Azshara's Third Death and the Final Boss of BFA - Eternal Palace Cinematic Analysis
While short, the Eternal Palace raid cinematic sets up the next chapter in the story of N'Zoth and Azshara, creating more speculation as to who will be the final boss of the expansion. Viewed in the context of Azshara's encounter, referencing years of Old God whispers, the cinematic may be more impactful than initially thought. Let's examine Old God whispers, the Circle of Stars, Azshara's third death, a possible trip to Ny'alotha, and more!
Before we analyze where the cinematic could lead, let's look back first at all the visual references of past interactions between Azshara and N'Zoth.
In our first glimpse of Azshara, she appears exhausted, barely holding herself up - similar to the opening segment of Warbringers as she struggled to maintain an arcane barrier against the crashing waves of the Sundering. As the camera lingers on her hands, eyes, and teeth, we see her through a grotesque lens, very different from the idealized, softly-lit reflection seen in the Nazjatar cinematic.
The focus on different body parts also reminds us of her transformation from Night Elf into Naga, depicted with a sequence of sudden quick shots, including her face grimacing in pain and shock as she first began to drown and then evolved into the creature we see today.
Yet despite her exhaustion, Azshara retains her guile. Defeated, but not dead, she uses the last of her strength to capture the attention of Jaina and Lor'themar, keeping them thoroughly oblivious to the Titan machinery clicking into place around them, hastening N'Zoth's freedom. Once the construct is secured, Azshara collapses, her true mission complete.
As the cinematic continues, we see a complete reversal in the power dynamic between N'Zoth and Azshara compared to the Nazjatar intro cinematic. In that scene, Azshara taunted N'Zoth, teasing the curling plume of smoke representing the Old God. In the Circle of Stars, however, N'Zoth's takes on a solid, sinister form, rushing to ensnare the fallen Queen.
In both cinematics, the full appearance of N'Zoth is not revealed. In Warbringers, we see Azshara with the upper hand, until the camera pulls back in the final segment to reveal the figure dwarfed by a single eye of N'Zoth. In the Eternal Palace cinematic, we get a quick look at a blinding brilliance halfway through the cinematic, revealing a similarly blazing eye far below the platform. N'Zoth's body may be far away, but his corrupt presence turns everything a vivid red. As we established in previous articles, these the parallels in the color choices hold significance, which we'll discuss further below.
Circle of Stars and Past Whispers
Building up to the Azshara cinematic, we're reminded of several cryptic whispers teased throughout Legion and Battle for Azeroth, including several elements within Azshara's encounter.
"The diamond king has been made a pawn"
During her encounter, Azshara flat-out confirms Magni is the diamond king; revealing her master plan to lure us to the Circle of Stars with our empowered Hearts of Azeroth.
Its surface blazes light, masking shadow below.
When we see N'Zoth's eye at 0:44, it's incredibly bright, with shadows pour forth afterward.
"Her heart is a crater, and we have filled it"
"From the earth, he draws strength. Our earth. Our strength."
"Listen. Open the gate. Step into the abyss. Complete the circle."
Using our Hearts of Azeroth, we stand on the circular Ancient Wards to charge them up, preventing a
which would wipe the raid.
We think we're being heroic, breaking into the Eternal Palace to confront Azshara... but she manipulated us all along, intending to led us to the Circle of Stars and N'Zoth. While this area has been teased in whispers for several years, it was unclear whether it was just an idea or a physical place. Here are some of whispers referencing the circle over the last two expansions:
8.1.5: Receive now the greatest of all gifts. My dream has become your own. The circle of stars made flesh.
8.1.5: When she struck her bargain with N'Zoth ten thousand years ago, Queen Azshara offered one of her most devoted followers into the Old God's service. Now Uu'nat and the crawling masses he commands herald the coming of their master, as foretold by the stars
8.1.5: She is not the last, but the first. Drown her and you will see.
Il'gynoth: To find him, drown yourself in the Circle of Stars.
Il'gynoth: Your coming was foretold in the rings. The long circle is nearly complete.
Xal'atath: This trifling skirmish is little more than a distraction. The true battle draws neigh as the circle nears completion.
cinematic brought this motif to the forefront again with ominous circle imagery throughout, from N'Zoth's blinking eyes to Azshara's floating crown. We also analyzed the circular imagery extensively in our
Azshara's Third Death and Return of the Black Empire
This notable whisper from Il'gynoth deserves more attention:
At the hour of her third death, she will usher in our coming.
