part IV: Anger
The Last Emperor of Pandaria faced a terrible fortune, a burning legion set to tear the world asunder. He had cast away his doubt, despair and fear. Now, confidence brimming, he would build an army.
High atop the peaks of Kun-Lai summit, the one hundred greatest warriors of Pandaria perfected their arts under the watchful eye of the White Tiger, the spirit of strength.
"I need an army!" Shaohao announced. "I have come for my warriors!"
But the White Tiger recognised a great darkness within the brash Emperor.
"Why do you fight?" the Tiger asked. Shaohao bristled.
"To destroy demon hordes! To crush those who oppose me!"
"No. That is no reason to fight," the Tiger said. "You are indeed fearless, but still, you are burdened." The Emperor scoffed, so the White Tiger issued a challenge.
"Take this staff, and if you can touch any one of my Warriors, they are yours to command."
Spurred on by the howls of the Monkey King, the Emperor spun about, thrusting and swinging the staff - but the warriors easily dodged his every blow. Furious, Shaohao roared. The sum of all his rage, the Sha of Anger, burst forth!
The Emperor fumed, and broke the staff over his knee. Violence and hatred erupted.
"You see now why you are not ready to lead?" the White Tiger proclaimed. "Your anger does not empower you: It makes you weak."
Defenceless, Shaohao faced the darkness he had created. As one, the Sha struck out...
But, as the smoke cleared, the Emperor stood unharmed. The shape of a mighty warrior lay broken at his feet. A warrior who had paid the ultimate price to save his Emperor.
Shaohao's heart swelled, as he knelt humbly before the White Tiger. "My rage exacted a heavy toll," the Emperor said. "A single sacrifice has shown me the power of fellowship, of love... of peace."
The White Tiger nodded. "Again, I ask: Why do you fight?"
"For home, and family." Shaohao replied. "For the people I protect. For them, I would give my final breath. Thank you, White Tiger."
Relieved at last of all his burdens, the Emperor rose. "Come, Monkey King! We must go to the heart of Pandaria, before all is lost!"
As the Emperor and his friend set out, the skies grew black - for the time of the Sundering had come.
But also the reminder of the army. We're getting to it!
Again, references to the storm.Part V: The Sundering
And so Shaohao came to the heart of the land, the sacred Vale within the centre of his empire. Purged of all his burdens, the Emperor radiated with enlightenment. Inside the Vale, his people huddled for shelter. They knew that the end of the world had come, and they cried out for the Emperor to save them.
"People of Pandaria!" Shaohao declared, "Stay calm. Focus your minds, and together we will make it through this."
But his people did not understand. As Shaohao gazed upon their faces, he saw the burdens that he had overcome. He recognised Doubt and Despair. He saw his people frozen in Fear, or trembling in Anger. And he knew that they had little time to learn what he had learned.
"Time... my people need Time!" The Emperor realised. And in that moment, the Emperor recalled the lesson of the Jade Serpent:
"Seek out the heart of Pandaria, for the Answer lies within."
As Shaohao reflected on his journey, he looked to the land, and saw a single blossom in the wind. "No matter the burdens I faced," he thought, "The land provided guidance. But the truest answers always came from within." And then, it became clear...
"I was to have a long life, and a prosperous realm. But I am more than just Emperor. I now know what I must do... for I am the Heart of Pandaria."
"People of Pandaria!" Shaohao proclaimed. "You are not yet ready to face the storm that comes for you, and I cannot stop it. But you will weather this storm, and many more - for I will give you the time to learn the lessons that I have learned."
And then, the last Emperor of Pandaria sacrificed all that he was, and all that he would be, and gave his final breath to become one with the land. A dense mist surrounded and protected his empire, and while the rest of the world broke apart in the fury of the Sundering, Pandaria set itself free. Hidden by the Emperor's breath, it drifted out to sea like a blossom on the wind.
The trees in the Vale have never stopped blossoming, and in time, we Pandaren learned to live as our Emperor lived. His lessons endured in the temples of his land. And from the snowy peaks of Kun-Lai Summit, he watches over us - and it is said, that if we listen very closely, he speaks to us still... through the Mists.
These are the Emperor's gifts to us. And this is Pandaria!
But more importantly, a sign of Shaohao's immense pride. He is no mere Emperor, he is Pandaria!
The answer lies in Pride; the heart of Pandaria...
As we know, Emperor Shaohao's failure to cast away his Pride eventually led to the increasing 'corruption' of Garrosh Hellscream, and the Siege of Orgrimmar. It escalated the conflict between the Alliance and Horde until it reached the climax we now find ourselves in.
Inside the proud hearts of the Pandaren; the same Pride which made them feel like a special people, more deserving than the rest of the world to weather the storm that was the Sundering. Pride persisted through the years, and allowed other negative emotions to manifest themselves as Sha again. The Pandaren buried their negativity, instead of controlling it. Whenever these emotions show up, the Shado-Pan are there to suppress them back into the land.
"The seventh sha, the Sha of Pride, was the final burden to which Emperor Shaohao clung, shrouding the land in mist and biding its time for millennia. When Garrosh awakened the Heart of Y'shaarj, the force of his arrogance caused this dark energy to coalesce in the chamber where the Heart was unearthed."
But I don't see it as a failure. I don't see Pride as the villain. I see Pride as Emperor Shaohao's 'answer from within'. The necessary evil to do greater good. Pride had to persist. It had to prevail. Pride was the reason the Pandaren went to such lengths to record their history, and the story of Emperor Shaohao. Pride was the reason they were saved when the rest of the world suffered, allowing the lessons of Shaohao to persist through the ages. Pride was the reason Garrosh Hellscream finally took a step too far, triggering the rebellion and Garrosh's ultimate downfall.
More importantly, had Pride been defeated by Emperor Shaohao, all those ten millennia ago, we would not have been able to undertake his journey. It was only Pride which kept the Sha manifestations from disappearing permanently. Without Pride, Pandaria would be Utopia, and we would not have been able to discover it and learn its lessons.
Finally, at the edge of destiny, we have taken the pilgrimage of Emperor Shaohao and cast out our negative emotions. Finally, we have cast away our Pride, as evidenced by Varian Wrynn allowing the Horde to persist, despite Jaina Proudmore urging him to dismantle it.
Pride stood between the Horde and Alliance for years, and kept two stubborn and proud leaders at war.
One, a true 'brown orc' obsessed by the idea of redeeming his family's name and of the orcish master race; the other a victim of war, grief, and imprisonment - having many of the things he held dear taken from him by the Horde and then being spat at and treated like vermin in the prison camps and arenas.
So it would seem, then, that Emperor Shaohao is quite the mastermind. Perhaps his friend the Jinyu Waterspeaker foresaw a greater future than we were told? It is not an accident that Emperor Shaohao is the one to oversees the Celestial Tournament on the Timeless Isle. Through the ages, regardless of time, he has kept Pandaria - our key to victory - safe. So that we can learn its lessons and prepare for the celestial tournament that awaits us.
Now, as the hints have foretold, the Burning Legion is returning. Prophet Velen saw in his vision the formation of an Army of Light, destined to fight in the war of light and shadow, which was to have Azeroth as its principle battleground.
We've learned the lessons of Pandaria. Heroes, let's brace for the coming storm!