With her death in the Eternal Palace, Azshara has died three times and fulfilled that prophecy.
The first death took place during the Sundering, when the waves crashed down around Azshara, sending her empire into the sea.
The second death took place with N'Zoth's bargain, as her elven body was destroyed and she was reborn as a naga.
The third death took place at the end of the Eternal Palace raid, as Azshara was defeated by the players.
In all three settings, Azshara loses consciousness, undergoing some form of death and rebirth. Eyes play a large role in all the Old God imagery and cinematics, symbolizing a fluid state of consciousness, shifting between reality and dreams, which is another common motif in Old God whispers.
Perhaps Azshara has served her purpose. By manipulating the Alliance and Horde into helping free N'Zoth, the Old God has risen once again, ready to regain control and no longer the God of Nothing in need of her help. The Circle of Stars was meant to return the Black Empire - an empire which did not include Azshara.
it's still possible that this quote could refer to other characters - Azeroth, Sylvanas, and Alleria are all notable contenders, with Alleria directly referencing her other deaths in the
Battle for Azeroth
pre-patch. However, a recent line from the
8.2 content preview
gives credence to the idea that the quote references Azshara.
"It all culminates in a climactic final battle with Queen Azshara, the likes of which is possibly going to change the future of Azeroth."
Ashara's third death ushering in the Black Empire would certainly shape the fate of Azeroth. It also ties in perfectly with another N'Zoth quote from 8.1.5:
She will show you the way. Come... come. The hour approaches when all eyes shall be opened.
Azshara has lured us into Nazjatar, leading us directly to the Circle of Stars.
Azshara's Fate and Xal'atath
After Azshara is taken by the tendrils of N'Zoth, her eyes snap open as we hear a strange metallic noise as she's sucked into the Void. What could this be?
The expression on Azshara's face is one we haven't seen before, even when she was drowning in the Great Sea - terror. While she was clearly exhausted at the start of the cinematic, she manipulative, not afraid, but now she shows true fear. When we wipe during the encounter, she calls us unworthy of what is to come, similar to the way Uu'nat did in the Crucible of Storms... but it's clear that what she had in mind is very different that dying.
We can only guess at what being sucked into the inky black void means for the Naga Queen. Perhaps Azshara has taking Xal'atath's old position, trapped in the Blade of the Black Empire. Some rumors believe that the being within the dagger is all that remains of a forgotten Old God, consumed by its kin at the early ages of the Black Empire. If Azshara heard those same rumors, her fear may be justified in the face of such a fate.
Supposing that Xal'atath was indeed trapped in the blade, it would be poetic that Xal'atath's freedom came at the cost of trapping Azshara, as Xal'latath only left the blade very recently in Patch 8.1.5 and was instrumental in bringing us to N'Zoth and Azshara in the first place, leading us to the Crucible of Storms, where N'Zoth is very happy to see us, calling us the "Opener, the Bring of Truths" and the "Torch the Lights the Way."
While Xal'atath vanished through a void portal after being granted her freedom, the blade remained on Azeroth. After clearing the Crucible of Storms, Horde players
bring the blade to Sylvanas
, who is thrilled to possess the artifact. She then gives it to Nathanos, who seemingly uses it to lead Horde dissidents on a naval expedition which results in shipwrecking both them and the pursuing Alliance fleet in Nazjatar. Following the catastrophe, our last glimpse of Nathanos shows him abandoning the Horde survivors, blade in hand, with no sign of him again either in Nazjatar or the Eternal Palace.
What happened to Nathanos and the blade? Did he leave it for N'Zoth, now that it served its purpose in leading the Alliance and Horde to Nazjatar? Did Lady Ashvane encourage Sylvanas to listen to the blade, hoping to lure the Horde to Nazjatar and fulfill Azshara's plan? Looking forward, this raises further questions, most importantly which side is Sylvanas really on? Was she working with N'Zoth by delivering us to Queen Azshara, or is it all a part of her plan to master death?
It would certainly be an interesting plot twist if Xal'atath returned, now wielding a Blade of the Black Empire with Azshara trapped inside. Azshara frequently sets up deals with mortals that turn sour, as evidenced by the fate of Lady Ashvane's and Zul's failed rebellion, so it would be an interesting twist to see Azshara, the vain and arrogant queen, become the victim.
N'Zoth vs Azshara
To better understand why N'Zoth and Azshara, apparent allies, could turn on each other, we have to look at the way their relationship is depicted in recent media, such as
Welcome to Nazjatar
. Ever since Azshara was introduced, there’s been underlying tension regarding her deal with N’Zoth - are they working with or against one another, and who exactly has the upper hand? Betrayal seems inevitable, as both seem to consider themselves beholden to no one.
One of our earlier articles supposed that with Circle of Stars nearing completion, N’Zoth may turn on Azshara; the
Crucible of Storms
introduction has the unwitting player bring relics to N’Zoth, who promptly ignores them, only to head right back into the Crucible in order to retrieve those same items, ultimately using their magic against the minions of the Old... which makes little sense. N'Zoth's lieutenants chide us for failing our trial when we wipe, and claim our worthiness when we succeed in defeating them, which would seem backwards in any other situation. In
The Price of Power: Relics Within the Crucible of Storms
, examines how our eagerness to harness these magical relics may in fact all be a part of N'Zoth's plan. While two of the relics are looted as items in the raid encounters, the Tempest Crown remains unaccounted for and bears striking visual similarities to both the Blade of the Black Empire and the Crown of Domination, not to mention a potential reference to another Il'gynoth quote: “The veil wanes. His crown will open the way.”
In our follow-up article,
N'Zoth Wants Us to Win
, we explore the idea further that N’Zoth is actively testing our strength in Crucible of Storms, deciding whether we're powerful enough to face Azshara, similar to the
mini-raid Trial of Valor in which we passed Odyn’s trial in order to face Helya on his behalf. With N'Zoth's obvious talent for subversion, Azshara may be as much of an unwitting pawn as we are, and should he decide she's is no longer useful, or even a threat to his plans to awaken the Black Empire, her ambition and lust for power could be her undoing. Azshara may be a powerful Queen, but the King is the most important piece in a game of Chess.
At the start of Patch 8.2, Azshara appears to have the upper hand once more. This cinematic emphasizes how much Azshara's confidence has grown since her fall and rebirth in the Sundering. In Warbringers: Azshara, the camera frequently framed her face as a range of emotions ran across it, ranging between fear, frustration, and pain. In our Welcome to Nazjatar, Azshara has perfected her gracious facade, barely letting it slip except for an annoyed glance back at N'Zoth, while viewers barely see her face outside of a softened reflection in the water. While Azshara's face was reflected in N'Zoth's eyes in Warbringers, the dynamic emphasized an imbalance of power, with Azshara appearing small inside the infinite depths of his eyes. Now, Azshara stares into her own reflection, shaping her image, reaching out a hand to touch it, pleased with her work.
The strongest sign of this changed dynamic is seen in Azshara pushing back N'Zoth's tendril of smoke. This scene is reminiscent of N'Zoth approaching Azshara as a fish from dark smoke - lost and cold, she tentatively reaches out a curious hand. Now the Queen of Nazjatar beckons down at the smoke from her throne, extending a hand to push it away... and the smoke obeys.
However, when the smoke appears in the Eternal Palace cinematic, it's aggressive and sinister, wrapping around Azshara like prison chains. The power dynamic has shifted as Azshara collapses, prone on the ground, and the smoke floods in from all angles to pick her up and force her eyes open, before she is yanked away from her beloved palace and kingdom. Will N'Zoth finally have the upper hand, and is he pleased we passed his test, demonstrating we were worthy enough to subdue Azshara? What does that mean for the disposed queen?
Prison of N'Zoth
The cinematic also confirms another puzzling detail about N'Zoth - his prison chains are most definitely underneath the Circle of Stars, placing it near the Well of Eternity and the Maelstrom. We were initially surprised to find the prison by the Well of Eternity, given that before the Sundering it was supposed to be far off in the East, and in our article
Where is the Prison of N'Zoth?
, we discuss the history of the Well of Eternity, how the prison might have moved, and the implications of this ominous location.
N'Zoth's prison being located at the original Well of Eternity has serious implications for Azeroth. The energies which made up the Well of Eternity are said to be the very life-force on Azeroth itself, a terrible wound in the world soul created by the death of Old God Y'Shaarj. The overflowing magic allowed life on Azeroth to develop, eventually creating and evolving The Elves, Trolls, and other ancient races, some of whom harnessed those magical energies to create awe-inspiring societies, but the Well of Eternity also held a dark temptation, driving megalomaniacal personalities like Azshara to ruin in an unquenchable thirst for power. Perhaps power simply corrupts, or maybe this darker influence is actually a remnant of Y'Shaarj, the Old Gods black blood forever intermingled with Azeroth's own, which has truly frightening implications. Either way, it ultimately led to disaster by way of Sargeras and the Burning Legion, culminating in his massive sword Gorribal ripping the world apart, spilling Azeroth's life blood once more and beginning the Battle for Azeroth. It's a bit poetic to imagine Azshara's first taste of power on the shores of the Well of Eternity coming full circle to her final act using those same powers to free N'Zoth from his prison.
Since its formation, the Well of Eternity has represented a danger to Azeroth. The titan keepers valiantly tried to prevent the loss of those energies from damaging Azeroth further, the Night Elves harnessed it in the form of magic, and the coalesced blood is now used to power weapons of hereto unseen destruction. It's no surprise the words "wound" and "bleeding" used frequently in Chronicle to describe the well are so similar to those used to describe the Wound in the World caused by Sargeras. In Battle for Azeroth, Azeroth is dying, her lifeblood scattered around the world, which various factions try to collect for both good and evil. Now in Patch 8.2, we've unwittingly taken the blood caused by Azeroth's newest wound back to the site of the original one - the Well of Eternity.
Under Azshara's design, our Azerite not only strengthens N'Zoth, but creates a new threat to the "true heart of the world's magic and natural power." Azeroth is incredibly vulnerable and in dangerously close proximity to a newly freed Old God.
There's also one more notable detail about N'Zoth's prison--it is by a Titan Facility. In addition to the Titan architecture, the fight is filled with Titan abilities, such as
, in which Azshara causes a Titan Console to Overload. Earlier in Battle for Azeroth, we've learned that there are more, unknown Titan Facilities out there, through the Miaden of Vitality in the Chamber of Heart:
WARNING: Multiple containment breaches registered.
Recommended expurgation of following facilities:
Uldaman. Uldum. Uldorus. Ulduar. Uldir. Uldaz. Uld... Uld... Uld... Uld...
Things take a darker turn in Patch 8.2 when MOTHER tells us to stay away from an unknown facility:
Additional information granted.
Error. Additional Titan facility detected. Status: Unknown.
Recommendation: Do not approach or engage.
Is the Circle of Stars the Titan Facility MOTHER warned us about approaching? If so, tampering with a Titan Facility so close to the Maelstrom seems incredibly risky.
Who is the Final Boss?
At the Rise of Azshara summit, Game Director Ion Hazzikostas claimed that after seeing the Azshara cinematic, it would be obvious who the final boss is. While there's no video of him explicitly saying this, it was reported on by attendees such as T&E (
But, is it that obvious?
While the cinematic points to N'Zoth breaking free, and likely the return of the Black Empire...we're left on an open-ended note. N'Zoth hasn't revealed himself fully to us, nor has the environment of Azeroth changed after Azshara's defeat, with shadowy influences around Azeroth. Instead, he bides his time below, waiting for something more to happen before striking.
We've also speculated previously that Battle for Azeroth will feature a Warbringer for every patch, which would culminate with Sylvanas as the final boss. After we saw Jaina survive the Battle of Dazar'alor, we also speculated that Azshara would similarly survive her encounter--which turned out to be correct. All signs point to Sylvanas, the final Warbringer, becoming a boss in a future patch--that survives as well. A patch focused on Sylvanas could explain her tragic backstory in great detail, similar to how we learned more about Jaina's
roots in early BFA, as well as shed light on some of her puzzling controversial actions. In the article
A Warbringer for Every Patch: Plot Twists for Azshara and Sylvanas
we speculate how that could all play out.
However, that analysis is a bit meta, and Ion made it seem like the final boss would be made much more clear. So, maybe the obvious choice here is that N'Zoth will be the final boss. However, that wouldn't rule out the involvement of all three Warbringers in the final raid, especially now that we know N'Zoth has captured Azshara. Perhaps Sylvanas' story will culminate at the end of Patch 8.2.5, in a dramatic showdown between her allies and the reformed bond between Jaina and Thrall, where Sylvanas escapes in order to pursue her quest to master death directly, perhaps in the realm of death itself: the Shadowlands. A final encounter against N'Zoth could culminate in all three Warbringers striking out against the Old God for their own reasons, and who knows which might claim the upper hand.
Opening Eyes and Dreams
Dialogue is sparse in the cinematic - only one line is uttered: "All Eyes Shall Be Opened," spoken by N'Zoth. When he does, the glaring eyes of the Titan statues close, their red glow diminished.
N'Zoth speaks this line right after reviving Azshara, her eyes popping open dramatically. This could foreshadow reviving the rest of the Black Empire, an act heavily hinted at through past whispers such as "All that were sleeping... shall be awakened" and "That which was sunken shall rise." Y'shaarj, the one Old God we have not directly faced, could be one of the first brought back, as there's several hints to his return in
. We even have a playful article,
Hearthstone's Whispers of the Old Gods Expansion in BFA
, speculating on how Hearthstone's revival of the Old Gods could translate into WoW.
on the effective use of color to symbolize N'Zoth, repeatedly associated with reds and golds in
, the Emerald Nightmare, and Za'qul encounter. When N'Zoth's chains are destroyed, the ocean floods with red light, symbolizing the freedom of N'Zoth. It is only when Azshara is taken away through the portal that the red subsides, fading from the sky and pillars first, and then finally from the eyes of the Titans.
N'Zoth's line could symbolize his power over the Titan Constructs - he
make their eyes open, but he's bidding his time for a more devastating moment. Alternatively, this could also mean that we're fully in N'Zoth's control now, we're no longer protected by the Titans. As their eyes close, our grasp on reality and order dims, and N'Zoth's eyes open as his reign of madness begins.
As a side note, we find the vanishing red cloud of N'Zoth, framed in the blue rings in the sky, echoes of the Pantheon's red star in the sky. There's even an ominous quote related to it from Alex Afrasiabi:
AA: In certain skies across Azeroth you can see a constellation now after the Legion is defeated and there is a red star-- make sure you keep looking at that red star. If it's ever gone-- that's a problem.
Ny'alotha, Sleeping City of N'Zoth
Eyes are a recurring motif with N'Zoth, symbolizing madness and a warped reality. Should N'Zoth open our eyes to his world, our reality would be questioned as we'd tumble into a world of dreams. Perhaps we'll travel to Ny'alotha, our eyes open to N'Zoth's gift--when this comes, all pathways will open and dreams will become reality. As we know, Old Gods and their minions frequently speak through whispers and dreams, using them to lure others into their service, often driving them completely mad in the process as made famous in corrupting the Black Dragon Aspect Neltharion the Earth-Warder into Deathwing the Destroyer.
Ny'alotha has been discussed in hushed whispers throughout multiple Warcraft expansions, always a sleeping city of unspeakable horror and eternal slumber. Some examples include:
In the land of Ny'alotha there is only sleep...
In the sleeping city of Ny'alotha walk only mad things.
Ny'alotha is a city of old, terrible, unnumbered crimes...
Since the beginning of
, N'Zoth's goal has been to restore the Black Empire - the kingdom of the Old Gods which consumed all of Azeroth before the Titan's defeated and imprisoned their leaders. Ny'alotha being a city associated with sleep, commonly used as a metaphor for death throughout the Old God whispers, implies that its inhabitants may be all those imprisoned or dead minions who fell in the war with the Titans and therefore it may be the central key to restoring the Black Empire - if the city awakens, so to do all its inhabitants, and that does not bode well for the current residents of Azeroth!
N'Zoth's plans to bring back the Black Empire could use the raw power of the Well of Eternity, the "heart of the world's magic and natural power," to awaken all that lie dreaming. Perhaps the Well of Eternity is even a conduit to another realm, as it draws its "energies from the infinite Great Dark," similar to how
describes Icecrown as "an anchor dat holds dis world to da next."
N'Zoth playing with the constraints of death, possibly tampering with the Shadowlands, reminds us of another central Battle for Azeroth figure obsessed with mastering death--Sylvanas. Her motives have always been unclear, hinting at a larger outcome than just a simple faction war, but in Patch 8.2 she tips her hand a bit more and references a grand endgame. Analyzing her motives and quotes throughout Battle for Azeroth, we speculated in
Sylvanas' Endgame, Old Gods, and the Faction War
that her ultimate goal is to master death, saving herself from an eternity of torment that she experienced in the Shadowlands after her death at Icecrown... or perhaps a warped vision of the Shadowlands, as she fell upon Saronite, the "hardened blood of an Old God."
N'Zoth and Sylvanas could clash in more ways than one, not only fighting over Azeroth, but over the power to manipulate death itself. Going back to the question of who is the final boss, it very well may be N'Zoth, as the fate of Sylvanas and the other Warbringers would seem to be intertwined with the machinations of the Old God.
At any rate, N'Zoth is now free, the path to the sleeping city of Ny'alotha appears to be open, and the Black Empire rises once again, with a weakened Pantheon unable to defeat them a second time. By proving ourselves worthy of his gift, we've become N'Zoth's honored guests - dreamers in a new world of chaos and fear.
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